Children at Mass. Ah… children at Mass. They are simultaneously the great consolation of priests and, hopefully, the seniors of a congregation, as they can also be the woe.
Look at the average age of people at some suburban parishes, or at that church in Portland. Then look at the average age of people at the TLM. If, at the later, certain pews turn into universally distracting three ring circuses, at the former the quiet foreshadows the day when the last parishioner might remember to throw the main power switch and lock the door before ambling off behind a walker.
After this morning’s circus punctuated Mass, I was enthusiastically greeted by the boy “Luke” who, a few weeks back, I described as having solemnly demonstrated how to use a thurible, substituted by his pair of blue plastic binoculars on their strap. Today he ran at me quite unliturgically with a handful of cupcake. He is, after all, still three.
This is all a preface to a photo that encapsulates something of an aging priest’s hope for the future. From a reader who explains:
My sons playing Mass “against pagans”.
How it doth warm the cockles of my beady-black heart.
I appreciate the serious expression as he receives the incensation from someone in PJs.
My lumberyard memory has produced a connection with an image from the superb Life of Little Saint Placid, originally in French, the English recently reprinted by St Augustine Academy Press which has that lavishly illustrated guide to the TLM. I gave away my English versions, but here’s the French:
I am ransacking the lumberyard of my mind, but I think it was St. Thomas Aquinas who explained that play and contemplative prayer are similar to each other, in that both activities are undertaken for their own sake, for pleasure.
“Play Mass”. Contemplate that!
It isn’t easy being even remotely contemplative during Mass when the average age in the place is roughly 10. Then again, at the altar the priest’s main task is not so much play or contemplative prayer but play’s correlated activity, work. Nevertheless, it is wholly holy fun, serious pleasure, when everything is clicking smoothly in a Solemn Mass, to be able to steal snatches of contemplation of the momentous liturgical works at the altar, magnalia Dei.
How delightful, however, is that play Mass “contra paganos”?
I just had a glimpse in my lumberyard mind of a scene in one of those Jurrasic Park movies, when mom or dad T-Rex gently crunches a bad guy so that junior can play Grown Up and practice the kill. In addition to contemplation, play can have its practical side.
Pray for more priests for the future. Perhaps even today some of them are playing Mass “contra paganos”!