I love to see the little ones at mass. I know they can be disruptive at times, but they are really such a joy to watch. I love it when I am a Eucharistic Minister, and someone comes to communion with a child in their arms – I get to touch heaven when I touch that babe. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 19:14)
When a child who has not received First Communion yet comes forward with his/her arms crossed on their chest and looks up with awe as the priest or deacon bends down to give them a blessing it is one of the most precious pictures one can see. As many parishes do, we have a Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW) during the readings, gospel, and homily. The children rush forward, sometimes an older one leading a younger one by the hand, and, again, the priest or deacon gives them a quick word, a blessing, and then assigns one to carry the cross. The enthusiasm for the Word of God that these children represent is a lesson for all of us.
I recently read a couple of articles about people struggling with the concern over bringing their children to church, especially when some of them seem to be a disruption to the solemn liturgy. I was glad to see the articles encouraging those parents to keep bringing their children to mass. After all, at mass, heaven and earth come together. How can we deny that grace to these children. Plus, even though it takes time and effort, eventually these children will settle down and perhaps even look back on the occasion as a fond memory and with reverence for our Lord in the Eucharist – something we all need, especially as we get older. Watch them closely, and you will see many watching every move their parents or others around them make, even mimicking some. If you attend mass with reverence, the children will pick up on that and will eventually gain a greater appreciation for the wonder and miracle taking place around them.
Additionally, if you wait too long to introduce them to this spectacle, it will be harder for them to develop it and make it a part of their lives. Even if they lapse in their teen and later years, take it from a former lapsed Catholic (a revert, if you will), at sometime one or more of those memories will hit them and make them wonder if they are missing something. And when they realize that they are missing something, there’s a good chance they will return to the path that brings them back to Jesus and His mercy, and, ultimately to heaven.