In theTunnel

My parents sent Sophie this collapsible crawl tunnel for Christmas. Until this week Bella has been the one to play with it while Sophie watched and laughed.

Then suddenly this week I looked up and Sophie was in the tunnel, laughing and shrieking.

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17 Responses to In theTunnel

  1. Charlotte May 4, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    Wow, Melanie! You have expressed some really great thoughts. I’ll wade in here with you.

    We have been of the same mind as you and Dom. Our children have never been to a nursery, not even when we had three under three. Cistercian doesn’t have one! But they do have a Crying Room (it used to be a small room with some toys and a baby monitor) and we discovered pretty quickly with The Professor that even a child under the age of one can pick up on the fact that if they make a fuss, they get to go play with toys. Sounds more like a reward system and it was. When he learned that making a fuss meant being held by Dad in the back of the church or outside (not running around freely, being held!) then he learned to stay quiet for the most part (extenuating circumstances like being overtired or teething aside). His sisters learned the same thing only a lot sooner since they never went to the Crying Room as babies and we learned very quickly that the best way to hold a young child’s attention at Mass was by sitting right up front and engaging them in the Mass.

    One observation my husband and I made a long time ago was that those people who tended to use the nursery or even leave their children at home and do split Masses regularly were also the ones who ignored their children during Mass. This is not a judgment, just a very real observation. They would be kneeling with their eyes closed, praying with their head bowed and never glancing to see what the children were doing in the pew, not whispering to them what the parts of the Mass were, not helping them to say any kind of simple prayers. My youngest always asks me when we first arrive at Church, “OK, what do I say, Mom?” and we go through a little extemporaneous prayer time.

    One other practice that we developed which helped tremendously was attending daily Mass. I credit my grandmother with this success because I never would have thought of doing this on my own. My grandmother passed away when my children were 5,4 and 2 and I was pregnant with #4. Her funeral Mass was on a First Friday. My mom and her siblings were reminiscing about grandma’s devotion to First Friday Mass so my husband and I decided we would use that First Friday Mass as the beginning of our First Friday devotion and attend Mass on the next 8 First Fridays. We did it even including the week after #4 was born although most times, it was me taking the kids alone while he caught an earlier Mass before work.  Most moms would say, “I could never take my kids to Mass alone!” and I would have agreed with them, but daily Mass is different that Sunday Mass. First of all, it’s usually shorter, less crowded and mostly populated by kind elderly people who are thrilled to see young children there. (Occasionally you get a really surly senior citizen who glares at you, but it was rare!) Plus, it’s not an obligation so if somebody melts down (the toddler, the baby, the mommy) you can walk out and go home. I noticed that attending daily Mass resulted in better behavior on Sundays. Whether it was the graces the children received by being in the presence of Our Lord and this beautiful sacrament, or just the extra reinforcement in a calm environment, I don’t know. I would encourage all moms of young children to consider adding a daily Mass or a holy hour or just a visit to Jesus with the children into their week. This children do receive graces form being present and you will receive graces for trying!

  2. Heather Price May 4, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    A long post and I need to get the kids started with school, so I’ll be brief too.
    1. I agree with you on the nursery. All of our kids have spent time in the foyer because our parish doesn’t have one. They’ll learn sooner how to behave by example than exception.

    2. We have each had the opportunity to attend Mass without children in our parenting years. We “platoon” it, where one stays home with the sick child (and the rest of the troops too) and the other goes.
    It’s worthwhile to do on occasion, but I’ll admit too I’m ready to be back with the Kidchaos the next week.

  3. Charlotte May 4, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    Wow. I need to proofread before I hit submit. That last sentence should read:
    The children do receive graces from being present and you will receive graces for trying!

  4. Melanie Bettinelli May 4, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    Charlotte,

    Actually the mom who advocated putting kids in the nursery did say she brings them to daily Mass. I edited that out because there were too many asides already.

    I would like to get back into going to daily Mass occasionally. I used to take Bella sometimes and it was always very nice when we did go. Part of the reason I’ve stopped is that I’m just not a morning person and Mass times haven’t worked well with our schedule. Getting myself out to 8 or 9 am Mass when I was single was doable. Getting myself out with toddler when I was pregnant… not so much. Our last apartment was right near the Carmelite monastery and when we moved in I had visions of going to daily Mass frequently with Bella and getting to rest in the peacefulness of the nuns. But once Sophie came along I couldn’t get up and out the door on time.

