Having your kids in church with you every Sunday is challenging. There is no way around it…it is exhausting when you have a 3.5-year-old daughter, an almost-2-year-old son, and are 38 weeks pregnant.
I know such a practice is not for everyone, but here are some things that I have experienced in the past few weeks that make me remember the perks to having my kids in a liturgical setting, week in and week out.
Today at the park, my almost-2-year-old dipped his hand in the fountain, touched his head in his version of making the sign of the cross on himself, and said, “Holy Spirit.”
A few weeks ago, when the priest genuflected (kneeled) before the blessed Sacrament during communion and disappeared briefly behind the altar, my 3-year-old said loudly, “Where did he go?”
Any time we see a statue of Mary, my kids want to take a closer look at it and touch it.
My 3-year-old has the Lord’s prayer written on her heart already and joins in when the congregation prays it.
My son loves to pass the peace during Mass. If anyone mentions the word ‘peace,’ he turns to every member of our family, extends his hand for a shake, and says, “Peace.” Repeatedly. And now my kids give each other peace across the back seat in the car.
My daughter heard the bells from our church while we were playing at the city park last week and recognized them.
Our new priest, a native of Northern Ireland, made a joke about not being told that East Texas was full of dry counties, prompting laughter from the whole congregation. My daughter laughed along and continued to laugh loudly.
Most touching to me, though, was something that happened about two months ago. I was having a horrible day. I was exhausted from parenting and incubating a baby human. I had just finished a glass of water and it was sitting on the coffee table. My daughter picked it up and brought it to me, made the sign of the cross on my head, and had me take a pretend sip. As she offered the cup, she said, “The Body of Christ.” And then she walked over to the kitchen and said, “Mommy, come here!” And I approached her and she gave me the cup again and offered the words, “The Body of Christ.” She invited her little brother to come and she blessed him by making the sign of the cross on his forehead and offering the cup of salvation.
I cried. My heart was softened to the presence of Jesus in my daughter. And I knew that the exhausting journey of parenting is not in vain, though sometimes it feels that way. My children are learning, absorbing the drama of the Cross and the Resurrection. They are learning to respect the Holy Scriptures when we stand to read them weekly. They are learning to pray with their brothers and sisters. They are passing the peace of Christ. They are laughing with their community. They are feasting on the presence of Christ, even though they are too young to partake of His Body and Blood through the Eucharist.
These little ones, the weak ones in the eyes of the world, are shaming the strong ones around them. And through their testimony, their humor, and their natural humility, I am invited to be a weak and small child in faith once more, running to sit on Jesus’s lap because I know He won’t turn me away.
It is worth the struggle. Press on.