Monday, September 17, 2012

Sometimes it sucks...and that's okay

Last week, a sweet mother, who clearly needs some encouragement and support, left this anonymous comment on one of my old posts, Pro-Life Means Pro-Child:

Glad to know even mothers of children raised in a catholic church have their moments. I am still pretty resentful that my husband chose to become catholic and force me to wrangle my 4 children into sitting through mass, when they are used to having sunday school and children's church in their protestant upbringing. They used to love church and now they pretty much hate it. My question is HOW IN THE WORLD!!!!! is a "good catholic" mother ever supposed to enjoy/listen/worship during mass? I just have more and more hatred and frustration. Would much rather stay home than fight the fight and have my children feel chastised for wiggling and not paying attention like adults. 

I started responding in the combox, but the response was so long that it started to look like a blog post.  So it became one.

To my anonymous reader, and any other mother who feels similarly exhausted and discouraged:
First, I have to let you know that I'm so impressed that even though it frustrates you, you're willing to go to Mass to support your husband and what he knows to be true. Big virtual high-five for that!

Now, believe me when I say that all mothers, whether their children are raised in the Church, in some other church, or no church at all, have their moments.  And by "moments" I mean that every single week, on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, and frequently on the weekdays thereafter, I read updates and stories from mothers who wrangled their children during Mass.  About embarrassment and frustration and a desire for a time machine to get them real quick to the kinds of days that they imagined before their real children came along- the days of prayerful offspring with hands folded, proclaiming the Nicene Creed, then smiling politely at the sweet parishioners in front of them offering the sign of peace.  But no time machine do they get.  What they get is sliding off of pews and demands for donuts halfway through the second reading. 

So then your question becomes "How is a good Catholic mother supposed to enjoy/listen/worship during Mass?" And the short answer seems to be this: maybe she doesn't.

We've become so accustomed to the goal of every activity in this world being "enjoyment" that we get frustrated and angry when we can't find the fun in what we're doing, especially if it's something we're told we have to do.  Incidentally, I feel the same way about laundry and the dishes and, well, pretty much every other dull, tedious homemaking task I'm expected to do.  "You mean I have to do this all the time?  And keep doing it?  And it keeps sucking?  Wow.  Goody.".  The attitude problem- I'm working on it.  I swear. 

But the goal of Mass isn't to enjoy ourselves, but rather to be in full communion with Jesus Christ.  The central element, the most wonderful, glorious thing, the only thing that REALLY matters, is the Eucharist. Receiving the body and blood of Jesus and being in communion with Him. That's THE THING. That's the joy.  All the rest is just details. So for the few years that they're small, maybe we don't really get to enjoy or even listen much during the rest of the service, but we know we get to receive Jesus and we know that in bringing our children, we're performing our vocation, carrying out the duty we've been called to do, even though that duty is sometimes exhausting and difficult. And because we're sanctified through challenges and suffering, those challenges and that suffering are Good even though they're not enjoyable.

As for the wiggling and not paying attention like adults, my gut says "don't worry about it! They're not adults so they shouldn't be expected to act like them!" I know, I know...if you have grouchy mcgrouchersons giving you the death glare, it can be super hard to take that advice to heart. But seriously, if they're very little, let them bring books and quiet toys. They don't have to pay attention or sit perfectly still. With the standing and sitting and kneeling and walking up to receive communion, and then walking back to the pew plus one carefully timed potty break somewhere in there as well (I recommend just before the consecration, but that's just me and my rule-lovin' ways to have it planned like that), we all just find a way to make it through, taking it minute by minute.

And of course, there will be days that they've seemed to have lost their ever loving minds and you'll be at the back of the church or outside the church or chasing a rambunctious toddler through the parking lot of the church because he escaped out the front doors after knocking over a stack of pamphlets in the entryway and you'll be mumbling choice things under your breath that you hope your wholesome co-parishioners never hear.

But while they're inside, they hear the words and see the motions and know that the Lord and the Faith are important enough to be doing this every week and eventually they learn. At about 3, they start putting the money into the collection basket. At about 4 or 5, they start giving the sign of peace and kneeling on the kneelers. And then suddenly they're 6 or 7 and they know how to read so they're following along in the missalette. They're reading the songs and singing along and they're not even climbing on you anymore. And suddenly they're participating in the whole Mass!