    Dom and I have taken both girls to daily Mass for Holy Days, but I’ve never tried to go solo partly because every time we’ve done it one of us has ended up having to go out.

    However, Dom does have daily Mass at his office since he works for the Archdiocese of Boston. We’ve been a couple of times for Holy days. But that first trimester of pregnancy again nixed most ideas of going more frequently. Now that I have more energy, we really should try to get up there once a month for Mass and lunch with daddy. At least until baby Benedict comes and messes everything up again…. It all depends on the season of life I’m in and what the Mass times are whether daily Mass is achievable with small kids. 

  5. Sarah L. May 4, 2009 at 3:49 am #

    We started leaving the 2 year old in the nursery awhile ago, and I don’t regret it.  The nursery is available only during the 10am Mass, and we go to the other Masses often enough that she does get to attend with us sometimes.  The problem with us taking all four children to Mass is that when I have to go to the vestibule with the baby, my (non-Catholic) husband is left in the pew with the 2, 4 and 6 year olds.  They exploit him when he’s outnumbered (and flustered) and I think it’s just too hard for him.  And those around him.  I’m not so concerned about “what I am getting out of Mass”- I’ve accepted that my quiet, prayerful days of going to Mass are temporarily on hold- but I am very concerned about my children ruining the Mass for those sitting around us.  And most importantly, I have been praying for my husband’s conversion for many years now, and I want him to not dread going to Mass. 

    There is a cry room at the church, but we avoid that like the plague. 

  6. Christine May 4, 2009 at 6:29 am #

    It’s a well-written post, and I, for the most part, agree with your sentiments. But I think you confuse notions of duty and sacrifice.

    I take my 2-year-old and the 4-month-old to 9 a.m. daily Mass, but we are fortunate to have a quiet room all to ourselves. Otherwise, it would be far too difficult. And my husband, who does not attend Mass and for whose conversion I’m praying, stays home with the 4-year-old and the 2-year-old while I bring the 4-month-old to Sunday Mass. There is no way I could handle all three alone.

    Never resorting to the nursery is your personal decision. But the nursery can be a tremendous blessing for other harrassed, harried parents in great need of recharging and refreshing their faith. And who are we to judge? What if it is God Himself who has provided the nursery through the kindness of parishioners so that parents can focus more on the Mass?

    Would we look askance at spouses who leave children with babysitters once a week so that they can go on a date night and recharge their marriage? Why, then, do we judge parents who choose to leave their children in a nursery so their spiritual relationship with Christ can be recharged?

    It’s good to expose the little ones to Mass, ofcourse, and as they get older, essential. But Holy Mother Church has always advocated common sense, and has also ordained that children are not obligated under pain of mortal sin to attend Mass until they have made their First Communion (which is usually 7 years or up). If parents were to leave their children out of Mass from that point, it would be sinful. And if they have the ability to bring them to Mass before that age, wonderful. But for those parents who simply need that time of spiritual recharging (which will help them to be more patient parents in the coming week), then it seems common sense to take advantage of the nursery—and the last thing these tired moms needs is another mom judging her for it.

  7. Katherine May 4, 2009 at 6:47 am #

    Our parish likewise has a nursery. With a 3 year old and a 1 year old, I understand how some parents could be tempted to take advantage of it. I just don’t understand how they choose to do so. I am all too aware of the distractions small children can provide during Mass. But Jesus calls the little children to Himself just as he calls the adults and aren’t we to TRUST Him. It always seems to me to show a lack of trust not to bring the children. Lack of trust in ourselves to be able to repeatedly try to teach them how to behave, in our children to learn and behave better, and in God who asks us to bring them and knows our struggles and embarrassments and distractions.  I’m not saying that makes it easy. My prayer before Mass is always for the girls to be good. Sometimes James still has to take Felicity to the back of the Church (she knows she can squirm out of my arms). And if anyone says anything negative about my children being disruptions, I have to trust that God knows I did my best.

    I have also found that not every Mass is the same. Some Sundays the girls are absolute angels. Other days they seem to ache with every inch of their bodies to get out of that pew. But I will say one thing in which I am a firm believer. Consistent discipline and practice will teach ANY child how to properly behave at Mass.  Cecilia, who is nicknamed “Tigger,” is usually an unstoppable bundle of energy constantly bouncing from one toy or game to the next. She is not a quiet child. She is not a child who likes to sit still. While I am reading one book to her she will go pick out the next. And yet, she behaves her best at Church. She is quiet. She knows not to get on the floor. She knows she can’t leave us in the pew. She either sits quietly looking at books or stands watching the Mass and sometimes tries to participate. She behaves the exact opposite at Church than her usually bouncy, excited, energetic behavior at home. That isn’t because she was left in a nursery. That is because she has been consistently brought to Mass and consistently taught how to behave (not that she doesn’t occasionally try to retest her boundaries).

