photo of a pew card reassuring parents that their children are welcome at Mass making the rounds on social media. The card suggests to parents that it is OK to sit in the front, and reminds others that our future is our children. It made me think how we welcome families with young children. Having once been ousted from a church before Mass even began, this is an issue that matters to me.
Many years ago, about five minutes before Mass was to start, my 2 year old's movements in the pew that we alone occupied were deemed too loud by the couple a few pews ahead. I note he was not talking, he was not putting the kneelers up and down, but he was putting his books down with a loud clunk. In a liturgical space designed to amplify noise without a microphone, any noise is noisy. They complained to an usher and we were ushered out. As I stopped to button his coat in the entrance to the church, tears were running down my face. I was mortified. I was distraught at being denied communion. The sacristan stopped me, wondering what was wrong. I explained, remarkably calmly, scooped up Crash and left. Welcome, it seemed, we were not.
(The irony of this is that Crash now has a reputation of being a stealth altar server. He moves through the space of the liturgy, doing what needs doing, without fuss. He almost slips between the molecules of air.)
In my parish, we baptize at Mass, and the assembly is asked to support the parents in raising their children in the faith. We can certainly make families feel welcome by tolerating the noise they make, and the inevitable wriggling that comes with children. (I can remember telling Math Man that prayer was a full body workout when the boys were very young.) But how else do we help families bring children into the fullness of their faith?
Missals? We have hymnals and missalettes available (on the back table, not in the pews) for adults but nothing for children of any age. There is a basket of random books in the back of the vestibule, many of them religious, but with a definite admixture of Disney. Why don't we have a children's missal tucked in every pew? Or in a basket on the back table next to the missalettes? Why isn't there a list of books on the Mass that parents could purchase in a flyer in the back, with reviews by our catechetical staff?
And why aren't there good missals for children, particularly young ones. This is my missal from when I was very young (and yes, I could still lay hands on it fifty years later, on the shelf with the rest of my missal collection). The Mass was still in Latin. It's illustrated by a well known sacred artist, there are sketches to let me follow the action, the facing pages connected the Mass to scriptural sources, with a rich illustration. It is a beautiful and dignified prayer book, something I'm hard pressed to say about this or this. Why should not children have access to missals that are, like the books used to to celebrate the liturgy, " truly worthy, dignified, and beautiful" [GIRM 349]? And sturdy -- our faith isn't flimsy!