“Holy Moly!” I exclaimed to my daughter after she told me the latest news breaking from her Pre-K 4 classroom; her teacher just had a baby! Gracey quickly took the opportunity to tell me that “Holy Moly” was a bad word. Did you know that? I sure didn’t! As I laughed it off, I tried to think about her Catholic formation, where did she hear that? How is she associating the word “holy” already? Her ability to soak up religious formation at such a young age, this summer she will turn five, impressed me.
Many will say, kids repeat everything! While that reigns true, I think they also are quick to believe everything. They have an innocence about them that places trusts in what the adults around them say. If an adult exhibits behavior that is good, typically, the child understands that is good. If an adult exhibits poor behavior, yelling, screaming, hitting, etc. the child picks up on that behavior as bad. They are reflections of the adults that surround them.
So, I need to seriously consider the adults I have around my child. Do they exhibit the values and character that I want as a role model for my child? Do they use language that is appropriate and not derogatory or mean? Do they interact with others the way Jesus would? If you find that the people you surround yourself with do not posses those qualities, it seems natural to me to find a group of adults that do. Where would you find such a group? Your parish.
Parish life has changed over the last few decades. In many places, what used to be a stroll with the neighbors down the block to Mass, turned into a 10 minutes drive. What used to be pews filled with known friends, sometimes can be filled more often with strangers. The importance of parish community can not be stressed enough. In many parishes, we have lost our sense of community in the pews, the friendships, the additional adult help that exemplifies the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child.” In this case, “it takes a Parish to raise a child.”
So, how to we change that? How to we become closer to the people in the pews next to us? It could start with the person who might glance an understanding smile our way, when our 4 year decides it is time to act up in Mass or when our little one just had an accident. I can’t tell you how comforting it is as a mother to have that support surrounding you in the pews.
From my peers, (older millennials you could say), I hear all the time that they don’t attend Mass because t h e i r c h i l d r e n a r e t o o disruptive. I respond, “and who cares?” I think one of the ways we can get families back into the pews, create a tighter community, and start to form our young children in the faith is by supporting each other. A small glance, a quick smile, a wave to a child, goes a long way. When my child stares at you while praying, thank you. You are the example I want her to see. When my child hears you sing the closing song and stay till the end, thank you, you are the person I need her to hear. When you compliment her on the way out for being such a good child during Mass (okay not always, but when they are) thank you, that is important for her to know.
We are each examples to these young children around us. Let us all work together, closely, and create a Christ-centered village to raise them. And, when we hear a child upset, let’s say a quick prayer and remember, we’ve all been there before when we were kids in the pews!
Katie Price is the Cathedral Coordinator of Stewardship. She received her Master’s Degree in Public Service Management from DePaul University and her research focus was on Catholic stewardship and giving. She can be contacted at email@example.com.