Children are our future. Young parents hear this often. Children are to be cherished. Children are a gift from God. We hear this even more often. But young parents regularly struggle to feel the love of their parish community when bringing their children to Mass. Why?
Perhaps parents feel a little self-conscious. Catholic Masses in the United States are known for being quiet, reverent events. Young children, however, are not known for being quiet and reverent.
The task of keeping small children quiet and still for an hour is a tall order.
The glares from people in the congregation when a toddler starts screaming in the pew because his sister stole his Cheerio don’t help a family feel embraced by fellow churchgoers.
When celebrants tell families to leave Mass when their child is misbehaving, it encourages this sentiment that children are welcome at Mass only when silent and still.
Parents should ingrain in their children a respect for the Mass, but not at the expense of being pushed out of it. Jesus did not come to this Earth to love just those people who are completely well behaved at all times, especially when only a child. Every child is created in God’s image. Every wiggle, every laugh, every loudly sung toddler song is part of the glory of creation.
When people brought their children to Jesus and the disciples turned them away, Jesus told them, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:13-15)
Let pastors and communities throughout the archdiocese and the nation welcome their parish’s children in Mass, like Jesus did. As Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.