Today at the eleven o’clock mass at St. Mary’s church in Marion, Ohio, the pastor left the altar before giving his homily and approached a family with several small children under the age of four who were sitting near the front of the church. In view of the entire congregation, he chastised the parents, telling them that it was inappropriate for their children to be eating, drinking, and playing with toys during mass. Even though they were well-behaved (a parishioner sitting within earshot of this exchange had not even noticed the children’s activity until the pastor descended to condemn them), he said the children were “distracting” him.
So much for welcoming the little children.
A man who makes small children feel ashamed for playing with toys while in the house of God clearly does not understand what it means to be loved by a Fatherly God and certainly ought not to be called “Father.”
The Gospel of Luke teaches that “anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it.” If we believe this, then the unplanned play of small children proves not a “distraction” from the “manly” activity of sacred altars but the perfect model of how all Christians ought to receive Christ and His Kingdom.
There is no better place for small children to play than before the altar of the Lord. There is no better time than in the middle of Mass.
Let the little children play.