“I am convinced,” a seasoned mom of many once said to me, “That Jesus is in the bathroom. Because every time we go to Mass, I end up spending my time in there!”
Ah, they joy that it is bringing little ones to Mass. My kids are there, every week, barring sickness. We do our best to take them out when they become disruptive, don’t let them eat at Mass, and don’t even bring crayons for coloring after the great “drawing all over the pew” incident several years back at our brand. new. church. (Once again, diaper wipes saved my bacon).
We don’t split up Masses as a rule, either. Whenever we do, the debate among the children quickly dissolves into a “why do I have to go, why can’t I stay home,” tirade. It seems that if there is an out to going to Mass, the younger ones will jump at it. And yes, we’ve tried spinning it as, “Oh, you don’t have to go, you get to go!”, but they don’t buy it.
But here’s the thing– they don’t get out of eating their vegetables, apologizing and making amends when they hurt someone or going to the dentist. Some things are important, and they will do them. Period. And as time goes on, they will grow in appreciation for all those things. In terms of the Mass, I pray they grow more than to appreciate it. Its my hope that they grow to love it.
And I just don’t think they’ll have as easy a chance at that if they don’t go when they’re little. I want going to Mass and prayer and learning about God to be as natural to them as breathing.
So, where was I going with this? Oh yes, the bathroom. Or in my case, the waterfountain, the modern day well.
A certain two year old has gotten it in her sweet, blonde little head that if she asks for water, she gets herself out of sitting in the pew, and it took a certain mother a couple of weeks to realize that said blondie is not that thirsty.
I’m a slow learner.
However, I get that at such a young age, this little one is antsy and needs to move a bit. We’ve gone through this with all of them around two, where they just need a break. And every Mass, I quietly talk her out of leaving until after the Homily (we usually start the discussion around the first reading), when we do the long walk out of church to the fountains. After filling her up, I look her in the eye and remind her that she better get all she needs now, because we’re not coming back out again, and she usually takes a few more sips before she’s truly “done.”
As we make our way back to the pew, she samples the holy water font, blessing herself in the most beautiful way that only a toddler can do (and I think she’s signaling to Father to run to the outfield), looks at stain glass windows, and checks out every statue.
I have my ear on the Mass throughout it all, as I pick her up and whisper to her what she sees in the window (“see the angel? He’s coming to tell Mary that God wants her to be the mother of Jesus!”) or in a statue (“That’s St. Louis de Monteforte, and he showed us how important it is to love Mary!”). All the while, I’m responding to the Mass, and I’ve been known to sing the Our Father while walking through the narthex.
Is she going to remember all of this? No. I’m pretty sure of that. However, it goes back to something that I’ve heard attributed to Maya Angelou– people aren’t going to remember what we said to them, they’ll remember how we made them feel.
It is my hope that my children learn from their experience with me and the Mass that they just know, right to the core of their bones, they know that the Mass is important. Its so important, that they go no matter what, even if they have a two year old who needs to wander, or a ten year old who doesn’t want to sit next to anyone, or a six year old who complains about how boring it all is. We’ll deal with all of those issues on their own, but regardless, I want them to grow up knowing that no matter how tough it was to get everyone up and out the door despite many, many, many, many protests, Mom and Dad took us to Mass every. single. week, without fail.
Because its important.
I know many people view these interactions with children as distractions. I was talking to a friend once who’s brother is a priest. When her children were all still young, she lamented to him that she felt that she never got anything out of Mass, because she was always taking care of someone’s needs.
He told her that she was getting more than others, because she wasn’t just receiving, she spent her time at Mass serving others. After all, it is in serving others that we find Jesus, is it not? Whether we’re giving drink to the thirsty (back at that water fountain), admonishing the sinner (or six year old who’s picking a fight with his sister), or instructing the ignorant (whispering, “look! There’s Jesus!” at the Consecration).
In this season of motherhood, where we have little people around us, nothing is easy. But in faithfully living out our vocation, and taking little ones to Mass, even when it is difficult, we may find that we really are “getting more out of it” than we realize.