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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Toddlers and Mass Attendance.

I'm about to break a big rule of mine--commenting about incidents at my own parish. I think it's generally a good rule to avoid talking about one's own, unless some gross outrage or news spotlight is involved. I definitely think discussing parish politics and personalities should be off limits, unless CNN shows up on the doorstep. I'll explain my reasoning later, but essentially, it's counterproductive.

Here's an exception, and I'm breaking that rule because I need some insight/advice.

Heather takes the kids to daily Mass on Tuesdays and Fridays. For those of you who don't know, our children and their birthdays are as follows: Madeleine, 9/6/01; Dale III, 2/24/03; and Rachel, 9/16/04.

[For some reason, our jointly-written guide, Child-Spacing: A Proven Method! continues to experience sluggish sales.]

She's been doing this for a while now. Daily Mass at our parish skews to retirees (though there is a homeschooling family of eight there on a regular basis, and Rachel's godparents also attend periodically). But, ultimately, it's an older crowd.

Unfortunately, Heather was confronted by one couple a few months back who told her that the kids shouldn't be coming to Mass. Heather was crushed by this, only to get an apology from the same couple a few days later. You see, Heather had confided in Mary A., one of the mainstays at daily Mass, a marvelous dynamo of Balkan heritage who went from calm to incandescent in three seconds, told Heather she was doing the right thing by bringing the kids to Mass, and made a point of sitting with Heather and the kids at the next few Masses. We don't know what happened after this, but we have reason to believe the apology Heather received was prompted, shall we say.

I'm not going to pretend that the children are perfect at Mass. But the older two are pretty good. Rachel--she's not so good. But Heather takes her out if she's a problem. And I don't know how many times she or I have heard from others that it's so nice to see kids at daily Mass. Often coupled with acknowledgements that they don't expect perfect behavior.

Our old associate Priest, Fr. Wojciech (an immigrant from Poland during the late '80s), went further--"Oh, let the children run. It's so good to see them here." Fr. Wojciech insisted that they ring the consecration bells--after Mass was over. [Great meat and potatoes priest and all around good man--we miss him.]

No, there are no cry rooms--that was the Irish founding pastor's firmest architectural requirement--"the kids belong in church. If I can't handle a crying baby, it's my problem."

Well, it happened again today. But this was worse--this time, she was confronted by another of the daily Mass mainstays, a gentleman we like, who bluntly asked why she brought the children to church, said they were getting nothing out of it, and further said they were disruptive. Now, it's true that she had to take Rachel into the foyer three times, but again, the older two were fine.

Mary A overheard this and again told Heather she was doing the right thing.

I'm looking for input on this one because I'm hovering somewhere near fusion temperature in my gut reaction. I also suspect nobody would have the clockweights to complain in my presence, but feel free to open up on a young mother, but that's another matter.


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