Sunday, April 1, 2012

Crying children call to mind the mystery of the Mass

It is not uncommon today for parents to feel awkward about bringing young children to Mass. If, when they are in the church, the toddlers or infants begin to fuss and cry, the parents often struggle to quiet their little ones before other parishioners become annoyed. Many parishes now have cry-rooms to segregate these noisy kids from the rest of the Christian community.
For me, as a priest, the sound of crying children calls to mind the mystery of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Children, crying at church
Happily, many parishioners and priests recognize that the sound of young children is the sound of the future of the Church. What a joy it is to hear children at Mass! If the Church is pro-life, how can we possibly be upset by the presence of an infant?
And, if any should respond that he would be happy to welcome quiet babies but not noisy ones, I reply that his love is a matter of words only, since quiet babies hardly exist. In any case, we must love the child in our midst, not merely the “perfect” child who exists only in our mind.
Certainly, parents need to teach their children, and discipline them (in all meekness and clemency). Parents must instruct these little ones in how to pray during Mass.
Still, one can hardly expect that infants and toddlers would be anything other than noisy and distracted. There is no sin, nor even slight fault, in an infant crying at Mass. But there is sin in the adult who, in his heart, passes judgment on that child’s parents.
And, while I personally am opposed to cry-rooms (how can we justify expelling children who have committed no fault?!), I suppose that they do give some parents at least a bit of relief when things get out of hand. So, if a parent wants to make use of a cry-room, that is his prerogative; but I am convinced that it is a sin for another to judge a parent for not making use of the infants’ ghetto.
What to think when children cry during Mass
“But Father,” you say, “the kids cry so loud, I can’t stand it!”
I reply: There are several things one can consider when we hear children crying. They are the future of our parish. Their noisy cries call to mind the inaudible lament of the souls in purgatory, for whom we ought to pray. Such noises teach us patience. And so forth.
But I will show you a yet greater way.
Mary wept at the foot of the Cross
When you hear a child crying during Mass, let the sound of those tears call to mind the mystery of the Cross. The Holy Mass is, of course, one with the true sacrifice offered by Christ once for all upon the Cross at Golgotha. The Mass is a sacrifice, it is the Cross.
Consider: Who was weeping at the Cross? And who was insensitive to those sounds of weeping?
When St. Thomas Aquinas chronicles the torments which our Savior suffered in his ignominious Passion, the Angelic Doctor ends with the following pain, which was most grievous of all:
“Christ suffered in all his bodily senses: […] in sight, by beholding the tears of his Mother and of the disciple whom he loved.” [ST III, q.46, a.5 (here)]
Let the sound of toddlers and infants weeping (and even wailing) call to mind for you the tears shed by the Sorrowful Mother of our Savior, and by St. John the Beloved. Can you hear the wailing of St. Mary Magdalene, she who was overcome with grief? Consider also the other devout women, who wept strait through from Friday till early Sunday morning.
Think even of poor St. Peter, far away now, weeping alone – having betrayed the Lord whom he loved, more even than all the others.
Who did not weep, but instead scoffed at the mourners
And who was it that did not weep? The soldiers … ignorant, and brutal. The crowd … fickle and unloving. The priests, scribes and Pharisees … filled with hate.
Of these, it was the Jewish authorities more than the others who took offense at the noise of those who wailed and wept. These ones, righteous in their own estimation, had not even the charity to be touched by the tears of the Blessed Mother.
And how can I, or any, cast a spiteful glance in the direction of a crying child (or his parents)? How can I, or any, wish these children to be exiled from my presence? Am I, or you, so holy as to be above charity?
For the love of our Savior, let the sounds of these crying children call these thoughts to mind. From the lips of babes, our Lord has found praise – and we will have been instructed in the sublime mystery of the Cross.
And I, being a rough little fellow …
I am reminded of a phrase from the heroic St. Josemaria Escriva – though he was speaking of that other event in Jesus’ life which mystically foreshadowed his death (namely, when his Mother and St. Joseph lost him at the age of twelve, and found him in the Temple on the third day).
The Founder and Father of Opus Dei speaks to each of us individually and says,
“Mary is crying … And you … And I. Being a rough little fellow, I cry my eyes out and wail to heaven and earth, … to make up for the times when I lost him through my own fault and did not cry.
“You and I are united in misfortune and grief, as we were united in sin. And, from the depths of our being come sighs of heartfelt sorrow and burning phrases, which the pen cannot and should not record.”
Every time I celebrate Mass, I pray that God will allow a little child to cry – lest I should ever lose sight of the mystery which I am consummating.
NB. I would ask that all comments have at least a pseudonym attached (even if only at the end of the comment itself).


ellen said...

Very beautifully said, Father. May I just add. we shouldn't jump to conclusions even if older children appear to be "out of control", sometimes a child who doesn't appear to be handicapped may have problems not visible to the naked eye. All distractions in Mass are an opportunity to exercise self-control and "offer it up".

Charlotte said...


Paddy said...

I've lost track of the amount of parents who apologise at the church doors for their noisy offspring ... & I have no idea what they are talking about. Some children do create a genuine disturbance, but most of the time the kids are well within tolerance level & the parents, out of embarrasment, imagine it is far worse than it is. We must 'suffer the little children' to come unto the Lord's house ... because if they don't get into the habit of coming as children, there is a good chance they will never develop the habit.

Anonymous said...

At this Passion Sunday Mass a young girl probably 2 years or had been intermittently chatting and fussy at the very conclusion of the Lamb of God prayer she responded in a loud voice 'Amen'! My prayer was that she would always retain her enthusiasm for the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful article Father! This is exactly what our Pastor told us that is why he removed the cry room in our parish.

Anonymous said...

AS 4 year old convert (actually 62) I choke up always at the Eucharist. maybe because I am still a baby in the church. I always smile and get a warm feeling when I hear a baby cry. Is this age in Christ or the Holy Spirit welcoming his new babies.

Adam said...

@ellen, there is a definite difference between handicapped children with problems not visible to the naked eye on the one hand, and just poorly parented children on the other. I am surprised by how many parents don't have even the appearance of wanting to discipline their unruly children. Surely, we have as a culture forgotten the wisdom of discipline.

As a father of five boys, crying doesn't tend to bother me until it becomes such a disturbance that it seems uncharitable on the part of the parents to not do something to mitigate the disturbance. There is something to be said for respecting the Mass by avoiding, where possible, excessive disturbances.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

TO ALL: A friendly reminder ... use at least a pseudonym when making a comment.

At least at the bottom ... like this ...

