Church these days
Dapper black plaid shorts and smooth, soft cotton tees
Courteous nods to early birds and fellow latecomers
Familiar banging of kneeler to floor, kneeler to pew
Little bodies too long and heavy to hold and carry at length
Little bodies too short to see on foot or bended knee
Exclamations too loud for the glee of “the happy man and his dump truck”
Shyness prevailing for the sign of peace and a kind hello to strangers
“Mama uppy, I can’t see God” – Upstretched arms from the little ones
“Mama look, there’s a cross up there” – Outstretched arms from Jesus
Fractions of prayers – prayed prayerfully with freshly bathed blondies pressed to your lap
Powerful moments of, I’m so glad we came today, I desperately needed this
Counterpart moments of, Why do we bother? We must be disrupting everyone
Distracting thuds of shoes and little heads clunking pew, kneeler and books, as they wriggle and squirm
Thanks in all things, reverence for the spoken Word prepared just for you
His peace he gives to us, wrestling the rogue angel for us
Arched backs, defiant no’s, slamming books, wandering feet, runny noses
Exchanged glances running the gamut from get him outta here to we are so blessed
Merciful snuggles, two-handed kisses, heavy heads laid on shoulders
Jesus & Me time for little hearts
Kind teachers for little ears
Give us this day our daily bread, He is the bread of life
Tissue thin pages of missalettes, simple black font and notes
Songs sung and final blessings delivered
Gathering of coats, books and belongings
Thanking of priests who still move people
Discussion of homilies and announcements
Talk of coffee and family and church
Praise for the well-behaved, praise from our lips
Praise for our Savior, praise from our hearts
It’s the final week of Easter. Can I get an Amen and a joyful Alleluia?
My friends Renee & Megan shared this essay with me last summer about struggling with children in church: Dear parents with young children in church. I saved it because it’s worth returning to when my church pendulum is swinging away from the “fill me up Lord” side and towards the frustrating “why do we bother” side. Encouragement for parents worth sharing.
I don’t recall being overly concerned with a fussy child during mass before I had my own kids. Mostly I just remember empathy for the parents. I made great efforts not to pass judgment on other people’s parenting. What did I know? I had no experience on this front.
While I give myself a pass on this type of judgment, I do wish I was more observant and helpful to those parents I did encounter.
When I saw a parent in church struggling with little ones, I hope I smiled at them. I hope I made them feel welcome. I would have even held that sweet baby for a spell if they let me, so mom and dad could glean some much-needed encouragement from the message meant for them that day. I may not have done those things well then, but I try hard to do those things now. Our Fr. Sergio calls them, “the future,” and oh how right he is.
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
~ Matthew 19:13-14