Faith Matters: Toddlers in Church

A word to the mother following her toddler in church: Solidarity! Studies say that if you have little children, by the time you have arrived to join your colleagues in the workplace, you have already clocked almost a whole day’s work. This I can believe.

I know my babies will grow up quickly and so, just as every woman who has mothered before me tells me to, I am soaking every moment of it up because even though the days are long, the years are short.

Six years ago, my husband and I were mentally prepared for the late nights, nappies and everything in between that comes along with parenting. We booked in for the hospital tour, we put together a birthing plan and we attended the parenting classes that prepared us for the “big day”.

Delivery day has come and gone three times now, each child with their own unique entrance into the big world. As our children get older, and we as parents seemingly get wiser, nothing can undo your achievements quicker, than your 2-year-old testing their boundaries, in front of the whole congregation on a Sunday morning.

Looking back on the first three years of parent life, mass was relatively easy with one child. I took onboard the solid advice from other Catholic parents that have gone before me, that children eventually learn how to behave in mass, you only need to bring them often and of course be sure to sit in the front row!

In the space of less than two years, we now have two more little saints in the making, and we are officially outnumbered. I will be the first to admit, that after a busy week of meeting the modern demands of family life, the temptation to throw in the towel of bringing three kids to mass is real, particularly when I am doing it alone.

So, why do I put the effort in bringing them to church, when sometimes it seems the only return on my hard work of getting there on time, is following closely behind my toddler in case they stumble whilst climbing over and under the pews for a solid 57 minutes?

The answer is simple: If I do not bring them, no one else will.

My husband loves that I practice my Catholic faith, it is one of the many reasons of why he adores me. Like many couples in the Church however, one half may not always be Catholic or even a believer. If I want our children to fall in love with Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph, I need to make the time to introduce them to their spiritual family.

Being a cradle catholic, I do not remember learning the responses or when to stand, kneel or sit during the liturgy. All I can attest to is, that by my own mother bringing (occasionally dragging) us children to mass with her every Sunday, is that eventually the catholic aerobics became second nature.

Encountering Jesus, begins at home, in the domestic church, where family life naturally models the Christian life through love and sacrifice. The seeds that were planted in my childhood are from my mother, who wisely knew the reverence of participating at mass and receiving the sacraments.

The sound of little voices in the church, brings the Church back to life. It is through the joyful witness of my 5-year-old processing with the Baby Jesus on Christmas morning, that sparked an interest in my child’s friend, who then joined us for mass the following month.

A parishioner once called me brave for bringing my children to mass and sitting in the front row. I would in fact call my child brave for talking about their faith so openly to their friends.

It provoked me to think; how many people have I invited to church lately? Am I open to sharing my faith with others? Am I actively involved in my church community? And finally, is evangelising an area I need to work on? Is it an area we could all work on?

I have been blessed to be a part of a lively parish, where they delight in our arrival and welcome my children to be a part of the wider community. Even though we come with unpredictable cries, kneelers dropping and very enthusiastic peace waves, the smiles and encouragement that we receive from others, means that as a mother raising and forming children in the faith, is that we always feel at home.

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