Screams. Giggles. Delighted shouts and whispered questions. Yes, the 8am Mass my family normally attends often sounds as much a petting zoo as a place of contemplation. (Fittingly, not without a Lamb … and more than a few goats.) Yet every Sunday, countless churchgoers expect Mass to proceed in silence. For those who’ve reduced the Mass to entertainment — with upbeat music and a priestly jester on a stage — the cries of children are an unwelcome distraction. To me, they are the sounds of a vibrant future.
But that’s not why my kids are in the front rows at Mass. They’re not there for the future of the Church. It’s important that she grow, of course. It’s important that we build up Christ’s bride. It’s important that our evangelization and catechesis continue to swell her ranks. But none of that is why my kids are in the front rows at Mass. If their attendance at Mass were at the service of the future of the Church, we would have things precisely backwards.
The Church exists to evangelize, to save souls, and so my kids are in the front rows at Mass so that they may enter into deep, personal encounter with the Word Incarnate, who is expressed to them in the Holy Gospels but also and more profoundly in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. My kids are in the front rows at Mass because the very young need to see, to hear, to smell, to touch, and to taste the world around them. My kids are in the front rows at Mass because this sacramental system — of the spiritual communicating through the material — is as natural to them as anything in their experience. The whole world, never overlooked for familiarity or boredom or apparent irrelevance, is quite naturally supernatural, chock full of deeper meaning. My kids are in the front rows at Mass because this liturgy — this kingdom — was made for such as these.
But don’t worry, Cindy. You can cry about it. There’s even a room for that in back.