Posts by Gilda Rose:
Hello, St. (write your name here) in training
Did the Mother of the Son of God, pray?
Mother Mary, the one kept without sin.
The one chosen to bear the Son of God.
The one whom the angel visited to give the Good news.
The one who said yes and braced the uncertainty of her yes.
The woman who crushed the head of the serpent.
The woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
The woman who fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God,
She who came as the second Eve.
She whose heart was pierced seven times.
She who was assumed into heaven, crowned Queen!
Did she have to pray?
When she lived with her parents and learnt the scripture, she was praying.
When she learnt to do the household chores and take care of her elderly parents, she was praying.
When she faced her husband and got married in the midst of those unaware of her secret, she was praying.
When she had to travel a long distance with the Son of God in her womb, she was praying.
When she bore him in a manger, alone, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, she was praying.
When He cried through the night and she didn’t know why, she was praying.
When she had to flee to keep Him safe, she was praying.
When she cooked Him simple meals and lavish feasts, she was praying.
When she fed Him and taught Him to walk and speak, she was praying.
When she played with Him, tickled Him and told Him she loved Him, she was praying.
When she cuddled, hugged and deciphered His baby speech, she was praying.
When she bathed and clothed Him, put him to bed and sang lullabies, she was praying.
When she read and taught him the scriptures, wiped his tears and washed his wounds, she was praying.
When she worried for him when he was sick and when he was lost for 3 days, she was praying.
When her husband left for Heaven and she had to take care of her boy by herself, she was praying.
When her Son left for mission at age 33 and she went to meet him while He addressed a crowd, she was praying.
When she heard He had been imprisoned and saw Him carry the cross, she was praying.
When she wept and saw Him breathe His last and they laid His body on her lap, she was praying.
You ask, if she prayed.
Would there be a moment she did not?
Productivity in Covid-19: To be or not to be?
We are in lock-down. And from day 1, we have been flooded with courses and up-gradation of skills that push us to make the best of the situation. There’s all this input (along with the continuous influx of news about the Corona-virus) that we will never get this time back, that this is it, if we lose this time we’ve lost something valuable and irreplaceable. That it’s up to us to make the most of it or we’ve failed ourselves and the opportunity.
But is that true? Initially, I felt drawn towards this excitement. It was great to hear all this positive thrust and intention and I jumped the bandwagon and tried to push myself. Pretty soon, I was repelled by it. I was exhausted and drained out, physically and emotionally. I realized all of that enthusiasm had made me operate from a place of guilt and not inspiration. I had to slow down. The only thing that worked for me was the realization that I had to be true to myself.
I’m sure we’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It definitely holds true in times such as these. Here I was with my support system( cleaner and cook) not coming anymore, my schedule gone for a toss, my groceries empty and bags packed for a relocation in 10 days and top it all, my kids and husband home, all day! This definitely wasn’t my idea of a perfect place to be self actualizing.
I couldn’t do it and if you’re trying to, you need to stop or a better word, pause! Make sure you’re taking care of the lower and more important needs first before you try to get beyond yourself.
Make sure you know what you’re doing for food, that’s right, do you have your groceries in place or at least know where and how to get them. Plan your routine, create a new schedule. This is important because these are our basic physiological needs. Try self actualizing on a hungry tummy?
Make your place of stay (I know some of us are not at our own place) safe or chart out the plan to keep it clean and hygienic, distribute the chores. Check your bank account and budget it if needed. Take care of your health and sleep and put things in place to take care of your office work or whatever involves your ‘moolah’ coming in. This counts for safety needs and it’s important to put this in place so you can have a sense of security and comfort. Also, make sure you earmark your weekdays and weekends because there’s no external measure for these anymore, at least temporarily. You have to draw your own boundaries.
Do what you need to socialize. Social isolation is the wrong word, you’re only meant to keep social distance. Don’t quote me wrong, maintaining physical distance doesn’t mean you can’t socialize, it just means you can’t do things together in the same place. You can still talk to your friends, hangout as a group, go for your music classes and do exercise. Just that you need to do it without meeting them. The one thing you should take advantage of is the internet. Do it all virtually. It won’t be as great as sipping coffee together and you will miss a hug and a pat on the back. Well, imagine living in your parents’ age. Now you’ll have perspective.
