A beautiful morning here at St. Bambino

It’s a beautiful morning here at St. Bambino parish, folks.

Our celebrant, Fr. Shep, looks to be fresh and well-rested, the altar servers are limber and alert, we’re ready to begin another 9.30am Mass in a healthy and thriving parish that is absolute chock-a-block full of babies.

And they’re off! With an opening chord from the organ, Fr. Shep is proceeding down the aisle at a good pace and now he’s made it halfway, but the eighteen-month-old twins have already pulled ahead of him. It’s hard to see how anyone with such short legs could move this quickly, but they’re speeding toward the altar like they’ve been eating rocket fuel. Their mother must be so proud!

And yes, here’s she is now, and she’s looking a little red in the face, really pushing herself in her long skirt and mantilla, but not moving nearly as quickly as those little guys. She’s moved up from behind and has managed to edge around the procession and scoop up one of the boys and is lunging for the other but no! He’s made it to the Easter candle and is shaking it with both hands while screeching maniacally.

What an amazing spectacle. That thing is really wobbling, folks, it really looks like it’s going to fall over, but just in the nick of time, Fr. Shep has made it to the altar and he’s grabbed twin #2, pivoted halfway around, and returned him to his mother just as the entrance hymn came to an end. That was a really smooth maneuver; I don’t think the old ladies in the front row even noticed what was happening. Maybe no letters to the bishop this Sunday, eh, Father S.? Let’s hope not.

And now we’re moving through the Gloria. Always a popular time for babies of all vocal abilities to show their stuff, and today is no exception. Some of them are shouting, some of them are hooting, and that one kid with the one big eyebrow has jammed her head under the pew and discovered a really resonant spot for guttural growling. Man, that kid sounds like a wild animal! I wonder if Fr. Shep can hear — oh yes, he seems to be snickering into his missalette.

Now everyone is seated and the lector begins the first reading. Good thing it’s the lector with the booming voice, because Baby Unibrow has gotten her head unstuck and is now singing– yes, she appears to be singing ‘Poker Face’ and we’re getting a classic doppler effect as her dad hurriedly carries her down the aisle. It’s taking a while because these parents have made the classic rookie mistake of sitting way up front so the kids can watch what’s going on, which just means it takes longer to drag ’em out when they go out of their gourds, folks. When will they ever learn.

And I see the child has grabbed a sheaf of holy cards from the end of the pew before she was evicted, and she’s strewing them over her dad’s shoulder like confetti as she’s dragged away. Poker Face is right! That man should win an award.

Folks, the liturgy of the word has just about come to an end and we’re headed into the second half. The narthex and vestibule are absolutely bristling with extremely short Catholics and their slump-shouldered moms and dads, and I think I can make out –yes, that crunching sound definitely signifies that the twins have found the collection baskets, and have sat in them. What a spectacle. At least it’s not the holy water tank again.

Well, the sun is streaming through the stained glass windows here at St. Bambino, folks. It’s just streaming in, and it’s lighting up the tired faces of so many parents who are probably wondering why they even bother to show up, when they spend their whole Mass chasing their kids up and down the aisle, wrestling them out from under the pew, taking them to the bathroom and back, and pulling half-chewed collection envelopes out of the mouths. It’s a spectacle, it’s a sporting event, it’s a three-ring circus. It feels more like an ordeal than a time of worship and prayer, that’s what they say.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been doing this for forty seven years, and I’ll tell you one thing. Every single time a priest says Mass, I hear him say “This is my body, which will be given up for you,” and I know it’s Jesus talking, folks. But it’s all those parents, too. All those moms and dads — yes, especially the moms, but also the good dads — who gave up sleep and gave up sitting down and gave up peace and quiet, gave up doing what they liked and gave up looking how they liked, all for a stubby, wild little child who runs them ragged, and won’t even let them kneel and pray because they have to go potty, again, even though they just went potty.

It’s a beautiful sight, folks. It’s a beautiful sight and a beautiful noise, and every single time a baby comes to Mass, it’s a beautiful thing, a good thing, the best thing a parent can do for the Church. The Church needs them and they need the Church. Keep coming, folks. Keep coming.

Just . . . look out for the little guy, there, I think he found the matches.



They said my kids don’t belong at Mass. Now what?

So how DO you make kids behave at Mass? 

Is the Mass a private time with God?

What does it mean to be present at Mass?

Image: Christ Blessing the Children – by Lucas Cranach the Younger and Workshop Wikimedia (Creative Commons)

This essay was first published at The Catholic Weekly on March 31, 2022.


