Buying Into the Lie

I’ve talked a lot about kids at Mass lately. Yesterday, Leo was rambunctious and loud, yet a man came up to tell me how good he is. At first I laughed, but he persisted in saying Leo is good, because he’s just a normal 2-year-old. The conversation made me realize how much I’ve bought into the lie that children who move and/or are noisy aren’t “good.” My first reaction when people tell me my kids are good is to laugh – what does that tell them? What does it tell others if I laugh? Does it say I’m basically agreeing with the idea that my kids aren’t good because they move and talk? I don’t really believe that, but my reaction would say otherwise. I seem to be afraid to tell others that kids aren’t bad for being kids. Or rather, I tell them so with my words, but my initial reaction says otherwise.

I don’t want my children to think they’re bad just for being kids. I don’t want others to think that, either. To accomplish that, though, I need to watch my reactions. ┬áBecause why should anyone, my children included, believe me if I appear not to believe it myself?

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What Does it Mean to Accept Children in Church?

Those who know me know I am often talking about children in Mass. I’ve often received negative comments about the fact that my kids are, well, kids, and therefore not perfectly still and quiet during the entire Mass. Maybe we wouldn’t be as noticed if we didn’t sit near or at the front, but the kids can see better that way and do a lot better when we sit close. Many have spoken about parishes not being as welcoming of children, too. So what does it mean to be truly welcoming of them?

Some think that welcoming children means having separate things for them while the adults have a quiet, distraction-free Mass. I’ve spoken with some who have wished there were nurseries for all younger children (my parish does have a nursery for toddlers, not babies, during one of the Masses) and perhaps classes and playgrounds for the preschoolers so none of them need to sit in Mass. Some think we should have Children’s Liturgy of the Word, where the children are taken out during the readings and brought back in for the Creed (really not sure how that’s licit when only a priest is allowed to proclaim the Gospel at Mass, but I guess they get around it because the kids are no longer in Mass).

As you can tell, I disagree with these ideas of “welcoming” children. Why? Well, it doesn’t seem like it truly welcomes them into Mass. It’s more like they are relegated to another area so we don’t have to see or hear them. As baptized members of the Church, these children needn’t be separated from the celebration of the Mass. In fact, families going together are exactly what is needed, I think.

So if we don’t provide separate programs for the children during Mass, how do we welcome them? We acknowledge that these are children, and not miniature adults or statues or dolls, therefore accepting that they won’t be perfectly still and quiet. We invite them to sit close to the front so they can see better. We support and encourage breastfeeding the children (it keeps them quiet, after all, and provides comfort for them in a crowded place). We encourage parents to point things out to the children during Mass. We invite them to fully participate in Mass as much as possible, and also to participate in Adoration and other prayer times. Maybe we even take a cue from our Eastern brethren and allow the children to walk around to see the statues, Stations of the Cross, etc, thereby learning more about their faith in the process. Of course, if we also started giving Communion and Confirmation to infants, as our Eastern brethren do, the whole point would probably be moot as I doubt people would insist on children going elsewhere if they were to receive the Eucharist as well. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, though, so no use wishing for it.

Welcome the little children to be in the Presence of their Lord.

Something Doesn’t Make Sense

A friend and I were talking, and she brought up a topic that we agreed didn’t make sense to us. Why is it that Catholic and NFP circles are not more welcoming of full-term breastfeeding? It makes no sense.

First off, we have 2000 years of artwork showing Mary breastfeeding Jesus, and not always as a newborn. There’s also the mention of full-term breastfeeding in the Scriptures (for example, Samuel, and more explicitly in 2 Macc). So it really shouldn’t be a foreign concept, and yet many retreats aimed at mothers will only allow said mother to bring the breastfed child if that child is under 12 months old. I don’t understand having mothers’ events where the kids completely aren’t allowed anyway, let alone a breastfed child, of whatever age. Though I did use Leo as an excuse not to go on a retreat once.

Then there’s the NFP aspect. Full-term breastfeeding is good for the child, but has the added benefit of (usually) suppressing fertility, thus naturally spacing children. Sure, you can chart and achieve the same result, but with a lot more frustration and abstinence involved. Since NFP is the only morally licit way to space children, one would think ecological breastfeeding would be more promoted, but it isn’t.

Besides the reactions to breastfeeding in the pews and at parish functions, it’s hard to become an NFP instructor with a nursling. When I did my class in England, I was allowed to bring Charlotte, since she was just a few months old, but not Kieran, whom I was also nursing at that time. Yes, he was able to go those 2.5 days without nursing, but I doubt Leo would be able to do so should I have to be away for a long weekend again. I’m currently in a cycle of constantly nagging the powers-that-be to reinstate their correspondence course for the teacher training or certification renewal so that those of us who cannot get away can still be trained/renew certification. I’d bet that CCL is more accommodating, given the Kipleys’ views on ecological breastfeeding, but the other methods don’t seem to be as open to that.

