I’ve combed through the comments following this column I recently wrote on why I believe young children belong at Mass, and I have so much I’d like to write in response but alas, I’m really, really working on limiting my screen time and only tackling absolutely necessary tasks right now. (Pray for me, won’t you? Letting things go and savoring the “now” is so very difficult for me.)
But there’s one point I feel compelled to make. Several people brought up the issue of distractions in general. I’ve thought about this topic plenty because I think most Christians struggle with being distracted from the Lord from time to time whether they’re worshipping or not.
I know I do. During Mass my own children frequently distract me (partly because I’m trying so hard – perhaps too hard – to keep them in line out of fear that someone will shoot us a nasty look); however, I’ve been distracted by other things, too. A tone-deaf singer. The whooshing of an oxygen tank. I’ve been to celebrations where my mind starts to wander when a priest gives a long, rambling Homily, or I’ve cringed when an organist hits the wrong note. It’s during times like these – when I’m not fully present – that I remind myself that these so-called distractions really aren’t the problem. The problem is me and my own failure to focus on Christ’s sacrificial love.
So how do I stay focused and take these distractions and sanctify them in some small way? It’s simple really. I consider whatever is distracting me and I turn it into a prayer just as St. Therese of Lisieux learned to do. She once said, “I have many distractions, but as soon as I am aware of them, I pray for those people, the thought of whom is diverting my attention. In this way they reap the benefit of my distraction.”
I ask the same of anyone who sees children as nothing more than insufferable distractions during Mass or other worship services. If we happen to notice a toddler pinching his baby sister or a mother endlessly rocking a fussy baby in church, let us rejoice that they have overcome the obstacles to get there (and believe me, getting a house full of little ones out the door and to church is no easy undertaking). If we see a child misbehaving, let us pray for grace for the parents of the defiant child (and let us remember that everyone has bad days; a child who is behaving obnoxiously may be just having an off moment). Or if a teenager wearing an inappropriate outfit catches our eye, let us pray God will touch this young person and reveal his love to her so that she (or he) won’t need to use her (his) body to attract attention. Let us not be distracted from our worship but instead may we reserve our judgment and instead pray for the very people who seem to be pulling us away from Christ.