After taking the DLSU entrance exam from 7:30 am until 12:30 pm, my family and I headed to the Greenbelt Church for Mass. I felt the need to praise God for staying with me for the first three CETs I need to take and pray for His guidance with the next test, the most important one for me. Also, I’m off to Baguio for the next four days with my class for our senior retreat. I needed to ask for His blessing for my last retreat in AC — that it won’t rain as hard as last week and that I grow closer to my God, my rock.
When the Entrance song started playing, I couldn’t help but notice a clapping sound that went along with the music. I assumed that this was one of those creative priests who had some sort of instrument to get the energy in the clergy going. I glanced at the priest. Nope. Wasn’t him. I didn’t get to figure out where it was coming from until the next song. Glory to God started playing, in a version I was unfamiliar with so I attempted to sing along but to no success, and there it was again. The clapping sound.
I looked around for the sound, almost getting to the conclusion that I was going bonkers, when my eyes spotted a small boy jumping up and down in the pew opposite mine (it was a circular shaped Chapel). This boy was clapping, to my surprise, in complete sync with the music and jumping up and down as if it’s the happiest day of his life. I noticed his mother trying to control him but he would shrug her off and continue.
It was wonderful to watch. “Talagang glory to God eh,” as my mom said. In the middle of a crowd of frowning Churchgoers with their arms crossed aged around 20s to 50s, here was a child praising the Lord to his heart’s content. Like me, he wasn’t familiar with the version this parish played but he made up for it by clapping. By dancing.
13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16
“Let the children come to me.”
One time, when I was younger and a bit more mischievous inside the Church, there was a baby wailing in the Church we were hearing Mass in. The priest got irritated, stopped in the middle of the Homily and said, “Please bring your crying children outside so as to not disrupt the sacredness of the Holy Eucharist.” This didn’t mean so much to me back then but I clearly remember never stepping a foot in that Church ever again because my mother didn’t appreciate what the priest did.
With my experience with the child in Mass today, I remember how his mother was forcing him to get back in his seat and stay quiet. Why suppress the joy this child finds in praising God? Why stop him from being happy when the song was obviously about God’s never-ending glory?
For a country that’s generally an optimistic and happy one, why is it that the moment we enter a building of God, our smiles disappear? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? That the joy you find in Jesus even make it wider?
We have it all wrong. We find the Church to be a place of restrictions, of limitations, when it should be where we feel most at home. We have grown up being scolded by our parents for “singing too loud” and/or “laughing during the Homily.” Maybe our voice can’t really be tamed and maybe, just maybe, the priest just so happened to crack a funny joke but our parents were too deep in their so-called contemplation — which is really just sleep — to catch the punchline.
Don’t get me wrong: dress code, proper decorum and participation are very important for young churchgoers to learn. These are things no generation should forget, that’s for sure. The Church (the building) is and forever will be a Holy one.
Let the children come to Him as they are.
To the priests who get irritated by crying children and parents who feel embarrassed by their children’s behavior (unless it’s a totally rowdy one), do not send them away. They will grow up discouraged to express their faith in their own unique ways. They will end up putting on a stone-cold face and crossing their arms like many people we see in Church today. They will end up empty Catholics, with no praise in their heart and no song in their lungs.
The call for us all, even those who aren’t children anymore, is to be childlike. Take note: Childish isn’t a synonym. To be childlike is to strip yourself off of your excessive pride, your so-called high reputation, your image in the face of God and praise Him. To be childlike is to come to Him as you are. To run to His arms as a child would run to his/her parents’ arms after the dreaded first day of school.
I was packing for my Baguio retreat when I encountered the prayer booklet I kept as a kid. I opened the Love Notes to Jesus portion — and was amused by how I phrased my prayers: simple, no pretentious words, pretty illogical with my concept of family, “good luck Jesus” (best thing I’ve ever written), and my demanding attitude with Jesus.
But it was sincere. And heartfelt.
“For what else can we give to the children we meet,
But to teach them to know and then watch them all grow,
When they try and they fall, it’s no problem at all
Tell them give it their best,
And let God do the rest.”
(For When I Was A Child, 3999 the Musical)