How do little children act when they see someone they love? They laugh, they giggle, and they run with arms outstretched to the object of their affection. When Jesus said, “Let the little ones come to me and do not hinder them,” was he talking about people trying to shush and hush the children out of the natural joy they felt as they approached him? I always think of this verse when I bring my son, Jude, to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Jude was born full term via c-section after a uterine rupture. He was without oxygen for 10 minutes and, as a result, suffered massive brain injury. He has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk, talk, or even sit up without support. He is four and in a wheelchair. Despite his inability to communicate verbally, he can certainly let you know what he likes. And one of his favorite things is going to church.
In my experience with my other six children, going to church was not one of their favorite activities. Now, my eldest daughter liked going to church because she got to see her friends but none of the others appreciated it for the simple fact of being in church. Jude loves church. He starts laughing as we approach the church and is smiling and kicking his feet as we enter. He waits with great anticipation for father to leave the confessional and come to greet him. He laughs as he brings his offering to the front. He smiles as each person receives communion. He leaves contented, happy and tired. He has the air of someone that just spent a joyful and fulfilling hour. What a contrast to me who sometimes leaves church more tired, less happy and definitely not content after my hour. What a lesson I could learn from my son!
We could all learn a lesson from the simple joy of a child. Do we approach church as the chance to be with someone we love? Or do we approach it as a dour task that must be completed? Our God is not a dour God; He is a God that wants to hear the laughter and joy of children as we approach him. Of course we have to be respectful, but is it impossible to be respectful with pure joy in hearts? There is nothing but love and joy in Jude’s laughter as he approaches the altar—he expresses on the outside what he feels on the inside. Do we have the same love and joy as we approach? Do we approach with fear, or with duty? Perhaps, as a child, Jude has a freedom I do not…but I believe that he also has a joy that I do not possess either. I have learned so much from my child and the ability to express his joy in Mass is one lesson that I am still struggling to master.
Everyone is here for a reason; everyone has a purpose given to them from God. Jude’s special task may be to let us know that Mass is joyful and to encourage us to approach the altar with joy in our hearts, if not on our lips. Let us approach each hour with the Lord as a celebration, not a duty, and let us all learn a lesson from a child.
**Melanie is a cradle Catholic mother of seven children (ages four to 22) and wife of 23 years to her convert husband.
She is currently in her last semester of nursing school to earn her BSN, and is looking forward to entering the nursing