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Mass with a Toddler

Posted on: April 10th, 2013

Toddler-1aGetting the Most Out of Mass with a Toddler – By Jenna Hines

If you don’t regularly attend Mass with a toddler, then you probably have a
fantastic spiritual life. You probably arrive to church on time or even early. You
get to listen to the readings and homily. You don’t just spout out responses from
rote memory instead of a place of true spiritual understanding. You get to attend
Mass without carrying Cheerios, an extra diaper and some sort of book about Jesus
that you hope is interesting enough to keep someone’s attention for an hour.
Or, maybe you do struggle with this stuff, because, well, we are all human and it
happens.

Regardless of the reason, I think we all occasionally find ourselves in Mass
thinking about anything but Mass. And, because this season of my life means that
this happens to me more often than not, I have had to come up with a few ways to
participate in Mass the best I can in hopes of providing some sort of example for
my kids. After all, Matthew 19:14, right?

So, what do I do?

Pray for Passers-By
Communion is a hard time for us in Mass. Some people are sitting, some are
kneeling, some people are getting up to walk in line. Some people sing, some are
silent in prayer, and this is all incredibly distracting for a toddler – and
therefore, me.

So, while I am looking around, I try to notice the people in the church. I look at
their faces, their children, their emotions, and I simply ask God to bless them.
If this is the only prayer I can manage during this time, then darn it, I’m doing
it.

Repeat “Thank You” and “Help”
But, you know, that’s not the only prayer I can manage. Sometimes I find myself
just repeating the words “thank you” or “help”. I might even just list my joys and
concerns in litany fashion. The Lord knows my heart, and he knows what I need. I
know my prayers are often feeble, but thankfully He is there to take care of the
rest.

Go By the Book
I love when churches provide missals. I am already a visual learner, so I have a
hard time focusing without something in front of my face. Having the readings in
front of me gives me a guide to follow along with. I can also use it with my kids
and run my fingers along the words as they are read. This works about 40% of the
time… If the church I am visiting does not provide missals, there are other
options: bring your own, download one on your phone (I am seeing this more and
more), or read the readings ahead of time or afterwards.

So, while I am in a time of my life where church is more about teaching another
person how to behave and how to pray the Mass, I am not able to really immerse
myself the way I tried to before children. These simple things might seem
insubstantial, but they make all the difference in my experience.

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