Being Catholic: [Going to Mass]

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ah, yes, the long lost Catholic series. UnFortunately for you guys, I'm back at it..
As Catholics, we go to Mass every Sunday.
We even base our babies' schedules around the Mass time we regularly attend. T was born on a Wednesday, we went to Mass on Sunday. Homegirl was born on a Thursday, we attended Mass that Sunday. So, needless to say, they've been going to church since day one three and four. Taking babies/toddlers to Mass takes some planning, preparing, and sometimes trial and error, but we have figured out what works for us and how to make it a pleasant routine each weekend.
Even though Homegirl is still learning to use her whisper voice (ha!), we start as early as we can instilling the expectations of acceptable church behavior.
Here are a few of the things that help us through our 1-1.5 hours in Mass with baby/toddler each Sunday.

Be Prepared
On our way to church, even at 1.5-2.5 years old, we talk to T like he understands (because he does) and go over what's expected and how we will behave - we'll use our quiet-church-whisper voice, shake hands and say hi to the priest/parishioners, make good choices, etc. Even though by now he knows this is what is expected of him, it never hurts to give a friendly reminder (as a toddler's frontal lobe is still a development in progress, if you-know-what-I-mean..).
The other most important part is quiet entertainment/activities to help keep them busy. At almost 3 years old, T still gets to have books/small toy at church, for Homegirl it's a pacifier and chew toy. With the mobile toddler age, it is especially essential to have something to keep them occupied as they aren't necessarily paying attention but rather staying distracted throughout the Mass. T's backpack includes a few books (bonus points for church-related), one or two toys (dinosaur, action figure, etc.), and a water bottle. We've learned what toys make too much noise and adjust accordingly for the next weekend. When T was younger, we would allow a small snack (since it was a regular time for that), however we do NOT give them the whole bag. We'd discreetly give him one at a time (goldfish/teddy graham, etc.), in order to avoid making a mess/scene.

Participate!! Make it fun!!
T has been very interested in the 'happenings' at Mass, so much that he often 'plays' church at home and will reenact alter boy responsibilities (carrying the cross, swinging incense, holding up a book). Not only does this make me extremely proud, but it shows he is paying attention and is getting something out of going to Mass!! We absolutely encourage this by 'playing' with him at home, and pointing out these things at church, or moving him to the end of the pew so he can watch the processional/recessional.
Although, it isn't necessarily a run-around-and-party atmosphere, we always strive to make it a positive and fun experience. We share with the kids our excitement to go to church, and we've seen firsthand, that is contagious!!

Try again
Babies/toddlers will cry and/or throw fits, doesn't matter where you are. There are times we need to step to the back or stand in the foyer. However, that it is not a time to play and/or run around. We simply step out to reset, and then go back to our seat to try again. We try to have whichever parent is closest take care of the situation; we try not to be a distraction and avoid passing kids back and forth and making a scene.
Some Sundays feel like a disaster--my palms are sweaty, I'm distracted by my kids who can't seem to sit still, it feels like everyone is staring right at this circus in our pew, and we seem to be the loudest things in the place.. Odds are it isn't as bad as it feels in that moment. Plus, there's always next Sunday. ;)

Matthew 19: 14 - ..but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

(Similarly, these tips could be applied with a friend/spouse/boyfriend who is new to going to Mass. Maybe not necessarily the books/small toys, but perhaps a pamphlet or booklet outlining the order of Mass so they can follow along and feel involved.)

Some of THE MOST meaningful compliments I have received are from people at Mass, commenting how well behaved our children are, or what a good job they do sitting through and/or participating at Mass. It makes me so proud that a 2 year old can be an example to those around him, not to mention bring joy to fellow parishioners.

I know someday there will be a time when they won't be excited or want to go to church; but as I've experienced in my life, having parents who are consistent and foster this 'lifestyle' are setting the example and expectations for living our Catholic faith. By making it normal and part of our weekly routine, I hope we are able to build a foundation in faith for our kids also.

3 comments:

  1. I think it's great that you guys started taking them so early in life. And I give you mad props for going to church three and four days after they were born. I love that you worked them into your weekly routine and never skipped a beat.

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  2. Love everything about this post, Laureen. I think it's so wonderful that you are bringing the kids to Mass and teaching them about Catholic traditions so early. And, T wanting to play church at home??? That's adorable! I just started working on the design of a new Catholic grade school, and I pretty much want to abandon all of my other projects to work on it since I have a personal connection :). Hope you're having a great week!

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  3. Wow, sounds like you have going to church down perfectly! And how sweet that Tyson will play pretend church; I love that! I find it easy to take infants to church, it was the 18months-2 years that was brutal for us. So bad that we actually stopped attending for a few months.

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