I have to give our pastor credit. He really tried to reach out to them. He had tents set up on the church's front lawn with coffee and treats to encourage people to linger and chat, especially with him. He also included in the bulletin an insert with descriptions of all the Committees and Social Groups and Ministries at our parish to encourage people to come back and get involved.
Only one thing bothered me: on page 4 of the insert, was listed Babysitting as one of the parish's Service and Outreach tot he Community programs with this description:
The Babysitting program allows parents to attend the 9:00a.m. Mass while their children ages 1-4 yrs play in the Rectory basement with a parent and teen sitter. As the director of the program - I chose to give my time to organizing this program because without the time others have given I would have missed hours of Mass over the past few years. This is my way to help not only the parents of those children, but those who would be distracted by those children. Therefore everyone wins. The program also helps teens working on volunteer credit for Confirmation and for H.S. service requirements.
Everyone wins? What about the 1-4 year olds who are left in the basement and do not even get the opportunity to experience the Mass? Certainly they are young, but what parent would argue even a 1 year old would not enjoy beautiful music? How many small children are excited to be left by their parents? Does any parent of a 1-4 year old think their child is so perfect they do not need nor could not benefit from the infinite graces available simply from attending Mass and being in the presence of the Holy Eucharist? Did the woman who runs this program ever think of what is best for the children she was removing from Church and the celebration of the Mass?
Furthermore, if she could not have attended Mass without someone else to watch her children when they were that age, would you want her watching yours? If she could not discipline and control and teach her children with regards to proper behavior at Church, would you want her watching over yours? She mentions how she is helping the people who would have been distracted by such children, but what about the people who come up to me and tell me how happy they are to see babies and young children at Mass? I've had elderly women and men tell me how seeing and even hearing the little ones at Mass makes them feel young again and makes them smile.
I won't even go into any Baptismal promises made by the parents, assuming these children are in fact baptized, to raise their children IN the faith, which includes attending Mass on Sunday. I'd be interested in a study of what happens when these children turn 5 and are suddenly not left for a play hour anymore and asked to sit quietly for something they have never seen before. Cecilia is only three, but she sings during Mass, says some of the prayers and shakes hands during the Sign of Peace and folds her hands when it is time to pray. She is far from perfect during Mass, but she has an idea what it is, why we go there and how she is supposed to behave when we are there.
I think the only ones who really win are the teens getting volunteer hours.
P.S. - I hope she did not mean to imply that those of us who do <gasp> bring our 1-4 year olds to Mass are disturbances to those around us. I hope she only meant to imply either that we must have better children or be better parents. :)