I've been thinking about this title and topic for almost a week now. There are so many ideas flurrying about in my head that I can't seem to nail down the exact message I want to get across in the title without offending some, or scaring off others.
Another title could possibly be, "Jesus didn't say let only the quiet children come to Him."
By now I either have captured your curiosity or annoyed you to just move on. Either are ok, because even though I feel extremely passionate about this, many will read it and not care. But it's something that I think is a problem especially in our Church. And I don't just mean the one I attend every weekend here in snowland, but every single Catholic church across the country.
Are we a people of hypocrisy?
I have been keeping a steady 'journal' if you will, of my pregnancy. Which, by the way, today is day 219, and no I'm not keeping count, but this amazing app sends me a daily message and today is day 219 since the start of this amazing, overwhelming at times, exhausting journey.
This pregnancy was a complete surprise to me. Unexpected if you will, regardless of the fact that my husband and I are extremely open to life.
I have wanted to write a book since day one on the trials and tribulations of pregnancy over 40. A slightly comical, slightly serious compendium for those who find themselves struggling with all the gems of being AMA patients in a world that sees pregnancy as a disease and children as something of a trophy prize for when the time is right. But not only am I not a very organized person (which, yes, with soon to be 7 children, you shouldn't be surprised), but I'm also not one to even know where to begin and would really prefer someone to micromanage me in that department.
After a conversation with my husband this past week, the urge became stronger but almost perhaps, switching gears to something much more serious and concerning to both me and now my husband.
My husband has the opportunity through his work, to meet with and talk to many people who are Catholic. Now, as with a great deal of Catholics in this country, a lot of them are very luke warm in their faith. Some are the faithful two timers (Christmas and Easter) but many don't even attend Mass anymore. They have lost their faith, and I believe of no fault of their own at times, in our Church and have decided the Church is no longer relevant in their lives. Or worse, they've decided the Church is full of hypocrites. Several of his co-workers have expressed this to him and in his true faith filled way, he has always said to them that even HE is a hypocrite and Jesus came to save just such people the most because of that. Remember the Pharasees???? Do as I say, not as I do, right?
But lately, my concerns over hypocrisy and this idea have grown and the nudging of the Holy Spirit can't be ignored by me anymore. When my own husband discusses these things with me, then God has used every possible means for me to understand what He wants me to write/speak about.
Is there a hypocrisy among some of the most devout members of our faith?
I will explain.
Several people have made comments in the past about how the Church tries to 'impose' her beliefs onto us. From religious ed, to Mass, to the USCCB (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) statements in regards to our faith and our doctrine. I tend to try to ignore those comments, because they're made out of ignorance of the understanding of Church teaching and when I can, I try to explain the why or the why not of our faith. Unfortunately, not only my generation, but the one before me and quite possibly, the one or two after me are going to be very poorly catechized in regards to church teaching and it's up to those of us who know much to teach our brothers and sisters the truths because it was of no fault of their own that they were either poorly, wrongly, or just not catechized at all in their upbringing. (remember Luke 12:48- to whom much is given, much will be required). Those of us who have either been properly catechized, or have rediscovered our faith, God expects us to teach those who are ignorant of the faith.
But are the ignorant (which, please don't be offended by that word, it's so very misused and used improperly-it actually means lacking in knowledge or training;unlearned; lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.) just those who don't attend Mass or complain about religious education? Or are just the two timers ignorant? Or are every day Mass attendees, devout, faith filled, rosary praying parishioners also ignorant of things? Of that I have no doubt. I remember how my grandmother loved attending Mass, but comments she would say to me about the faith as I grew in knowledge of the 'why do we do this' made me realize that just as devout, faith filled people can have ignorance of faith.
And today, I'm not speaking about the rubrics of the Mass, or the dogmas of our church. I'm speaking even more simply than that.
I'm speaking about the pro-life movement in our Church. (*gasp*) What on earth is Catholicmomma gonna say now........
It's no secret that I've confessed that this pregnancy has given me a billion times more compassion to those who have ever experienced an unwanted pregnancy. Now, before my holy rollers gasp and delete me as a friend for life, let me explain. While this pregnancy was not something 'wanted' by me at any point during the time after the birth of my 6th child, it does not mean that this child, now growing huge and strong is not wanted. I had no desire for more children after my sixth birth. I was content. My hands were full. God and I had an "understanding" so to speak (remember, there are more of us who struggle with putting God in our perfect boxes than not) and I just KNEW He would never overburden me. I had been open to life, I had a 'perfect' number of children in my world and quite frankly the thought of another one, just made my head spin and my heart stop.
But the difference in me and probably thousands (if not more) women, is that I am staunchly pro-life, my husband is extremely supportive, and I have this amazing faith, with some amazing sacraments that have contributed to the healing of my heart over this surprise.
Not everyone has that. And quite frankly, not everyone in our church feels they have that either.