When you're in that dark tunnel of sticky hands on your cheeks while bony knees climb over your calves as you kneel, it's so hard to imagine all of this, it really is.  Even when only one or two are small and the rest are big, it's still sometimes hard to imagine.  But then one day your older ones will be holding the hands of your younger ones as they pray the Our Father together, and there will be no snacks and no sippy cups and no snot on the shoulder of the one shirt you could find that was neither stained nor bore an image of a parrot wearing enormous sunglasses, and you'll realize you did it.  You survived! 

And along the way you'll have taught four other very important people about Christ's sacrifice, His love for us, and instilled in them the most important habit of their entire lives.




Hang in there, mama.  We're all in this together.


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56 comments :

  1. God bless that woman for supporting her husband in his spiritual journey! A woman like that deserves a husband who supports her right back, and I know I could never ever make it through a single Mass with Little Ones if Ken wasn't my tag-team partner for the Liturgical Rodeo.

    That said, the fundamental difference you touched on, Dweej. In a Protestant worship service, it is the homily and the music and the fellowshipping afterwards that are the source and summit of church attendance. It is spiritual food via teaching and singing and friendship with our brothers and sisters in the faith. If you're not able to focus your attention on those actions, you've missed the whole reason you've gone. Honestly, you can hear pastors on YouTube, you can live stream Christian radio, and you can go to a bible study group of fellowship- if you're distracted at church, "why am I here?" is a very valid question.

    So for Protestants coming to Mass, it's very confusing. Often times the music is dismal, the homily is very very short, and people can seem cold and unwelcoming. Add squirming, slightly insane children into the mix, and the whole thing becomes an exercise in futility. And kids pick up on that.

    But for Catholics, we don't go for the music. Or the speaking. Or the coffee and donuts afterwords. We go to have a physical, tangible encounter with Christ. We go because the Mass is the only place on earth where we can meet Him in the Flesh. We go because the graces that pour out in that place will flood into our soul, even if we don't hear a single blessed word anyone says the whole time because we've been out in the hallway with a screaming child.

    Bless the woman who wrote you. I wish there was some way she could see the beautiful things being in proximity to the Eucharist was doing to her soul and the souls of her children- even if the outside looks like nothing so much as disaster.

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    1. bless you both - Dwija and Cari!

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    2. Perfect post and perfect response. I might have to borrow the 'liturgical rodeo' phrase. That's perfect, too!

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    3. Catholic Mass is b-o-r-i-n-g for adults too. You can cetainly have a unity with Christ in a less-boring service. There are surely some really good models out there in the Protestant faiths. This is from a life-long 65 year old Catholic who is rapidly becoming more and more disenchanted with the Catholic Church. It's a sinking ship, and the powers-that-be had better start thinking outside the box to attract and keep the younger generations.

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    4. I must disagree. As an adult myself, I LOVE the Mass. If I had no other responsibilities in order to fulfill my vocation and free access to another vehicle, I would be at daily Mass so fast it might make your head spin!

      For two generations now the Church has been "thinking outside the box" and for two generations the number of faithful attending Mass and adhering to the principles of the Church has been decreasing. When was the Faith the strongest? When Jesus was here, not watering anything down, not trying to make it flashy or exciting, just saying "You want eternal happiness and fulfillment? DO. THIS." And when we actually DO THAT, do we not feel immense fulfillment? I know I do.

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    5. How sad for you, Anon. Seems you're missing the point, and at your age, it's also inexcusable. You need prayers, and I'm happy to provide it.

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    6. Looking around my parish, the "powers-that-be" don't need to do anything but remain faithful to the Magisterium, since there are far more young families with children in the pews than 65 year old Baby Boomers.

      It seems to me the height of self-absorption to look upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with boredom, and then assume it's the Church that must change.

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  2. Thank you so much for this post! My husband is the music director/organist at our parish, which means that I'm on my own with our one-year-old ond two-year-old every.weekend. I'll basically do anything to survive, and I've gotten lots of flack for being that parent who allows her kids to bring toys, books, sippys and even goldfish crackers. Yes, I'd much rather not infringe on the sacredness of Mass with goldfish, but it's even more disruptive when I am trying to chase two screamers in different directions. The next suggestion I get is "do you really have to bring them every week?" The answer is "yes!" because J.J. is at the church working through all available Mass times and I can't afforda a sitter every week, and because it is so important for them to be there! They need to learn and be in Christ's presence, and the congregation needs to experience children!

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    1. My husband is the organist/music director too! We're expecting our first next month...the wife of the man who had the job before me said, "all the moms in the cry room thought I was a single mom for almost a YEAR because I always came to Mass by myself!"

