There was, however, a side in the discussion that made me uneasy (and inspired this post). There were posts that were adamant that it was simply wrong for children to attend Mass at a young age, particularly as babies. There was no benefit whatsoever, they insisted, and no reason to do so. Whatever grace a baby supposedly received was obviously imagined.
And I have to say... I adamantly disagree. Experience has taught me that the exact opposite is true.
When she arrived it seemed natural that I'd take her to Mass with me. While I haven't actually read any books on attachment parenting, the method of parenting I practice most closely resembles what I've heard about it, simply because it made sense to me that my newborn and later infant and toddler, would be with me all the time. She came along with me everywhere, and spent many a morning in her sling while we were in the parish office after a weekday Mass. People were happy to see her. Later, when I did occasionally leave her with Nani while I ran in to Mass (when I was very pregnant with Mae) people were quite disappointed not to visit with her afterwards.
Now, as a mother who's juggled two little ones at Mass, and watched as they've grown through difficult times, one thing began to become clear to me. Little ones may not understand exactly what's going on. But still moments arrive when I find myself utterly amazed by what they do notice. The beauty and love and mystery of what's occurring before their eyes can still touch their little hearts. And when they're older, like Sadie is, they'll begin to piece together what's happening, with a simple faith that we as adults might well long for.
Instead, for the second week in a row, she sat next to me, holding a small doll and a chaplet, until after communion, when Daddy scooped her up and held her.
At home Sadie showers me with questions. She loves hearing about Saint Michael. She demands Saint Therese stories. When Paul arrived home earlier in the week she announced to him that Jesus had come to earth to open the gates of heaven for us. Sometimes she'll look at me and say: "I'm not like an angel because I have bones. I have a body and a soul. Angels are pure spirits. I like having bones. And skin." Her constant observations and questions amaze me daily. When we were driving through Wisconsin, seemingly out of nowhere she announced: "I hate sin!"
And of course, there is the weekly battle before Mass about whether she's old enough to receive, and I frequently catch her with her little outstretched tongue hoping that the priest will forget that she's only four, as she kneels next to me with her little hands pressed together sweetly.
My attention has been imperfect as has theirs. We've "missed" a lot over the course of the many masses we've attended as a family. Still, as I watch my little ones and prepare for the baptism of another, I can't help but marvel at what has been given us over the course of these hours that at times have seemed to stretch on and on.
For our family, the question of whether or not to bring our little ones to Mass has been answered... and I cannot imagine it any other way!