“Please ignore people’s eyes rolling and heads turning when your children are ‘playing up’ inside the house of God. I want you to know that they are always welcome,” says Fr Michael Psaromatis.
When Adelaide-based Greek Orthodox priest, Father Michael Psaromatis, posted a heartfelt message to his parishioners last Friday letting them know that he is fully supportive and perfectly aware of their struggles and efforts to bring their children to church, he never anticipated that within minutes parishioners from all over Australia would take to social media to express their gratitude towards his thoughtful gesture.
“I am aware when you become red-faced, breaking out into sweats when your children start fidgeting and fussing inside the church, and I want you to know, that I have so much respect and admiration on how much you try to keep them quiet and calm during the church service,” wrote father Michael, aged 34, and one of the youngest, most forward-thinking priests in Adelaide.
“I admire how prepared you are when you come in, how hard you try and chase them down the aisle to nullify their noise and movements and I want you to know that I also feel your pain when I see those heads that turn in your direction and the eyes that roll, indicating a shameful dismay at the fact that you cannot keep your children under control and quiet when all you are doing is trying to participate in the Liturgy and hear the sermon.”
Father Michael’s post sent a clear message to the rest of the parishioners to be less judgemental and more supportive towards young families who try and attend church services.
“As a priest, I experience the inner bliss of distributing Holy Communion to little children, who are more worthy than all of us to approach the chalice of life. Your children teach me and us all with their innocence, that we need to become like them to inherit the Kingdom of God so let’s all take a moment to appreciate how blessed we are to have the young families and their children with us, actively participating in your and our struggle on the journey to the Kingdom of God. A struggle that includes seeing infants, toddlers, young children, whose parents are willing to brave the discomfort, inconvenience and stress of bringing them into Church, even if it seems completely futile.”
In his heartfelt message, the son of one of the longest-serving priests of Adelaide, paid special tribute to the majority of his parishioners who are there to support the young parents and families and seek to assist where they can, sometimes simply by smiling at the young parents in an attempt to provide strength and courage to keep on going.
“There are those of course who seem nervous, not because they are annoyed, but because they want you to feel at peace but aren’t sure how to physically help and so, proceed to pray for your family,” says father Michael pleading with young parents to build the strength and courage and continue to bring their children to Church.
“Young families are our future,” he concluded, adding that “if you do not hear crying, the church is dying.”
Social media users have since shared the priests message, congratulating him on having the courage to speak up about a matter that’s close to most Greek Orthodox young parents’ hearts.
“I am the first to admit that I find it hard to be in church with my kids. I haven’t included my son for just this reason. It’s nice to know that our Fathers know we try. I’ve heard the clicks of tongues, the stares and the words spoken in judgement and it’s hard,” wrote a mother of three.
“Before I was Orthodox and attended a church service where any noise of children caused horror, I often wondered; how can you possibly expect these children to be faithful in worship when they are adults if you refuse to welcome them as children,” wrote another user who recently joined the Greek Orthodox religion.
“The children in church are a real blessing. We learn so much from them. No matter if they cry, run around or make noise. Seeing them kiss the icons, receive holy communion and witnessing the sheer joy in their faces is inspirational,” wrote another.
“I needed this. It’s been so hard trying to take my newborn and his two-year-old brother to church service on a Sunday morning, but I really want to go so please don’t judge me. I am only trying,” wrote a young mother.
“We are so blessed to have you as our spiritual guide and thank you for making us feel welcome despite the troubles our son might be causing inside your church from time to time,” wrote the father of a young autistic boy.