By ANNIE-ROSE KEITH
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Recently, my daughter fell out of her chair during Mass. She didn’t faint. She didn’t fall asleep. She just fell out of her chair during the Penitential Rite of Saturday night Mass at Resurrection Parish in Evansville. Luckily, they were sitting in the back with the technology, so the kerfuffle that could have ensued was quietly quelled. I cannot say the same about the level of frustration with her about her decision to fall out of her chair.
When she was about 3, I stopped into the Adoration chapel to say hello. She immediately started to pull out every possible reason to leave that her sharp little toddler wit could muster:
“I gotta go potty!”
It’s not easy taking young kids anywhere, let alone to a place where they’re expected to be as still and quiet as possible. During the Good Friday Service this past Holy Week, I wasn’t fast enough to catch my son as he bolted from the back of church to run to the other side – happily oblivious as he ran in front of Father lying prostrate at the sanctuary. I was grateful my family was in church that evening, but the hole I wanted to crawl into after his little bout of sanctified exploration could not have been dug fast enough. Afterwards, I received several kind words affirming my son’s presence in church that evening.
During Mass, it’s hard for their little bodies to stay still. It’s hard to sit in one place, and it’s hard to fight the urge to wiggle about the pews. I’m 32 years old and work full-time for the Church, and it’s still hard for me to sit still! My stillness-ineptitude, however, is no reason for me to not participate in Mass or even a Holy Hour; and the same is true for my kids. To quote a wise priest, “sometimes all you get out of Mass or a Holy Hour is just being there.” But at least you’re coming, and at least you’re bringing them.
That wise priest was right. Sometimes, all you think you get out of Mass or a Holy Hour is sweaty beads of frustration from wrestling your toddler or disappointment from being unable to focus; but at least you’re there. At least your kids or grandkids are watching you pray as best as you can. The more they watch you pray, the more likely they will continue to pray and go to church as they get older. We’re spending time with the King of the Universe and His Son, who died on our behalf; friends, there’s no specific box you need to fit into be a gold-medal Catholic parent. Sometimes, it’s really hard to remember that; I hope these words serve as a small reminder.
While I am not encouraging allowing your children to have complete run of the church or chapel during Mass or a Holy Hour, I am proposing the following:
- Let your kid move during quieter moments of corporate prayer, but within guidelines that go beyond just stationing yourself at the end of the pew or locking the adoration-chapel door to keep them from running out.
- If they need something to fidget with, consider purchasing a wooden rosary or chaplet to keep in their hand.
- If they like coloring, consider bringing some Catholic-themed coloring books with you in your family adoration (or Mass) bag.
All of this might seem like adding to the chaos, but at least they’ll have the faith in front of them – even if they’re not understanding what’s going on at the altar or who’s in the monstrance. Not only could it help with your family’s formation, but it could also serve as a reminder to people who are…let’s say…overly concerned about the behavior of others that at least you are there with your children, the future of our Church. Rather than glares of dissatisfaction, allow your child to be a font of grace. There will be fruits of your child’s activity during Mass or a holy hour; trust me!
You’re doing a great job.