Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The 45 Minute Mark: Thoughts on Sunday Mass

We arrived just on time this past Sunday for our normal Mass time and decided, well I decided, that it would be a cry room day. I just wasn't ready to leave Church in a mood less than wonderful if W wasn't feeling the be semi-still for at least and hour routine. We walked in to an empty cry room which was odd in itself but I thought, well this could be nice.

We found ourselves settled in as the procession began, and The Sheriff climbed up onto one of the chairs. He sat for a second but wasn't content. As I helped him up to look through the glass, he pointed that tiny finger and said "in," "in urch." Cowboy looked my way, and we both laughed as we realized that he did not think by being in the cry room that we were attending Mass and indeed, in church. Who was I to stop the Lord's calling of a little one into his Presence right? So in we went into the main part of the church.

We squeezed in beside a woman who didn't want to lose her end spot on the pew. Before you judge her (because yes I did in my mind the entire beginning of Mass! Shame on me!), the first time Cowboy had to get up with W she not only said, "no problem" as he made his exit but kindly asked if we'd rather sit on the end when he returned. It wasn't in an annoyed manner either. She was just one kind soul looking out for the sanity of a couple of young parents I think, and W did us proud when he impressed all of the ladies around us by exchanging "Peace" at the appropriate time. Our distractions were forgiven.

To be fair, he wasn't too "bad." Granted, he didn't sit on our laps listening attentively or allow us to hold him when it was time to stand. He played with a small page of Thomas stickers, the old college IDs I keep in a small wallet that also houses all of those store cards to get discounts or whatnot. He also flipped though his Bible a couple of times all the while occasionally looking up to check out what was going on. But for about 45 minutes, he was quiet and content.

At 45 minutes, though, all bets are off, and it's unfortunate that the most prayerful aspect of the Catholic Mass often begins about this point in our church. So one of us gets up with W a few times and we always manage to somehow make it through. I think that's what matter--making it through and doing it again next week.

Jacob and I have differing views on toys/books for Mass, and I'm coming around to see it more his way -- don't bring them! But for now we usually bring one book and maybe some stickers along with our snacks and whatever else I might dig out of my purse in desperation. This has proved much better than bringing a small bag for W which he thinks holds infinite amounts of toys and wants to search through and dump it out the entire time. Problem solved.

I also want him to associate going to church with that feeling of contentment, and if at this moment in his childhood he needs something to occupy his attention in a huge room full of hundreds of people where he isn't totally sure what to focus on even with guidance, then I say ok. Church shouldn't be an hour plus of us trying to contain him and shush him and lose our own patience trying to get him to sit or stand. Why would he want to do that once a week?
There will be a time for that. He will understand one day.

Speaking of "one day," I also thought before walking in Mass that we'd stop by the nursery after and pick up a registration form. It's free after all. I've just got to fill out the paperwork. I thought maybe that's the best place for him to be and we can "teach" him when he's a bit older and understands more of how he should behave. I am by no means saying that keeping your child with you or sending him/her to the nursery is better.  After Mass my heart was peaceful at the thought of having him with us in church, no matter what effort it took. He's just shy of 2 but is at the age where he's taking so much in and learning acceptable behaviors. He won't get it right every time, but he can start figuring it out.

For me and for our family, I feel called to keep The Sheriff with us at this time in our lives. That may change. Perhaps even next Sunday! Totally kidding.

Writing this post will help me to remember at that 45 minute mark, the innocent face of a child wanting to go "in" Church and be just where God calls him:  into His Holy Presence. And it's our responsibility and blessing to help him get there each week. I also glanced back at Allie's post full of excellent tips on children in church. I'm looking forward, now that W is a bit older than when I originally read it, to making some daily prayer time which will help him carry the meanings he does start to find at Mass into his life.

And if we're all lucky (and well-behaved) there will be many rides in the Jeep "parked" outside the church in the play area.


Kimberly M said...

I can't agree more! Your children belong in church with you, not in a cry room or a nursery. God called the children to be with Him; who are we to deny that?

We have always kept both our kids in Mass, in the pew in the main sanctuary, with us. We attend Mass as a family. Period. Sure, if they're loud or crying, we step out. But we come back.