- Fr. Ryan

patrick said...

Give me a break! The Mass, amongst many other lesser but still important ceremonies, rituals, or instances is not the proper venue for loud screaming or bewailment. Whether by child or by adult. If you wouldn't want screaming or wailing at your wedding, ordination, in your class room, at your graduation, at the presentation of the Medal of Honor, or other important times THEN WHY WOULD YOU AT MASS?

-Patrick Wells

deshaun said...

As a parent who was once verbally abused by a priest for momentarily losing control of a 2yo in the Adoration chapel (so much so that I never returned with my kids to that parish) I welcome your truly kind comments Fr. Ryan. Actually I was in the middle of penance when the little one acted up and I decided to finish the penance and then drag the little one out. But the priest came and attacked me in this exact moment. For year I thought I must have done wrong by not breaking the penance strianght away (there was nobody else, except Jesus, in the Adoration chapel). Anyway the whole experience left me with a very bad taste in the mouth, not least because I had wanted to do the right thing but ended up getting such a verbal assault that I never darkened that door again.

God be with you Father. I love your blog and learn so much from it.

Anonymous said...

In our church, the acoustics are bad, so when a child is fussing and crying nearby, it is impossible to hear any reading or homily. My wife whe is non catholic and is not that tolerable to being in church and not able to hear. She has a point, I think. If you're up front with the priest, the noise is far less noticable. Cry rooms are valuable in some churches.

John on Columbus

Matt R said...

As a 30 year old father of 5 (soon to be 6) children all age 6 and under, I can safely say that I can't stand the cry room. My wife and I refuse to go into that little ghetto. My biggest peeve is that children raised in the cry room never learn how to act in church. They can eat, drink and be merry in the cry room and it takes them until age 10 to figure out how to behave in the actual church. My kids are generally pretty good, but I have a three year old who can't stop talking and a 2 year old just beginning on that same journey. I sometimes get looks/glares from people, but always remember that Christ rebuked the Apostles for trying to remove children from his presence!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Matt R, Thank you for being open to life and bringing your children to Mass ... AND for allowing them to remain with the community! :-)

@deshaun, I am very sorry that you had to endure that. I thank you for bringing the child. Let us pray for that poor priest. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I think you make a very good point ... this is yet another reason why it is so bad for people to judge parents or children during Mass! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Patrick Wells, Thank you for proving my point about the lack of charity in those who complain about crying children.
Is even the mere thought of it so bad as to make you rant with exclamation points and all caps? +

yan said...

Mass is supposed to be holy and loving; I agree that impatience with those who through no fault of their own are a little noisy from time to time is indicative of a lack of charity. If we love the least among us we have to be able to tolerate their imperfections.

Of course, this is not to excuse parents that do not do their part to teach reverence, discipline, and the quietness necessary and appropriate to attending mass. But teaching is a work in progress and we should not only tolerate that but celebrate it.

I think that some people who find themselves impatient with infants should try mass in the developing world some time.


Psalm 63 said...

There is nothing wrong with a crying infant who erupts briefly during the Mass, but if a child is screaming non-stop, the parent should remove them. We do love that children are being brought to church, but expecting everyone sitting around them to listen to a screaming child for an hour is asking a bit much. Parents are usually very good in knowing there is a limit.
There are also parents who do not teach their children to be silent in church. These are the children who are kicking the pew in front of them, banging the kneeler up and down, talking out loud with no admonishment etc.
Your article makes a not so thinly veiled accusation that those who are not filled with joy at the screaming wails of a child are filled with hate or untouched by the tears of the Blessed Mother. That to me is uncharitable and wrong.
Don't mix the two.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Psalm 63,
Well ... I think we all know that parents have a duty to instruct their children.
Also, I think we all (hopefully) recognize that it is the parents' prerogative and not something that the other parishioners have a right to judge.

So, yes, I agree with your point in theory ... and, in practice, I am happy to let parents decide how best to manage their children in church -- without judging.

Finally, please allow me to remove that "thin veil" to which you referred: When someone judges parents for not taking their noisy child out of the church, that person commits a sin.
To be brought to anger by a child, who doesn't even know any better, is a real lack of charity.

Far better to let the "inconvenience" of children at Mass remind us of the Blessed Mother.

Wendy said...

I'm the mother three live-wires aged 6, 4, and 1 1/2. I try to make it to daily Mass for my sake (I need the grace), my children's sake (they need it too, and they get it simply from being in Our Lord's presence), and the world's sake (intercessory prayer.) It's a big struggle to keep them in order; but despite lots of effort, when we're there, it's just not as quiet as it would be if we weren't.

I have real sympathy for people who are upset about over-the-top behavior in Mass. But I've also realized (and I was a culprit myself) that a childless person can expect a level of quiet at Mass which simply is not reasonable if there are children there. And people who had more naturally biddable children can be unaware of the challenges presented by stronger willed youngsters.

A hard look or word can be a horrible experience for a parent who's trying hard to bring their children before the Lord at Mass and help them behave well. If the Spirit is moving you to give feedback to a parent, please pray first to say just the right thing in a loving way.

On the bright side, being quietly friendly to families with children is a great act of charity. I've felt the love of Our Lord in a special way coming through the patient people of many ages who have gone out of their way to smile at me and my children at Mass. Their kindly words, gestures, or just smiles have been a real blessing. Our Lord's face shone through theirs!

Thanks, Father, for the idea about the tears before the cross. What a great way (for parents, not just others!) to turn the straw of kiddie distractions to the gold of meditation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post Father! It helped me get through mass today with my crying toddler.

Anonymous said...

Father, In addition to thanking you for helping during mass today with my toddler, I'd like to add...I've noticed my 14 month old imitating everything lately. my husband and I usually tag team on Sunday. I go to mass early solo and my husband stays home with my kids (6 years and 14months). My husband goes at night with our six year old. Well, since I've noticed my littlest picking up things so fast I now take him to daily mass as much as I can, It is much shorter. So, it is easier to handle him. Sunday mass is still too much for him to behave through. I even took him to adoration for an hour (not my choice, husband was out of town during my scheduled hour). I prayed about it first and my son was deliighful. He was gabby and clapping and raising a joyful noise unto the Lord in his own way. Thanks again for the great post! It is extremely stressful to take young children to mass. You're post was very uplifting. God bless you!

James Joseph said...

I like having babies cry so loud it drowns out all other sound when at church. I find it helps to remind me that I don't actually have to understand or even know what it is going on in order to receive grace... just keeping proximate to the sabbath place where the priest has his feet is enough.

