There is something in Catholic Church culture that insists kids belong in the sanctuary for Mass. I must say I don’t totally understand it, but it is definitely a Catholic thing. Part of the thinking is that sheer exposure to the service imbues them with grace and other good things in some kind of effortless and mindless sort of way. But if they can’t understand the readings and they cannot take Communion, it is unclear what they are “receiving” Sacramentally.
Another argument suggests that kids need to “learn the Mass” and that can only happen through physical attendance. I liken it to bringing a toddler to a lecture or presentation intended for adults, because there is information you want your kids to have. Nobody would ever do that, because it obviously wouldn’t work. They must be introduced to the information in age appropriate ways if they are to learn. Everybody knows this, and yet we ignore it in church.To this end, I will sometimes see a Mom sitting in the very front row with her child. The front row so the kids can “see the altar” (as if they’re looking ). Then, a tormented exercise is undertaken in which the kid, who can be distracted with Cheerios for only so long, becomes disruptive.
Which becomes a distraction for everyone, including liturgical ministers and the homilist. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly difficult it is to try and preach over a crying baby.
In this exercise the parents are fighting a losing battle, and sometimes suffer the unkind, but understandably disapproving glances of the congregation. Saddest of all is the experience for the kids themselves, which can be something approaching agony. Church can easily becomes a place they grow to hate…
This is why we invest in our children’s programs.
Want another perspective? Read this.
And, of course, there’s the common practice of the Children’s Dismissal for the Liturgy of the Word, which we do at my parish: children are sent forth with a catechist into the rectory parlor after the collect to hear the scripture and lessons, and return around the time we begin the Prayers of the Faithful.