On Vocation

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I suppose as long as I am a parent of a young child I shall attend mass in a blur of admonitions. "Look forward." "Please be quiet." "Don't look at that little girl." 'You can pray with us." "Stand up." "Kneel or stand if you want to see Father." "No, Jesus isn't always on that cross." "No you can't have any bread when we go up." "You're not old enouogh. . ."

I think you get the idea. Ask me after most Sunday homilies what the priest said and I'm as like as not to say "Priest? What priest?" Well, it's not that bad, but starting along about the end of the Gospel reading, and really revving up during the time when you most want quiet and most want not to try to tell your child why it is necessary to be quiet, there is a nearly constant stream of whispered instruction and admonition, settling down, and focusing attention. Oh yes, the Eucharistic prayer present the perfect forum for young children to turn to their neighbors and let them know what has been happening in their lives for the past six months.

BUT, presently, that is the small sacrifice I make for the enormous delight of having a young child. I do my best to see to it that he doesn't disturb those around us, and I miss the entire Mass. But, would God rather have it that I left Samuel home? I think not. Is it better to not train up a child in the proper conduct during Mass? Probably not.

So, in loving Samuel and spending the moments to try to let him know what is going on and why it is important for him to pay attention/be quiet/stop provoking the other children around him, I am loving God. I am offering my son a glimpse of the glory everlasting, and I am allowing God a moment to rejoice in the beauty of this wonderful child.

I do feel bad about it often. I think that I should do better, that perhaps something in the daily discpline fails, that perhaps I am not doing the right thing. But so long as it is only me who is distracted and at odds, so long as I can preserve relative peace and not disrupt the entire congregation, I suppose I have done as much as I can. Each child has a different temperament, and there are times when I could wish that Samuel would be more like that quiet child over there, or that one who can sit still for almost thirty seconds at a time. But then he would not be Samuel, would he? And so, I accept the challenge of the moment and pray that the grace of the Mass does not leave me, and that I partake in some share in the community of worship. Nevertheless, there is always the nagging doubt.

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Eloquent reflections from Alicia, Steven, and Steven's commenters (don't miss MLynn's comments) on taking little ones to Mass. I wish I had something to add. Even when alone, I fall so easily into distraction and sloth at Mass, and now... Read More


Let the nag doubt and keep doing what you are doing. I believe God would want you to take care of the spiritual and other needs of your son first. We are also Gods sons and if we let him he will take care of our spiritual needs at another time.

Well, you have my sympathies. I think that this is the reason God gave us creativity. At various times in the past, my husband and I have a) traded off Masses b) taken all the children at once or c) split the tribe up so that we each get to take one quiet child.

Today, for instance, I took the two smaller children to a meeting for CCD during the 10am Mass, and hubby took the older two children to Mass with him. Then I went to the noon Mass alone. Now, granted, it's not something that I would want to do every week-- I love attending Mass as a family. But, every once in a while, going "solo" gives one of us the peace and tranquility to listen to the readings without dragging a child out from under the pew, to listen to the homily instead of running a child to the bathroom, and to really participate in the Eucharist with our full heart and mind, instead of, well, you know what it's like with a child. The priest is raising the Eucharist up and you have a small person suddenly decide that it's time to go and a good loud whine would hurry up the process.

I *expect* children to fuss a little at Mass-- those Stepford families with 8 perfectly silent and still children kind of frighten me. When mine get too disruptive to the people around them, I haul them out for a minute. But most people are probably oblivious to your child's noises-- today, M. and the Little Guy and I were waiting for the 10am Mass to end, standing back by the bathrooms during the consecration. M. decided, who knows why, to *run* all the way to the opposite side of the church, bypassing a dozen people who pointed me in the right direction as I frantically tried to catch her. Everyone was standing, it was impossible to see a little kid. But after Mass, hubby had not even noticed me rushing to the front of the west pews to snatch her back. I counted that fifteen minutes as the small ones's "Mass" for the day. Another hour and there would have been tragedy.

Anyway. Your son needs to go to Mass, sure. But if he's particularly cranky or whiny or just *not* in the mood to cooperate, it isn't a sin to leave him at home or at a babysitter. The child still gets the basic message that this "thing" we do is important enough for Daddy to go every week. He'll learn that better when he's older and can see Daddy dragging himself out of bed one day when Daddy feels particularly ill or grumpy himself, but still going to Mass. And Daddy gets a chance to sneak a few minutes of adoration in or maybe a decade or two of the Rosary. I managed to say the entire rosary today, without a single child pulling on my skirt, just me in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. It was nice.

I'd say you're doing the right thing, Steven. Parenting is the farthest thing from an exact science. You wonder, you try this, you try that, you make mistakes, but you always love and never give up on them. That's what Samuel sees, and what he needs.

Hopefully you can get to a midweek mass now and then by yourself. Before our lives went crazy with this new business, my wife and I used to give each other time to attend at least one mass alone in the middle of the week.

Of the two or three children we see every week who really act up and make grand disturbances, the problem is that the parents do not mean what they say. They say, "don't crawl under the pew", but Susie crawls under the pew anyway with no consequences whatsoever. Obviously, toddlers can't sit completely still, and it would be outrageously cruel to require it of them. But they can usually be convinced that "don't crawl under the pew" means "don't crawl under the pew" after two or three trips outside. :-)

More than anything, your profound love for the boy shines through.

I've found that, when Stepford parents are informed of other parents' envy, they usually respond with incredulous stares. "You should've seen them twenty minutes before Mass."

It always helped us to point out to our boys some of the 'special' times at Mass. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is a great time for that - there is so much mystery and symbolism there that kids can really get into if it's pointed out to them.

My younger son likes to sing, and as we sing I used to point to the words of the song. Now he can follow the music himself.

Mass is a very intimate time for us - our kids sit on our laps, we hold them in our arms so they can see above the crowd to the priest, and at the sign of the peace it's not handshakes; it's hugs and kisses!

Now they both join us in the line fo rcommunion.... how the time passed so fast!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 21, 2003 6:12 PM.

Our Fallen Condition was the previous entry in this blog.

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