Unknown said...

An observation follows here, nothing more. Our local Hispanic mass is characterized by children who wander throughout the church during the mass, and it drives some other parishioners absolutely nuts. On the other hand, that Hispanic community is also known for great reverence for the Eucharist--they will not approach the sacrament when they have not been to confession, maintained the fast or when they are concerned that they are in mortal sin. It's not unusual to see half the adults refrain on any given Sunday. Among the complainers, no one ever refrains from receiving and I rarely see any outward gestures of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament (genuflecting, for example, or bowing when about to receive...) Just an observation....

Sarah said...

This article is refreshing in its perspective. I have read many articles about this subject and, more often than not, there is great criticism of children/parents.
To those who would criticize I would ask why we always focus on "irritating" children when there are so many other "irritating" behaviors at Mass. Should we banish people who can't sing on key? Who don't shower often enough? Who are dressed immodestly? Who have tourrets syndrome? Who shake hands to hard? We have not created separate rooms for these people to sit nor do people verbally chastise them after Mass. Why is the pressure reserved just for children?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the little ones could be seated in the front row rather together, and near the Ambo, where the Reader, the priest, the homilist, could even better appreciate the high volume of yowling and distraction of noisy child chatter.

Oddly, when the one at the Ambo is drowned out entirely, and with some regularity, there comes more of an inclination to respect the Sacrifice of the Mass for what it is, and rein in the liberality in the day care atmosphere.

Susan Fox said...

One of the blessings of being a Catholic attending Mass is that even if someone is wildly distracting, we can remain certain that we know what's going on and Jesus will be there for us in the Eucharist no matter what. It's not a cult of personality where there's nothing to be gained if we can't hear the preacher

Anonymous said...

Dear Father,
As a parent of 3 boys 5 and under it is hard to pay attention to anything at Mass. Most of our time is spent correcting or entertaining the children. I wish the Catholic church followed the Protestant model and let the little ones go to their own Sunday school so at least the parents could fully pa rticpate at Mass. Otherwise Mass just ends up being a constant battle.

SWP said...

I really appreciated the advice given to me by one parent, to take my toddler to daily mass every so often, so she can learn the motions. It has been hard to get her to cooperate in every instance, but on the whole, she is largely well-behaved. We are seeing improvement over the course of the year. It can be extremely mortifying when she acts up, and I wish I could be as generous as Father with my toddler who is pushing limits and testing boundaries in all aspects- at Mass, at the dinner table, at restaurants. -SWAP

SWP said...

I think people have to learn to accept the developmental readiness or unreadiness of little kids, yet I also want my toddler to learn that acting up in some situations is not appropriate. It takes time and patience for everyone. So long as parents are showing signs of dedication to the task at hand, they should be given supportive leeway and affirmation from the parish. -SWAP

helgothjb said...

Thank you for this post. I have 5 little ones and have often been rebuked for noisy children, especially at daily Mass. I also think that many people expect the Mass to create a contemplative ambience for them. For them, Mass is about the experience. However, Mass is a public act of worship and adoration offered to God. It is something that we do (words and actions) not a passive experience such as watching a movie. When the noise of a child prevent one from actively joining in the prayers, then they should be removed. The Mass is not the theater or the symphony. Rather, the liturgy is a work that we are actively to perform for the Glory of God.

Unknown said...

Beautiful! As mother to a very loud, loquacious 2-year-old, I really appreciate this. I've been blessed with priests who are understanding when my children make noise. Thank you.

Davor Aslanovski said...

Dear Father Erlenbush,

I love your blog and read it regularly, but this post is a real disappointment.
The crying of children is in no way reminiscent of Mary's crying at the foot of the Cross. The children are most often not crying for any other reason but that they get irritable. And I don't think that that's why Mary cried, ever. So the connection is far fetched at best. Also, bear in mind that we, as adults, also get irritable. We get irritable when something unpleasant continually gnaws at our nerves. And irritability is NOT anger. Anger is a desire of vengeance, and we certainly don't wish to take any vengeance on the noisy children and/or their parents. We just want the irritation to stop. And if we happened to be so bad at controlling our feelings and behavior as to actually start CRYING because we can't hear the words of the liturgy, would our cries resemble that of Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross? Certainly not. And whose cries would you, as a priest, more sympathize with in such a situation?
Furthermore, is it not a sin to be distracted and/or to distract others at Mass?
And, finally, what exactly is the point of bringing infants to Mass at all? What and how do infants profit from that?

Michelangelo said...

Dear Father,

I agree, and when I happen to catch the eye of a parent with the crying child, I always smile. I also try to use it as an opportunity to surrender any irritation in reparation for my many sins, and as intercession for that family and all families with young children...

Those of us who are of a certain age remember our Pastors who would stop Mass, turn from the Altar, raise his voice, name the parent and demand that the parent remove the crying child, and he would not resume the Mass until the parent left with the child. Of course back then, the church was filled to the rafters. I agree with you, and I know that you, and probably your pastor, are great friends and fathers to all your parishioners, so that, if there is a particular problem in a family, you can charitably address it with the parents after Mass or at another time. God bless you, Father.

Anonymous said...

I think what the main message we should take away is that it's wrong in every circumstance to allow yourself to be overcome with anger, frustration, and judgement over the actions of a child (or their parents). To do so is not truly understanding the meaning of the gospel message of Christ. Loving others in their faults is a true sacrifice, one worthy of offering, in order to build up the body of Christ! Let us not fall into a trap of spiritual pride within out own church family. Division is a work of the enemy. What's worse crying or disruptive children or no young families sitting in our pews. Let us pray for one another and our holy priests in this area.

-J. Braud

Stacy Trasancos said...

Thank you Father for a beautiful reflection. Even a little encouragement makes such a difference. Parents with little children are not always thinking as clearly as they wish they could. Little ones are full of surprises! They will test you in every possible way, in phases over the years. But by the time they receive First Communion, they know how to behave.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Davor A.,
The fact that you do not see why it is good to bring infants to Mass at all tells me that this discussion is really far over your head.

We need to go back to the basics -- the value of the Mass, the family as the domestic Church and a school of holiness, the way in which parents pass on the faith.

Even on a very practical level ... do you think the parents should just leave the infants home alone? ... or shall the mother and father take turns failing in the Sunday obligation so as to keep the crying child out of your ear-shot?