      God bless you for going it on your own. I'll be joining you soon!!

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  3. Thank you so much for chiming in, both of you. I have no experience being Protestant and I have no experience with my husband "working" through all the Mass times, so it's wonderful to hear the perspective of two moms who see even more facets of "Massing" with kids. Thank you, thank you!

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  4. Great, great post! I'll share my story as the mother of 5. And still wrangling my youngest (7 years old) every once in awhile. But you hit the nail on the head - it does improve. My older 3 boys are not altar servers. They LOVE being on the altar and serving the priests. They love their faith. And while they don't always love going to Mass, still, they love our church and our church family. Last night, we got one of those simple graces from God, where you see that all the weeks of going to MAss as a family, and instilling that love for Christ in our children, pays off. My 16-year old son got a text from his 15-year old friend (a friend just from church, with nothing else in common - different schools, different sports teams, etc.) asking my son to be his confirmation sponsor this year. Makes a Catholic Momma's heart swell!

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  5. Best post ever from the gazillions that have ever been written.

    This mama needed the same encouragement and you gave me exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!!!

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  6. This is timely, as my 2yo was demanding jelly beans DURING THE PROCESSION yesterday (and not in her quiet voice).
    I'm not allowed to lift anything right now..
    And the 4yo wanted to go outside to "see what she was doing" with our oldest.
    HUbby finally took 4yo and 2yo and missed 94% of the Mass.
    But the Graces are there, even when we can't HEAR them.
    Thank you for the reminder, that He is there for us, in sight, sound, smell & taste!! He is there.
    Someday we'll be the older generation (and Hopefully not the death glare type), and we WILL hear as well..but this is not our time.
    Thank you Dwija for this post!! Thank you!
    God Bless

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  7. My friend N's kids are older and they LOVE their faith. S I asked her how she did it and her answer was this: We let our kids wiggle a bit more in the pews. They didn't fight their kids' ages and while they did explain to the kids what kind of behavior they expected before each Mass, they didn't spend the hour shushing or threatening. She acknowledged that there were grumpy people who thought they couldn't control their kids but her goal was not to keep those people happy, it was to make sure her kids loved Mass, the Eucharist, Christ, the Church... Making Mass not be a place of silent, wiggle-less torture always followed by punishment was not going to be the means to that end.
    Taking kids to Mass is hard and I don't do it alone, but parenting a little more like my friend N has made things easier and more enjoyable for all of us.
    Also, I think it helps that my kids already know the motions and are expected (more or less) to partake. They genuflect (even James who just turned 2), make the sign of the cross, pray the Our Father and St. Michael prayers, and I make sure to draw their attention to the altar during the Eurcharistic prayers.
    But sometimes you just have to hang out in the back for a bit. :)

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    1. Exactly -- this is our philosophy too! It means we had to change parishes, because the priest at our local church is very anti-children ... he has an announcement read EVERY Sunday at the beginning of the readings asking everyone to "respect the reverential silence" and take the kids out. So we left for a parish a little further away that never has any reverential silence. ;) A little squirming, whispering, etc. seems to be taken a lot more in stride there.

      It's rough, though, because everyone seems to think kids should be acting like miniature adults in church, and anytime I mention mine don't, they say I should be punishing them more. I just don't want church to be a place of punishment! We work with the kids where they're at, and if we have to go out for a bit, that's what we do. But overall they're surprisingly "good" -- they watch what's going on as they scootch around the pew, and just the other day my toddler was singing "Alleluia! Alleluia! That's what they say in church!"

      I think we're getting there. Though I wish people were more accepting of this. Don't they realize they could be driving possible converts, like this lady, away from the church by scowling at their children?

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  8. Go to Amazon.com and order up some Catholic coloring books, books on Saints, Prayer books, etc... and put them in a big church totebag that ONLY comes out at mass. Makes it a treat to get to use these books. I also only allow colored pencils at mass, crayons can melt in my car, markers can get messy. You can also go to office depot and buy cheap clipboards for them to put on their laps so they aren't all turned around in the pew while they are coloring. I feel it is important to be respectful and facing forward. Personalize this stuff. Buy some cross stickers, letter stickers and put their names on the clip boards or on pencil boxes to hold their colored pencils. My kids are expected to sit still and sit and stand appropriately through the gospel, then during the homily they can take things out of the church bag, after the homily it all goes away and again they need to participate in the mass. Now does this mean that my children always behave like angels...NO...but I do find if I am prepared with these church appropriate materials it makes mass a better experience. And why the Catholic books and coloring books, because it connects them to where we are, what we are doing....I feel that a Scooby Doo coloring book would be a distraction, the Rosary Coloring book is a connection to mass.

