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What does a toddler remember from the Sunday homily?

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More than you you may think!

Have you ever, as a parent, wondered if there was really any point to taking your young child to Mass? It’s not unusual to have that doubt, and I admit, I’ve had it too. I push it away, but when the thought returns like a boomerang, I think back to a moment that happened to us a few years ago. Our oldest son was barely three, but he was pretty skilled at various chores. I wanted to introduce him to making a bed. Are you wondering what that has to do with a Sunday sermon? Read on, and you won’t wonder about taking your kids to Mass anymore, despite all the inconvenience …

Frankie and the pillows

“Frank, please put the pillows on the bed while I finish making dinner,” I said.

“But I can’t do it.”

“Honey, you can do it. You’ve done it so many times already, don’t you remember?” I finished with a smile and left the room, still watching what was happening.

For a few seconds, Frank stood helplessly next to the bed. Then, to my momentary dissatisfaction, he climbed onto the bed without the pillows. What was he doing? Over our bed, there hang a cross and a Mother of God icon, and Frank quickly started a conversation.

“Jesus, please help me put those pillows on the bed. I can’t do it alone.”

Then he waited. He stood like that, watching the cross and waiting for something to happen. I wish I could have seen my own face at that moment. I entered the room slowly.

“Frankie, what are you doing?” I asked.

“Mom, I can’t do the pillows by myself. I asked Jesus to help me,” he replied, still looking at the cross.

“And?” I asked uneasily, feeling that in a moment I would have to explain difficult concepts to a three-year-old in simple language, and I was already thinking about how to do it.

“He didn’t get off the cross, and he didn’t help me,” he said disappointed, and he became sad.

Jesus gave me strength

I could only think of one way to react: I hugged my son and sighed, thinking of a possible answer, but luckily my husband stepped in and said enthusiastically, “Frank, Jesus didn’t have to come off the cross now.”

“Nooooo?” Surprised, Frank drew out the syllable.

“He gave you strength so that you could do it alone now. Try it.”

Frank got to work, and soon the pillows were where they should be. Proud of himself, happy, with big sparkling eyes, he started to jump on the bed.

“You know, when we receive something, it’s good to thank Jesus for it,” said Dad, and Frank immediately started. “Thank you, Jesus, because I am very strong now,” he said, showing off his hands.

“Frank …?” I wanted to find the source of his precocious faith. “Frank, why did you ask Jesus for help?”

What a three-year-old hears in church

Frank was no longer interested in conversation, as he started to test his strength by picking up the comforter, but he replied without even thinking, “The priest said so in church.”

My husband and I exchanged glances, and we thought of the ending of the previous night’s sermon: “If we don’t know how to do something, or something is not working out, then let’s say to Jesus, ‘Lord Jesus, I can’t do it alone, please help me,’ and he will certainly help you.”

The little three-year-old trusted and simply did what he was advised to do in church.

Little children hear, remember, and understand more than we think, including in matters of faith and spirituality when we take them to church. Sometimes I feel that children are my little teachers of faith — the simple, trusting and devoted kind. As parents, this is one important thing we can do: give them a chance to listen to God’s word.

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