To your question: "Is it a sin to be distracted/distract others at Mass?"
The answer is: To be voluntarily distracted by crying children (through allowing oneself to get angry or through judging the parents, or entertaining frustrations) is a sin.
However, there is no sin on the part of the child who is distracting. (in some cases, there could THEORETICALLY be sin on the part of the parents if they are neglecting their kids or something like that, but that would rarely be the case in REALITY)

Well ... this probably sounds pretty harsh ... but you really need to think about it. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I know it is hard sometimes ... especially when the boys are 5 and under.
Persevere! You are doing good!
Thank you for bringing them to Mass!

I am sure it can be distracting for you at times ... but your children are a blessing for the whole community -- and I simply cannot bear the thought of casting them forth from our presence. +

Anonymous said...

People who talk and socialize with others before mass in the pews are like the spectators at the crucifixion of Christ. Those in the band who after the band tuneup, who do drum riffs, or mini guitar solos, or piano ditties 5 min. before mass are like those who applaud and jeered at Christ on the cross. We are expected to endure these like Mary and the women of Galilee because the priest/pastor will not correct and there are no nuns anymore to patrol the aisles and enforce common sense and respect for silence in the "House of Prayer".

Rather our priests/pastors defer to the noise and we must put up with all.


Anonymous said...

I'm a 61 year old grandfather who loves the sound of children at mass. They are precious to the Lord, and while they need to be taught proper respect in due season, that doesn't need to happen until they are mature enough to understand. In the mean time, I have less grace for cell phones going off in mass than children.

Anonymous said...

I was told when my children were little that my offering during mass was in teaching the children God entrusted to me how to learn the mass. That if I missed the readings and leave feeling like I missed the whole mass I was teaching my children to be a family in the Lord's house. This gave me great comfort. Now when I see parents having a rough time at mass I feel the Lord impelling me to tell them that they are great parents to be here with their children and not to worry how much they miss just know they are making God happy bringing their children to see Him. -ramona

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

I wish the Catholic church followed the Protestant model..

We tried that with the Mass and that was a failure....

Unknown said...

Just to add to what I said above, I have had times when I wished I could've focused more instead of corralling my children, but it isn't the kids' fault, and they are learning. When I brought it up with a wonderful monk and priest, he just reminded me that Jesus said to bring the children. He also insisted that I sit in the front so the children can see, and so I do. They go with me almost daily and learn from it. Yes, my daughter is louder, but often it's that she's pointing out statues or finding Mary in the Magnificat magazine. I admit that prior to having children, I was less tolerant. God's ensuring that I learn my lesson. ;-)

Again, thank you, Father. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this.

bbmac said...

I don't recall any crying children at the Last Supper...:P
Of course, children aren't perfect, but when parents are handing over car keys for them to bash off pews or toys that create noise, you can't expect other parishoners to 'just deal with it'. When parents allow children to run around or continually wail so as to make it impossible for anyone to hear the Gospel, something should be done.
I've seen parents bring their toddlers to Adoration and week by week you can see the change in how they behave. If parents bring their kids to Mass and act as if its a cinema, then the children will feed off that. If the parents engender a sense of the sacred early on, we would all be happy.
Everyone is saying how young children aren't perfect, but remember that the disgruntled parishoner (who may have had a bad week at work, problems at home or money issues) sitting beside you isn't perfect either....

Chatto said...

Wow, lots of discussion, as expected, I suppose. I'll throw in my tuppence worth:

I train the servers at our parish, and a number of times before Mass we've approached the entrance (we begin at the back) so they can hear how noisy the adults are. "It's not children who don't know to behave at Mass," I always say. "It's the grown-ups." They get the point.

At one particularly child-noisy Mass, Father took a moment at the end to tell us about a walk in the country he took with his dogs, whose presence caused the new-born lambs to run to their mothers. He called the parish's more-noisy-than-usual babies the "bleating lambs of the flock of God," and made sure we knew they were welcome in our fold. I'll remember that for a long time.

While I don't mind the toddlers who make a dash for the Lecturn or Altar, and I don't mind scooping them up and taking them back (I also serve), I do the mind the accusing looks of their parents, who look at me as if I've deprived their child of their right to play in the sanctuary. Children have to learn genuine piety, respect for the sacred, but too many adults don't have it to pass on to them.

Michelangelo said...

Dear Father,

Regarding the practical solution of the problem of honestly not being able to hear the priest and homily because of the wall of sound... You've been at Masses in Rome where there are thousands of people and I imagine hundreds of babies, and then, how was it before amplification in big churches with hundreds of babies and just one voice of the priest? I don't think I've ever read about the practical solution. Is "the glare" I experienced as a child the way the priest dealt with it in the olden days?

As an aside, I'm hard of hearing and wear a hearing aid. So I have three options, actually. I can simply take it out or turn it off, but then I can't hear the priest either. I can use the regular switch and hear everything, or I can use the "loop" switch and then the priest is "inside my head", so, advances in technology do have practical and spiritual benefits!

And, friends, if all else fails, there's always our rosaries!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article Fr., It gave me so much to think about! Definitely another beautiful perspective to have about crying children.

I used to worry more about my children's minor noises and chattering. I have had several older parishioners come up to me though and remind me of all the grace my children receive by going to mass, even when its difficult. They encourage me and remind me that it gets better! Thank you Lord for such kind souls. By and by my 4 year old and 2.5 year old are getting better at behaving in mass.

My husband and I read the readings and a reflection from teh Magnificat publication before we go to Sunday mass so that we are already familiar with the scriptures in case we are otherwise occupied.

I am a former Protestant and so I love the sounds of children at mass. A living, breathing, growing church, Hallelujah!


George O'Toole said...

Nice to see a priest who is modern enough in his views to consider the "future" of the church as well as the "realities" of young parents who want to attend Mass but cannot just leave their children behind. Refreshing.

yan said...


Being too young to remember myself, I want to ask: was it really the case that previously, 'nuns....[would] patrol the aisles and enforce common sense and respect for silence in the "House of Prayer"'?

Certainly parents can use a reminder from time to time; otherwise, being human, some will slack off. What a great idea to keep us all mindful and set the proper tone. Setting the tone not only is helpful to parents but also to children, who can get the message of the need for reverence more easily when they are surrounded by examples of worshipers endeavoring to do the same.

Fr Francis said...

When I was the assistant priest in a parish 25 years ago I made exactly the same points that Father has made.

I said "If my parents hadn't taken me to Mass when I was a young child I probably wouldn't be here to celebrate Mass for you.

In fact young children have more right to be here than the rest of us - because they have not committed any sins which is more than can be said for anyone who has been "tut-tutting" at parents with young children.

As for those people - well, as usual I shall be hearing confessions after Mass."

