Breaking The Silence: Suffering the Little Children

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There are two things that scare the wits out of Catholic moms of young children. The first is attempting Mass alone with small children and the second is attempting Eucharistic adoration with small children. The common denominator here is small children. Children are precious and cute and often say things aloud that make us laugh. But they are unpredictable, often loud, little creatures who make sudden demands of us and often in public. I cannot count the times mothers have lamented wanting to attend daily Mass or Eucharistic adoration if it were not for the embarrassing distraction her children make. As a mother of five children I have very often been in this situation. And, if  I’m completely honest, it isn’t the Lord’s opinion of my loud squiggly children or His opinion of my mothering that scares me most, it is the opinion of all those around me. This concern is not unmerited. I’d like to say that I have always been received with open arms by other church goers but I have not. I am not alone. Many of us are still traumatized  by the grumpy old man who made a snide remark about our bratty children or by  the lady who yelled at them in the bathroom. And, yet, for every grouch I have encountered, twice as many have encouraged me. Yet, I still fret, still get a little anxiety attack when my children crawl under pews or whisper loudly during consecration. It doesn’t stop me from going, mind you. But it might stop a weaker sister. It goes to show how even the venial sin of critical remarks or dirty looks can have such an impact on the Body of Christ. The devil knows that and uses that to scare mothers from bringing their children. I wouldn’t make such large claims except I have heard this story play itself over and over again amongst mothers in bible studies and playgroups. It is prideful but true. Criticism of your mothering skills is a powerful deterrent. Many moms won’t even set themselves up.

I hadn’t realized how much of this mentality had affected me until recently. As I was leaving daily mass one morning, feeling fresh and fancy free because I was completely childless and had been able to enjoy the Mass without the usual distractions, I encountered a an older gentleman I have seen around at Adoration; a kind man who wore a large beautiful cross with a Saint Benedict medal infused into the center of it. We got to talking and I was singing the wonders of how wonderful it is to feel that “holy quiet” that can only be felt at Adoration- how its almost tangible and how it permeates the soul. But he said something that surprised me. He told me that it is not necessarily the quiet that matters. He explained that the Lord wants us to come to Him like little children and how he has gotten to know many broken people who visit Our Lord on a regular basis and,as a result, had established a sort of community. I gathered from what he said that he and these people had possibly conversed quietly or shared the burdens and prayed together in fellowship before Our Lord. What a novel idea! The idea of little children struck a chord and I asked him if this idea included actual children. Then he smiled and recounted a specific time that he remembered ME bringing my children to daily Mass and how frazzled I had looked trying to keep them all in order.


He recounted the face of an elderly lady who sat in the back and who’s face lit up as she saw me enter with my clamorous brood.

“You don’t know the beacon of light you are to those elderly or lonely people that haven’t seen small children in a long while. ” he told me.

Yeah right, I thought, but what about all the rest of the people who I’m bothering? And, before I could get the thought out he said.

“There will always be people who express complaints. But those that are disturbed are truly disturbed by something else. Those that are there with a heart to love the Lord will not be disturbed.”

Something about the statement moved something inside me. It felt a new perspective shift and settle like tectonic plates inside me. I tried to fight the tears welling up in me and gave into them. So, it wasn’t me. It was them. I hadn’t been wrong.  I suddenly grieved for all those times I had scowled at and pinched my children during mass or left church angry. I grieved for all those times I had unreasonable expectations and had left Mass in a dark storm. I had been focusing on the wrong thing.

The gentleman reminded me that the Lord had very specifically said “Suffer the little children on to me. ” And the word “suffer” stood out and gave me peace all at once. Jesus knew that in order to bring the children to him there would be some suffering required. As immature little people, they have not yet conquered their impulses, their manners their noise level. They are, after all, little children. I pictured Jesus smiling at the raucous, making allowances for the disrupted silence and interrupted half prayers. The Lord loves them dearly and accepts them with infinite patience- something I had failed to do.  Where did this unwritten rule that children do not belong at Holy Adoration emerge?

I left a little sad but resolved and so I sat down to write this article. My prayer is to free all the women who have felt the same frustration I have. I wrote this article to give you, the mothers of young children, permission to go before the Lord, to ignore all those “apostles” who want to shoo them away to be bold and unapologetic about it and to encourage you. If you have held back from the graces of daily mass out of fear, if you have stopped making holy hours before the Lord out of fear, out of shame, or even out of pride, GO BACK! Do not let the devil have the last laugh. The Lord wants us and our children. He wants to build up his Body starting with the children. What better way is there to instill a love of the Lord if we don’t start very young? If we come back in armies of mothers and children who will be able to stop us?

Copyright 2009 Victoria Gisondi

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11 Comments

  1. Marta M. Gomez-Cortes on

    This is my offspring the 5th of my seven children. You make me proud, Vic! Keep it up,mi amor. Gpd b;ess you. MA

  2. Thank you for writing your realization. It truly struck a chord since I am the mother of a seven month old. Whenever we attend mass I am on the lookout for the slightest sound from her, not wanting to distract others with my baby’s joyous giggle or babbling. Thank you for helping me realize that indeed my child does belong in the church and not relegated to a sound-proof room. God bless you!