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  9. I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally reeally needed to read this today. Yesterday at Mass I was wondering if I was wasting my time bringing Joe to Mass. It's like a workout- both physically, mentally and spiritually!

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  10. Thank you, Dwija! And to all the commenters, too. I need to work on my patience during Mass. One thing my mom (mother of 11) told me was that by taking your kids to Mass you get graces by your mere presence there. I'm counting on that! Thanks for expanding on that thought, Dwija. I'm sharing this with all my Catholic mom friends and family.

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  11. Well said, D! As a grandma, I'm impressed that you're able to keep the big picture in perspective while you've got little ones crawling over you (& out into the aisles!) during Mass. I don't know that I did at that age but I've lived long enough to see my grandchildren defend the faith and the Eucharist to others, attend the March for Life every yr etc. And I thank God everyday for his pure grace.
    I will say too that older people need to STEP UP & smile & help & encourage young families in Mass. Really, I can understand the frustration of your commentor when everyone around her looks like they've been sucking lemons.

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  12. From a mama of 4 who wrangled all 4 for YEARS while Hubby was incarcerated, I asked this question MANY, MANY, MAAAAAAAANY times and yet....still kept going. With all 4. O. M. GEEEE! At the suggestion of my incredibly sweet deacon, I moved those kids front and center (terrified because now the ENTIRE church could witness the mayhem) and kept the youngest 2 busy with the Mass bag of quiet toys and later the colorings from Catholic mom and the Magnifikid. It changed our Mass. The kids were now able to see what was going on without dodging big hats and tall people!! I know Jesus Himself lead a freakin' army of saints to be with me every Sunday because that's the only way we made it through.

    Now with a 9,10,13 and 15 year old I offer up those moments in Mass when I hear other young families wrangling their young. I still referee, but now Hubby is back home and Mass is far easier and we have a 13 yo in the Orchestra and a 15 yo making his Confirmation this year (with all the 15 yo fussiness he can muster....and yet....he's doing it) and so we plug along. Planting that mustard seed and watering it each and every Sunday. It's NOT easy, but it does get easier and God bless anonymous for her efforts and honesty. Any given Sunday, we can all use the encouragement. Blessings

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  13. I'm basically a single dad when it comes to Mass. My wife is a CINO (Catholic in Name Only) and comes to Christmas and Easter Masses...maybe...if the kids and I beg enough. It sucks. My daughter is 9, my son 6. I'm probably doing a sucktastic job, but I allow the kids to bring small notepads to Mass.

    If my wife weren't involved, I would not, but the arguing just sucks over such a small thing (she doesn't understand the importance of Mass or what goes on at Mass, so a small notebook isn't a big deal to her).

    At the end of the day, I'm bringing them to Mass, so I don't want to fight over the stupid notepads.

    My oldest tends to draw Jesus-themed stuff, apparently while bits and pieces of the Mass seep into her skull. My youngest doesn't seem to be mature enough to pay attention (his Karate teacher would concur), but he'll hit me with dead-honest and deep questions once in a while based on things said during homilies. I catch him singing hymns at home. He genuflects. Stuff truly is getting through. I know other folks must think I'm terrible for letting the kids goof around with notepads, but my prayer is that God approves of my effort. I've got zero support and don't know any other way to do this.

    Mass is almost never fun breaking up their petty fights and giggles over knee space, pen color, other parishoner's smelly breath, etc., but it is the only way to go. Jesus wants the little children to come to him, so bring them to him I shall. Without the Mass, life is nothing. Following Jesus by attending Mass with the shrimps is the only way to go, regardless of whether or not I'm enjoying it in the "Hey, let's go Red Sox!" sense of the word. I truly enjoy doing my best to follow God and offer any Mass suffering I experience to him.

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    1. If it's at all helpful (it probably isn't) the attendance of a father at church is a bigger boost to the passing along of religious values to the next generation than mother's attendance: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-05-024-v

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    2. Oh, I wish you weren't so hard on yourself. You are doing something HUGE bringing your kids to Mass. Be encouraged by your efforts; it is seeping into their hearts. Keep the faith and stay the course. You're doing it!

