Dear young family at Sunday Mass

Also posted at Catholic Insight

519px-Let_the_Little_Children_Come_unto_JesusTo the young family who sat in front of us at Sunday Mass, this is for you. You made me smile as I was reminded of what Mass with young children is all about.

How old are your three beautiful children: six, three, two? Yes, you do have your hands full. You arrived promptly and everyone was so beautifully dressed as you slid in to the pew in front of us. Mom, you had your bag of picture books and prayer cards to keep the little ones amused. Dad, you prodded and cajoled your angels into their seats as you held tight to your squirming toddler.

The kid shuffle began as you, mom and dad, traded off exuberant little children intent on keeping up their game of musical laps. Then things became intense so one of you picked up an active little one and headed for the vestibule, leaving the other parent at the mercy of the children in the pew. You traded places and toddlers as one returned to the pew and the other parent headed to the back of the church.

I’ll bet you were exhausted by the end of Mass. I’ll bet you wondered whether or not you actually attended Mass even though you were in the church. I’ll bet you wonder if the weekly juggling act (otherwise known as attending Mass with young children) is even worth it.

Well, I’d like to tell you that it is. We were just like you not so long ago. We balanced one child on the hip while holding on tightly to another child determined to torpedo himself down the aisle. We rushed out of the pew with a hungry baby, a squirming toddler, a crying infant, a full diaper. We brought our bag of tricks hoping that something would distract the children long enough so we could at least hear a bit of the homily.

We were the parents who persevered and before we knew it, the kids were too big to carry, the church bag was frayed and its contents ripped, stained, misplaced, and the children were beautifully behaved in the pew beside us. Then the children stopped sitting with us as they served Mass, lent their voices in the choir, and volunteered as lectors. Eventually, they started moving away, attending Mass in other parishes where they live or go to school, or at other times on Sunday.

It all happened so quickly and believe it or not, it’s starting to happen to you. Look at your handsome six – year old son who knows when to stand, when to kneel, and who didn’t have to be carried in or out of Mass. Appreciate that child and take comfort in the fact that you did something right with him and you are doing something right with your other children.

After Mass, when my husband and I complimented your lovely family and encouraged you to keep up the good work, we meant every word. When I pointed to my sons who were tidying up the sanctuary after serving Mass and my daughter who was listening to her choir director, my purpose was to show you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Each time you bring your family to Mass, you are inching closer to that light.

I know it’s difficult. Some days you will choose to leave the cranky, uncooperative toddler or teething baby at home and you and your husband will go to Mass at different times with your older children. At times, that is the only way you will be able to manage. Don’t beat yourself up and think you are failing as a parent. You are not failing; that is just life.

In fact, by your steadfastness, you are teaching your children many important life lessons. You are showing them that Mass is important, that weekly Sunday Mass attendance is normal and non-negotiable, that a life of faith, while sometimes difficult, is worth the struggle and sacrifice.

Cherish this time, parents of young children, and remember it well. One day, when your children know when to sit, kneel, and stand, when they are assisting the priest or attending Mass at a different time or place, a young family with squirming, curious children will pile into the pew in front of you. When that day comes, you will know what to say to them. You will encourage them because you will understand how important it is to make them feel that their efforts and hardships are a valuable witness to love and faith. You will assure them that families with young children are necessary in the life of the parish Church.

Painting: Christ with Children by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). under a Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

This entry was posted in Catholic, Catholic Church, Catholic family, children, faith, family, large family, parenting, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Dear young family at Sunday Mass

  1. Pauline McLaughlin says:

    Beautiful article. I am reminded how grateful I am for my Mom and Dad for persevering with six kids at Mass every Sunday; my brothers served on the altar, Dad took up the collection, and my sisters and I brought up the Gifts. We certainly had many ups and downs as a family, but attendance at Holy Mass was never in doubt.

  2. Imelda says:

    Thank you for this post. I see our family in this and the worries and strain of caring and disciplining little children at Mass (we still do). Thank God for supportive parishioners who lessen the worries of parents.

  3. When I look around the church and see infants sharing a pew with the elderly, I am reminded of the richness of God’s family. There is comfort in knowing that young and old come together for Mass and pray for everyone’s intentions. Young families in church encourage everyone and give us an opportunity to rejoice in the blessings of life.

  4. Pingback: Dear young family at Sunday Mass | Desperion's Blog

  5. SR says:

    Beautiful, 8 kids. How I admire all of you. Parents that practice NFP always make me smile in Mass. Their kids usually will get a giggle out of me, also. We are very blessed to have a Church that teaches life, and actually be able to see that life grow in the mother’s womb, then to see it’s birth, and watch it grow with maybe 8 or more siblings. How all of you bless the rest of us. Good post and God Bless, SR

  6. Pingback: Dear young family at Sunday Mass | Christians Anonymous

  7. reinkat says:

    Wonderful post, bringing back memories of going to church with my parents, of taking my own sons to Mass. Lately, I see so few young families, and almost didn’t realize it till I read this. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a baby crying at Mass.

  8. abcinsc says:

    And they are all too soon gone… repeating the process with their own families. God bless.

  9. Peggy says:

    This is so beautiful. But My husband and I feel we have failed somewhere. Are there other families that did this weekly? Taking all nine of our children every Sunday, then having most of them not attending Mass anymore. Are we the only ones?

    • No, you’re not the only one. I hear this a lot. In one of his many writings on the family, Fr. John Hardon said to keep praying for your children who have wandered away from the Catholic Church. He said to especially pray the rosary for them.

  10. Laura says:

    Absolutely love this!! What a blessing to hear such warm encouragement from the other side of the pew, as it were! Will be sharing this far and wide – thank you.

  11. Thank you, Laura, for your kind words.

  12. Theresa says:

    I think I cried through the whole reading! Fr. today told the parish “if you find yourself distracted. say thank you Jesus, there are children in the pews”. We have 7,5,4,2 year old boys and 1 year old twin girls, I am also due with baby number 7 next month. We sit up front, naturally three other families sit with us, along with a few older families who I think enjoy being in the noisy quadrant of the church. 7 years ago my husband had to remind me every Sunday, when you are with a baby in the back or distracted by them in the pew, you are their praying in a different way.

  13. aliciainwonderlandblog says:

    Thank you for writing this! So many days, my husband and I get so frustrated at mass, being new parents of a toddler. We always feel like a mess. 🙂

  14. rcconvert says:

    When my son was little, it took time before we could all attend church together–my son didn’t want to stay in the nursery, and when he was in church, he kicked the pew backs. It’s easy for families to find bringing their children to Mass a challenge, so thanks for encouraging parents with little ones! As our parish priest often says, the sound of children in the pews is a sign that the Church is alive!

  15. shwell says:

    my boys are now 6,9 and 11 and serving Mass ( and singing in the choir at the next parish over), but when they were little we had several older parishioners complain about them being a distraction at Mass, there are only 2-3 more children at our Parish and they are older. Now those same Parishioners are complaining that there are no altar servers, same old lectors every other week, no choir etc etc – wonder why!!

  16. Pingback: Letting Go of Worrying What Others Think About Us | Alicia In Wonderland

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