In my role as “unnamed parish secretary,” I often speak with women in all walks of life. Some of them are young mothers, and they bemoan the noisiness, rowdiness, and general childishness of their children at Mass. These women feel keenly the weight of their child’s cry in the silence of the consecration and any look they get, whether intended to be sympathetic or scathing, is a blow to their egos.
Some women have older children, early to late teens, and they have a different set of concerns altogether. Though their children are quiet during Mass, how can they keep it interesting, exciting, relevant? How do they protect their children from falling away?
And then there are the parish grandmas, those special angels who not only offer to watch my daughter (rescue her from my clutches, as it were), but who give me the encouragement that I need, telling me that the cries they don’t hear are the babies talking to the angels, that they say a prayer when a child fusses, and that the looks are, indeed, intended to be sympathetic and supportive.
In these groupings, there’s a glaring absence, one close to my heart. What about the women who long for a child, who would give anything for a child, who feel keenly the absence of a weight on their shoulder? What about the families who will not have children in them?
And we can’t forget the families that await children, the to-be mothers (whether pregnant or just not with child yet) who are impacted by the actions of those with children. I remember those nine months of preparation, when I couldn’t help but look around me at Mass and see the many children who were there. Whether I wanted to or not, I was taking notes on what was going on. The biggest impact was the simple presence of children at Mass. Their noises remind the assembly that children are not quiet and that we all started out as infants. Do they distract us? Well, yes. But I have found that the distraction of an infant, whether mine or one down the pew, is far less than the jumble and clanging in my own head. Shoving children off into a cry room under the heading “they distract us” is an excuse that fails to recall Jesus’ own words, “Bring the children to me.” In fact, Jesus called us – and continues to call us – to be like children.
I can’t blame Jesus for wanting the children to come. I wonder if anyone else showed him the same welcome that the passel of kids did. Picture them running across the lawn to him, arms open wide, preparing themselves for the leap into his open arms. And if we are to be like children, we must ask ourselves: do we have the same excitement, the same fervor, the same simple joy when we are going to meet Jesus? Do we see Jesus in our daily life and neglect to jump up and down?
Children are a blessing, for the lessons they teach us, and for the way in which they make us complete as the Body of Christ.