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  14. Cari,

    Thanks! I've read that, too, and it is a huge encouragement. God wants me to try, which is what I'm doing. You and Dwija are most wise with the help out here, too, and I'm quite thankful that God is always working through you to help the schleps of the world (me) stick it through. :)

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  15. I haven't read all of the comments, so this may be a duplicate, but.... one thing I found that really helped my two sons behave during mass, was moving to the front row. Yes, first row, front and center. First of all, they could finally see what was going on instead of the back of someone's head. Being on the front row also provided lots of prime people watching during communion. They'd kneel quietly and watch for friends or people they knew. Secondly, they knew the Father could see them as well. When they were toddlers, they still had their moments of course.

    Now they are 9 and 12 and sit quietly, following the mass and participating. And, yes, we still sit on the front row. I'll never forget when Father cracked up laughing and shook his head the Sunday both of my boys showed up with mohawk haircuts. :-)

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  16. My comment is along the same lines as Micaela, above. Our pastor mentioned in his homily many years ago and before I had kids to wrestle, that by attending Mass, even if you are distracted, is like being outdoors. Even on a cloudy day, you are getting sunlight to nourish your body. By attending Mass, you are receiving the graces from the Son of God, flooding your soul.

    A little thing that has helped our family: My husband and I were married for 9 years before we were blessed with children & during that time we watched all the other families struggle with their little ones. Inevitably, mom or dad would leave with one or two kids in tow because they were being too loud, but when they get to the back of church, they run around being loud as well. We felt that it was only teaching kids to be disruptive so they could get out & go play. So when we finally had our first, we made a point to enforce that if they are being too disruptive during Mass and need to be taken to the cry room or outside they do not get put down. We hold them. It is a punishment to have to go out of the church during Mass. We, as a family, are in Church to worship God. It is not playtime. We understand that they are kids & an hour is a long time to sit still. But they can "play" in our pew quietly, looking at books and prayer cards. But they have to be quiet.

    I am not saying my kids are perfect during Mass. They are just the opposite. Our kids are 5 and nearly 3 and I swear they couldn't sit still if their little lives depended on it. But they are generally quiet & after one or two trips with each of them, we successfully eliminated the parade back and forth from the cry room. They quickly realized that it is not nearly as fun in the cry room as what they thought it would be.

    ~ Julie

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    1. We do something similar, and now our four year old knows that it's really not very fun out in the hallway during mass. I've done solo masses when husband man is away and it's not easy to be the single-looking, visibly pregnant lady with a crying child in the hallway, especially since our church is a tourist destination. To all the folks, especially the daddy flying solo at mass, who bring notebooks/coloring pages to mass-do what works! We always let ours draw on the bulletin and prod her so she listens and watches during key parts of mass. There have been days when goldfish crackers or cheerios are manna in the wilderness for a low blood sugar having little one. We've got a few mass time only books we trot out, the trusty teddy bear, a pen and paper for drawing, and she knows that ongoing chatter is a no no. She still does it, but she's four-we're teaching her. It can be awful or pretty okay, but I think it's a season to embrace weakness and embarrassment.

      Also, I am a HUGE fan of having something special waiting for after mass that screams "Sunday is FUN!" So we do mention the possibility of a doughnut or muffin after mass if she's been relatively good. It works most weeks.

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    2. I knew a really funny teacher who said that when her daughter was young she figured out that the kids who acted up got to leave church early. So she gave it a try. My friend took her daughter outside, left her husband inside with the other kids, and they stood outside the car in the February cold. Her daughter said, "Aren't we going to get in the car and turn on the heat?" She said, "No. If we have to leave Mass for bad behavior, we're going to stand in the heat or the cold until Mass is over." Her daughter never tried it again. I love that story!

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  17. So many wonderful comments! As newlyweds expecting our first many years ago, we were blessed with a priest who made it a point to accept children, even small crying ones, at church. This was something that was not done at our original parish, as people would shoot dirty looks at anyone who dared not to sit in the "cry room" with anything less than a perfect child. Attending a parish that did not have a cry room and seeing that it was possible and okay to bring small children, every week even!, made an impact on us. Now with five children, and finally without a baby, I have never had the luxury of my husband having a church friendly schedule. It has all been on me to take all the kids, and there have been periods of time where we only made it half the time, but we made the effort every week. My kids know that. It is the one constant in our life. We are also finally at the point where it is starting to pay off, with only one little one left who can't quite frap the concept of volume control in his voice. All these years I have just kept in mind that this stage of life is temporary, it will pass, and my job right now is to rate saints, so I take my kids to mass because it's good for them, not because it's enjoyable for me. As a former protestant, that is a hard thing to learn.