Now would be a good time to think about productivity. Though define productivity in your own terms. And take it one day at a time and most importantly be true to yourself. What do you really need today?, would be a good question to start with. Hear yourself be honest. Maybe you need to sleep, read or soak in the bath or maybe even do nothing. Honour yourself by choosing to do it. If you feel like it, go to the next question and ask yourself, what do you want to do today? Maybe you feel really charged up and want to try something new or enroll yourself for a course you’ve always wanted to take. Go ahead and make it happen. Maybe there’s an idea that you’ve been pushing aside for quite sometime now and today feels like the day you should prepare for it or try it out. Maybe, you’re so excited that you’re gonna risk something totally out of the blue. Be true to yourself and take the plunge. BUT, define productivity for yourself. You might be in for a dare one day and just take a break the other. You might want to paint by yourself or record something publicly another day. You might even feel like helping someone else, checking on someone, or even volunteering(if possible).
Acknowledge that your needs are different everyday, every moment. You change and grow bit by bit every day and so will what you need to do to nurture yourself especially when there is so much uncertainty around. One day you might feel like this lock-down doesn’t change anything about where you are and the next day you might be overwhelmed with the restriction. Which is why, only you will know what you need to do for yourself. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you should be doing. You run the risk of being resentful, bitter and giving up sooner than if you had wanted to do it yourself. They might inspire you, encourage you, ignite the spark and refresh you. But the choice is yours. That is true freedom and you build yourself that way. Being authentic to your needs, helps you be gentle to yourself and in turn to others. Isn’t that what you would want for yourself and isn’t that what the world needs more of now?
Ways to cope with quarantine amid COVID-19
What we are going through is no less than a war. People are fighting, dying, winning, losing, helping, backstabbing, clever, wicked, stupid, foolish, insistent, cooperating, manipulating and unsupportive.
You name it, they are there. Just like war times but in the health context. And unfortunately, it is not restricted to a physical boundary. It is a pandemic. So, no matter where we are it is affecting us. Some more, some less.
Like in war, where the soldiers are on the forefront actively, our medical professionals are involved in a battle. For the rest of us being inactive and staying at home does not feel any different. It is forced; it is safe, it is uncertain. But, as much as indoors helping the bigger picture it is not necessarily helping on a personal level.
Times like these test our mental muscles more than we imagine. It is difficult to deal with it alone or just with family and little kids around. I will not say I have figured it all out and days are perfect. But here are some tips/guidance to more than just survive your time in quarantine.
1. Take one day at a time
Well, is not that what we should be doing every day anyway? Well, but now even more. Or maybe, it is a good time to start. Because every day there is something new and you cannot be prepared for what is uncertain.
2. Maintain a routine
Stick to your routine for the major stuff like mealtimes, sleep/nap times. And have at least a vague one for the rest of the day—meal preparation, bath and home chores. Children thrive on regularity and consistency and predictability. And it is stress-reducing for adults. In this time of so much chaos and ambiguity maintain stability in the little things. It adds up.
3. Limit the news
The more I read about it the more it was creating an overwhelming. I was imagining myself in worst-case scenarios and finding solutions. It was not my reality and it was not helping me. I realized that on every page, the news was being thrown at me even when I did not want it anymore.
Stay informed but do not let it overwhelm you. Too much of anything has never been good. Not of anything negative. Decide how often you want to update yourself. Once it should be OK too.
4. Be honest but not explicit
Since all we hear about or talk about revolves around the COVID-19, your kids will have questions. Be honest with them, but not brutal. Share information, tell them about how it is impacting people but also tell them about people recovering, the courage of medical practitioners and how to stay safe.
The little they are, the more careful you need to be in using your words. The virus situation will eventually die out but the fear and angst you share around it might stay and get generalized to their understanding of sickness and disease.
5. Teach life skills instead
A lot is going on about the pressure to home-school the kids while the school is closed. But think for yourself, is academics the need of the hour for a few weeks or months? Are they going to suffer from not being able to study or mug up or learn complex concepts? Would not it be better to use this opportunity to teach them to survive times like this? (I am not proposing they will, but just in case).
