Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the Question of Children's Attendance at Mass

The following is an article I wrote for our parish newsletter in sort of an indirect response to a comment I'd seen on The Catholic Spirit's web page a month or so prior. In the editorial or comments (whichever it was), a woman lamented the presence of children at Mass, alleging that Mass was "for adults."

Because that attitude is all to prevalent in some circles, I wrote this short blurb for the publication:

Do Children Belong at Mass?

 When I was growing up, Mom made sure Mass was a priority every week. She taught my brother and me to sit and stand just like everyone else, and when I was too little to kneel, she allowed me to stand on the kneeler and directed my attention to the altar. When I was restless or complained about having to go to Mass instead of staying home and playing, Mom reminded me that I had no problem sitting in front of the TV for an hour. Couldn’t I be just as well behaved for God?

Yes, yes I could! I truly did try to pay attention, and was familiar with, most especially, the music. Sometimes it confused me, though. I knew we were there to worship God so who, for example, was that “Hosanna” character we always sang about? Was he just a really good friend of God’s?

Every so often I hear people talking or read in various articles the suggestion that children don’t belong at Mass. That saddens me. Not just because my experience of learning how to worship God was so good, but rather because of the objective nature of the Mass; what it is and Who is made present during the consecration. In the Mass, heaven touches earth and even the very youngest among us and those who cannot receive the Sacraments experience a very real foretaste of Eternity. It’s not about feeling or sentimentality or even about parenting. It is all about God. The Mass, and the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ; this is the source and summit of our Faith.

We live in a time that speaks about inclusion; that inclusion should most especially embrace children, the most innocent among us and who perhaps have even MORE of a right to be present! Jesus Himself speaks through the scriptures and tells us that the angels of children look upon the face of God. He admonished His apostles to allow the children to come to Him, and indeed, they do see and understand some of the deepest mysteries of our faith that puts mere intellectual comprehension to shame.

Please bring your children to Mass, help them learn to worship Our Lord and recall His very words, “He who receives one of these in my name, receives Me.”


Adrienne said...

Children most assuredly belong at Mass. The only exception is very young babies or sick kids.

When we were infants, out of respect for the other attendees, my mom would go to church while dad watched the baby.

Properly prepared kids will behave. Case in point: we attend TLM at an FSSP parish. It is rare to see a young child (and there are tons of little kids) misbehave. They have their little prayer books and rosaries and sit quietly. What they don't have is toys and Cheerios. If they start to get a bit restless, mom or dad quietly and gently guide them in proper behavior. On the rare occasion a very little one (under 2 or an infant) has a meltdown, they are rapidly whisked to the cry room.

At the NO parishes, it is usually complete chaos with kids running on the pews (pews are for sitting, not the filthy shoes of little kids), banging of action figure toys on the backs of the pews, food being scattered about on the carpet, all while the parents sit back, smile, and say, "Well, they're only kids." Ummm, that's the point! You're job is to teach them how to behave.

Result? Almost all of the NO kids drop church as soon as they can - most while still in high school.

Almost none of the TLM kids leave the Church and our little FSSP parish has sent numerous vocations off to seminary and the convent over the past 3 or 4 years.

Our NO parish is batting 0 in vocations.

Julie Olson said...

Adrienne ~ Infants most certainly DO belong at Mass! The grace of Heaven touching Earth, the grace of the presence of the Holy Eucharist touches them as well! But yes, oftentimes it is easier on the parents to leave the baby home, and I know many families that do so for various reasons (as in your example of the parents swapping Mass times in order to care for the infant).

While I have no interest in getting to a "NO vs TLM" discussion, I will say this: your observations don't match mine. I work in a NO parish and attend a NO parish, both very orthodox, and what you describe simply doesn't take place here. At least not in the way you describe. I'm sorry that's been your experience. It's true that is the attitude of some uncatechized parents, but those are found everywhere. Even in a TLM parish. (I've witnessed it, sadly enough).

Also, my NO parish has long been a vocations factory, through several Pastors, not all of whom have been the most orthodox. I actually give credit to the perpetual presence of the Blessed Sacrament. :-) Ah...what can be said about the graces from that, for an entire parish!