A PLEA TO MY PRIESTS FRIENDS AND FRIENDS IN MINISTRY
Our family (praise God) belongs to an incredibly family-friendly parish. Today, due to timing we decided to attend another Parish (not to be named). We walked in a little after the start of Mass (#fourkidproblems), and before we were even in the pew, a women in front of us gave us a dirty look. As we were sitting down, the woman turned around and told my youngest (2 years old) to be quiet.
At first I thought she was kidding.
After about three minutes, lil' Aaron whispered (a legit whisper) to Big Aaron that he had to go the bathroom, as they went to leave the pew- John Paul not-so-whispered, 'I COME TOO!'. The woman in front of us again turned around, gave me a dirty look and said, 'BE QUIET'. She then turned to her husband and loudly asked/gestured if they could move pews.
At that point, I whispered to her, 'you understand you are talking about BABIES right?'- and, instead of have a thrown down in the back of the church...
YES, WE WERE SITTING IN THE BACK AND THERE WAS NO CRY ROOM TO BE BANISHED TO.
... I grabbed Joey's hand and Malia and we moved to another section of the church. The ushers gave us dirty looks, and frankly the entire vibe around us was weird. Really, really, really weird. I have never felt so many eyes on every sound my children made- even the whispers.
The Church was beautiful, and the congregation older. My kids were by far the youngest in attendance, there was a smattering of elementary and middle school children as well.
Now, blog readers- you know I don't play this card often, but...
Maybe it was because Aaron is black?
Maybe it was because we have many young children?
Maybe it was because the Church is not a welcoming environment?
But I have NEVER had an experience like that in a place of worship. EVER.
And now, the plea.
Please, if you work for the Church in any capacity, even volunteer- speak to your staff, your community, and your daily Mass attendees about the importance of welcoming families. The importance of children (even young ones) having a place at Mass. The importance of understanding the community of believers is open to all, even the youngest of us. Please speak to your staffs about how Jesus welcomed even children , and how he rebuked those who did not understand a child's place in the Kingdom, in the mystery of faith. Please TEACH your community HOW to be child and young family friendly.
My husband and I have chosen to make faith a priority in our lives (even if we fail all the time at it)- and the experience today really shook me up.
I have worked for and with the Church since I was 15 years old (that's 20 years) and the experience today made me feel unwelcome and unloved in my own home.
Our family will return to Church (though not that specific location EVER), and I will frame this experience as a moment of weakness for a community that probably has a lot of good things about it.
The thing is, based on our experience today and the experiences of so many of my friends with young families who have similar stories... the NEED to discuss this with your parish is essential.
Put it in your Church bulletin
Put a reminder in your pews
Because it needs to be done. What happened to our little family today at Mass shouldn't happen in a place of worship. It shouldn't happen during prayer. And it certainly shouldn't happen at something as mysteriously beautiful as the Eucharist.
That is all.
EDIT- Apparently there was a cry room, we just couldn't find it :)