    And this has fed me in ways I wouldn’t have originally chosen but certainly needed. I struggle with consistency, especially when I am pregnant and uncomfortable or tired. Consistency in discipline is one of my most difficult areas and yet at Mass God has forced me to be just that. And yet, despite my general impatience, after 3 years of consistent discipline, I’m amazed and so grateful for the results. And now, as Felicity wants to explore during Mass, I find that Cecilia’s behavior helps feed Felicity by setting a good example. Right now, both girls are rather young, but as they get older, they will help feed other children how to properly behave during Mass. And, as they behave better, I am able to get more and more out of Mass. I’ve become fairly proficient in disciplining a child while still listening to the homily but, of course, the better behaved the children are, the easier it is to focus on the Mass. (I do read the readings and reflection in my Magnificat in the car en route to Mass to help me.) Of course I miss those Masses when I didn’t even have to worry about what anyone else around me was doing, but won’t there be time for those Masses later in my life when I’ll miss having these tiny hands to hold on to and these sweet baby butterfly kisses during the Sign of Peace? For everything there is a season and the season of mothers with young children right now may simply not be the season they want when it comes to the Mass, but it is still the season God chose for them, here and now, and we need to trust Him in this.

    On a side, the children at our parish received their First Holy Communion on Saturday but came to the Masses yesterday in their white dresses and suits. I had such conflicting emotions. Half of me kept thinking, “Oh, won’t it be such a wonderful day when Cecilia receives her First Holy Communion!” while the other half of me thought, “Oh NO! Not yet! I forbid her to grow up so fast!” Part of me longed to imagine her in her white dress and part of me wanted to cry doing so. Ahhhhh, motherhood.

    So sorry this got so long.

  8. Maureen May 5, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    Re: interruption

    St. John of the Cross and other spiritual writers were all okay with interruptions as part of the spiritual life. Monastics have unexpected emergencies, too. Also, many of the great monastic mystics were doorkeepers, which meant they were always up and down, answering the door and taking care of visitors’ needs and wants.

    Re: nurseries

    Well, heck, I remember being a little Catholic kid, and I remember sometimes going to the nursery. It wasn’t like you were getting away with anything, because you still had to wear nice clothes and keep them clean, and pretty much all the activities were at least vaguely related to religious education. My parents knew my limits and needs, and they knew which days to put me down in the nursery instead of going to Mass.

    Today’s parents get way too stressed about this stuff. I see posts by mothers who drag their butts to Mass when they’re practically still bleeding from giving birth and yet feel guilty that they didn’t go before, when in fact young mothers have traditionally been allowed to stay home from Mass as long and whenever they want. And here you folks are stressing incredibly hard about Mass vs Nursery, when it’s just supposed to be an option you can use.

    There were also plenty of times when we were toddlers when my parents decided that the sane way to go to church was in shifts. That wasn’t their usual procedure; it was a sort of mental health day on Sunday. And it didn’t make us all heathen; my brothers and I go to church every Sunday still, and so do my parents.

    Routine is important, sure. But there’s also nothing wrong with flexibility within routine.

    But yeah, the real reason to go to Mass without kids is not so much “to be fed”, but rather “to relax and get rid of stress, and also let the kids get rid of me for a while”. It’s not heresy or evil to take a break. “To experience the Mass in a different way than I’ve gotten used to” is also a valid reason. But the Mass is the Mass, and you’re not more fed one way than another, per se.

    And don’t go saying I hate kids in church or anything. I love watching the Toddlertown pews go, with all the faith and family so easy to see. But families shouldn’t feel like they have go to Mass the same way every week, just for my entertainment and warm fuzzies. smile

  9. Melanie Bettinelli May 5, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    Thanks, Sarah, that’s a great piece. Quite a bit to chew on. I especially liked this passage at the end on accepting what comes without worrying about the benefits one is receiving:
    <blockquote>I have a suggestion for people who attend Mass out of obligation even though they doubt they�ll get much from attending (such as a person with small children). It�s difficult to explain because it requires an approach that is largely at odds with conventional thinking. I call it an �existentialist� approach to Mass in order to contrast it with an �essentialist� approach. An essentialist approach would concentrate on our essence (i.e., our souls) and think about the spiritual benefits bestowed on our souls by the liturgy and Mass.