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    1. Thank you for chiming in, too Cassandra. What a wonderful testimony, and again...so great to get another Protestant-convert perspective!

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  18. Great post, Dweej! Just yesterday on the way home from Mass I was thinking about posting something on the same topic!

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  19. I read the Sunday readings and commentary from my Sunday Missal on the way to Church. It helps us hear more at Mass, while keeping an eye on little kiddos. The tidbits we do hear become a complete reading since I just read them on the way.

    Also, for the older kids I have the Magnifikid. They love following the Mass with their own Sunday book.

    A wonderful Catholic friend of mine started taking her kids to daily Mass, since they were not behaving well at Mass on Sunday. She had five kids 7 years and younger when she started, and now they do great during Mass.

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    1. I know a Protestant lady who made her kids "practice" behaving during service all week long if they misbehaved. They would sit on hard chairs, listen to a sermon on the radio, and mimic the service the best they could. They figured out that it was easier to behave on Sunday than practice behaving all week.

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  20. A month or so back amdist my arguing, poking, natsy face making, four children, I just couldn't take it anymore. I just wept. I wept because there was so much grace available to them and they just couldn't get past tehmselves. They aren't toddlers at 14,11,8,and 5. They can do a decent job of participating or at least maintain a respectful level of quiet. The behavior of my kids had been deteriorating all summer and my 8 month pregnant self had enough. I cried throughout the consecration and up to receive Communion. I got so many concerned looks from other parishoners and was a little embarassed, but I was past that. On the way home I explained to them that it was their behavior that made me sad. They were missing out on oppurtunities to be with God and making me miss the oppurtunity as well. Fast forward to this week and it was like a totally different situation. They even held hands during the Our Father without a single issue. Maybe it had been too long since we went over expectations of behavior, or maybe it had been too long since I explained to them that Mass was important to me, or Maybe they don't want me to cry. Either way I'll take it. We will see how adding an infant into the mix changes things.

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  21. This post makes me smile. I'm a Protestant convert to Catholicism. As the mother of five young and very active kids I've spent many years LONGING for Sunday School/Nursery Services that I had as a kid.

    Now I'm a 3rd Order Carmelite, so I often take my five kids (all under age 5) alone to Daily Mass--that would be the one where the average age is 65. About 1/3 of the parishioners at this Mass are Grandma/Grandpas who LOVE my kids. 1/3 don't care. 1/3 are really mean. It got so bad last week that my husband voluntarily stayed home to take me to Mass "in order to protect me from the Parishioners."

    On my strong days, I know that "it doesn't matter." I take my kids to Mass because it pleases Him (Jesus). Mass isn't about my private prayer time--or a private retreat. Mass is a public way of worshiping God the way He wants to be worshiped by his children. Also, prayer is "work" and "work is prayer." When I'm taking care of my small children during Mass, I'm still "praying", I'm still honoring Jesus with my heart. If the mother is missing that, maybe she's being called to a life a deeper private prayer? Read the Bible in the quiet early morning on Sunday--and you'll have more grace to deal with the flurry of finding the missing nice shoes on the way out of church, or the whining child during Mass itself.

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  22. Yeah. What Dweej said! And she said it so well.

    The other thing we did was think counter intuitively. We sat in the FRONT row. Swear it made a huge difference. They could actually see what was going on and not just a bunch of grown up bums.

    It does get better. :)

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  23. Excellent. This was wonderfully refreshing as I have four kids, ages five and under. The great news is, no matter what I'm doing or how crazy it gets, Holy Mass is always Holy Mass.

    I'm inspired by your charity toward your anonymous reader!

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  24. You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. I have been missing Mass left and right since my husband's accident and even when I do go, two kids and a sick husband makes Mass rather distracting. I have been feeling so discouraged but this post brought it all home for me. If I don't hear a single word that Father is saying, if I miss the entire homily, whatever. I'm there and I'm present in Christ and that is what I need now more than ever. Thank you for this, thank you so much.

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  25. Wonderful words! We take our less-than-perfect four kids to mass every week. Sometimes it feels like we've been through a battle, but they can see it's really important to us, partly because we work so hard to be there.