For those who had help like me, there is a possibility they are not coming in anymore so what better than a few extra hands. Involve them in the chores and no, they do not have to be tasks. They can be games and challenges you do together. What can make a child feel proud more than your appreciation and encouragement of responsibility or effort is done right? And you will not believe the amount of ‘studying’ they will end up doing along because of the number of questions they will ask about it.
6. Know that this is a special time with your kids
Yes, they are at home. It is not a vacation you were prepared for. Neither can you take them out to release all of that pent up energy? Of course, indulge in games and reading and building forts but know that it is OK if they get bored and you can’t think of anything to occupy them with.
Because you know what, it is OK to be doing nothing too. It is unfortunate how we have been trained over time to be constantly doing and being productive. So ‘doing nothing’ might be difficult for many of us as adults too. Know that as much as ‘doing something’ creates memories, ‘doing nothing’ together builds connection, fills our attention buckets, inspires creativity and sparks joy. Try it.
7. Let go
Becoming a parent made me raise my standards. Yes, I am particular about the nutrition factor in meals, we have limited screen time, and my environment consciousness increased rapid fold.
And I have recently decided to go minimalist. I am not advocating these choices but I am sure you have made your own decisions based on your priorities and values. I still stand by mine and I admire yours and the effort you have put in to stick to it through the toughest of circumstances.
If it helps to hear: this is a crisis. You have permission to slack, to let go, to go easy on some things that at this moment may be out of your control. I have purposely avoided examples considering the length of this write-up, but I will throw in some here.
We have limited groceries and so we have been having ‘junk’ more often than usual so that it survives longer. My toddler is getting screen time every day, and I try not to magnify the impact of the plastic containers. I ordered my dinner the other day. There will be time for me to get back to my stringency but now is not it.
8. Take time to understand your discomfort
Permit yourself to feel the way you are—in its raw form and in its entirety. Without thinking about it or rationalizing or dismissing or minimizing. But fix a limited time. And then stop. You might be angry with the way things are, or feeling helpless and out of control or worried. It is OK to feel these things. It does not make you weak or vulnerable. Just be human.
9. Take a break
Rolling your eyes? I mean it. Do what makes you happy. You might not get a lavish one hour for it but squeeze it in or wake up early or stay up in the night.
Ideally, take short ones throughout the day. But some of us might like one whole stretch. Breathe. I know there’s a lot of restriction around things we might have been regularly doing, like going to the gym or jogging.
For me, it is s swimming. Swimming was my go-to when I needed to free headspace. But now, it is out of limits. And it is hard. So I try not to miss it too much and focus on things I can do. Like paint! And when there isn’t time for that, doodle. There is no way to take care of everything without taking care of yourself. I know you know this. And you have heard it before. Do it. Try something new. I put on my first hair mask two days ago and I cannot get over how silky my hair feels since then. And it makes me feel a little better. I might start doing it regularly. What can you do for yourself, even the littlest thing, to help you lighten up for a moment?
10. Work on your marital relationship
You know that man or woman you married a few years back. The one you probably had your kids with. Do you know how we often tell them they are not the same they were before? Do you? Or is it just me? Well, here is news. They are not. And neither are you. Everything changes with time. So do people, even if you have been together through it all. The changes we experience individually are significantly different. Maybe, during this forced time of together getting to know each other. Again!
11. You will have bad days
Accept it. You are not perfect. Say that again. You never had to be and now is not the time to beat yourself about it. Difficult situations bring out the best and worst in us. Be gentle with yourself, forgive and start again. And if you feel like you have taken three steps back from your self-growth journey, know that you are a work in progress. Is not it better to know what is underneath, so you can grow deeper and not just farther or have fake progress in the first place?
Last, but not least. Pray. Maybe this is your call to tread a little farther. It might be hard to just sit in one place and do it. So, offer up the things you are doing. Both the ones you are enjoying and the ones that do not seem appealing.
Offer it up for the ones suffering, and the ones battling—for the decision-makers and the followers. There is a long way a little prayer can go. Teach your kids too.
You might agree with the above or discard it. But even if there is anyone thing that speaks to you I would have served my purpose. If you like, comment below on any point even if it is just one that resonates with you. I am always a ping away for questions or if you feel the need to connect with me.
Stay happy! Stay safe!
An interview with Esther Joann Phillips
Hello and welcome!