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14 thoughts on “A beautiful morning here at St. Bambino”

  1. This made my day.

    I have a story… it’s Easter Sunday Morning. Turn up with husband and my two girls, 3 and 1 1/2. The three year old mostly sits in the pew and cuddles until the younger sister gets the wiggles and starts pacing the isles. We have a ‘spirit of Vatican II’ church, in the round, no altar rails and the priests chair is in the middle of the altar higher than the tabernacle, so the altar is VERY easily accessible and tempting for munchkins to wander up. We also have a conservative parish with lots of big families. There is a Parent room, but we don’t use it because 1. Covid and 2. Fresh air is calming.

    A little old lady is sitting across the isle and two pews ahead in the front row. Younger one starts wandering up and down the isle during the liturgy of the word. She didn’t go near the altar. Big sister follows and they start quietly getting up, then lying down and rolling a little on the carpeted sloped floor. No one is screaming or throwing things or otherwise being distraught or obnoxious. Little old lady gets offended and verbally during the GOSPEL turns towards me and “whisper shouts” “PLEASE TAKE YOUR CHILDREN OUT” in front of our very Tanzanian Missionary priest. I give her a hard look and gather up my children who get fussy about being bundled back into the pew.

    Our Very Tanzanian Priest made a point to tell the entire congregation how amazing it was to see all our young families and children back after multiple long lockdowns and got everyone calling out amen and Alleluia at various points, to which the 3 yr old joined in a beat after the rest of the congregation and it was adorable and got Father giggling.

    The following weeks bulletin contained an entire back page dedicated to welcoming parents of small children. A short note at the end had a reminder to all parishioners to be welcoming of children and that they are a sign of living Church with a future.

    I pray for parents who aren’t lucky enough to have a supportive parish and carry hurts from “good” Catholics.

  2. I remember getting to the end of Mass one morning and looking down at my kids before collecting my strength to herd them out of the pew. I had four under seven years old, and all I could think was “it’s exactly like bringing a box of kittens to Mass.”

    For a while, when walking into the church I felt like a hen with all my chicks around me in a little cloud. Then some of them were about my height and I felt like a gangster or a celebrity arriving somewhere with my posse. Now two are old enough that they don’t come to Mass anymore, the oldest three are in and out of home and college, and I’m just glad to have any of them with me.

  3. At Good Friday service this year, my 3 year old decided to try out breastfeeding again. I didn’t actually notice for awhile, since the poking and patting and biting and licking is so common. But anyway, put a stop to that nonsense.
    She flooded the floor, and hymnals, and herself with her water bottle (which isn’t even allowed in there anyway) so we ended up in the narthex where luckily, no one else (maybe) witnessed her mooning from the back, upside down with her head under her legs, the church congregation.
    She got tired of the long prayers, apparently and calmly, but emphatically corrected the Cantor: “No! Let. Us. Stand.”

    See, *I*feel like she’s too old for this stuff, but I guess *she* doesn’t.

  4. Amen! Our parish no longer has a school and few young children are at Mass as a result – it is way too sedate.

  5. Thank you for this dear Simcha. A few years ago you posted a link to prayer cards I keep handy and pass along parents of babies & toddlers at Mass. It’s an easy way to thank them for the hard work they do bringing their children to church. I hope more folks will order these cards from DoorNumber9 on Etsy.

  6. My dad said that when he was a smoker he always made sure to hype up the baby in time so he could take him out during the sermon.

    We were not those parents. Our church is a quick 4 minute walk so we could very easily attend separate Masses. I do find other people’s disruptive toddlers cute. And I can ignore them if I choose. But as a mother, I avoided bringing my kids to Mass until they could behave. It was better for my soul and my blood pressure. Some of my kids were so easy I rarely left them home, but others, oy vey!

    And I have always been that parent who avoids public restrooms like the plague, particularly with young kids who touch things. Anybody who couldn’t make it a few hours (to the park or to Blues Clues Live or whatever) without using a bathroom was required to wear a pullup. Anyway, my kids always knew better than to ask to use the bathroom during Mass or the next week they’d be in a pullup. After I’ve typed that out I realize how nutty it sounds, but their bladders are stronger for it. Hah!

  7. I follow you at Twitter, with great appreciation for your wonderful writing. This is beautiful!

  8. What a great text! It makes me happy and I had to laugh because it is such a vivid description and so true.
    Let‘s hope and pray that everyone will see it the same way you do.
    Greetings from Germany.
    God bless you!

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