It’s inevitable that (especially in small churches) at one point your little boy will want to run through the altar. It’s not a very long period of time. Maybe a year/year and a half maximum. I’m sure this is very frustrating to most priests (who know the sanctity of the place and who need to focus on their prayers), to many deacons (who have to chase these kids around), and to parents (who have no idea how to stop this!).
I’ve decided that it’s both natural and right.* I’ve seen enough little boys grow up to know that the ones who are comfortable in the altar are often the ones who stay at the altar. My mother-in-law would always tell me, when my husband was still a deacon, “Keep him serving in the altar. He needs to be close to the altar.” I wonder if she knew (of course she did) that he would end up at the altar forever in the priesthood.
While I’m not yet comfortable encouraging my son to stay quite that permanently close to the altar, I do want him like Mary, Martha’s sister, sitting at Christ’s feet, listening, learning and loving–intently. So, maybe I’ll let him run through the altar. I know the deacons will enjoy chasing him around.
I did hear about a priest who, as a young boy, used to sit quietly in the women’s side of the altar watching his father (also a priest) serving. I wonder how one would go about making that happen…
*I know, I know. If you’re in a large church and there are dozens of little boys, you have to find a solution for this. One or two little boys can be tolerable, but four, five, ten? I’ll think it over and get back to you. Or if you have a solution, let me know!