Meet 17 year old, Esther Joann Phillips—The One-der Woman Band—she plays not 2 or 3, but 5 instruments together! Phew.
She likes to be called Joann, is the youngest of four, and a quiet, typical high school student.
You don’t meet too many her age who have their goals and priorities so clear. Let’s get to know her a bit more.
What is the greatest blessing in ur life?
Joann: Apart from family, the community (Joann’s family is part of the ICPE mission).
It’s great you mention that coz I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be the youngest in the family?
Joann: Pampered… Everyone treats me like a baby. That has both an advantage and a disadvantage… I love being the youngest anyways… My siblings give me words of wisdom so I learn from my older ones.
What’s the one thing most people don’t see in you, but you know you possess?
Joann: I’m really talkative and crazy.. only the ones close to me will know that.
What’s your favorite food and drink?
Joann: Junk and I love drinking so no favourites.
How would you describe yourself?
Joann: An instrument of God.
Joann: Hard to decide.
Joann: I have too many.
Favorite bible verse?
Joann: “He that is in you is greater than he who is in the world” – 1 John 4:4
Any saint who inspires you?
Joann: Mother Teresa of child Jesus, St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Cecilia, St. Josephine Bakitha
What’s it like to be a christian at college?
Joann: It’s challenging because there are times where people make fun of Jesus. Sometimes it’s funny, but if we stand for our faith, they mock us…
That sounds tough. It sure isn’t easy. Your dream career?
What draws you to music?
Joann: Music is another way to bring my emotions out… and also the way music speaks to people makes me wanna play it more cuz that’s one way I can talk to people and make them happy too.
What’s the first instrument you learnt to play?
Joann: Guitar … As a child I always loved that instrument… An uncle used to play it and watching him play inspired me. Mom and dad used to buy me toy guitars and encourage me.
What inspired you to do the ‘One Woman Band—Alleluia?’
Joann: I was in the 8th grade when I learnt to play the guitar, and then I was gifted a harmonica… So I learnt the harmonica and guitar together.
Then I was sitting on the bed and was kicking it like the drum kick, later I just kept adding instruments. It just came about like that…
And it’s come out so beautifully. Anything else other than music you are passionate about?
Joann: I also love science, especially space.
If you were to go to space for 3 months. What are the 3 things you would take with you?
Joann: My instruments,
I should have guessed that! What would you like adults to know about teenagers?
Joann: Some adults don’t understand what teenagers go through.
I’d say, be there for teens and not judge and compare, but patiently listen to their struggles.
What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
Joann: Being a musician and also a worship leader. Starting my own school for children who are interested in anything.
Aah, that does sound exciting. Wishing you all the very best Joann and looking forward to your exclusive performance on Faith Blocks for the little ones. I’m so excited!
Join our Facebook group to learn more ways of making faith fun for you and your kids.
A parent’s greatest praise
While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
“Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”
This is the gospel reading on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.
At first, reading Jesus’ reply might seem odd.
Why does He deny that His mother is worthy of praise?
Why is He changing the topic away from mention of His mother?
Why couldn’t He just acknowledge it?
Or does He?
When you look closely, you realize Jesus was actually talking about Mary.
Who other than Mary heard God’s word and followed it?
Who other than Mary is the epitome of being in God’s will?
Who else is blessed among all women?
It made me think of college days when I was President of my Parish youth group.
I was quite popular (not for the wrong reasons) and many times my parents used to be identified
as being my parents.
In reference to me, it always felt uncomfortable.
It felt incomplete. They had a far greater identity than that.
I can imagine now what Jesus would have felt.
There were also times when in other circles I would be my father’s/mother’s daughter and I
wanted to scream ‘I am not only that.’ Part of that was my young adulthood need for
individualization and the other part was pride.
Jesus, in true humility honors His well deserving mother.
When the woman in the Gospel appreciates Mary in reference to Jesus, He corrects her.
Growing up, just like my toddler, He would have loved to hear the story of His birth.
We see what remained with Him over the years.
A peak into His deep gratitude and love for Mary’s yes.
“It’s not a parents responsibility to have Godly children. It’s a parents responsibility to make sure
their children have Godly parents.”- Author Unknown
As parents we have great pride in our kids and their achievements.
There is nothing wrong in that.
But what would our children remember us by?