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  26. I think the last homily I heard was about accepting our crosses. Mothers usually do this with style. Cute post.
    From a former wiggler.

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  27. Awesome Dwija. I'm sharing this with our homeschool group.

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  28. Loved this post. My husband was Catholic in Name only for many many years and last year came back fully to the church - so keep inviting, don't nag and pray for her without ceasing!

    I used to be discouraged taking my 3 little ones alone to Mass. One night I was just about in tears with my rotten monsters, when a sweet gramma told me how lovely it was to see little ones in Mass and wasn't I the #1 mom in the world to have raised such well mannered little fellas. It might have been a bald-faced lie, but it got me thru a few more years!

    Now they are teens, and I sit alone sometimes when they serve and I miss their wiggly little selves ( I think anyway, LOL). Hang in there, mommas, you are doing exactly what you were called to do and that is never easy, is it?!

    Pam

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  29. This was a great post! While I'm not a Catholic, I do attend a church meeting that is similar to your Mass, where we take the sacrament(Eucharist) and our entire family sits for an entire hour and ten mins for the service. It is tough! Right now I have to wait in the lobby with my ds2 and dd1 because they just make too much noise.
    What I have found that helps is practicing at home. I require my ds2 to kneel with us in family prayer every morning and night, and he also has to sit quietly while we do family scripture reading. It is during these times I can better correct him if he is not reverent. He can go to time out or participate with the rest of the family in worship. He is learning that there is a time to be still and a time to play. He still has the attention span of a gnat, but I know it will improve with practice and time.
    I don't get much out of my time at church when I have small children, but I know my example and the habit of attending weekly will eventually pay off and it will be worth it.

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  30. Alexandra said that the congregation needs to experience children. Well, amen to that! I have a friend who calls "the crying baby" his favorite Catholic hymn.

    My children are all grown, but I still have people all around me wiggling and talking and conducting parish business during the Consecration! Adults who then complain about the kids!

    So, come sit next time me. I might even help you.

    AMDG,
    Janet

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  31. I heard an awesome priest answer the question of dealing with wiggly kids in mass (from a grandma, not me!) in an adult education class. I don't remember all the details, but I loved his response. He basically said that we need to come to mass and offer what we have--all of it. And if we're sitting there with wiggly kids without being able to take in much of what's going on, then that's what we have to offer. He also compared it to sunbathing. We're there in the presence of Jesus, and sometimes all we can do is bask in the glow.

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  32. This was a beautiful post. I am a mom of two under two. We are the only young family in a church of people who are all 50+. I feel like taking my children to church is like taking a ticking bomb to church and sometimes I feel like the older parents in the congregation forget this fact. Most Sundays we leave church feeling like we ran a marathon but I know that this is so important for my children and our family.

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  33. Dweej this was a great post and Cari, thanks for that great clarification about the difference between Protestant services and Mass. It does sound pretty bleak to say "they have all this great music and preaching and stuff, but we suffer through rotten stuff to get Jesus." I don't think that's what He has in mind, but that's the truth sometimes!

    When my daughter was a baby our parish had a "cry room" and we stopped going to it because the parents there let their kids run absolutely wild! They were jumping, running, screaming, you name it. What was the point of that? We sat in the pews and did our best to keep her quiet. By the time we had two kids we were in a different parish and there were other young kids, so it wasn't bad. They seemed to behave about the same as the other kids their age. We brought Catholic books and sat near the front -- as so many have said, it made a huge difference. But I could never, never get my son to sit still, long after the other kids his age were good he was climbing on the pews, laying down on the pews, etc. Nothing we did worked and I gave up. Eventually he settled down more. In fourth grade he was diagnosed with ADHD! (which is a real disorder that really needs to be treated, in case anyone is wondering). I have a lot more compassion for parents of misbehaving young kids now. We can all point to people who don't discipline their kids, but you never know when some poor family has done everything in the book and they STILL won't behave. You just don't know what's going on in someone else's life.

    Good luck to that poor reader, she sounds like she needs a hug.

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  34. Dwija, your article was a read-and-remember for me, being the salt&pepper haired mom of three young adults that I am. But it obviously speaks to all! I hope the (very brave) anonymous mom has had time to follow the caring collection of replies her comment has generated and finds strength in 1) knowing she is NOT alone and 2)the practical, heartfelt suggestions offered. One thing I didn't see mentioned above is the idea of how adding Faith filled activities into your child's daily life makes Sunday Mass/church time so more meaningful for them! Movies on the Saints and Mass, and audio stories like The Alter Gang and Glory Stories, are fun to share as a family,and give kids something to relate to and look for when they walk into Church! This mom may be surprised to find there are craft and cooking sites like catholicicing.com and catholiccuisine.com that make it possible to bring the Faith into her home in those ways too! Last but probably shoulda been first, for this mom's peace of mind on her journey into the faith I recommend 365 Mary: A Daily Guide to Mary's Wisdom and Comfort. My copy is dog-earred from many years of use.

