Katie Fitzgerald shares three ways moms can pray while in the back of the church with little ones.
This past summer, I spent several Sunday Masses in a row standing in the vestibule at the back of the church with one or the other of our very busy, very noisy toddler twins, who were then 15 months old. The acoustics in our church make it a little hard to hear back there, and we attend a Latin Mass, many parts of which are silent anyway, so I often felt a little bit disconnected from the Mass and found my attention drifting. To keep myself from getting lost in thinking about my to-do list or what was for dinner that night, instead I started thinking of ways I could use my time in the vestibule as an opportunity for prayer.
The first thing I started doing is offering up my feelings of irritation and embarrassment at having a kid misbehave during Mass. I offered them for my deceased friends and family: my dad, my godfather, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents. I offered them for my kids, my husband, my friends, my former classmates, for the prayer requests shared at my book club meeting, for our pastor, and even for the pastors of my past. This practice made me feel like I wasn’t suffering this discomfort in vain, and also kept my focus on the Lord instead of on whatever personal stuff my distraction was driving me to think about.
The next prayer practice I picked up started when I happened to notice that one of the bulletin boards inside the door of the church had a poster hanging on it showing the names and faces of all the seminarians of the Archdiocese. Our Archdiocese has had a tradition in years past of providing families with the name and picture of a seminarian to pray for during Lent. Reminded of that idea, I decided to start praying for each of the men on the poster. I prayed one Hail Mary for each seminarian by name, whispering the words of the prayer in my toddler’s ear as a means of soothing him at the same time. When I finished praying for the seminarians, I prayed for our Archbishop and auxiliary bishops who were also included on the poster. Knowing how much these men need our prayers, I was glad to be able to spend that time offering them some spiritual support.
The final prayer habit I developed standing back there in the vestibule is praying for other parents whose kids are acting up during Mass. Each time I heard a child cry or call out, I said a prayer for the child and his/her parents. When other parents joined me in the back of the church, I offered a Hail Mary for them as well. Now that my twins are almost two and mostly stay in the pew, I continue this practice for the other parents whose little ones aren’t quite there yet. I have a feeling this may be a habit that sticks with me the rest of my life.
It is so challenging to have babies and toddlers who just aren’t ready to sit in the pew for all of Mass. Finding these opportunities for prayer really helped me feel better about not always hearing the homily and sometimes missing Communion. If you are in a season of parenting where you are the mom in the vestibule, I hope these prayer practices will be helpful to you and I’m praying that you’ll be back in the pews before too long!
Copyright 2022 Katie Fitzgerald
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About the Author
Katie Fitzgerald is a former children's librarian turned stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. She and her librarian husband live in Maryland with their five children, the youngest of whom are boy/girl twins. She has published two textbooks for librarians, and she writes about homeschooling, books and the reading life from a Catholic perspective at ReadAtHomeMom.com and on Instagram @read.at.home.mom.