Would it be by our works, our achievements, our success?
Our social circle, our networks, our contacts, our contribution to society?
Or the love they experienced with us over the years?
Memories of playing together, laughing together and shared affection?
Of wounds being tended, tears being wiped and undeserving forgiveness?
Would they say about us, ‘in him, in her, I saw God.’
And when people praise them for their Godly lives, will they turn around and say, ‘Blessed is the
one whom I saw live it out.’
Download a free coloring page of Mary’s blue mantle from the Resources.
I would love to see your little ones creation.
God our Father—the ideal parent
Who is God, the Father?
For a long time the only understanding I had was from Sunday school; the First Person of the Trinity. The man with a long white beard and wise eyes. And any reference to Him in the Old Testament made me feel very cautious of Him. God the Father sounded like a disciplinarian, the one with strict rules, laws, punishment and severe consequences. He definitely wasn’t someone I wanted to mess with and so I stayed far away from Him hoping to not bother Him unnecessarily. Jesus as a brother and friend was a better relationship to focus on.
Have you felt this way?
Fast forward to college and my deep experience of God’s love. (I will share my testimony another day) It wasn’t immediate but it was a starting point of the change in my perspective and understanding of the Eternal Father. I learnt to look at Him through the eyes of His Son, Jesus. Through Jesus’ eyes, He is ever loving and ever merciful. The father in the parable of the prodigal son started making more sense. And it was easier for me to approach Him having understood His forgiveness.
Becoming a parent of a toddler and struggling to avoid the clash of my temper and his tantrums questioned my understanding of God as a Father again! He was slow to anger and abounding in mercy. Not me. He was always ready to welcome with arms open wide. Not me. He was willing to call me daughter even in disobedience. Not me. This was difficult for me to face. Especially in the awareness that children first experience God and His love primarily through their parents. I was far from the parent I wanted to emulate.
God was of course just and fair and in this I had my relief. Cause so was I. My anger was often justified by the many mentions of the circumstances of God’s anger till I figured that was but a minute part of His character. In fact, going back to the father in the Prodigal son story, anger doesn’t even seem to be a part of him. When his son left and squandered his hard earned money, he was sad, upset and hurt. Not even once does it mention he was angry. I had nothing more to justify my anger.
It made me re-look at the fathers and father figures around me. Father’s who have abandoned their kids for choosing a different career, for choosing their own spouse, father’s who almost suffocate their children in obedience and find it hard to provide for their needs even when they can, father’s who discourage, berate and constantly negate the right of a son or daughter to be who they are meant to be. (read that again replacing father with mother)
And my heart pained at the thought of the many children I know who have been shunned by their parents, who were supposed to be an image of God’s love, for their choices. Mostly ‘cause it never met their expectations. Choices, not even sin. And parents who are far more accepting of their children’s sin rather than of their choices and parents who find it hard to even accept their child.
Here was a father who gave his son what he never deserved and yet did not write him off. A father who had the right to be angry, but wasn’t. A father who only wanted his son to return. A father without ego or pride, not looking at himself but with true concern at his son who was lost. A father who respected his son’s choices even though wrong but waited patiently for him to come back. A father who didn’t wait for an apology.
Here was a father who saw His son from far away and ran to greet him. Here was a father who celebrated his son’s return forgetting the sin he committed. Here is a father who was so confident of his love that he knew that no matter how far his son wandered, he would return.
This is the true reflection of God the Father, as His only Son Jesus saw Him to be. A Son so convinced of His Father’s love that He took up the cross. Here is perfect love between a Father and a Son, even unto death.
(Take a deep breath and pause)
As children we will always fall short of responding to the love of God our father. As Our Father, He will give us a second chance even after the third time.
As parents, we will always fall short of showing God’s love to our children. Our experience of His love will keep guiding us when we fail, to own our mistakes and transform our relationship with our children. Our biggest consolation though is the privilege, that our children have Him as their Father too.
The next time you wonder what to do with your child in a given circumstance or doubt if what you’re doing is right, think of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son.
Kids belong in church
Most of us have not been to church in a while. But while we miss being there and hope in anticipation for when it will be possible, this might be a good time to ponder about how we approach the littlest of our spiritual family.
Kids. They belong in Church!