There were no extra people at confession. But there was no more tut-tutting. And no one stopped coming to Mass either.

Unknown said...

Father, I'm really saddened by this article. In trying to address the lack of charity in some folks' judgement, you unknowingly encourage another regrettable trend in our society: the lack of charitable consideration towards others.

As a father of two toddlers, I can't remain in the pews when I understand the distraction that ear-ringing cries of infants and irrational tantrums of toddlers represent. If my child behaves this way, she and I walk to the back of the church or out of the nave for a short time for the sake of others. When I choose to face the stares of my brothers and sisters as I walk to the back of the church, I can see irritation melt away into relief, appreciation, or knowing approval as my love for them becomes evident in my own joyful sacrifice.

You could have called us parents to participate in the sacrifice of the mass by sacrificing our own comfort and attention out of charity for others. It's a basic moral imperative that if I am the cause of someone else's sin, I should at the very least do what is easily in my power to prevent it.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Mr. O'Brien,
First, THANK YOU for bringing your toddlers to Mass! And, for my part, I would love to see AND hear them during any of my Masses.

That being said, I do not mean to tell you (or any parent) how to handle your children during Mass -- except to say that you ought to bring them.
This is my main point: Let parents decide what is the best way, without stares and glares and "tisks" from others.

The article, as you will notice upon a careful re-reading, is not directed toward parents so much as toward other parishioners.
And, if a child is crying and the parents choose to keep the child in the church and try and work through it that way, then the best thing for everyone else to do is meditate on the tears of the Mother of God.

In any case ... don't you think it is a bit much for you to say "I am really saddened by this article"? ... I mean ... not just a "little bit" saddened, but "really" saddened?
I dunno ... just seems to me that your response is a bit disproportionate ...

Anonymous said...

I am a mother of 3 (5, 4 and 18 months). When my children were baptised I made a promise to God, the church and my children that I along with my husband would raise them in the Catholic faith. At that moment, they became a member of the church...just like the oldest member in our parish...we are all members. We do our very best to keep our children calm in church but also to keep them interested in Liturgy. Father I really, really appreciate your blog post and quite frankly this is the first time I have read your blog. Just to know that a priest is okay the mildly or sometimes not so mildly noise level coming from our pew makes all the difference to me. I pray before each mass that our family finds ourselves seated near understanding and loving individuals who can appreciate our committment to honor the promise we made with God at our children's baptism. My parish priest will smile as we leave mass each week...high five our kiddos and give us a approving nod. God Bless!!!
- BetsyB

Anonymous said...

As a father of two young children I can understand where you are coming from Father but I do think you are exaggerating your position somewhat.
We go and sit near the front for some of the very good reasons mentioned in the comments already. But we also avoid the "family" mass in our parish because we don't think our children will learn how to behave at mass from attending something more like rush hour in Victoria Station.
We are always trying to judge when to step in with the risk of causing meltdown of a child whose will has been thwarted and therefore giving rise to greater disturbance. While we don't like the stares we may sometimes get (frankly my wife notices more than I do) at the same time, it is very difficult to judge how loud our children are, and how much of a disturbance to anyone else; so we do in a way need some "feedback" from others; if they get really bad we take them out for a time.
For those who seem to think children should not be brought to mass at all, I doubt if it is any consolation, but they are far more distracting to their parents than anyone else.


Unknown said...

The proportionality of my response could and should be called into question. The article actually did make me profoundly sad, and I had to work out just why that is. I can't disagree at all with your points regarding the sinful judgment of some folks, the real value in Christians uniting their sufferings with the cross, and the farce that is the cry room.

You really did present a greater way for those who sit in judgement!

My sadness exists on behalf of those judgmental people in need of correction. I've met the judges, and I've met the judged, but I've never met anyone who seriously asked the question of why that tension exists in the first place. Because of this, the judges become the judged; the places are switched as indignant parents do their own labeling and gossip in response. I'm sad because this article feeds slighted parents' indignation while offering not a word of compassion for the judgmental, childless parishoner.

As a parent, I have a deep compassion for these people because of my own sleepless nights, my children's countless inexplicable tantrums, and the very corporeal reactions that all parents have to learn to control when they occur.

Here's a short list of things our bodies and minds do to us when a child's uncontrolled rage or despair occurs:
1. a subconscious adrenal reaction to sudden, deafening noise (which when repeated several times produces stress and anxiety as the body attempts to regulate an unpredictable flow of stimulants)
2. a subconscious desire to protect a hurting child (which from across the room they are not able to fulfill, causing anxietyl)
3. a voice saying "something's wrong! something's wrong! fix it! something's wrong! do something!"

Different people are able to control their response to these natural reactions to different degrees depending on their maturity, experience, and most importantly, the physiological and psychological limitations inherent to our unique makeup. In a misguided attempt to placate their hurting nature by providing themselves the certainty that comes with blame, some folks choose to sit in angry judgment of the parents. On the other end of the spectrum, some folks are so involved in the reality of the liturgy that they transform the suffering into joy at the opportunity to unite themselves with the sacrifice of Calvary. And there is much in between. That grace helps us all in this matter is not in question; that we are not all equally mature or grace-filled does come into play however.

Feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and confusion caused by the inconsolable crying of children are real, and I can't judge the sinfulness of any person's reaction to them, but I can do something to alleviate the suffering that becomes a source of temptation while also consoling or correcting my children.

Unknown said...

And by the by, I didn't realize that in many parts of America folks use their toddlers and the reactions of folks to them as an excuse for not coming to mass. Someone kindly pointed this out to me. Now that would be an exhortation to the judgmental that hits home.

Anonymous said...

I have four young children who receive regular, sweet praises for their good behaviour at Mass.

However, one hot Sunday, my 15 month old began happily, but not loudly, chattering to himself during the sermon and the priest actually asked me to leave. He was well aware of a recent tragic circumstance in our family which my Husband was deep in grief over, coupled with some mental health issues I was struggling with following the birth of my son, yet the humiliation of leaving with my son under such circumstances was apparently nothing compared to the 'disruption' of his sermon, and I mean 'disruption' under the lightest of terms.

He later told me that the standard of behaviour of my children does not come up to his expectations. I was reeling as my three daughters are exceptionally well behaved at Mass, reading their missals, and all my son did was chatter. He then told me that my 15 month old was offensive in only a diaper and, had he seen him before Mass began, he would have asked me to leave then. I replied that it was 30C in the Church and that my son has breathing problems, as well he knew, and that I couldn't afford for him to over-heat. He told me that I should put him in a wet shirt and stand him next to a fan, a sure way to give him a chill and further complicate his breathing issues.

