Thursday, June 30, 2011

Understanding Children Not Always Easy

In his pastoral diary,  appearing  in the Peace Weekly, a priest working with young people recounts a troubling experience that keeps repeating each Sunday at the 9 o'clock morning Mass for children. Just before the sermon, around 9:15, a number of stragglers would enter the church, a not uncommon occurrence in most parishes.
He  called these latecomers 15-minute friends. In the beginning, he just laughed and showed little concern. But as time passed, the numbers coming late increased. He did not know why this was happening but decided to find out. At first he thought that since Sunday was a day of rest the children had difficulty getting up in the morning. Surprisingly, this had nothing to do with it.

The children told him they intended to get to the Mass on time, but spending time waiting was just too tedious, the waiting seemed endless.

To get a better grasp of the problem, every Sunday he began examining what was happening in the congregation. The ones that came early would play with their cell phones, their heads down, or they would be reading the Church bulletin. The adults and others in the church would not be concerned with them, and he began to reflect on his own lack of concern on what might be going on in the minds of these children.

Boredom seemed to be at the root of the problem. So the priest decided to start a welcoming group made up  of high school students. They would come early to the morning Mass for children and spend time with them, making friends. In just a few months there was a noticeable change in the children. The high school students enjoyed what they were doing. And the boredom of the young children before Mass ended.

Children find  boredom difficult to accept. And yet finding ways to deal with the boredom is a great growth experience. Expecting  children to sit and visit with the Blessed Sacrament may be asking  too much; it's even difficult for an adult who does not have the proper motivation. However, the attempt to spend quiet time with Jesus in the tabernacle should not be seen as an impossibility. With time and proper instruction attitudes do  change. Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14).  .