15 November 2012

Let the Little Ones Come to Him

"You should go to adoration more often! But find a sitter; no one wants you to bring your baby."

I was so happy this morning to realize that I have the car on the day that our cathedral offers adoration. It's right on the way from the bank to the chiropractor... I was joyfully arranging my day in my head for no more than thirty seconds, though, before I remembered what someone had said to me the last time I mentioned how much I missed adoration. "No one wants you to bring your baby."

I'm torn. I know that she didn't intend to insult -- she wasn't implying that Little Bear in particular is a badly-behaved child who doesn't belong in church. She was expressing a feeling which I've found very common among churchgoers: that at church, if your children cannot be seen and not heard, they should not be seen at all. That babies make noise, and noise distracts others from prayer, thus babies are an unwanted distraction at church.

But what is that supposed to tell a new mother? That she shouldn't even bother to strive for holiness until all of the children are old enough to keep quiet and not distract her? That her desire to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament is selfish? How many of the women who peer balefully at the her, popping in to adoration with an infant, are the same ones who told her to "pray for more grace" when she sighed in despair over her own mental and spiritual exhaustion? Oh, they meant to say "pray, but not in our church."

Then were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.

Matthew 19:13-14

Now, there's clearly a difference between a mother kneeling and rocking a baby as he makes faint unhappy noises behind his pacifier, and a mother who ignores her child as he screams at the top of his lungs or crawls around getting in others' way. As parents, as parishioners, as human beings, we recognize the demands of common courtesy and step outside with a child who is becoming too great a disruption and needs to calm down.

But notice that Christ does not make such a distinction: He does not say, let the happy children come but forbid those noisy crying ones. He welcomes all of them, as He welcomes all of us. Surely no one could argue that it offends God to have a crying baby in church, when the baby is pure and innocent and the adults sitting there quietly are all sinners. If He wishes us to be in His presence, how much more must the presence of the innocent soul of the child please Him?

Having a child does affect the way the new parents participate in the life of the Church: a holy hour with an infant is impractical, unless the child falls asleep, but that does not preclude a briefer period of time before the Blessed Sacrament. We have to think more about where we sit now, positioning ourselves near an exit so that I can take Little Bear outside quickly if he gets upset, but that does not mean I don't bring him to church.

I think we will still try to make it to adoration today, for as long as Little Bear will keep quiet. Hopefully there will be a spot near the door, so that we can escape quickly when he is tired of being good. It will be good for me, too, to have such a good reminder that my mind should be on the one Who does want to see Little Bear and me there today.

1 comment:

  1. Our pastor specifically said to bring the kids and babies to adoration. If they're noisy, make it a shorter visit than if they were being quiet. But it's better that you take them than you not go at all.

    I'm one of those people who thinks that children belong in church. If they're being noisy or disruptive or crying, it's okay to take them out to the back or in a cry room if there is one. Or if they're being distracting during adoration, to head out early. But I'd rather they be in church where they belong. (That being said, I do know that some parents choose not to take their child to mass until they're old enough to hear and obey and understand how to behave. That's their decision, and since mass isn't required until the age of reason, they can do that. But I always felt that for us, teaching Andrew and Peter that mass on Sunday is just something that we do, right from the start, just like we eat supper at 6 and go to bed at 7:30...we go to mass on Sunday.)

    We went to mass last Sunday at a parish that wasn't ours, and I noticed that it was a lot louder, because there were so many children in attendance. It made me so happy.