    This existentialist approach, on the other hand, does the opposite. It basically says, �I will go and take in what I can, but I won�t worry about it or think about what the Mass is doing for me. I will just be there, accepting what comes and not thinking about what could be coming if I could be more attentive.� The surroundings or circumstances don�t matter with this approach because the person is not at all concentrated on himself: He is simply �looking outward� and taking in what he can and not worrying if he can�t take it all in.

    This type of approach played a large part in St. Therese of Lisieux�s �Little Way.� St. Therese would have been a saint in any time or any setting because she simply existed without reference to her separate soul, becoming, in her words, a drop of water in the mighty ocean of divinity.

    [snip]

    A person with St. Therese�s mindset can pretty much accept anything that is thrown at him during the day � or during the Mass. He does not grow irritated or overly distracted by any surroundings or circumstances, because he doesn�t think much about them. If his kids are unruly, he will attend to them, without thinking about the benefits of the Mass he�s missing, then return to the Mass, without thinking about the benefits he�s going to get. He just accepts his surroundings, allowing grace to work where it will, but with no thought of the grace.

    It may seem awfully simple or even commonsensical, but it�s an approach that I suspect eludes most young parents. I know it eluded me for the first few years of fatherhood as I sweated through the Mass, trying to get as much out of it as I could and despairing when I was distracted for prolonged periods. I have found it a highly beneficial approach to worship under trying circumstances. </blockquote>

  10. Maureen May 5, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    I should have said that when my parents went to church in shifts, we were generally staying at home and being watched in shifts. Although there were times when my dad took us to church and my mom went later on, by herself. We didn’t care. Whatever our parents told us to do, that’s what we did, and we weren’t the kinds of kids to worry about it.

    Flexibility.

  11. Christine May 4, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    Louis & Zelie Martin regularly left their 3-year-old daughter Th�r�se at home while they went to Mass. Now they are beatified, and their daughter has been called the greatest saint of modern times. Were they selfishly denying their children the graces of Mass in pursuit of those graces for themselves?

  12. Melanie Bettinelli May 4, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    Thanks, Sarah and Christine, I was hoping to get some feedback from people who use the nursery too.

    I was worried that I wasn’t clear enough on the fact that I’m not judging parents who decide to use the nursery. I think that’s one of those hard decisions each family must make for themselves. Bottom line: like Danielle Bean says is do what works best for your family.

    Really the nursery thing is not my main point and I don’t want to get sidetracked there. I use it as a jumping off point to get to what really concerns me as a blogger: 1) how to best form my children as children of God that have been committed to my charge so that I might form them and prepare them for eternal life; and 2) how to nurture my own spiritual life so that I might be able to become the best parent I can be for my children.

    It seems from your comments that I wasn’t as clear as I would have like to have been. I don’t judge parents who make decisions different from my own. But I do struggle to understand why they make those decisions. So discussion is great because we can understand each other and challenge each other’s preconceptions. I really hope we can have a great discussion even if we don’t come to the same conclusions without feeling like we’re being judged.

    I completely understand your situation with a non-Catholic husband and I can see where that makes a big difference in how you approach bringing children to Mass. (I’ll say a prayer for your husband’s conversion) and it does seem like it could present him with a burden if the children exploit him and as a non-Catholic he is not exactly in a position of helping them to understand the Mass as a Catholic husband would be. You comment helps me to understand what a great blessing it is for me to have a husband who is a full partner in raising faith-filled daughters. Like I said in my previous comment about daily Mass, I don’t know if I can handle both my children alone in that situation and especially I can see where it would be quite difficult to give them the guidance I want to during mass. I try to help them focus at the consecration, to help them say prayers, etc.

    Like I tried to say in the beginning my main point wasn’t to pontificate that nursery is a bad thing and no one should ever use it, but to focus on the “being fed” idea. There is so little written about toddlers and very young children and how to nurture their budding faith life, how they are capable of praying and participating in and prayers and the Mass. It always seems to be assumed that under 3s don’t get anything out of Mass and one of my blogging themes is how surprised I constantly am by my daughters and their ability to pray and the joy they take in praying, in being in Church. I wonder if focusing too much on Mass being a quiet experience doesn’t distract us from possibilities of nurturing children’s faith.

    I also do think that one danger of both the nursery and of the cry room is that where it’s available people tend to think of it as mandatory and parents who decide not to use the nursery are sometimes judged by the congregation and the priest and discouraged from making the difficult sacrifice of bringing their children to Mass.

