HEN WE BEGAN having children, attending Mass became quite difficult. Holding a child in Mass requires immense energy and tremendous patience, especially when you look around and notice that every other child behaves in Church except yours.
I remember being very angry, because I didn’t feel like I was adequately participating during Mass. All I did was struggle to contain my energetic child. We tried going to Mass separately, but this was tough, because wives prefer attending Mass as a family—and who can blame them? Catholic mothers & fathers who raised large families offered advice, but none of it worked. Moreover, when their advice didn’t work, some blamed the failure on us—so we eventually stopped asking for advice.
HERE ARE SOME THOUGHTS on this matter. I have no idea if they will make any sense.
When we make time to attend something—be it a birthday party, sporting event, or piano recital—a major part is the fact that we show up. We have to plan for it, dress the children, buckle them into the child safety seats, bring them snacks & drinks, take their nap schedule into consideration, and so on. Even though we can’t pay as much attention to the Holy Mass as we’d like, I think God understands that taking care of the children is difficult. One of the failures of the American public school system has been treating each child as if he will grow up to be a scholar. In fact, not all children are wired the same way. Some might like books, while others prefer running around in a field. Some children enjoy carefully listening to hours of lectures, while others manifest different talents and abilities. In some ways, the liturgical movement fell into the same trap. The assumption was that every man, woman, and child—no matter what their background—should participate at Mass in exactly the same way. I would suggest that parents watching small children during Mass cannot participate the same way a liturgical scholar might.
If one has Church musician obligations, sometimes it will be necessary for husband & wife to attend different Masses, yet nothing prevents them from attending daily Mass together as a family.
Those of us who attend the Extraordinary Form in Los Angeles can take advantage of the world’s greatest cry room—but I still hold our 2-year-old son during the Homily & Creed to give my wife a tiny break. The organist allows our son to touch the organ keys during the Homily (see image above).
The life of a choirmaster is truly demanding. I believe it’s one of the hardest professions in the whole world, because it involves so much stress nobody realizes. Moreover, the added stress of the situation we’ve been discussing doesn’t help matters.
On the other hand, if we stop and think about how much suffering 1 there is in the world—and how much suffering has occurred throughout history—we soon realize that God is not asking too much of us.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 I’ve been reading about the gruesome wars of the 1940s and 1950s. It is a truly horrifying study. For example, during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), more than 22 million Chinese civilians were killed.