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Sunday, May 08, 2011

To The Mothers At Mass

Last Tuesday, we took the children to morning Mass at Mater Dei Catholic Church in Irving, Texas. During Mass, I noticed that there were a lot of little children present; it was hard to ignore the sounds of crying, kicking the pews, and playing with books which all but drowned out the words of the priest and the responses of the sacristan. Rather than finding it irritating, I thought it was refreshing to hear so many children. Their contributions to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, while officially unapproved, are the greatest indicator that a church is growing –literally – with parishioners who are open to life and are bringing their little ones to Mass.

It occurred to me that others may not welcome the noise of little children as much as I do, and that they may have criticized the mothers afterwards. It is usually the mothers who bring their children to Mass. I have a special place in my heart for mothers who bring their children to Mass, because that is what Carolyn has done for so many years. She has been scolded, even run out of some churches, because of the noise of our far-from-perfect children. The occasional words of encouragement she received were a tremendous consolation to her.

Since I did not have a chance to thank the mothers and encourage them to keep bringing their children to Mass, I sat down and wrote this letter to them instead.

To the Mothers Who Brought the Noisy Children to Mass on Tuesday:

Thank you for taking the time to bring your children to weekday Mass. I am not being sarcastic when I say this. You are doing the greatest service to yourself, your children, your husband, other parishioners, and priests. In short, you are strengthening the Body of Christ when you bring your little toddlers and infants - and older children as well - in to the presence of Our Lord.

For some of us, your presence is a reminder of how it used to be when our children were the ones making the noise in the back of church. I still can remember the times each of my children has charged the altar in the middle of the Consecration, trying to reach the priest before being captured by Mom or Dad. Now, most of my toddlers are taller than me, but we still have a few young children who like to add to the general disorder of weekday Mass.

But back to you and your children at Mass. For yourself, you are receiving the greatest support and consolation when you come to Mass. Your role as wife and mother is a constant challenge to 'die to self' for the benefit of children who show little or no appreciation for your work. Sadly, the world also looks down upon the vocation you have chosen. It is here, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, that you can receive what is most important for the work that God has called you.

Your children are seeing the best example that a parent can give of what is most important: living a life of Faith; in particular, one which is centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Every day that you set aside time from your hectic schedule to come to church is another lesson for the children that Mass should be a focus of their life rather than a one-hour Sunday obligation which has to be fulfilled in order to get on to other things in life. On the practical side, consider that weekday Mass teaches the children how to behave on Sunday, when Mass is usually longer. It also really helps if your husband can make it to weekday Mass with the whole family as well. Children need to see that this is important to Dad as well as Mom.

For husbands, if they cannot make it to daily Mass with the family, they can still reap the benefits of your attendance. First, they benefit from your prayers offered up, including prayers you have for your husband in particular. Second, by strengthening your faith, you strengthen the whole family. It is the woman who is the heart and soul of the family, and the rest of the family will gravitate toward whatever level of devotion and piety she sets. Your husband has entrusted you with the children which are the fruit of your love, and it is a tremendous joy for him to know that you are bringing them to Our Lord in the course of your daily activities.

Parishioners will benefit from your children being at Mass because your children are our future. Specifically, most of the priests and religious who will be ordained in twenty to thirty years from now are presently screaming in church, being carried out of the sanctuary yelling "No! No! NO!" or loading their diapers while pretending to sleep in their mother's or father's arms. It would be good for the folks who are distracted by children to consider that these little people will one day be the priests, doctors, nurses and lawyers who will be taking care of them in their old age. I think they would want those folks to be good, faithful Catholics.

Last of all, priests can grow in the virtue of patience while dealing with your noisy children. I don't know who said it originally, but there are times when a religious has to set aside his prayers and perform some act of corporal mercy for someone else. One might equate ignoring a fidgeting toddler with the porter of a monastery having to leave vespers to answer the doorbell. That is just part of being a parish priests, whether one is a diocesan priest or in an order.

So please keep bringing your children to Mass during the week. You need it, even though every ounce of your fallen nature is telling you otherwise. The rest of us need it as well, whether we admit it or not.



P.S., that drawing at the top of this letter was us in 1998!


Linda said...

Thank you for those words of encouragement! I have often been the one to "pray with my feet" as I walk a baby back and forth in the Narthex, missing the readings, etc. "That is your Mass" my spiritual director would say when I told him that I missed everything because of children. Bless you!

MightyMom said...

thank you so much for this! I can't tell you how moving it is to hear.

I shall be linking to it soon.

GrandmaK said...

Wonderful post!!! I thank them too!

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