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  35. What a great post! I am Protestant but we attend a tiny church without children's church, nursery, etc. Our children stay in the service and I love that although it sure can be exhausting! One observation I have is that my children learn to sit through quietly pretty young (3?). Up until then there are the well-timed potty breaks, pew amusements, and prayers for patience. :) fortunately our church congregation is old but very understanding of life with babies and I've been scolded for taking a wiggly noisy little one out too SOON! Love that. Anyhow....I liked your response!

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  36. Okay, you are going to think I am really weird, but I firmly believe this...

    I did two things to help my kids when they were little. First, I took them to daily Mass whenever possible. And second, I made a pact with their Guardian Angels. The way I put it to them was this: "Dear Guardian Angel of (child's name), I would assume that you would always like to be as near to our dear Lord as possible every single moment. So, while you are stuck here on earth helping (child) for his brief span of life, I assume the place you would most LOVE to be is at Church and at Mass. Therefore, you must help (child) behave himself at Mass or I won't be able to take him there any more and you won't be able to go either. Amen."

    Sounds sort of threatening in black and white, but I really do believe that their angels want to see them in heaven when this is all over and are quite willing to cooperate...without being threatened even. But it is always good to ask the Angels for help.

    I LOVE seeing children at Mass! Keep it up! It definitely is worth the struggles and the grief - for your kids AND for you.

    Laura G.

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  37. The best time is when they get old enough to altar serve and can't stand sitting with you in the front pew, so they volunteer to serve every Mass every weekend, every Holy Day, the Triduum, and Easter and Christmas. They think they ducking sitting in the front row. HA! My sons are standing up at the altar week after week after week watching the priest. It might just rub off on one of them. And I get wonderful comments from Moms about how nice it is seeing the boys at the altar. Annette

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  38. Great post! God gives us the grace whether we are focusing on Mass or not.
    Do you think you could do a follow-up and address this poor mama's anger and resentment towards her husband? I think that's probably half of her struggle with Mass.

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  39. I don't think it's my post-pardom emotions that I just had some tears when I read this. OMG- we are totally going thru this thing right now. Thank you, thank you Dweej for the loving reminder. :) Peace be with you!

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  40. I love this post Dwija. The Body of Christ is what we are there for good days and bad. And I douse my children with the water from the holy water font before each Mass and pray it neutralizes the wiggle juice inside them.

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  41. Thank you, thank you for this post! My best friend sent me this link today. It is wonderful to remember the main reason we go to Mass. I usually have to take my children to Mass alone because my husband won't go--sometimes my non-Catholic Mom goes just to help me, but that's rare, and she has a bad habit of talking through the entire liturgy--and not having Daddy there to help with the inevitable trouble child is very hard. I am honestly at a loss with what to do when I have a nursing infant (which we'll have in a day or two) and still have to deal with our two oldest acting inappropriately, which they'll do when they see my hands occupied with a baby, and our 19-mo old screaming to be allowed to wander around everywhere. I'll leave the older baby home with Dad, probably (which I don't like to do, as it gives him yet another excuse not to participate in our domestic church). I know that a 6 and 4-year-old aren't yet at the age of having an obligation to attend Mass, but I can't dream of not bringing them to Jesus in the Eucharist. Sometimes my oldest says he sees Jesus with the eyes in his heart! And other times he is jumping off the seats and crawling around under them while his sister is licking the floor. There is no "cry room" in any of the churches available to us where kids can witness the liturgy and still be contained, either, and we go where we go because they accomodate celiac disease by offering a low-gluten host. Yes, it's a cross, but there is redemtion in suffering and God will give us the grace. God will give me the grace. And I should pray for the people who look daggers at me, say unkind things about me and my kids' behavior (gee, a hugely pregnant woman having to bodily remove a very heavy child throwing a fit deserves no mercy, huh?), endure whatever persecution, because Jesus is present, He loves my kids and me, and He wants us to be there with Him, no matter what antics the little guys pull in Mass.

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