Children Belong at Mass, Too!

September 7, 2012

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

We are exceptionally blessed as Catholics to belong to a Church that respects and cherishes all human life, from the moment of conception. Our Church is unabashedly and unmistakably pro-child and pro-life. In the Gospels, Christ Himself insisted that the children come to Him. Children are the future – the future of the world and, more importantly, the future of our Church. They will be our priests and nuns, our monks and missionaries, our men and women who take Christ into the world. Raising them to know and love our beautiful Faith can be a daunting task at times – there are so many prayers and devotions to choose from, books to read, and catechism lessons to teach. But there is one most important and essential thing we must do as parents to guide our children in the Faith – we must take them to Mass.

This is often much, much easier said than done. But we have to teach them sometime, and we take them to Mass from the time they are babies, it will be normal to them. That doesn’t mean that they will be perfect by any stretch, but it’s a great way to introduce them to Christ and to the beauty of our Faith. It teaches them that “Mass is important to our family.” If we speak positively about our Sunday obligation, as something to look forward to rather than something to slog through, our eagerness to attend will be reflected in our children.

Most toddlers struggle with sitting still and quietly for an entire hour. THIS IS NORMAL. We should gently reinforce and redirect, distract and quiet, but we should remember that misbehavior does not reflect on ourselves or our parenting. Very young children are naturally curious and talkative, and while we should set the bar high for behavior at Mass, it’s also important to recognize their limitations. Taking them to the back for a few minutes or a strategic trip to the bathroom may be the key to making it to the end of Mass without tears. Bringing a few religious picture books can keep their hands and minds occupied during the homily. Quietly pointing out the statues, stained glass windows, and briefly explaining in a whisper what is happening can keep their attention. Also, practice makes perfect! If at all possible, taking children to a weekday Mass is a great way to reinforce quiet behavior during Mass. I’ve found in my experience that the more effort we make to go during the week, the more smoothly Sundays go.

Often, we are so distracted by caring for our children during Mass that we feel as though we aren’t getting anything out of it. On especially difficult days, we can take comfort in the fact that God made it plainly clear that he doesn’t want us to have 10 minutes of silent prayer after Communion today – He wanted us to grow a little bit in the virtues of patience and perseverance! One of the ways God challenges us is by giving us the opportunity to sacrifice something good. In making this sacrifice willingly, He will shower us with graces and help us grow in holiness. This is an especially edifying thought when we leave Mass and can’t even remember a word of the homily!

Don’t get discouraged! Sometimes after a particularly difficult Sunday, it’s tempting to want to avoid bringing the kids to Mass the next time. They don’t really understand, we couldn’t really pay attention, the person behind us was distracted, etc. But Jesus wants the children to come to Him.  It is so pleasing to God to see all of His children there, and to see our family unified as we gather together to worship Him. And as a priest said to his congregation, “If you go into a church that does not have a crying baby, that church is in trouble. It has no future. So, let us thank God for crying babies.”

Thank God for the crying babies, the squirmy toddlers, and the chatty preschoolers. They are a beautiful sign that our Church is full of life!

Colleen is a lifelong Catholic who lives in Kansas City with her husband and three young children. She blogs regularly at

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  • Christina Channell

    Sunday mass is a struggle for us with our two toddlers ages 3 and 1. We’re usually grateful if we can hold off the meltdowns until the homily. Luckily, we have a nice cry room and can still fully participate. During the week, Husband and I take turns attending mass sans children. It’s a treat!

    • Alex Weber

      We’ve got 5 and there is almost always a meltdown. We just take turns going out with the kid that’s melting down. It’s always a nice miracle when we can get through with no crying.

  • Felini

    My brother brought down the house singing “Jesus had a little lamb”.

  • Robert A. Rowland

    Children do belong at Mass with their parents. Recenrlly hundreds of student from CCD classes were brought in groups to Mass, and it was one of the most distracting experience I have had at Mass. They were unruly, there seemed to be little respect for the liturgy, and those who received Communion made no sign of respect, and they are obviously being taught to violate the rubrics and raise their hands and arms during the Our Father. What has VCII wrought without emphasis on discipline and doctrine?

  • Joan

    Jesus wants the “texting” teens too. So often there is criticism and judgment of kids of all ages. We must rejoice that they are all there as part of the Body of Christ and let God do the work of touching their hearts and souls.

  • Kristin

    Two weeks ago as our family (7 children ages 11-2weeks) walked up for communion our two year old marched right up ahead of us and stood before the priest with her little hands outstretched to receive the host. It was so sweet. Of all our children she’s the hardest one to take to mass right now, but she has clearly been watching us and knows there must be something important in that little round wafer we eat each week.

  • Carol

    I had a priest scold me for leaving with my new baby in front of everyone. She was a newborn and about to go off – she was like an egg timer that way. Anyway, I was leaving, daily mass mind you, a few minutes early hoping she wouldn’t disrupt people if she started crying. I had been a mother for about 8 weeks. The priest said into the microphone that he didn’t want people to leave early and 5 minutes shouldn’t make a difference. I felt awful – this was such a horrible painful experience for me. I was trying to think of others praying and everyone turned and stared at me. I refused to take my kids to mass until they were 7 and required to go. I try so hard to be respectful with them even now but I think so many priests are too hard on parents.

    • Alex Weber

      I’m sorry that happened to you Carol.

    • Kim Wetzel-Williams

      Priests seem to fall into 2 categories — kind of like the laity — those who think families with children should sit in the front pew so the children can see everything, and those who think families with children should sit in the back and don’t let those kids make a single noise. Sooner or later, every family with children feels insulted one way or another. Parents have to, to a large degree, let it roll off their backs, offer it up, and do what works best in their family. My family sat up front until I was 12 and my baby brother refused to stay quiet — something neither my sister nor I had ever dared in the face of parental authority. The day the priest asked my parents to remove Master Chatterbox was the day we started sitting in the next to last pew, just in front of the ushers’ reserved spots. In other words, what worked for the first two kids, didn’t work for the third and families adapt.

  • Mom of3

    I had a terrible experience at mass this morning regarding my crying 3yo. I left in tears and later even called our Pastor. He-and this story -reminded me that my children Belong in Church. There is a cry room- which is too much fun for the littlest kids. Yes, my daughter was getting loud. Yes I was trying to calm her. But I choose to stay at the pew with my other children and complete the mass. My husband is out of town, so it was pack up 4 of us just before Eucharist or just cuddle her thru it.

    It was the right thing to do. Most every Sunday, children’s behavior gets better.

    (I’m also a believer in kids in the front prws so that they can see the action. I assumed that’s why the congregation left those front5 pews empty. !)

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