The Faith Lesson I Learned from Bringing Kids to Mass
by Jay Fadden
When my kids were younger, taking them to church was a challenge. They were loud and moving about everywhere. When my children were very young, we first attended a church that had a crying room. Many of you will remember those rooms, stuffed with children who were running around as their parents chased after them and tried to control them.
Well, that parish closed, and we moved to another church that did not have a crying room. Our safety zone was gone. We had 3 children ages 6, 4, and a newborn. Without the crying room, it became a mad house! At one Mass, James, our 4-year-old got into the aisle, threw off his shirt, and ended up on the altar as Shirley chased after him. Amelia was not as crazy, but she brought her own challenges. Amelia would burst into spontaneous song during the middle of Mass, and the songs were not sacred. They were usually about Elmo, a Sesame Street character.
It was nerve-wracking and difficult. Shirley and I tried everything to keep them occupied, including books, snacks, and even toys. We would speak to them after every Mass about respect and the sacredness of the space, but they were young children. Every word or utterance they made reverberated throughout the church and sent chills down my spine. I was mortified and felt helpless, but still, we went to Mass every week.
Years went by and my children got older. Ethan and Amelia became altar servers, and all the kids quieted down as they matured and got older. The experience went from one of frustration to a wonderful family time where we would pray together every Sunday morning at 7:30 at Mass, followed by a family breakfast. But something else changed. As my kids got older, younger couples joined the parish with their young—and sometimes loud children—and I loved it! Not because it was their turn to experience what I had, but because I knew that those children were in church with their loving parents. The noise they make does not bother me at all. In fact, I welcome it. It is the sound of a growing faith, a relationship with God that is just starting. I now look at those parents with admiration as each week they attend Mass with their children and handle all that comes with trying to control young children in a reverent environment. I know firsthand what a challenge it is to bring young children to Mass. But it was me who was putting their actions into a box. I was not realizing where they were and what benefit it would have in the future. They were young and excitable children, and they were also in church and closer to God. It is a tradeoff that I now understand and appreciate. I can only assume that Jesus would be smiling as well knowing that his children were in his house, no matter what the noise level becomes.
So to all the parents who struggle as they try to control their children at Mass, I say a big thank you and commend you on your focus and patience. Bringing them to church is about them and getting them to know and love God. To you and your children, I say welcome to church, where no door should be shut and all are greeted with love and affection. As far as the noise, it now sounds like a symphony of love to me, not a distraction. Thank you for what you do for your children, the church community, and God. We are fortunate for your commitment and faith not only in God, but also those who sit with you in the pews and admire your sacrifice.