18 months later and I still cannot go back to Mass, when that priest is there. I feel vulnerable and fretful. Surely children have to learn to grow in their Faith, healthily and steadily. Parents need support from their fellow congregation and their priests. It is our children who will pass on our Faith, yet woe betide any parent who has a child who behaves like a child.


Anonymous said...


Thank you for this delightful post on why even the most loud children should be kept in Church. I am a Latin, but I go to Byzantine Divine Liturgies quite often. I do this when I travel, mostly. The first few times, in spite of my friends warning me, I was most amazed that the Byzantines literally allow their children to roam. There is porter(?) who makes sure the children do not cross the Iconostasis or leave the Temple. I noticed that all of the children between the ages of 2-4ish started out the DL in the very front pew (easier to see, I suppose), but then they go join the choir, throw a fit in the middle of the aisle, or venerate the Icons during the liturgy. Some of them stay put in the pew, but most of them go join the choir...or at least that has been my experience. By the time they are around 5, they are perfectly behaved in the DL. It is amazing to me. The best part, their little disturbances do not disturb anyone!

I really liked how you recall the innocent cries of a child to the tears shed by Holy Souls and the Saints.


Father S. said...

I once received the following sage advice:

Two thousand years of Christian tradition tell us that when a baby is screaming during the Mass, everyone wants the baby out. When Father tells the baby to leave, everyone wants Father out!

@Father and Davor:

I have to agree with Davor about the relationship between crying children and Our Blessed Mother. While I think that we should not discourage infants from coming to Holy Mass--though this is and has been quite common in many cultures for a variety of reasons, even here in these United States--I do not see the connection. I see that both are types of crying, but they are of a completely different nature. If, Father, you are saying that one crying can, by habit, lead us to contemplate the other, I do not disagree. I simply do not think that the connection is natural.

That being said, the issue seems rarely to be the sound of a crying child. I find the sound of a newborn crying during Holy Mass to be wonderfully hopeful. The issue most folks are preoccupied with is that of children who are old enough to be quiet but whose parents do not ask that quiet from them. I think of my grade school children who are perfect at Holy Mass during the school day and miserably behaved on the weekends. Young children are young children--they will make noise. Even well-mannered children will, from time to time, make noise. (cf., Lucy above) When we cast that noise out, we might as well close the doors, though. I don't think we have any option but to live with the situation.

I hope that this isn't too scattered.

Kind Regards,
Father S.

Maria said...

Hugh Gilbert, OSB, Bishop of Aberdeen, Scotland, once a monk and Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, issued a pastoral letter last year on the need for silence. It is a priceless treasure:

"I don't want to be misunderstood. We all understand about babies. Nor are we meant to come and go from church as cold isolated individuals, uninterested in one another. We want our parishes to be warm and welcoming places. We want to meet and greet and speak with one another. There are arrangements to be made, items of news to be shared, messages to be passed. A good word is above the best gift, says the Bible. But it is a question of where and when. Better in the porch than at the back of the church. Better after the Mass in a hall or a room. There is a time and place for speaking and a time and place for silence. In the church itself, so far as possible, silence should prevail. It should be the norm before and after Mass, and at other times as well. When there is a real need to say something, let it be done as quietly as can be. At the very least, such silence is a courtesy towards those who want to pray. It signals our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It respects the longing of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to celebrate the sacred mysteries. And then the Mass, with its words and music and movement and its own moments of silence, will become more real. It will unite us at a deeper level, and those who visit our churches will sense the Holy One amongst us.
The Devil Loves Noise; Christ Loves Silence
'Create silence!' It is an imperative. May the Word coming forth from silence find our silence waiting for him like a crib! 'The devil', said St Ambrose, 'loves noise; Christ looks for silence".

This reader loves the good Bishop Gilbert.

I suspect, Padre, you are too young to have any knowledge of a world that once was. It used to be that parents assumed responsibilitiy for their children. My parents took turns going to Mass. I come from a family of five. When some of us were too young to be at Mass because we were not able to be at Mass without being, well, babies, as they are meant to be-loud, messy and rambunctious, we stayed home w/ my Mother. My father would take those of us who were older to Mass. Home we would go after Mass and then my Mother would go to Mass on her own. This obviously required sacrifice on their part. Their actions were thoughtful of: each other, their children and those at Church. We needn't leave courtesy outside the house of God.

Theomama said...

@Maria 8:53 PM

I'm curious whether or not all of your siblings are still practicing Catholics -- not for judgmental reasons -- I am genuinely curious. I take may three children (all 2 and under) to Sunday Mass with my husband most of the time. But lately, it has become such a circus that more and more we are going to Mass separately. I find the reactions of others to my hopelessly noisy boys to be stressful -- I take them out to the vestibule as soon as they act up, but then I am embarrassed to keep walking back and forth, in and out of mass.

I think it was Yves Congar who said that the way children learn their faith is through Mass, prayer and holy objects (sacramentals) first, rather than explicit teaching. So I worry that my children will miss out on their early formation if I don't take them to Mass.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father, for your kind words. We attend a Traditional Latin Mass and after Mass we often express our joy at the ever-increasing number of young ones in the congregation. Most parents seem to know when baby squeals are acceptable, and when loud howls necessitate a stroll into the vestibule or beyond.


Sue Sims said...

I nodded in agreement all the way through Father's post, but this morning's Mass did slightly change my view. There were four of us in our very small choir (for the Latin Mass - ordinary form), and just before the blessing with holy water, when we were about to launch into the Vidi Aquam (beautiful but tricky), a child somewhere in the congregation decided to provide us with an accompaniment in the form of some toy which made a very loud creaking noise, a bit like a football (soccer) rattle. We can cope with crying, but that was a bit much, and I'm afraid we were all anathematising the parents who'd given the kid that particular toy in Mass.


Adrian said...

On Thursday my Godson of 7 months joined the choir in singing, on Friday he mourned throughout the Lord's Passion & on Saturday night he joined the heavenly choir in worshiping the risen Lord.


Maria said...

Anonymous: You said: "Most parents seem to know when baby squeals are acceptable, and when loud howls necessitate a stroll into the vestibule or beyond." I would have to disagree with you. Our culture of narcissism has so enveloped us, that parents, probably through no fault of their own, are wholly unaware that an infant and unmannered children make it impossible for people to assist at Mass. Without silence there can be no true worship. Without silence there can be no reverence. We are there to worship God, not accomodate those who wish not to be inconvenienced.

