What's the worst church innovation of the last 50 years?

How about “crying rooms”?

From All Things New:

But is a crying baby really such a problem that it demands its own special room?

Clearly, some priests think so.

I once heard of a priest who would interrupt mass—smack in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer—if a baby started to howl. He’d wait until the baby stopped, or the parents took it away, before continuing.

Another priest I know was pacing the center aisle during his homily when a baby started to sputter and then scream. He stopped in his tracks, then walked over to the pew, glared at the baby and said, with a wink, “Knock it off, kid. I work alone.”

My pastor takes a different approach. If a baby starts to cry, and the mother begins to slide down the pew to walk it out the door, he’ll stop mass to stop HER. “Don’t leave!” he’ll call out. “Please stay! Let the baby cry. He belongs here with the rest of us.” More than a few times, a mother has stopped, mortified and embarrassed, unsure what to do, while the baby lets forth a full-throated “Waaaaaaaaah!” and the congregation chuckles and my pastor coaxes her to stay.

“We’ll find a place for him in the choir,” he’ll say to appreciative chuckles from the congregation, “he sounds like a tenor.” (Of course, not everyone approves. One mother who watched this happen expressed annoyance to me after Mass one Sunday. “How does he know what’s wrong with a baby and making it cry?” she huffed. “Let the mother decide. If my baby’s crying, there’s a good reason.”)

Be that as it may: when a baby cries, and a mother is encouraged to take it out of church, to a place apart, the parish is sending a distinct and unsettling message. It’s indicating, not-too-subtly, that crying children don’t belong. We might as well amend the creed: “One, holy, catholic and apostolic church – except for crying babies, of course.”

I’m sure a lot of people would argue that the holy sacrifice of the Mass demands reverent devotion and full attention; it requires a sense of the sacred. Crying babies shatter that atmosphere. And I don’t disagree.

But Mass also requires a sense of the human. The most perfect prayer on earth requires the participation of those who are imperfect. It assembles together broken, wounded people of all kinds, and in our brokenness, we pray. We sing. We adore. We praise.

And yes, we cry.

In that spontaneous, unabashed wail we hear countless other cries of discomfort or fear or pain or sickness. That cry is our humanity, in the key of E. (Or “Eeeeeee!”) There we hear the sound of Eden, and Egypt, of Bethlehem, and Golgotha. It might be argued that the most authentic language of the Church isn’t Latin; it’s the cry of one suffering soul.

A Protestant pastor once put it beautifully. “A church with a crying baby,” he said, “is a church that is alive.” When you hear babies in church, you’re hearing life, and the promise of the next generation that will carry on the Good News. The faith will go on.

Read it all.

Comments

  1. “When a baby cries, and a mother is encouraged to take it out of church, to a place apart, the parish is sending a distinct and unsettling message. It’s indicating, not-too-subtly, that crying children don’t belong. We might as well amend the creed: ‘One, holy, catholic and apostolic church – except for crying babies, of course.’ … In that spontaneous, unabashed wail we hear countless other cries of discomfort or fear or pain or sickness.”

    Really? Taking a crying baby to the vestibule for five minutes is akin to severing them from the Body of Christ? Letting them stay and scream over the pastor is a necessary reminder of our fallen nature? Methinks that is making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill.

    While I would agree that angry looks from fellow worshippers–or even the priest–at a bit of crying or a sudden shout is too much, a child who is clearly getting out of control (be it a tiny baby who is upset or a two year old that can’t take any more sitting) should be calmly taken out, for the sake of the congregation and the child. And while I don’t use them often, sometimes a cry room is a lifesaver.

  2. youngcanadianrcmale says:

    “I’m sure a lot of people would argue that the holy sacrifice of the Mass demands reverent devotion and full attention; it requires a sense of the sacred. Crying babies shatter that atmosphere. And I don’t disagree.”

    Unfortunately Father, there are still a number of older people of the past two generations that still have this mentality and disagree with your post’s message. My mom recently left my home parish with this being 50% of the reason why. She couldn’t stand the crying babies and kids running around during mass, and this was what was once the “old person’s” mass at 8am (the other 50% why is the liberal clergy and semi-liberal liturgies now in place at our parish. Baptisms during mass and kids coming up on the altar from the Our father on during the liturgy of the Eucharist, and a priest more interested in social opportunities versus spiritual nourishment as examples).

  3. voxborealis says:

    I agree with this article entirely. Moreover, I think not only crying rooms could be profitably eliminated, but also children’s masses—especially what is practiced in some parishes, where the children are ushered out in the middle of mass for their own instruction. Children should be raised worshipping alongside their parents at mass, in my opinion.

  4. peregrinus says:

    I think this piece is beautiful and full of wonderful idealism and utterly impractical and its recommendations shouldn’t be implemented.

    Crying babies trigger something in me that the baby is in trouble and needs help at all costs, immediately. I think part of me feels that something is deeply deeply wrong and that everyone needs to act immediately to fix it. I suspect there is some sort of evolutionary adaption present here…

    At any rate, I can’t focus on anything else.

  5. deaconjose says:

    After my youngest son’s baptism, one of my wife’s coworkers (Methodist, married to a Jewish man) approched her and told her that she didn’t know that Catholic services were so “emotional”. My wife replied that “it had been a beautiful baptism but I wouldn’t call it ‘emotional’” Her friend’s response was “Well, I saw the ‘Crying Rooms’ in the back!”

  6. diakonos09 says:

    We raised 6 kids and stopped using the crying room almost as soon as we began since it could be more aptly named “The Mass-time Playground”. At least in our parish it would be impossible to teach your children about Mass and cultivate a prayerful spirit while almost everyone else was having snacktime, playing tag or board games.

    When a child was noisy we simply walked outside and if necessary remained outside, following the Mass via the sound system which was very audible from vestibule and immediate porchways. Now that one of mine has a child of his own they follow the same plan and bypass crying rooms.
    The BEST trend I have seen lately is the transformation of former crying rooms into Eucharistic Adoration chapels. What a much better use.

    Let’s keep the kids in church where ALL the baptized belong no matter what their age. If we ask kids to leave because something they do upsets us, then we might alos want to consider asking many of the elderly ladies to leave until they stop putting on pounds of powdery perfume that triggers allergies. Or maybe we need to build a Fragrance Userss Room? LOL.

    My point: we can always find something about someone that annoys us at Mass. “Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you.” (Rom 15:7)

  7. kycatholic says:

    I am the oldest of 9 children and I had two myself. My parents took turns going to Mass when we were just infants and when we got old enough to go, it was simply understood that we would behave. And we did. I don’t mind a bit of crying, but when there’s a full blown tantrum while the parents sit oblivious, then I get very uncharitable thought.

  8. justamouse says:

    My priest speaks right through the crying. I mean, there’s no meltdowns, moms bring them out before that takes place, but otherwise, Mass goes on. And, I like it that way. Our parish is growing incredibly, and those babies are part of the community.

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