Rocking Babies in Church

baby over mother's shoulder

My husband and I were at Mass on Saturday night and during the opening hymn, I noticed the woman in the pew ahead of us holding her baby daughter. As the music grew, the mother rocked back and forth to the music. Up in the front row, I noticed another woman holding a baby close, dipping and rocking to the swells of the music, her participation in the liturgy adding to my own.

I remembered how I did that same public dance with my own children a few decades earlier, with and without music. I rocked and soothed them in church, in line at the grocery store, or any place where they were required to be still. In those years my mind seemed to be filled with an endless inventory of things to do or places to be. But time rocking in line with one of my babies meant that my mental list-making was accented by my pauses for a kiss on the neck, a smell of a cheek, or a whisper of deep love into their ears.

During Mass, as I watched these women moving with their babies, I realized that I had begun to sway back and forth, too, as if re-entering those loving moments.

It occurred to me that Jesus is a lot like the mothers in that church, and we are the beloved children being held. No matter what we are busy with or distracted by, or whether or not we are even paying attention, Jesus is holding us close, rocking us gently and offering sweet words of love into our ears.


  1. I thought it natural to bring my baby daughter to the front of the church where she could see the lights and feel the music.
    Thank you,

  2. I, too, love watching people rock in time to the parents rocking their babies. A few years ago, I visited with a young Buddhist abbot, who talked about meditating while walking and rocking his newborn baby late at night, and remembered my own times of praying night prayer, rocking a sleeping little one.
    The image of God so close to us is so powerful — thank you for the reminder.

  3. Dear Maureen~
    Well written! This was an absolutely lovely reflection and brought back some cherished memories. Children – then sometimes the grandchildren- and the music of the heart goes on.
    P.S.I miss reading the comments! Nice to see when other people write their thoughts.

  4. I cantor in Mass and sing in our choir. I have noticed that when I cantor the psalm, I tend to rock or sway. Maybe it calms my nerves as I sing.

  5. Thank you, Maureen, for bringing to mind some very fond memories of carrying my daughters during Mass when they were infants and even toddlers. It was always one of the best moments of the week for me, and I know from their telling me that those songs we swayed to are still a deep part of their consciousness and I am so glad of that. “Be Not Afraid,” “One Bread, One Body,” “Let Us Build The City of God,” the Our Father, and “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again,” are part of their cell structure and woven intricately into their memories. Storyteller John Shea says, “Effective communication within any tradition is always a matter of one generation holding the next to its heart.”


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