There are few parents at home actually raising children. So, Mass is just "one more thing to do", for many, though certainly not all. As such, having worked all week, neither parent wants to be inconvenienced. Two Masses? Go alone? All that time and sacrifice? Forget about it. So, a wish to be freed from inconvenience then transmogfrifies into a righteous defense of their self-indulgent behavior, replete with theological and biblical interpretation, viz. "suffer the little children" et cetera. Sometimes, charity demands hard sayings. The article I referenced above by Gilbert quotes a wise old priest who described the problem thusly : "two people stop forty people praying."
This should tell us all we need to know about this subject.

Theomom: We are all practicing Catholics, one of whom is discerning religious life. My father's greatest witness to the faith was his sacrificial love for us and seeing him on his knees in prayer, every night. When I came home, late, from an evening out, I often found him saying his rosary. He often wore his rosaries out in prayer. None of this happenened at a traditional Latin Mass ;)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are correct that I am too young to know of the old days.
Still, I am old enough to know that infants do not change much between times and cultures...they all make noise.

Finally, and I hope this isn't too harsh, I would point out the irony in your last comment -- you judge all these parents for "wishing not to be inconvenienced" ... but are you not the one who can't bear with the rather small "inconvenience" of having children at Church?
Who is really the self-centered one in all this?

In any case, we may as well make the best of it ... let the cries of the little ones remind us of the passion and then the "two people" will not have stopped the forty from praying, but will have actually helped us! +

Tantumblogo said...

When we first started assisting at daily Mass regularly, where there aren't many children, I got a few nasty comments from a man who said my wife and I should take turns going to Mass because some of our six our children were too young to be there. He too questioned whether children under a certain age should be at Mass at all. He believed I should go to the 6:30a Mass, and she to the 8:30a. I demured and we tried our best to keep the kids quiet. Now, except for the 2 1/2 year old, they do very well.

The sad coda to the story is that the man who complained the most has 2 kids, neither of whom are in the Church.

Maria said...

Father, you stated "Finally, and I hope this isn't too harsh, I would point out the irony in your last comment --you judge all these parents for "wishing not to be inconvenienced" ... but are you not the one who can't bear with the rather small "inconvenience" of having children at Church?Who is really the self-centered one in all this?"

With due deference, I think my point is being lost. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is supposed to have at its focus our Lord, not those in attendance, be they three months or ninety years old. If I can't hear the Mass, I would venture to say that this is more than "mere inconvenience", as you suggest Pastors have an obligation to God and the souls of the faithful, to make worship possible for all. As for your suggestion that I am self-centered, I get up, daily, at 5AM to attend a 7AM Mass w/ the Dominicans, so that others will not be robbed of their perfect right to make it impossible for others to pray and worship their God.

codum said...

I'm 56 years old, and I've gone to Mass pretty much all my life. I can't remember a single time when a child has even come close to making it "impossible" for me to pray and worship.

Anonymous said...

Maria- it comes off as very cruel to suggest parents go to different masses or that mass is just "one more thing to do" for families with children. People who feel that way....generally don't come to mass! This is a very important time in my family's week and it is very important even for my young children to learn about the mass and hopefully receive some sort of grace.

Even without children I find it hard to believe that mass would be perfectly "quiet" without us there. Having just left the cold and flu season with a third of the parish sick at anytime hacking and clearing their nasal passages I hardly expect to find complete quiet at mass. It is my responsibility to focus on prayer to the best of my ability despite the numerous distractions inherent in a large gathering of people.

Do we strive for quiet? Of course, but it is simply unacceptable to forbid young children from mass because they might make a squeak or two. Nearly every parent I have ever seen is careful to remove young children if they become disruptive, so I have a hard time imagining even what sort of crazy ruckus you are hearing. I can only recall one very loud, ongoing incidence since I became a Catholic 8 years ago.

Anyway I don't see Father as suggesting that we all be distracted and give the focus to the young children. In fact, he gave us a way to refocus those distractions onto prayer.

Anyway I hope this perspective from a mom of two young kids and one on the way is helpful in understanding where parents might be coming from.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

For over 1,000 years, the whole Eucharistic prayer was said in a whisper by the priest -- so that the people could not hear.
Also, in many places, for over 500 years, priests did not give homilies ... so the people didn't hear these either.

Do you think that all these Catholics and Saints throughout huge portions of the history of the Church really were not able to pray or worship at Mass ... simply because they did not hear the priest (or because he spoke in a language they didn't understand, like Latin)?

Well, whatever, your sarcasm tires me so ... but I do hope you pray well with the Dominicans, I have also enjoyed attending Mass with religious. +

Maria said...

The grace of God is courtesy.
Hilaire Belloc

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

courtesy ... especially to the least and smallest in our midst.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father for this article. It means so much to me to read your views on children crying during Mass. My husband and I are new converts to the Church (as of Dec. 2011) and our family has 5 children. Our parish does have religious education classes during Sunday Mass, and so 2 of my sons go to their class. My oldest,12, the baby and our 2 year old stay in Mass with my husband and I. Our 2 year old is a feisty red head and my husband spends most of the Mass in the vestibule. I breastfeed our baby only and when she begins to get hungry she cries quite loudly. Thankfully, we have never had anyone speak badly of our family for our children's' behavior. Though, I do see quite a few dirty looks, and squirming adults, most people in our parish are sympathetic and for this I am very grateful.

It is difficult attending daily Mass, and/or Sunday Mass with 5 children, sometimes without my husband, since we are a military family. I do find myself getting jumpy and nervous when our little ones begin to cry or act up. But, I remind myself that Jesus loves all of His children, young and old. He wants our children in Mass. When I have this outlook, I can take a deep breath and know that crying babies and toddlers are a blessing in life and in Mass. GRACE is good enough for my savior, so it is good enough for me and my children.

Seanda B in NC

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to say to Maria that our family is devout. We homeschool our children in the faith and we discipline our children no matter where we are. We know the difference between a little cry of hunger or of being tired, or a cry of defiance and unruliness. I would also say that most of the parents in our parish know the differences in these cries, as well. Our parish acoustics are so bad that even when it is completely silent, sometimes we still can not hear our priest. Mass is a time of worship, whether you can hear every word, or hardly any words. Our children are being this too.

Seanda B. in NC

Our Family said...

Thank you, Father, for these insights. When we lived in Belgium for a few years, the priests and parishioners would beg us to sit in the front at Mass, since there were no children in the parish. It was refreshing coming back to the States to find crying babies at Mass! This is such a wonderful way for parents and congregation members to respond to children. If only everyone felt this way...
God bless you, and thank you again.