Anyone who knows me, knows how much I stand by this. And I can cry on church tops and have a very passionate yet reasonable discussion with anyone who questions this right.
That’s right, I called it a RIGHT. The RIGHT to be in church. ‘Coz that’s what it is. A right that children have which is no less or more than the right an adult has. The right that comes from being children of God our Father. This right comes as a direct result of our Catholic Church providing for infant baptism and not waiting till after they reach a reasonable age.
As God’s children we are all messy, dirty, struggling, trying. As we grow up, we just learn to disguise it with our sophisticated maturity. Kids, on the other hand, untouched by social polishing show up in their raw, honest most authentic sense. Maybe something that we need to learn from when we come to our Father’s house.
If you know Jesus, then you know that He used to teach, preach and tell stories anywhere and everywhere. On mountaintops, seashores, lakesides, places of worship and people’s homes. As popular as he was, he obviously didn’t have access to a microphone or speakers. And he addressed sometimes, hundreds and even thousands at a time. People followed him from place to place.
Can you imagine what that meant? A crowd of men, women and children and that means even babies. They definitely didn’t have places to leave them behind and even if they did those people would most probably not want to miss out on Jesus’ teachings either.
So, they all came along and when the apostles all too protectively tried to keep the kids at bay, Jesus himself called them forward saying, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
Is our church, our place of worship any more holy than these open spaces that Jesus used? If the Son of God himself did not rebuke the little ones and their mothers when for sure they might be crying, running and playing while He spoke, who are we?
Don’t get me wrong, but if a child is evidently howling, misbehaving and disrupting decorum then I believe the parents as adults will have the discretion to step out for a bit. Not for our sake, mind you, but with due respect for the child and his need for privacy while he emotionally recuperates. But that is a decision that the parents should have the liberty to take and not because they are being embarrassed or gazed down by righteous others, who in the first place should actually be focusing on the Eucharist rather than on an already self-conscious family. Believe me, I’ve been there.
It takes a lot of effort to get little ones ready and on time for mass. A lot of preparation and multitasking and thinking ahead. It’s also taken a choice and a decision to be there, with their kids. And not with the intention of being ‘outstanding’. There is a value they place in being there and that’s the value they want to give to their kids, rain or shine.
Fear and anger make kids respond instantly, love takes patience so extend a little bit of rope while they engage cooperation with their child. If it isn’t working, trust them to do what they need to do. Maybe they are actually trying to teach their child that they need to stay in church rather than be able to get out and play at the drop of a hat. Kids learn these things fairly quickly.
The average attention time of an adult is 20 minutes. A child’s is much less. Our Sunday Mass is no less than 55min. Some of us actually survive fully present for half the Mass. Are you shocked or does it make you smile in agreement? Which is why the Mass isn’t for us to sit and watch as an audience but to be involved in and bring ourselves back to attention as we transition between standing, folding hands, kneeling, bowing, singing.
These are instances we can get our attention back if we really want to. Unfortunately, children aren’t old enough to conceal this tendency to fall out of attention. It requires constant effort to get their attention back gently and subtly. And that isn’t as easy as it seems.
Some days are just bad. In spite of the parents’ best endeavor, the kid might be in no mood to collaborate. That should be ok. We all have our bad days. Imagine someone telling us to snap out of it. As an extended family, we should be able to accept and acknowledge this with empathy and understanding.
‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Here are some handy ways in which you can help:
- If you’re sitting too far to help, ignore the commotion. Don’t try to strain your neck to figure out what’s happening. Say a little prayer for the parent and child and focus on what is actually important; the Eucharist. Trust me, that is a big help in times on distress in church.
- If you’re nearby but not too close to give a helping hand, look at the parent or child with understanding and compassion. If you know how it feels to be in their position, your look will let them know you’ve been there. If not, a little smile, a slight nod or a small thumbs up will give them the message ‘you’ve got this’, ‘you’re doing good’ and ‘this too shall pass.’ This reassurance goes a long way in settling the parent and in turn calming the child.
- If you’re sitting in the pews just in front or behind them turn, just enough to check if there’s anything tangible you can do which might help. Sometimes just a little distraction or attention from a stranger can help give a breather.
- Offer a pen or something small that isn’t of extreme value to you and you don’t mind parting with for a bit, or forever.
