There we are, in the middle of a beautiful service, and then we hear it, the sounds of our smallest church goers. A loud cry from the pew behind us, a kneeler going bang across the aisle, or a fit from the young one in our own pew. Our quiet peaceful moment is ruined.
When a child cries at church, it is easy to assume it takes away from the worship experience. And while yes, it does change the experience, we can find ways to allow these distractions to change it for the better. To have a greater experience of God because, not in spite, of the howling of the smallest saints at church.
Here are seven things to ponder when you hear crying at church.
This is the sound of life. Life comes in many different stages, one of them is small and young. In this stage of life we communicate differently. We all began here, and someone took care of us and listened to our cries. The sound of a wailing child is beautiful because it is evidence of the crown of God’s creation, of life. Offer up the distraction of these cries to God in thanksgiving for children, parents and His gift of life – messy as it is.
Grace is still pouring out. A service is only an hour-long, so if you are interrupted every 5 minutes by the distractions of a young child, it is easy for it to come and go and for you to feel like you somehow missed the service. The truth is that even in the times when you may not be feeling it, you are still being showered in graces.
Jesus’ words. Let the soundtrack of life remind you of the words of our savior,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:14).
“‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40).
“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)
Jesus is clearly a pro-child kinda guy. He reminds us throughout scripture of the value of children. I am pretty sure he is not only referring to those who are perfectly silent and still. I can imagine him smiling at my little Anna as she joins us in mass.
Consider the times when you throw a fit. Can you remember a time when you ran away from God’s plan. When you chose something other than worship of God. Let the natural crying you hear in church remind you of places you need to stop resisting God and turn more fully toward him.
Hear Mary weeping. When you hear a wee one crying, imagine the sobs of Mary at the cross. Place yourself there at the foot of the crucifixion, and hear the cry of the holy Mother, mourning the brutal death of her son, her Lord, her savior. This has been one of the most helpful aides for turning the fussing of young children, mine and others, into worship.
All are welcome. Dr. Popcak argues that all people, babies included, no matter their inconvenience, belong in church. It is the duty of both the parents and the community to support the mission of the family, to raise faithful children, which means supporting their spiritual growth.
Welcoming all people to the Lord’s table never ruins mass, but rather displays one of its greatest purposes, to provide a glimpse of the wedding feast of Christ and his church.
Church is a cry room with a tabernacle. Cry rooms are available for families that would like to use them, but no one should ever be forced into a penalty box. Ultimately, the church is for all people, a huge cry room that Jesus enters. At the table the earthly intersects the divine, as an opportunity to demonstrate the incarnation of Christ, who entered an unworthy, noisy, and if you’ll allow me, poopy world, in order to be with and feed those he loves.
Pope Francis remarked in December 2014 that children’s tears were “the best sermon,” stating that “God’s voice is in a child’s tears”. I pray we might find more ways to grow in holiness because of the gift of children at church.
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