When I take my nineteen-month-old nephew over to the holy water fount, he’ll dip his fingers in the water, make a catawampus sign of the cross, and start clapping and smiling.
My three-and-a-half-year-old nephew had recently learned the Our Father and knew that it ended in Amen, just like all prayers. But when the Our Father was recited during Liturgy of the Eucharist, he yelled “Hey, they didn’t say Amen!”
A young mother had recently shared with her five-year-old daughter the theology of transubstantiation, that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. During Mass, as the mother was returning to her pew after receiving communion, her daughter ran down the aisle to meet her and asked, “Is He inside you?” “Yes,” the mother replied. At that, the little girl knelt down to adore Jesus Christ physically present inside her mother.
It’s amazing watching young children grasp the customs and theology of our Faith. Slowly but surely they understand how we prepare for Mass, what we do at Mass, what’s taking place on the altar, and how that affects our life outside the church building.
A few years back I asked my friend’s mother how she had managed to keep her eight children in line during Mass.
“We sat in the front row. That way the kids didn’t get bored because there was always something going on. And they also didn’t dare misbehave because they were in full view of the priest and the entire congregation.”
Great idea! Obviously, until children are a certain age, they can’t control their behavior. However, once they reach that age, why not offer them an up-close-and-personal experience of the Mass? You might be surprised at how much they gain.