January 26, 2024

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

The Eucharist fills all families with grace, maybe especially those with noisy children

Sean GallagherGoing to Sunday Mass with my wife Cindy and our sons is a beautiful experience nowadays.

Most of the four sons still living at home are altar servers on most Sundays.

And while I try to keep my attention on the readings and homily I hear proclaimed from the ambo or the sacred actions happening at the altar, I guess I can’t help, as a pride-filled father, from looking every now and then at my sons assisting in the sanctuary in what is the source and summit of our Catholic faith.

But it wasn’t always that way. For the better part of 15 years, we always had one or more little boys with us in the pew. And invariably, one or more of them would be fussy, crying or rambunctious during Mass—the common experience of most Catholic parents of young children.

There was many a Mass that Cindy or I would take one or another of our boys to our parish church’s narthex when he would get too loud or otherwise distracting to our fellow worshippers.

Even if they weren’t so distracting to others that they needed to be taken out, they were distracting to me as their father.

Yet Cindy and I never considered going to two different Masses, with one of us staying home with the youngest boys while one went to Mass and the other going to a later liturgy.

It always was—and still is—a priority for us to worship together as a family, even in those times when our young sons could not understand in reason the importance of it.

And while such a principle is good to follow, there was sacrifice involved in it.

As I grew into young adulthood, I came to have a great love of the Church’s worship and valued participating in it. Having fussy or rowdy boys next to me in the pew did not lend itself to entering into worship—at least in ways that I had appreciated in the past.

Having studied and taught the faith in the past, I knew the Church’s teaching that sacraments have an effect on us whether we are aware of it or not.

The power of the sacraments flows from God’s grace in them. It’s not dependent on our conscious participation in the sacraments, although such participation is good and puts us in a position for them to have an increased effect in our lives.

Worshipping at Mass for many years next to distracting babies and toddlers heightened my experience of that teaching and increased my faith in it. I trusted that our Lord was filling me with his grace at Mass, even if it was hard to focus my heart and mind on the sacred actions of the liturgy.

So, although Cindy and I have a beautiful experience at Mass today with our sons most of the time assisting as altar servers on Sundays, we had a beautiful experience in the liturgy when our boys were much younger and more distracting. The two experiences were different, but both beautiful and filled with God’s grace.

We see that grace unfolding before our eyes as those boys—who, not too many years ago, filled the church with their crying—now reverently assist in the liturgy as altar servers.

May that same grace help Catholic parents of young children today persevere in bringing their young ones to Mass and lead the rest of us to support them in their efforts. †

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