Thursday, January 13, 2005

Church and Children

In my many years as a church goer, children were always a part of mass. As far back as I can remember at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables Florida, at that time, the youth (ie children and young people) had mass in an open building that was converted into a mass space on Sunday Mornings. The parents went to mass in the Main Church. I loved that place. After Sunday School, one would go to mass and leet the parents afterwards.

Most of the larger churches (cathedral style) did not have cry rooms in them, so the playing child, or the crying baby was something one was accustomed to hearing. But as I always say to a mother holding a crying baby, "you either feed it, Change it or Kill it!!!" that always got attention. There is nothing more distracting to a 'preaching' priest than to be taken off track by a baby that is agitated.

Later on as I grew up, churches HAD cry rooms that were well designated and used by parents with children. When I started going to St. Louis Church in Pinecrest during High School, The Pastor was a very 'bright' character. There was a cry room in the church. The priests wear a mic on their chasuble so their hands are free, and walking around the church was something the good Father did every Sunday.

IF a baby started to cry during his homily, his right hand would rise, like a divining rod and point to the area where the sound was emanating from. That was your quiet CUE to get your child out of the church and into the cry room IMMEDIATELY... parents learned early on, that a crying baby in the church was something that the good Father just would not tolerate. And If you were 'divined' by his hand during mass, everyone knew what the gesture meant. In following weeks and months i would see those parents who had been singled out the weeks prior with their children IN the cry room for mass after that.

You learned very early on, that if your child cried during his homily, the next time you came to mass you would sit IN the cry room, as to not break Fathers momentum. That was something worth watching year after year.

The other great story I can tell of St. Louis is this one. It makes me laugh. You know after communion people usually head for the door and don't stay through the end of mass. Our good father had an idea, which he put into place. The ushers at each mass HE said would stand at each door and every person who left the church before the end of mass were given a white index card and were told to bring them with them the following week.

The next Sunday arrived as I was usually serving mass every Sunday at that time, I had a ring side seat, front and center on the altar. The good Father finished his homily in his usual fashion with the phrase "Blessings on your heads!" I use it today. AS he approached the altar to sit back down in the presiders chair, he turns every so slowly and says.......

" Will all the people who were given white cards last week please stand up ! " Well, you know everyone followed the good Fathers directions. On any given Sunday at least 100 people were holding those white cards at every mass. There were 5 masses every Sunday.
(8am,930am,11am,1230pm and 6pm). The good Father usually had 2 masses on Sunday.

Well wouldn't you see all those people stand and take out their white cards and wave them up for the crowd. The church usually held about 1,500 people, 2,000 on a really packed Sunday mass.

Father would wait to see everyone stand and take out their cards. And he would grin up at me so as if to say, "Watch this!" He would speak to the congregation and say these words.......

"You see all these white cards these people are holding up, well, these are all of the people that left my mass early last week and did not stay until the processional was finished!!"

I have to say that in the years that followed, not many people left church directly after communion. They waited until the good Father processed out of the church.

Ah, the memories.

I will have to tell you the battle with the aspergum and the 4 parish priests one day.


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