    We don’t have a cry room at our parish, but I’d avoid it too. I don’t want being taken out to become play time and it seems like that’s the atmosphere in most cry rooms.

    The second thing I wanted to address, though, is the idea of spiritual recharging and what exactly that means, how it works. What do we get out of Mass, what does it mean to participate in Mass, how exactly are we fed in Mass? Can we still be fed if we spend the entire Mass distracted by our children and struggling to maintain discipline? The assumption many people make is that one can’t be fed if one is distracted; but is that true or is that a misconception of what it is we are supposed to “get out” of the Mass?

    Is quiet meditation in Mass necessary to recharge our spiritual batteries or are we mistaking an emotional response for a spiritual reality?

    Are the goals of nurturing our own faith lives in conflict with the goal of nurturing a faith life in our children? How do we find a balance? And how can we help each other to grow in faith and to raise our children to know and love God?

    I don’t have answers to all my questions but that’s really what I want to focus on rather than on what choices individuals make as to nursery, cry room etc. I don’t think any two families will have the same solutions to all questions because each family is made up of unique individuals and faces unique challenges. But I think we can agree that we all want the same thing for our families. We all want to be the best mothers we can be, to raise children who love God and who want to serve him and who will live with him forever in heaven.

     

  13. Christine May 5, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Melanie, and Maureen, your comment exhibits the common sense that Holy Mother Church counsels. I frankly do not think the question whether we leave a 2-year-old in the nursery or bring him to Mass is *that* big of a deal, as long as we know we are raising them to love the Mass, to adore Jesus and be faithful to Him, and to obey the Magisterium. We cannot assume that parents who choose the nursery don’t want those things. When I do bring my children to Mass with me, I never stress about whether or not I’ll “get” anything out of it. Of *course* I’ll get something out of it: the Holy Eucharist. If for no other reason, that is why I am there—to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.

    Each parent’s decision is his own, there is nothing selfish or sinful about choosing the nursery for very young children, and so I don’t know why anyone is worrying about other parents’ choice in the matter.

    I used to attend Mass twice a day before I had children. When my first was born, I took her to daily Mass with me, extremely excited to share these graces with her. When the next one arrived, it was difficult, but I managed to bring them both to daily Mass, even if it meant being out in the vestibule half the time. Now with number three, it is even more difficult, but I still make it to Mass 3 times a week with two of the children, because I DO want them to be exposed to the Mass, to know it and to love it and to receive the graces from Holy Communion. But I would not feel guilty in the least if someone were willing to watch them while I went alone, because I know that I go there for them, to receive graces for them, to pray that the Lord would bless them and make them saints, and to help me to be a more patient, kinder parent during the week.

  14. Melanie Bettinelli May 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    Christine,

    You said, “I think you confuse notions of duty and sacrifice,” and I’m not sure what you meant by that, but I think that might be the heart of what I’m trying to get at so let me try to address those and see if I’m addressing your concern.

    I have a duty to attend Mass, my one year old and three year old don’t. I have a duty to bring them up in the faith, which I am attempting to do to the best of my ability. So that’s where duty takes us.

    As far as sacrifice, it’s a good thing, it draws us closer to God. One sacrifice I can choose to make as a parent is to bring my daughters with me to Mass knowing they may distract me and even cause me to have to leave Mass but also knowing that as baptized Catholics they do receive graces from the Mass now and that by learning to participate in the Mass they will continue to grow in faith and to be able to receive more graces as they are older. Another sacrifice I can make is to stay home with my children if they are sick. Another sacrifice is to have someone watch them so that I may go to Mass without the distraction of my children and focus all of my attention on the sacrifice Mass (assuming I’m not distracted by other people, wandering thoughts, etc.) None of these is required, all of them might have some good attached.

    The question is: which sacrifice is God calling me to, which one will most benefit our family as a whole and help us all to grow in grace and to move towards God? In discerning the answer to that question there are many factors I need to consider and weigh and this is where my answer might look different from yours because it is a prudential decision. And in fact my answers might look different from one Sunday to the next from one year to the next as everyone grows and changes and as circumstances change. What I’m trying to do in this discussion is to examine more closely some of the factors that influence our respective decisions and to question some assumptions people frequently make that might influence them one way or another. I really want lots of good meaty discussion here so that some of my own assumptions might be challenged. I’m not even sure what those are so I really want feedback. I think that will help me be a better decision maker.