- Do not offer sweets or eatable items without permission from the parent. This not only shows courtesy but a respect for the parent who knows best for their child. We never know if the child is allergic to something or a sugar high at that time might just be counterintuitive.
- If you know the child and the family and all of you (this includes the child) are comfortable taking the child with you for sometime. Do it. Take permission before you intervene. Most kids behave better when not with parents. If parents say ‘No’ even with the best of your intention, step back and trust them with their decision.
- Be wary of your help making the situation worse, in which case, jump to the first point..
– If you notice someone who eventually had to take their rambunctious toddler or child out either briefly or for the rest of the service, reach out to them later. They will appreciate your concern and it might help them feel a little less flustered.
- Most importantly, be grateful and whenever possible thank them for getting themselves and their kids for mass. It might just be the encouragement they need to keep coming.
Tips for parents:
- Prepare your kids for Mass. Tell them in advance when you are going for mass and what that means. To meet Jesus and celebrate with the angels, saints, and Mother Mary. Let it be something to look forward to. Your excitement will definitely be observed and absorbed by them.
- Share with them what you would want them to do. Eg. ‘We will talk in whispers, only when needed’, ‘watch what the priest/altar boys are doing’, ‘sing with the choir.’ Instead of what you don’t want them to do. So avoid, ‘don’t talk’, ‘don’t run around’, ‘don’t be fidgety’ and ‘don’t ask for food loudly.’
- Whenever possible go through the readings in advance. This is to avoid the annoyance of straining/being unable to listen to the readings in case your little one needs your attention specifically during those times. You will be kinder towards your child because of this advance preparation from your side.
- Carry a kid’s bible and refer to the relevant pages during Mass. Ok, so theirs is an abridged version and will not have everything. Improvise, if it’s the readings about the Exodus you can always turn to the page with baby Moses and say ‘this baby grew up and that’s who we’re reading about today, listen.’ If it’s absolutely impossible to connect the readings, you can definitely go to where the angels sing gloria, people sing hosanna and the last supper during offertory. This teaches them the relevance of different parts of the mass in relation to the Bible.
- For little ones, always carry snacks and drink, not with the intention of feeding them during mass but as backup when necessary. You know how they always get hungry at odd times and starve when they see/smell some other kid getting a bite on the other end of the church.
- Reflect on the love of God the Father. You will notice how patient, gentle and kind he is in spite of the number of times we have outright disobeyed, acted on impulse and annoyed him. Even though we are adults, He has looked away from our mistakes and forgiven our numerous sins. It is through us that our child experiences God’s everlasting love. This is crucial to their experience at church. You know how we always remember the feelings behind memories. Our kids might not remember the masses they attended with us, but the feeling will stay for a long time to come. If coming for mass, week after week, is a stressful time of being corrected and rebuked and feeling like they were the cause of embarrassment, judgment and annoyance, that’s what they will associate it with later. Maybe one of the reasons why youth find any reference to church as boring and rigid.
- Be aware of your mental state and disposition. Are you stressed, angry, hungry, sleep deprived, sad? This will definitely affect your level of patience and understanding towards your little ones. Be forgiving and loving towards yourself. Maybe even opt for a later mass if it will help or ask your spouse for a little bit more support than usual.
- For times like these when you’re just not up to it, keep some simple things in hand, paper/notebook, colors, favorite book, small toy (not the ones that squeak or make sounds). These might not be ideal times of instruction but definitely times you need to let go and avoid snapping at your kids unnecessarily and teaching them essential life skills like not trying to fill another’s cup when yours is empty and that you as a parent need God too, to comfort you. You will give them a lesson to treasure.
- Strive to not take them out till you’ve tried everything. Be patient and consistent. If they learn that a slightest sound from them will embolden you to step out of the building they will do it sooner and sooner during mass and every time you get them back in.
- Use discretion and step out when needed. If either of you is having a rough time and have exhausted the tricks in your sack, then step out. It’s better than having a fowl mood and a sulking kid for the rest of Mass.
- Support other parents who you see struggling. Just an acknowledging smile while you sit with your ‘better behaved kid of the day’ will give them hope for the next time and know that you understand the tussle.
- Educate and enlighten others when you get a chance or it comes up in conversations. Standing up for the weak and voiceless is a moral responsibility.