  3. Diane Drefcinski on

    Your article was interesting. I have 6 children ages 14-2 and I could relate to the struggles of trying to keep kids quiet in church. I have had many compliments by some of the seniors of our parish on how well behaved our children are at mass. They get a charge out of watching my children and others at church. But what the seniors don’t like is when parents don’t discipline the children.

    Bring snacks or books for children to keep them occupied. Sit up front where children can see. (Although at daily mass I prefer to sit in the very back of church so their behaviors are less noticable.)But if they do start to really act up and create too much noise that the people around can’t hear very well, then please remove your child from the area. I have had to take my children to the back of church or out the door to discipline them. That one, very stern time of discipline is sometimes all a child will need to get the picture about what behavior is NOT appropriate at mass. And if they still can’t behave reasonably well, then consider attending mass at different times for a few months until the child matures a bit more. Our family always attended together, but with my 6th child we chose to split up for about 8 months until he matured enough that I could focus more on mass than I did on him.

    Children need to be taught how to behave in church just like they have to be taught anything else. It takes time and patience. As it says in Psalms, “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

  4. Yes, I am a strong believer in discipline. Please do not misunderstand the intent of this article. One needs to train up a child in the wa he should go. I wouldn’t have survived five children without regiment…

    However you arrive at your discipline, the message I want to convey here is that, EVEN when children require discipline, cause distraction or embarrass , not to let that ever ever be a deterrant from staying away from the precious gift of the Eucharist. Whether out of inconvenience or out of fear of making a scene (esp with extra small children), the devil will pull out all the stops to get you to stay away. He will make you feel like a bad parent, He will tempt others to judge you, He will make you feel humiliated at time.

    I also recommend sticking it out together as a family even if it requires a little extra work.

  5. Monica Garaitonandia on

    Vic, what a great article. People often forget that laughter comes from God and that He has a sense of humor. Jesus loved children and if God had meant for them to be adult-like he would have created them that way from the beginning. Kids are here to remind us that life can have a lighter, more positive and optimistic side. It’s what keeps us in a healthy perspective and keep hope alive.

  6. As a mother of five children myself, I wish I would have read this column years ago when I was the pinching mother giving dirty looks to my little ones! Now that they are older and better behaved, attending Mass is truly a joy!(usually) I will pray for you that you will learn to enjoy these years while your children are small and to be able to find a little bit of joy at each Mass and Adoration you attend with them. Passing the faith on to your little ones is the greatest honor God could give a mother! God Bless You and thanks for the great article!

  7. CassieMcCullers on

    Victoria
    Great article. It made me kind of miss the days when Mass was an hour long wrestling match. I remember going to receive communion with a baby in one arm and two little ones grabbing fingers on my free hand while my husband handled the other – a mass of humanity moving up the aisle together. I see families doing it now and it brings back great memories – but I also see what a WITNESS those families are to the rest of the parish community. Our children are a precious, precious gift, and families are a powerful witness of God’s love. Thank you for encouraging moms in this regard.
    When early morning swim lessons wrap up after next week we hope to get over to 9 AM daily mass – hope to see you there!
    Cassie

  8. Dear Victoria,

    Reading your article brings back great memories! I remember all of those play groups and rosaries with our little ones running around…. It has gotten a bit easier for me now as well, and this article reminds me to savor mass with my little ones while I still can! Now that I don’t have a baby in arms, it brings a smile every time I hear the cry of an infant or the babbling of a toddler. It made me realize that it really all was joyful “noise”.

    I also remember the man who gave you $20 after a particularly stressful mass when one of your little ones somehow ended up with very mismatched socks. We had a good laugh over that one! Looking back, it probably wasn’t the socks…it was just an outpouring of God’s love and a recognition of the sacrifice you made for your little ones.

    I would also like to add that many Sundays, because of your husband’s schedule, you were at mass alone with five very little ones. Masses I barely made it though with my husband and my little ones. You always had a smile on your face and I never remember hearing your children, not one time!! (although I might have been a little preoccupied…;)

    Great to “see” you again!

    God bless!

  9. Victoria,

    Great article! I often walk away from Mass stressed when my youngest son comes along with us. I also get the other perspective when I’m in the Adult Choir. I often hear the infants and toddler shouts – but from that perspective it’s cute and adorable. Usually many people give a knowing giggle – for most of us have been there.

    Once when my son was particularly acting up, I was alone with the 3 children. The older two were helpful, but my son was just not having it. I eventually took him out. Because I was sure it was becoming a distraction. I was angry with myself for not having better controll and I was angry in general because I missed the Eucharist. The Eucharist is precioust to me.

    After mass, the Eucharistic Minister who we were sitting behind, came up to me and gave me a big hug. She also said some nice words – but just that gesture I feel was sent by the Holy Spirit. A kind of “Take heart, “.

    God uses us all in many ways.

    God Bless.

  10. I’m in tears right this very minute because it’s Sunday morning and I just missed Mass because of the fear of my children bothering other people during the mass. We usually go as a family with my husband, but I was unable to attend Mass on Saturday which is when we usually go. I struggled all morning whether or not to go, but decided at the last moment that with a HF autistic son and a 6 year old and 3 year old. It was just too much for me alone. I’ve brought them by myself on past occasions and the autistic and youngest argue and it makes mass uncomfortable for me. Thank you for this article. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

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