    The assumptions I’ve addressed so far are:

    1. That children under 3 don’t really get anything out of Mass.

    2. More basically, that getting something out of Mass requires understanding of the Mass.

    3. That getting something out of the Mass requires quiet meditation with no distractions.

    4. That the point is “getting something out of the Mass”.

    I guess what I’m really driving at is a better understanding of how the Mass helps me grow closer to God and what exactly it means to be fed by the Mass and to get something out of it.

    And the more I write the less sure I am that I’m even asking the right questions. I’m trying to articulate exactly what it means to get something out the Mass or to be fed by the mass or to have one’s batteries recharged by the Mass, which are all commonly used phrases I see tossed around. But I wonder if those phrases aren’t part of the problem. Are we clarifying or obscuring our understanding of the sacramental theology? Heck, I’m not a theologian and I’m not even sure how to phrase the question.

    Also it seems to me that there is an ideal situation and then there is the reality that we must make compromises. But before we start making those compromises shouldn’t we take some time to ponder what the ideal is and shouldn’t we understand what it is we’re striving for?

    I think the conversation gets particularly thorny and murky perhaps because the Mass is the highest and most mysterious thing in the universe. I’m really tackling a theological subject that’s beyond me. And I’m certainly no expert in spirituality. I’m just a mom trying to understand my own spiritual journey and trying as best I can to understand my children’s spiritual life and how I can best nurture that. I share my thoughts and concerns here so I can do those things more perfectly so I can learn from other mothers’ experiences and perhaps help other moms who are on the same journey.

    Now my head is spinning and it’s getting late and I feel like in my search for clarity I’m only making things murkier. I’m going to bed and I’ll try to seek clarity again tomorrow. Thanks all for participating and for reading and responding to my often wandering and chaotic thoughts.

  15. Sarah L. May 5, 2009 at 6:32 am #

    There is an Envoy magazine article by Eric Scheske that is somewhat related:
    http://www.envoymagazine.com/backissues/4.4/does.htm

    He specifically addresses going to Mass with young children.  He quotes Peter Kreeft answering the common objection “I don’t feel anything at Mass.”  Kreeft responds “So what?  You may not feel anything when you eat bread or take vitamins either, but they really nourish you.” 

  16. Domenico Bettinelli May 4, 2009 at 7:19 am #

    We’re not judging parents who choose to use cry rooms or nurseries as Melanie made clear in her post.

    But your comparison of date night to Mass, in which you ask whether parents deserve to have their spiritual relationship with Christ can be recharged, leaves open the question about the children’s spiritual relationship with Christ?

    While the children before the age of reason may not have an *obligation* to attend Mass, they are baptized and thus capable of receiving numerous graces by being present at Mass.

    It is here that I think you confuse duty/obligation and the ideal. Duty is the minimum, that is attending Mass because it would be a mortal sin not to; while the ideal is to attend Mass out of love and a desire for grace and communion with Christ. Every baptized person, including infants, is capable of that.

    Why would we deny our children those graces in the pursuit of those graces for ourselves?

    That said, of course, there are many people for whom this ideal is impossible, which is why the Church does not make it an obligation. But for those who can reach for this ideal, why not?

  17. Shirley May 5, 2009 at 8:55 am #

    Hi,
    Just a tidbit from the ‘other side of the mountain’.  I have 3 children, and even though I am blessed that my husband and I have almost always been able to attend Mass together, I still wrestled with that whole ‘is it worth it to have these wiggle worms in here distracting every one?’ [internal] debate.  Sheesh, at times it seemed like the floor was moving they were so fidgety!

    But now, my youngest has just received her 1st Communion.  I had finally gotten used to the concept that I no longer spend Mass time chasing a small body down the aisle nor settling down a loud cry because someone bumped their head on the kneeler (we passed those milestones a while back). 

    But now I am not even reminding anyone to ‘pay attention’ or ‘stop fidgeting with each other’ or ‘participate please’.  I am so distracted by not being distracted I can hardly focus on the Mass!

    My brother once observed that in our large family, the sound of children playing and crying was “the background noise of our lives” and how we would feel “strange without it”.

    Luckily we have lots of babies and toddlers in our parish and their families attend the same Mass that we do… so I can use their “background noise” to help me focus until I re-learn how to focus on my own!

    BTW – In addition to the nursery/pew discussion with our friends and family, we had the ‘entertainment’ question… we never brought food or toys for ‘entertainment’ for the children either, except Mass/Saints books… I bet that could be a WHOLE other topic of discussion!

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