Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Why didn't I say that? (3)

Here's another old one that I've been meaning to link to for a while, this time from Suzanne Temple.

I really relate to this. OK, Suzanne's talking about praying at home, but the sentiment is the same. I feel very strongly that too many people don't welcome children in church. It's a fact of life that it's not always possible to keep babies and toddlers quiet.

Does this mean that they should be kept away from church until they reach the age of reason? Or maybe that we should have special Masses where children are welcome and the liturgy is dumbed down for them, and keep the "proper" Masses for the adults?

Children need food, and sometimes when you give a toddler a bowl of food, it ends up all over the walls and floor. Sometimes it rejects the food you have offered, and just screams. Do we decide to wait until the child is old enough to eat nicely before offering it any more food? No - and nor should we wait to give spiritual nourishment.

My niece isn't always very well-behaved in church. I'm sure there are times when she distracts the people sitting around us. Knowing her as we do, we have sometimes let her carry on quietly climbing on the benches or making faces at the people behind, because that's preferable to the screams that would ensue if we tried to stop her.

Most people are pretty tolerant of this, and appreciate the difficulty of making a toddler sit still and keep quiet. The intolerant glares and tuts usually come from little old ladies, for some reason.

But before she was a year old, when we said, "Where's Jesus?" she would point to the crucifix.

She was almost exactly two and a half the first time she joined in appropriately with part of the Mass - one of her bedtime songs is the Salve Regina, and she can sing it all the way through. My parents attend a church where the Salve Regina is sung at the end of Mass every Sunday, and on a visit to my parents, my niece joined in and loudly and confidently sang the whole of the Salve Regina with the rest of the congregation. (A friend of theirs went up to my father at the end of Mass and said, "Well, I was going to boast that my granddaughter could sing 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star', but there's no point now"!)

She now joins in most Sundays with singing the Alleluia before the Gospel. She has joined in a couple of times with familiar hymns. And the other day she was walking round the garden shouting something. We opened the door to listen, and found that she was reciting the Creed at the top of her voice.

So has it been pointless taking her to church? A toddler is learning all the time. She has absorbed the words of the Creed without us ever knowing. She knows about Jesus, she knows (in theory) that she should be quiet in church, she does her own version of the Sign of the Cross, she loves going up to Father for a blessing at Communion time, and we try to make sure she says a few prayers while she's in church.

Balance that against the possibility that an adult has been inconvenienced by the fact that a child made a little bit of noise and maybe disturbed their concentration. I'm afraid that I think the awakening of the spiritual life in the child and hopefully the birth of a life-long love for the Church is more important.

But then, who am I to judge?


newhousenewjob said...

Extract from a comment by Simon-Peter:

" "It's a fact of life that it's not always possible to keep babies and toddlers quiet."


I got in trouble in December because I actually opened my big mouth during Mass, VERY loudly, to "chastise" certain adults who were giving us dirty looks becuase the sweeties were venting.

I Am sorry...but the FILTHY looks we got were just ridiculous, I mean, how can I put this...a flash of malice?

Skin crawl material. If you know me at all you can imagine what I said and how I said it.


I had to copy and paste this because S-P asked me to delete the rest of his comment and I didn't know how to do it... But S-P, thanks very much for the kind comments. Perhaps it is possible to fool some of the people some of the time...! :¬) (And gosh, remind me to avoid giving any dirty looks while you're there protecting your little lion cubs!)

Mac McLernon said...

Actually, if you go to a Classical Rite Low Mass, it doesn't matter if the kids are loud... the prayers are silent anyway!!

newhousenewjob said...

Ah, some would say that's when they're the most distracting, Mac. One of the reasons we used to have so much music in our old parish was because the times of "silent prayer" were interrupted by children running amok and adults catching up on the week's gossip - a bit of (hopefully) reverent music to concentrate the mind also helped to drown them out a bit! (Hey, I know the theory about being tolerant and all - I'm just not always brilliant at the practice!)