About a year ago, my family was on vacation and attended Sunday Mass at a local church. In our parish, our kids go up to Communion with us because the ministers bless the kids (and adults) who do not receive. As my son approached the Eucharistic minister at this church, the minister presented the host to Matthew. I shook my head, and the man looked a little puzzled. I realized what was going on, so I gently guided Matthew with me as we continued around the church. When we got back to the pew, my son was upset. I offered to walk back up, but go to the priest this time (thinking the issue was that only the priest would offer the blessing).
We were the last two in line. As we approached the priest, he held out a host for Matthew. I shook my head, so he offered it to me. I said, “I already received and he hasn’t made his First Communion yet. He just wanted to be blessed.” I was unprepared for his response: “Oh, we don’t do that here,” the priest said as he abruptly turned and walked back to the altar. I was stunned. I can understand if it is not their common practice to bless children who don’t receive, but I couldn’t understand why we were turned away after making a special effort to receive a blessing.
As we were getting ready to go to Mass while on vacation this year, my son surprised me by saying, “Mom, are we going back to the church that doesn’t bless children?” Though I have thought about that day many times over the last year, I couldn’t believe Matthew still remembered it. I assured him we were going to a different church, but he still insisted on knowing if they blessed children. I said I thought so, but I wasn’t sure. On the way to Mass, Matthew again asked, “But Mom, what if they don’t bless children here?”
I continue to pray that after reflecting on his actions, that priest decides to react differently in the future. I know that sometimes when presented with a split-second decision, I too, can make one I later regret. I also pray in thanksgiving that this happened to us, and not to someone who had just started coming back to church. One negative experience like this can make a big difference to those without many positive experiences of church.
I encourage us all, as the Body of Christ, to remember that one seemingly small action can have a lasting impact. Be friendly, caring, and welcoming—not every once in awhile, not just on Sunday mornings—but always. You never know when your welcoming smile may just tip the scales for a person deciding between coming back to church and forgetting it altogether.