It was a typical Monday morning Mass with the usual suspects—seniors, retirees, homemakers and nonagenarians—when suddenly five minutes before starting time, a grandmother, her daughter and her daughter’s five kids, from 2 to 14, came through the door, followed in short order by another mother and her 7-year-old son, a father and his 3-year-old daughter, and a woman with her 4-year-old-niece.
The mood in church changed immediately. It could have been a screening of “Bluey,” the popular cartoon show about a Blue Heeler puppy, who lives with her family and gets into all kinds of situations.
Of course, it’s tough to have that many youngsters in one place at the same time and avoid pandemonium, and it was obvious all the adults were trying their hardest to keep the situation under control, until the youngest member of the entourage—a feisty 2-year-old, wearing blue spectacles, shorts and a T-shirt—decided to take the law into his own hands. While his 10-year-old sister held him, he started to do what 2-year-olds do best: perform.
He had no concern for social propriety or the fact that Father had just begun his homily about the Gospel story, where the mother of the Sons of Thunder, James and John, asks Jesus to let her boys sit on his left and his right when he comes into his glory.
The louder Father talked, the louder the young tyke squealed to the consternation of his mother and grandmother. The boy’s sibling caretaker hastily carried him to the back of the church to minimize the disruptions, so Father could finish his sermon and to avoid scandalizing the other adults who hadn’t seen this much excitement at Mass since the children’s choir was allowed back after the COVID restrictions ended.
The 2-year-old managed to arouse attention with his laughing and squealing and toddler hysterics, which only intensified when he broke away from his sister and started running between the pews with her in hot pursuit.
For every kid in church, his performance was more entertaining than Father’s homily. To a child, they were all focused on the back of the church to witness his lively antics. And the little guy didn’t disappoint. For someone who didn’t even know the English language, he was masterful at creating comical mayhem.
My normal grouchy grandfather reaction would have been, “Get that kid under control!” But as I watched all the kids giggling at this spectacle, I couldn’t help but smile and watch him entertain them.
I’m from that era when kids were immediately shuttled out of church at the slightest sign of commotion, and I’ve done that a lot myself over the years. However, now I’m inclined to advocate bringing all the kids in and not getting uptight if they act like kids.
How does that hymn go? “All are welcome, all are welcome in.”
As I was watching this toddler trying his hardest to get laughs, I thought of that popular saying, “What would Jesus do?”
Do you remember that encounter Jesus had with children, which is recounted in Matthew 19?
“Then, children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray,” the Gospel account says.
“The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’” The disciples were the ones who were uptight when the kids came to Jesus. But Jesus had an entirely different attitude. He welcomed them, he wanted them to come. And you can be sure that he didn’t have any rules for good behavior when they came to him. I’m convinced he didn’t say, “Now, children, stand erect, be quiet, pay attention, be polite, don’t act goofy, and don’t act like children.”
I’m sure he loved when they acted like children, rather than children being forced to act like adults.
And so, what would Jesus do? As I watched the little boy, whose name I later learned was Patrick, having a grand old time entertaining everyone, I asked the question WWJD and immediately a thought came into my head. Jesus would be joining the kids because he loves children and he loves joy and he loves a good laugh or two.