A few months ago, a woman behind us (who has sat near us for over three years), shushed me when Madeline said "Momma" in Mass. When Madeline said something else, in just a regular voice, the lady leaned forward and told me she was distracting and I needed to take her to the cry room. I walked to the back of the church where I spent the next 40 minutes standing with M. Why? Because I honestly didn't know how to get into the cry room because I've never used it. I've never been so sad in my life as I was during those 40 minutes. It wasn't fair. Madeline deserved to be in Mass as much as any other person, old or young. Never again. She will always sit with our family.

And on the subject of toys and treats, I used to pack a bag of treats, books, small toys, etc. Like Jacob, Jeremy disagreed. Finally one Sunday I decided to go "cold turkey" -- nothing but a diaper and a few wipes in the bag. They protested a bit that day, but every since, they've been much more quiet and attentive!

It's all about making the choice that feel right for you and your family. :) (Sorry for the long post!)

Erin said...

I love this post. How adorable the W wanted to go into church. Oh the topic of church is a hot one in our household. Glad to read of a family doing it successfully. Were you andnthenhusband both raised Catholic?

Happiness Is... said...

So I agree with everything you're saying yet we are not there yet. Thatcher is a WILD man, will not sit on anyone's lap and is very, very loud. I just feel like it's disrespectful to have him running around and ruining the peace for everyone else when he can be in the nursery - for now. When he's a tad older, we'll try again, but I feel like some of this is also based on the child. Our child literally will not sit on laps - so I feel like it would be insane to ask him to do so for an hour. I totally believe in what you're saying, and I feel called that way too, but logistically it'd be a nightmare and I hate that.

Nicole said...

Very interesting post. Just a few thoughts to add. I firmly believe that all children should be in church. It's the only way they learn, that said, if I okayed it, Lance would put S and Mari in the nursery. Being a mom, I can tune out the fussing/chit chat/noise easily. He can't. But what works for me doesn't work for all people.

2 things: 1- we're generally harder on ourselves than most people, so every time we think our kids are horrible, there is always someone who tells me "you're kids are so great!" and 2-I have talked about this with 3 different priests, all very nice, but all with very different personalities. And they ALL said the same thing. It is very distracting for them to hear children at mass. And when I argued that my child has just as much right to the true presence of Christ as anyone else, they disagreed. Even the super sweet nice one who loves kids. I couldn't believe it. Knowing this now, I get up immediately when Mari starts chirping or fussing. I used to give it 30 seconds, b/c any fit usually stops within that time, not anymore.

I have a friend who went to the JP II institute in DC for her Masters and she recently told me about Maria Montessori's view and from her words, it seems she is leaning towards a nursery rather than struggling thru mass b/c she wants to create an atmosphere that is loving and who wants to go someone where they are always shushed, etc. (All from her reading.) Haven't read the book, so I have nothing to say except I don't agree! That said, if I read the book I could change my mind. I consider this friend to be way more sound in her faith than most people.

Last thing, we don't do books (too many kids to fight over stuff) but if we did I would make it only religious. And no snacks, you know my crew, they would wail the second they ran out!

And one more thing...(I know, I never shut up!) the cry room is horrible in my opinion. There are days we go in there during daily mass b/c Mari is just loud, and the boys know the difference. They don't want to sit, they want to walk around, get water, etc. If you can stay away from there. Too many distractions once it fills up.

the workaholic momma said...

I think it is so special that he clearly wanted to be a part of the church....what a special moment:)

Emmy said...

Great post! And yes, though they might not be perfect or even good every week, it is the routine the traditions of going that matter.
I have found that less is more when it comes for what to bring to church. I used to bring a ton thinking it would help keep them quiet, but you are right it is worse. Now I just bring a coloring pad and crayons for my older two so they can sit quietly and color- doesn't always happen still but most of the time it does

Sarah @ It's a Vol said...

Nursery here all the way. We aren't Catholic though, so we have a children's sermon when all the kids are brought into the sanctuary and all the ones in the congregation. They go up and have a special sermon for them. Having been to Catholic school for 13 years though I know that's not how Mass works. I say do what works for you!