Earlier today I read a post which spoke about distractions at Mass along with a few other issues. Nothing wrong with this post - I understood what the author was trying to convey as it's something we all experience from time to time.
And then I read the comments. I don't know why I did this. I should have known better but as a mother I wanted to see how people viewed parents who bring their children to Church. It was like stepping into a mine field! The poor author must have been shell-shocked when he saw the number of comments he received after simply speaking about his distractions during Mass. I am writing this in hopes of giving folks a slightly different perspective on children and Mass. Some of the comments, including some from fellow Catholics were beyond lacking in charity, they sickened me. My heart fell to my stomach before I was even halfway through this section. To be honest, it left me reeling and wondering if some of these folks need a reality check and to know that what they may see at Mass is often only a small portion of what can be a much larger picture.
I am one of those "self-absorbed creeps" who bring their child to church and struggle to contain their child's behavior during Mass. As the mother of a child whose "brain works a bit differently" I have to contend patiently with "hand flapping", "body swaying", singing at the wrong times and various other behaviors which some folks have deemed "inappropriate" by, and let me stress this, their own standards. Not God's standards certainly - having created children He certainly knows how their minds work. When my daughter was small, before I understood the difficulties Mass presented for her I used to reprimand her each week. We practically lived in the back of the church. I was trying to keep my child's behavior from "offending" a few people so I rarely got to hear an entire Mass. I didn't understand at the time that "stillness" was beyond her capabilities and the problem was with ME not her. After months of reprimanding she became afraid to go to church, and after a Mass of swaying and odd noises, before I could say a word she would look up at me hopefully and say, "Did I do a good job? Was I good at Mass?" Later, I began to understand that she was trying, in her own little way, to be on her best behavior during Mass.
"Mama, I said all the prayers and sang all the songs! Did you see?! Did you see?!"
I had not "seen" at all - I was too busy feeling embarrassed and angry watching my daughter sway back and forth for 15 minutes to notice how she was pouring her little heart out to God in prayer and song. My prayer at the time was, "Please Lord! Can't she behave at Mass just once!"
Then God showed me an inner "picture" of myself and I was struck dumb by my selfish prayer and "unlovingness". I was the one not "behaving" well at Mass. I was the one "lacking", not her. What I was lacking was love. God was pleased with her prayers and her unique way of worshipping Him. Even as I write this tears are welling up in my eyes at how I could be so blind as not to notice her efforts and that I could focus so much on her (what I perceived to be) flaws, rather than to understand that God loved her special way of praying to Him.
I look at her differently now. When she flaps her hands I imagine the wings of her angel softly flapping with her and when she sways and sings to herself even after the hymns are over I am reminded of the unending hymn of praise which always surrounds the throne of God.
For those who are offended by my child's behavior I can only suggest this:
It may do some good to search your own heart. The things which irritate us so much often come from an area of our own hearts which are closed off and lacking in love. One thing I am certain of is that God WANTS his littlest ones at Mass. They are his delight. Yes, if a baby is screaming the church down, by all means, bring him to the back until he is calm. But let's not nitpick, either. In my life I have noticed that most of the time when I get completely frazzled by the actions of another the fault lies within me. We cannot change others but we can change ourselves. It seems likely to me that a crying baby is music to God's ears. What is crushing to Him, are the silent ones who are never even given the chance to let out their first wail. Rather than praying that parents not bring their babies to Mass and asking them to "please remove your children" when we get irritated, why don't we pray for an end to abortion and end the silent screams that are piercing the heavens day and night. These have become a continuous echo in the ears of God. Do not ask God to spare your own ears....rejoice that there are still children left to disturb them.