You know them. That family, with multiple small kids. The one that comes in every Sunday. The one you are hoping doesn’t sit near you. The one that some Sundays is on time. Everyone looks perfect in their Sunday best. Some Sundays look like there may have been a struggle. A really. Rough. Struggle. There will be noise. They are such a distraction.
That family, that is us. Every Sunday we drag our three girls, ages two, four, and six to mass. You can count on us being here, every weekend. We don’t miss mass. And we don’t plan to start now.
Churches need to be welcoming of families
We were that family at Christmas Eve service with the two-year-old who screamed “where’s Mary?” when the whole church was silent. She also may have needed to be carried out a few times. We are that family that’s kids are fighting because someone touched the other or who gets to go first to walk up for their blessing at communion.
You probably don’t like sitting near us, unless you are like us. And that is okay. I get it. But, before you roll your eyes at us or whisper under your breath, remember, this is their home too. We are in God’s house. And they are as much His children as we are. I didn’t understand this concept for a long time. Luckily, a faithful Catholic, seasoned mother of five, reminded me of this.
Several years ago, my barely two-year-old daughter was having a rough time in church. A fellow parishioner told me my children didn’t belong in church. So, I left, in tears. I grabbed my baby and walked out. I didn’t even wait until mass was over. Not only did I walk out of that church, but I walked away from my Catholic faith. I fully intended never to walk back into those doors. But, I did. I am so thankful I did. Each Sunday, I will continue to walk through them.
God’s House is Ours, Too
Those eye rolls, they still get to me. I find myself anxious and frustrated. I am reminded that my children being here is what we promised God. We promised this at each one of their baptisms. We promised to raise them in the Catholic faith. My duty as their mother is to bring these three girls to mass. It is our job as parents to show them the importance of God first in their lives. Even when it is hard or stressful, we go to mass. Mass isn’t about us being comfortable. It is about worshiping our God, being near to Him. It is about the Eucharist.
Christmas Eve mass I found myself in tears, not because of the stress, but because I was there. Easter Mass on TV was hard for me. Here I was, at Christmas, looking up at Jesus on the cross and simply being grateful to be there. I am so grateful for Him.
Maybe hearing my daughter yell out “where’s Mary” was annoying to some. I am excited that at two, she knows who Mary is and looks for her in church.
I look at my six-year-old, who is so proud of herself for understanding many parts of mass. Her growing maturity and desire to participate in mass warms my heart.
In those tough moments, I need to remember that I have seen a difference in their church behavior over the course of the last several months. I see them learning. I see them growing in their faith.
Fostering that Childlike Faith
Many times, when they are talking and it bothers you, they are asking questions. My husband and I both grew up hating church. We had to sit quietly, try not to fall asleep, and suffer through. We didn’t understand what was going on or why any of it was important. It wasn’t until we were adults that we started to really understand the mass. Now, I enjoy mass, not always with the kids, but you know what I mean.
We don’t want our kids dreading mass and not finding enjoyment in it until they are adults. Or worse, they leave like we did. We returned, but maybe they wouldn’t. We want them to be active in practicing their faith. Allowing them to ask questions, keeps them engaged. Sure, occasionally they ask when they can have a snack or why Daniel Tiger only has one red sweater, but mostly, they want to understand. They get excited about Jesus. Their childlike faith is beautiful. I want to foster that.
So, I am sorry if we are disruptive. I apologize if sometimes you miss what the priest said because my husband is walking past you with a kicking and screaming toddler. I am sorry that it can be annoying. But, I am not sorry that I brought my kids to church. And, I will not apologize for that.
So please, be kind. Offer words of encouragement if you have them. Don’t be afraid to say hello to my children.
For those moms who are like me, don’t give up. Don’t let others keep you away. Yes, some weekends it is hard, extremely hard. But it is our duty. Our diligence will pay off in their church behavior. More so, our diligence and willingness to sacrifice our own comfort will bring them closer to Jesus. And as mothers, that is our primary purpose.