“Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.” -Mr. Han in Karate Kid

Do you find yourself with a wiggly toddler on your lap or beside you during Mass? Here are a few things to call their attention to:

1. Announce what the colour of the vestments will be. Ta-dah! I told you they would be purple!
2. Wonder out loud about whether it’s going to be Father Zimmer or Father Richard or a visitor.
3. Point out the readers about to read a story to all of us from the big red book. Let’s listen to their story.
4. Point out the cantor who will teach us a song. She’ll sing it first, then she’ll point to us when it’s our turn to sing.
5. This one’s tricky but super cool: Paraphrase the readings/Gospel on the fly. Jesus is saying that he’s the Good Shepherd. We are the sheep. He takes good care of us. Extra bonus points: Read the readings/Gospel beforehand and you won’t need to paraphrase on the fly.
6. When the bell rings, whisper that the Most Important Part is coming up.
7. Point out the rest of the congregation kneeling quietly for the Most Important Part. Maybe let’s put away all our stuff and pay attention to what Father is saying. Did I mention that this is the Most. Important. Part?
8. Call their attention to the miracle of the the bread and wine being changed to the Body and Blood of Jesus.
9. Point out the rest of the congregation kneeling quietly as they get ready to receive Jesus.
10. Call their attention to the tabernacle. It’s surrounded by many, many red candles to remind us that Jesus is really there.

Other things to point out
Depending on where you’re sitting, you’ll be able to point out: the crucifix, the tabernacle, statues of Our Lady, St. Michael, St. Clement and St. Joseph (if you’re hanging out in the foyer with a wiggly kid like we are), a station of the cross that’s near you (if you’re sitting near the sides), the stained-glass windows, the flowers, the candles, the organ, the piano…

Challenges will continue
Pointing out these things doesn’t guarantee that the kids will be quiet and still. Well, maybe for a little bit. But we really haven’t found the magic bullet for quiet and stillness at Mass for toddlers and pre-schoolers. What I am hoping is that the kids slowly grow in their understanding of the Mass: why they are there, who they are there for. I’m hoping that when they’re a bit older, they will be quiet and still at the right parts for the right reasons.

“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'” -Catechism of the Catholic Church