As a 6th grade CCD teacher, I found myself yesterday afternoon at a Children’s Mass. My reactions to Masses geared toward children typically range from fatheaded (“Never!”) to broadminded (“Fine as long as I’m not around”). About half an hour into his homily Father warned the kids not to go to the bathroom during the canon of the Mass, and my 11-year-old son leaned over to whisper, “If we ever get to that part!” Kids and keepers alike began to unravel.
But lo and behold! We did get to the canon, and as the solemn tones of that august prayer rolled over the pews the seething mass of kinderfolk settled into an uncharacteristic moment of focus. Like a vision, awareness suddenly gripped me of the baptismal character at work in each tiny head.
Every child in that building had been baptized, marked as a member of Christ’s body. Most of them had reached the age of reason and could receive communion. We know that the communion of an 8-year-old is a bobbly thing, sliding up and down depending on the focus of the moment, and yet we believe that even an 8-year-old has achieved sufficient use of reason and sufficient attention for the priestly act of receiving communion.
Do we realize as clearly that they can also perform the priestly act of offering the Mass in the manner of all the faithful? Do we take that seriously? Or do we just think they are cute?
The baptismal character is there from infancy, like a huge battery sealed in rubber. As the brain develops and the personality forms, the seal around the battery wears away until—admittedly in fits and starts, depending on humidity and the orientation of the planets, the quality of breakfast and the time lapse since the last bathroom break—that pent-up energy is released in actions pertaining formally to the body of Christ.
Much depends on what mental and emotional habits they have formed when that energy breaks out.