July 2, 2021

Pastoral Ministry / Gabriela Ross

The Church is our home, let us return to Mass with joy

Gabriela RossIn March of 2020, when the world stood still, my husband and I were at the hospital welcoming our daughter into the world. As much as we prepared to be the parents of a newborn child, nothing could have prepared us for a worldwide pandemic that was new, scary and unknown.

Because of health restrictions, we were not allowed to have any extended family with us at the hospital—no grandparents, aunts and uncles waiting to hold our little bundle of joy. We went home, feeling the isolation that would become all-too familiar through the next several months.

A few weeks later, as we watched the Easter Vigil livestreamed on our television, a longing grew in my heart to have our daughter baptized and bring her into our Church. That was always the plan, and something we looked forward to; but realizing that churches were closed, and watching the Easter Vigil where no baptisms took place, just drove home how important that part of bringing our daughter home really was.

I wanted to thank God for the gift of our daughter’s life, and welcome her into the family of God through baptism. I wanted our Church community to see our little bundle of joy, and to know that she would grow up surrounded by this family of faith. I wanted to bring her to the church where she would one day be sitting, kneeling, maybe even climbing and crawling under the wooden pews; where her knowledge, love and faith in God would grow as she grows.

After waiting several months, when it was safe again, we were able to have our daughter baptized, and it was such a joyful occasion. I felt relief and a deep sense of gratitude for the ability to welcome our daughter home to God’s house and into God’s family.

Now it is a year later, and the dispensation from Mass has been lifted.

I will be the first to say that keeping focused, still and quiet is not my little one’s favorite thing to do. I spoke with several young parents who said they left their children at home during the pandemic for health reasons, and because there was a dispensation, and it was just easier to go to church without a baby or toddler in tow.

I don’t know the nuances of every family’s situation, and my point is not to cast blame. Rather, I want to remind all of us—parents and parishioners alike—that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not prevent them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt 19:14).

Our children belong to God’s family through baptism, and they should be welcomed as members of the Christian community. Meanwhile, parents need the support of the faith community to be faithful to their vocation to raise their children in the Church. I am so grateful that both pastors our family has had have been supportive of our vocation to family life and have encouraged us in our challenging moments in church.

As our parishes open wide their doors and Catholics return to Mass, I pray that we all remember what a gift it is to go to Mass, to receive the Eucharist, to gather as a community of faith, and to bring our families home to God’s house.

Let us return to Mass with joy, and welcome and encourage all those who have been away, including our littlest Catholics.

(Gabriela Ross is the director of Marriage and Family Life in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and can be reached at gross@archindy.org.)

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