I have been drafting this piece for the past several days, coming off of a particularly rough Mass experience. Although the family was actually early for church this past Sunday, everything began sliding downhill after the entrance hymn. The six-year-old smuggled a bottle of water into Mass, which was promptly confiscated after its discovery. He then spent the better part of Mass claiming he was too tired to stand, to sing, to pray … to participate. The three-year-old twirled and danced her way through all the songs, barely stopping before hitting the pew with her face. The baby decided Sunday was a great day to dive out of his parents’ arms, in search for play time with the two older ones … over and over again. It culminated with the six-year-old throwing an epic tantrum after being escorted out of Mass for being a disruption.
During the shenanigans, I felt myself beginning to doubt – none of my children have hit the age of reason, and a little voice tugged deep within myself, “Why do you do this? They don’t have to be here. Save yourself some grief. Keep them at home. It’ll make Mass more pleasurable for you … for the kids … for the other people in the chapel.”
For the first time in perhaps years, I struggled to banish those thoughts. I reminded myself that Jesus knows little children and their antics. The thoughts persisted.
I reminded myself that Jesus instructed to let the little children come to Him, and the little children in our family were definitely present. The thoughts persisted.
I reminded myself that the little ones will only learn best by being present in the experience of the Mass. The thoughts persisted.
I reminded myself that our family is Catholic, and attends Mass, because Jesus is present – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – at every single Mass said throughout the world. The thoughts persisted.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted, both mentally, physically, and spiritually.
A couple days later, I am slowly coming out of the fog and realizing that there was, most likely, a spiritual attack targeting me. However, as logically as I can now rationalize the actions, there is a lingering uneasiness.
I am uneasy because I know just how tempting it can be to give in to the small whispers and voices of discouragement.
Every. single. parent, no matter how well-put-together or skilled, will have an “off” day: one of those days where everything seems to go wrong. We will have those days in which we second-guess ourselves, and we worry whether or not we are doing the right thing.
As someone whose husband can sometimes be gone for months at a time, those doubts have a funny way of creeping in, and settling into the soul. I have witnessed other parents, whose partners are on the other side of the world, hire babysitters to avoid taking their small children to Mass. However, I have known far more, though, who simply stop going to Mass altogether — giving in to the temptation that the battle is not worth the fight.
Contemplating this past weekend’s chaos, and just how easy it would be to not fight to bring my children to our Lord in the Eucharist, I began to ask myself — if I am not willing to fight for my children’s little souls, then for what am I willing to fight?
Ultimately, at the end of the day, nobody can force their children to choose the Catholic Faith. But, while they are young, parents are responsible for their children’s physical, emotional, and yes, spiritual well-being.
Parents can take the time to expose them to who Jesus is … where to find Him … and, how He readily waits for us, day in and day out, at Mass or in the Blessed Sacrament.
We can teach them how to speak with Him, and model ways to listen to His gentle whispers on the heart. Parents can help their children learn how to decipher His messages, and encourage their bravery in following His desires, even when it seems a little unpopular.
Parents can show their children the peace that only God can provide when we turn ourselves over to His will. We can show them just how important He is to our life, and show them how receiving Him transforms lives.
But, in order to do that, we must not give into the temptation to run away from Christ. Rather, we must resist the temptation to leave our children at home. We must squelch the temptation to abandon the Eucharist for a church service which has all the trappings of fun, but none of Jesus in the Eucharist.
We must talk about our source of comfort, motivation, and joy. We must introduce them to our own personal passion and love for Jesus.
We must lead our children by example … by prioritizing His presence in our life.
I will not let one really random, weird Sunday experience, or a slew of difficult Sundays, throw me off my game.
And, I encourage you, dear reader, to not let temptation that “life would be easier,” that “things would be better,” or that “everyone would be much happier if you ‘just’ didn’t bring your children” to Jesus in the Eucharist.
Those temptations would be the biggest lies Satan can plant in a parent’s heart.
Jesus faced temptation from Satan head on. And, as Hebrews 2: 18 tells us, “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are tested.”
So, the next time you feel the temptation to “just leave the kids at home” or “just take them to a more kid-friendly church,” combat those lies by taking those temptations directly to our Lord!
Call upon Him, and take your fears, your stresses, your temptations, and your worries to Him.
Sit with our Lord, and truly speak with Him.
And then, listen. Listen to His gentle whispers on your heart. Don’t argue.
You will hear Him.
He will be gently calling you and your entire, chaotic, loud family back to Him …
In the Eucharist.