I'm talking about the people who sit in the pews (and not all of them are of the blue haired variety) and gawk at the families who are struggling to be at Mass every weekend. And some, don't even come every weekend, because at this point in their lives, sports, kids activities, home improvement, are their gods. They don't always feel welcome at Church, and this is just one of the reasons why. They sit at Mass, with children who are less then quiet, and feel those horribly ugly stares and hear those very unkind words or shushes even (yes, I've heard a lady shoosh children in my parish-God bless her very confused soul).
These people who so many are trying to reach out to and bring back to the faith, are the very ones stating that our Church is full of hypocrisy, and quite frankly, I agree. As a woman who has gone from rediscovering her faith before even having children, to adding six little souls to the pew, I have seen it first hand, and sometimes???? Even a seasoned veteran Mass attender like me has to stop and tell herself, "Lord, they know not what they do." Because it hurts. The stares, the long, frowning stares, the comments, the whispers. They're extremely painful.
Let me give you an example.
A very nice lady came up to the pew where my husband and I only had 3 of our children with us (three are altar servers) and squatted down in front of us and proceeded to thank us profusely for our "quiet and well behaved" children. I'm sure she meant well. But her next comment stayed in my head and caused quite a pause in my heart. "There are some days, when I just have to leave because it's so loud I can't even pray."
WOW. How do you think that would make a less seasoned Church veteran feel to hear those words? That actually their children supposedly caused this woman to leave Mass? Can you imagine the anger and indignation of someone who wasn't "there" in their faith hearing those words? Personally, I was extremely offended by her words because she's not alone in them. She just happened to think she was doing a service by patting our backs and saying, 'way to go mom and dad, your kids can stay here because they're quiet.' How sad for her and the many others who feel children should be quiet in Mass. Can I share another scripture verse that I think can be interpreted another way?
Jesus said to let the little children come to Him, and do not hinder them, because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.
Now, yes, this verse can mean that we are to be childlike in our approach of faith because as a teacher of young children, I can tell you first hand they are much more accepting of things like Heaven and Jesus than us grown, hardened adults who have let skepticism, materialism, consumerism, and relativism literally consume us.
But that verse can also mean something else. Because I don't know about you, but I didn't see the word quiet anywhere in that verse. Matter of fact, I can think of no verse that instructs us to "keep our children quiet during Mass." There are verses that say to bring children up right, and to bring them to Jesus, but none that I can think of nor google that teach us our children are to be silent at Mass.
Because children don't understand silence, and in all honestly, unless you're a super blessed family (which at times I have considered myself very blessed because we made it through an entire Mass without much incident)you don't have quiet Masses. More often than not, you haven't had a quiet Mass in years, or maybe a decade or more.... ;)
Jesus wants the children there. He wants the children to live. He wants people to not only be pro-life, but pro-life at Mass. He wants those who insist on shooshing, staring, and complaining, to see that the pro-life movement doesn't end when the woman decides to keep her baby. It ends when we see that the child is trained in the ways of the Lord, through the screams, cries, and defiance at Mass. It ends when we instruct them on the faith in religious class, even though their parents tell you it's not really important. It ends when we who have been given much, are expected to be that example of love and life by encouraging those parents who are at Mass not to stop coming. It's so easy to forget, even older parents whose children have grown and haven't started having children of their own, that children are not quiet. Children are noisy. Children cry, whine, drop books, yell, burp, poop, and distract.
But maybe through all that distraction, God is trying to tell us something.
Maybe while we sit there, feeling distracted and disturbed at the child up front who for the umpteenth time has taken that blasted book and tried to throw it over the pew, He's wanting you to hear something else.
Maybe He is trying to tell us that if we don't stop looking upon these "distractions" as gifts from Him, our Church will soon get smaller. And eventually, there will be no one to hear our confession, or give us that life sustaining food of Christ Himself.
Maybe He is wanting us to stop our prayer for just a moment and look upon the future of our Church and perhaps, pray about a way we can become involved in the training of these future members of our faith.
Maybe He is pointing out the hypocrisy of all of us who stand on the street, holding signs for life, but don't condone those who stand in the pews, holding the very life we defend and hoping they walk out sooner than later so "we" can pray. Because clearly, they aren't praying.
Maybe He is wanting us to take a step back and see if we really can walk the walk and talk the talk.
We can't proclaim to be a pro-life faith, if we are constantly irritated with that couple who tries to bring their children to Mass. That is hypocrisy at it's finest.
So that's where I am today. Trying to put into words what has been circulating on my heart for 219 days. Hearing in the last few months how people don't like our church because all the "pro-life" people look so condescending upon them for being there with less than quiet children.
Jesus didn't say, 'let the quiet children come to me." He said, "Let the children come to me." And He also makes it abundantly clear that those who hinder them from that, will not be looked upon with favor for hindering them from coming to Him. Those of us past that young child stage, or perhaps haven't had children yet, could stand and take pause at that command.
Are we letting our concerns for getting our prayers in, hinder God actually working in our life through the distraction of a child?
It's something to ponder in the very least.