Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is There a Disconnect Between NFP and Children at Mass?

There was a great article on Catholic Sistas this week that you must go read. Seriously, go and read it now and then come back here for my thoughts: NFP - Long Term Promises.

Did you read the article? Go ahead, I can wait.

When I first read this article I was blown away by the basic premise of this post. Basically that there is a disconnect in the Church between those who practice NFP and are open to life and those who think the Mass should be quiet and child-free. This is the main idea I took away from this article The article was not primarily about the people in Mass who give a young family the "stink eye" when a small toddler makes a noise or a baby whimpers for a moment or some small child lets out an unexpected scream. The author of the article wasn't even complaining about anyone commenting directly to her or her family about anything her kids were doing.

What was interesting to me though was that the majority of the comments focused on things like "ignore those people who give you the stink eye" or something similar. Not all the comments, but quite a few.

It seems to me that the actually point of the article was missed by many readers.

I agree with this post and I'm going share with you why. First, there is what the Church teaches. We teach an openness to life, we teach against contraception, and we teach that couples who have discerned that they need to postpone or avoid pregnancy can use Natural Family Planning (NFP). That's what we teach, plain and simple.

What the Church teaches and what the people actually do are two different thing. It's no surprise to anyone that a great majority of our fellow Catholics do not follow the teachings of our Church. It's incredibly sad and disappointing.

Another problem we encounter is the culture of death right in our own pews. The "culture of death" is so pervasive in our society that even among faithful Catholics the idea of having more than two children is crazy talk. I'm not saying that every couples needs half a dozen children or more. Only that we should be open to God's plan for us and not listen to the culture around us. Many couples who are open to God's plan will only have one or two children, others will have more. It's not the number of children that matters, it's being open to God's will and not our own. But because of the "culture of death" that has made it's way into our collective subconscious, people in general have developed an impatience with the normal chatter of children, even when it's quiet chatter.

Finally, and this is where I believe the article above really hits the nail on the head, we need more support for those couples who are following the Church's teaching and who are open to God's will for their family in terms of family size (whether they are practicing NFP or leaving their family size up to God's providence).

In my particular Catholic community (not just my parish, but the Catholic community I am in my city which has about 7 or 8 parishes), I see a lot of promotion of NFP. It's a diocesan requirement now in marriage prep to take an NFP course. It's often in the bulletin, it's talked about on our local Catholic radio stations, and there are many people I know personally who practice some form of NFP. We have a pretty large pro-life support in the community as well. All of these are great things. What I don't really see is ongoing support for couples who practice what the Church actually teaches.

We need more ongoing support for couples who humble themselves to follow Christ's teaching in His Holy Church. Jesus said "Let the children come to me." I hope we can grow as a Church to include children at all levels. They should be in Mass with their cries and whimpers and constant whispering because Jesus wants them there (and yes, there are also valid reasons for using the nursery/cry room, I'm not saying you can't take advantage of that option if you have it and need it).

And others in the pews around those young families need to remember that those children are our future. They are the future of the Church. Without them, there will be no Church. We need our children in Mass. We need them to start learning about the Mass from a young age so they will become more engaged as they get older.

For those in the pews around these young families, give them a smile when their kids acts up. Try to remember those days when your own children did the same. Give them encouragement after Mass to keep bringing their children. Don't tell them to take their kid out or to go to the cry room, most parents know when they need to do that, they don't need someone else telling them.

Most importantly, we need to encourage parents to bring their kids to Mass. If they get the "stink eye" one too many times or have some stranger near them in the pews tell them they should leave their kids in the nursery or take them to the cry room, the message they are getting is that children aren't welcome. That they need to limit the number of children they have or not bring them to Mass. Imagine if that young couple was coming back to the Church for the first time in years. Do you think they are likely to come back?

Would Jesus like that? I don't think so. If we want to encourage a culture of life throughout the entire Church, we need to be open and welcoming of children at Mass. And we need to provide support for those parents who are in the throws of those early childhood years.

I know, I have two toddlers, both two years old. In five months (God willing!) I will have three kids under three. But we'll be taking them to Mass with us and sitting in one of the first few pews every Sunday. Don't give me the stink eye, because I'll just send it back at you!

Let's close the disconnect between teaching NFP/encouraging couples to use NFP and the attitude of completely quiet, well-behaved children or no children at Mass. We need ongoing NFP support for couples who want to be encouraged to keep on keeping on. Until we combat the culture of death infringing its way into our Church, we are going to have a tough time overcoming the poor attitudes toward children that many parents run into on a regular basis.

Does your parish offer some sort of support for young parents? How does it encourage an openness to the culture of life?

1 comment:

  1. Our masses are loaded with children. I have to laugh when I read: quiet and child free! LOL...seriously, our pastor welcomes the noise and little ones. They belong in the congregation...What I say to people who might complain, is "go to another mass.." "go to another church", you should be glad we have this many children, it means we are thriving and growing. It is a good sign. Parishes minus children are in decline, and sadly may eventually close unless they have an enormous amount of retired persons attending. I think your post brings up a lot of good things to think about. Thanks for sharing!!