JimNYC said...

Greetings all, If you are really attending for mass or prayer you should be able to block all noise from children out of your mind. Pay attention to the priest and mass. This is so easy to do if you are really dedicated. And for those who have children, do not remove them from the church. If any parishioner tells you anything tell them politely to mind their own business. It is not the parishioners place to tell you anything about your children. If they were really dedicated christians, they would not say anything!

the kringalings said...

Thank you. I went to a retreat today on this very topic. It was full of mothers. The preist leading our discussion read us your post. Beautiful.

Kendra Tierney said...

Father! As a mother who experienced firsthand the frustration some Mass-goers feel when faced with noisy children, I want to say thank you. This post feels like a life ring thrown out to the moms and dads treading water out in the vestibule.

But in one of those mysterious ways we're always hearing about, my encounter with a Church Lady inspired me to start my own blog.

My first post An Open Letter to the Church Lady Who Yelled at My Mom solicited a real outpouring of support and commiseration.

A friend pointed me towards your lovely post. All I can say is keep up the good work!

Kendra Tierney

Cassi Mosher said...

A well-written post. :) I've been blessed throughout my life, as both a Protestant and a Catholic, with church families who value children and understand that perfect silence and stillness from the small ones is often an impossible dream. Instead, they take the attitude that to hear the sound of children during church is to know the church has a future. Jesus Himself said, "Let the little children come unto Me, and forbid them not." Can you really see our Lord glaring at a parent as he/she struggles with an unruly toddler? I think He expects us to do our best to teach them, but He also expects us to bring them. If my children become too distracting, I remove them if possible, but there are a couple of problems with this: For one thing, I've had issues with children starting to view the nursery/cry room as a reward for poor behavior, thus encouraging the poor behavior. For another, I have four children and often have to take them to Mass alone. If I have to remove the two-year-old, is it really appropriate to leave the ten, seven, and five year old children in the pew by themselves? This seems like a recipe for disaster. And yet, if the whole family spends the whole of Mass (or most of it) either in a cry room or travelling back and forth between it and the sanctuary (which is disturbing in itself) one might quickly come to question the purpose in attempting Mass attendance in the first place.

Unknown said...

I've never felt more unwelcome anywhere than at mass since becoming a parent. The priest and other parishioners are sweet to us, but there is the universal and reasonable expectation that when the children get very disruptive, they are to be taken out until they've calmed down again. Removal can be expected at any mass for any waking child under age two, according to my searches on the internet for tips from seasoned Catholic parents.

In practice, that means that it is expected that we as parents will not be able to participate fully in the mass, because we WILL have to step out or be segregated to a cry room (if we had one). Even when I was a non-Catholic and just visiting for the first time with no idea what was going on, I felt more a part of the community and able to fully participate. My husband and I feel like outcasts because our daughter forces us to be cast out from the congregation, and we'll soon have two under age two -- and there's no telling how many babies to endure this with after that. It's breaking our hearts and doesn't feel "pro-life" at all that our special needs as parents of very young children are acknowledged but consciously ignored. It reminds me of James 2:16! Even a nursery staffed by volunteers offered only for children under age two (the age where they MUST be taken out) would make all the difference in the world to our growing family's ability to experience the mass and actually receive its graces.


Anonymous said...

If I knew Maria before I became a Catholic, I never would have converted! She lacks empathy and love, but even more, I would guess she doesn't befriend all the families in her parish or she would develop empathy for their situations. You forgive small transgressions of behavior easily when you love someone and I don't see that from her at all! My best friend led me to Catholicism-- she is raising five children (the oldest in college now) in the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday and sometimes Daily Mass. We attend Mass with her when we're in town and while she is a strict parent with behavior and her children are wonderfully behaved, there is still the occasional noise-- we're human! We are both teachers by trade so in comparison to classrooms, the Mass is a very quiet place, even with the occasional outburst. Practice loving your neighbor and then this won't be an issue. If someone is being inconsiderate, it is better to lovingly ask if they could use some help or even to share that the toy they brought is a little noisy and offer maybe a soft (silent) one instead, which is easy when you've already introduced yourself and tried to become their friend. I find as a Catholic that people keep to themselves and don't try to reach out to their Church Family to know them. Bethany H.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of kids crying/screaming during Mass, and in fact, it can be physically painful for me. I was diagnosed as High-Functioning Autistic with sensory integration issues with my hearing: I literally can hear *everything* as my brain lacks the filters to tone out certain sounds, particularly loud, high-pitched ones (like small children crying/screaming). It makes it very hard for me to concentrate on the Mass and to pray, and there was one instance when a particularly loud kid right behind me nearly had me screaming myself because I'd been put into sensory overload. When that happens, it can be like I had a panic attack.

That said... on my better days when I'm more at ease and my brain is calmer, I'd almost rather hear kids screaming than adults having unnecessary conversations before, during or after Mass. Kids screaming is usually just wordless yawping/shrieking (unless "eeeyyyyeeeeeeek!!" counts as a word??), but when actual words are being said and concepts are being shared, it's a real penance and not necessary: I have enough penance going about my regular duties in life without my brain glitching! Loud conversations after Mass, about worldly and/or sinful things are really unwanted. Case in point the older ladies sitting behind me who were talking about going home to read "50 Shades of Grey". And discussing it in approving tones! I wish I was making that one up! Creepy!

--Jay Harkness

Terri said...

Father, thank you so very much for publishing this. So many moms and dads needed to hear it. Unfortunately, it seems their fellow pew-mates needed to be reminded of charity, also.
@Maria...your post about Hugh Gilbert, OSB,'s article made me laugh, actually. If you re-read it, you will notice that the good bishop never said a word about babies or crying. This is such a great example of taking something out of context and using it for something it wasn't intended for. He was referring to talking...which would include, I would imagine, those who gossip and complain about all of those horrible parents of today who can't control their children. By the way, in my humble opinion, I have always thought it was such a huge sacrifice for the entire family to "make a statement" and go to Mass together. It just shows how we each have our own opinions, right or wrong. Whenever fathers took half the kids and mothers took the other a child I thought they took the easy way out. Of course, as an adult I don't judge...I'm just ecstatic that they are going to Mass!!
Again, thank you Father, you have made my day!!
--Terri H.
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 1
Retired Parochial School Teacher

Tom said...

I retract all that I have said about crying children in Mass, and repent in dust and ashes. Thank for this post, Father. You have brought repentance to a very self-righteous soul.

Tom G.

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