What can we do about changing this? I’m not entirely sure. I haven’t the time to be more involved in the organization for my NFP method. I don’t know how to go about educating the parishioners on it. I will happily talk about it with anyone who asks, but people don’t generally ask me why I’m breastfeeding my 2-year-old, they just ask me to move or cover up, and I can’t very well have a long conversation in the sanctuary before or after Mass anyway. Certainly the more we do speak about it and breastfeed openly and tell people we can’t make it to things because of breastfeeding, the more others might think about it, but I don’t know that that’s enough. I’ll have to think of ideas when I’m more alert.

If He Went to School

Lately I find myself wondering what would happen if Kieran went to school instead of being homeschooled. I have no desire to put him in a school, to be clear. I simply wonder about how he’d do with his personality. He has many ideas, plans, etc, and he talks about them constantly. It’s how he assimilates what he has read and learnt, but unless reminded to stop or let another person talk, he won’t. He can focus for his violin lessons (with some reminders at times), and he can make it through Mass without needing to talk about his ideas, but to go all day? I’ve a feeling he’d get in trouble a lot for talking, and, being the sensitive kid he is, it would eventually crush him or he’d suppress a key part of his personality, I fear.

While he is talking about his ideas, he walks around. He truly cannot keep still when he’s talking about them, because he just gets so excited that he has to move. It’s almost as if his ability to think through his ideas is tied to his ability to move. Since moving around randomly is frowned upon in classrooms, I think he wouldn’t do well with that, either.

This reminds me of a student I had back when I taught 3rd grade. A clever student who also couldn’t stay seated at his desk. I allowed him to stand and move a little (he had to stay close to his desk at least), and he did much better that way. If he wasn’t allowed to move around some, he was very difficult to manage, and other teachers knew that. When I recommended him for an accelerated class, the teachers scoffed, telling me he couldn’t possibly make it in there because of his behaviour. I countered that he absolutely could, if given a chance and allowed to move some. I don’t know if he was accepted into that class or not, since I did not return to teaching the following year, but obviously I still think of him.

I’m also reminded of stories of other children who have been labeled as bad in school, but it turns out that the child was simply a normal child who needed to be able to move, to speak, to be a child. When allowed to do that, the child flourished and learnt a lot, much more easily. I’m glad we have chosen to home educate, as I love that Kieran is free to explore his creativity more easily than he would able to do in a traditional school setting.

He Isn’t My Best Friend

So often, you hear people speak of their spouses as their best friends. This actually bothers my husband and me, for a number of reasons, as it seems to lessen the marriage bond. I know the intent of saying it is to show how strong the marriage is, that the love goes beyond sex, and that’s good, but it doesn’t go far enough.

First, my relationship with my husband is sacramental. I have some great friendships, but none of them are sacramental. None of them bestow sanctifying grace like the marriage bond does.From the Catechism:

1638 “From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament.”142

1641 “By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.”147 This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.”148

My friendships are not permanent and exclusive. We tend to have different friendships at different points in our lives. Sometimes we have friends that are with us throughout the seasons in our lives, but even then the friendship tends to change, wax and wane. And while we should of course build each other up in our friendships, we still do not get that grace intended to strengthen the bond and “help each other attain holiness,” as in marriage.

No other relationship has been used to truly express the bond between God and the Church. We see friendships that are exalted, such as David and Jonathon, or Jesus and John, but those relationships are not used to describe the love between God and Church. We see God described as a loving Father, and images of breastfeeding used to describe how God cares for us, yet even those aren’t used to described His relationship with the Church. No, that distinction goes to marriage. We are, after all, awaiting the marriage supper of the Lamb (and also participating in that marriage supper when we receive the Eucharist).

1661 The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

So, my best friend? No, my husband is much more than that. I pray our love may better reflect God’s love, that we may help each other to Heaven, and help our children to get there, too. I pray for God’s blessings on him, and us.

Update:

I think there’s a little confusion by what I mean. I absolutely do not mean that one shouldn’t want to spend time with their spouses doing activities often thought of as “best friend” activities: watching movies, chatting over tea, etc. Those things are great, and I definitely include those in the spousal relationship. My point, rather, is that, to me at least, it seems that saying “he’s my best friend” stops short of what marriage should be. I agree a lot with what Greg Popkak says in his blog, where he says spouses should be best friends because he thinks they should be spending that time together and enjoying each other’s company. I agree, I just don’t characterise it as a best friend type of relationship. Maybe we’re just using different terms or I’m being too picky, I don’t know. I know I do not agree with this post by Mark Judge that says a person should have a best friend who is almost equal to his spouse.