For crying out loud: a pastor’s message to parents

I wrote about this issue last summer.  And I noticed today that a Queens pastor I know has taken the bull by the horns (or the baby by the diaper) and posted this on his parish’s Facebook page:

One of the things we try hard here is to create a welcoming and child friendly atmosphere for our people.

Whether it be at our Sunday Morning Family Mass or at our Youth Mass, we especially want parents to feel welcome to bring their children. Our children are the treasures of the parish!

Parents: you are always welcome to bring your children and, in particular, your babies to our church!

I admire parents who work hard to prepare their children to come to church. My married friends tell me that it is a job well worth doing, but it does take time and effort.

It behooves all of our parishioners to be understanding with the children and babies we attract to our welcoming atmosphere. Even when the babies cry it is still wonderful to have this sign of future possibility and growth. I often think of the babies and children who were present when Jesus spoke his sermons in the open air!

Some people find children annoying. I would respectfully say to them that this church will always welcome children and especially babies!

Remember what Jesus said to his apostles when they got annoyed with all the children present: “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them. For the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!”

So I want to repeat those beautiful words of Jesus: Let the Children come to us and do not hinder them!

If parents can think of any way we can make this parish more child friendly, please let me know!

I thought that was a sensible and pastoral approach.

What do you think?

Oh: and crying rooms?  I’m still not a fan.

Comments

  1. Joyce Sciusco says:

    I am proud to be a parishioner of this pastor’s church and I could not agree more. My son is older now and he knows how to behave in church but I remember how difficult it was when he was an infant and a toddler. It was stressful! I would always try to jump up and leave if he cried, but sometimes people would suck their teeth if he made any noise at all or dropped a toy on the floor or would not sit still. I really enjoy going to mass and I know that I missed more than I would like to count from the ages of about 6 months to 4 yo. I think most mothers (and fathers) know that sometimes you HAVE to take a baby out, but other parishioners should be aware that a baby in the church means that parents are really making an effort to raise a child Catholic and should give them a break.

  2. AMEN AMEN!!
    Children and babies ARE the life-blood of any parish. Yes, there will be noise and there will be times when it is most appropriate for a parent to move to the back of the church for a few moments to calm a screamer, but please don’t allow “noisy children” be the excuse you’ve been looking for!

    Our 10:30 Sunday Mass follows our CCD program ergo tons of young families and yes, the occasional screamer. But we love it and self-titled it our “Day Care Mass”.

  3. Not bad — but what’s the signal being sent when certain celebrations are billed as “Youth Mass” or “Family Mass”? Will young parishioners or their parents sense a little pressure not to stray outside the designated ghetto?

  4. Joyce Sciusco says:

    I have never felt that way at all. We have attended pretty much every mass on the schedule. And the youth mass is actually designed to reach teens and young adults, as opposed to kids/babies. (though we often attend with our 3rd grader.) There are babies at pretty much at every mass. (And I should have added that my negative experiences as the mother of a baby were at a different parish.)

  5. Yeah for welcoming babies! But what is this “Youth Mass” or “Family Mass”? Should there also be a “Singles Mass”? How about an “Elderly Mass?” How about a “Divorcee’ Mass” with a mixer following?

    The point of welcoming babies is that EVERYONE is welcome and the Mass is the Mass for everyone. It is amazing how even the vernacular isn’t vernacular enough!

    As a side though, and as a mom with four young children, I have to admit, I get nervous at an open invitation to make a parish more “child friendly.” There is a wide view among parents on what is okay for children during Mass and what isn’t. We will bring books, prayer cards, and rope rosaries (they are quiet) for young children and babies can have quiet teethers but we don’t bring any toys, drinks or snacks. I know some parents do things differently. I think every parish should welcome babies and children but I’ve seen a mom bring her daughter to Mass with McDonalds hash browns, another family let their child bring an electronic gaming system and one time I saw in front of a little boy with play-doh. It can be too child-friendly. :)

  6. Let them make a joyful noise unto the Lord !!!!!

  7. I love babies in the pews, even crying ones with one exception. That exception is when they cry so loudly that no one can hear the homily. Not only does a lot of prep often go into the homolies, but we need to hear them. For that reason only, I’m ok with the crying rooms, if only for that part.

  8. I’m more worried when the ADULTS cry during my homilies!

  9. Deacon Norb says:

    Pete:

    –Being a father of seven and grandfather of 14 (one adopted), crying kids never bothered me.

    –HOWEVER, while I would note when adults cry during my homilies, I’d be more apt to wonder why. If my homily brought about a conversion experience and the individual was crying because of the sorrow of how they lived their lives, I’d have a very positive view of that experience.

  10. Nice message!
    Katherine,
    I’m with you. I’d say nine out of every ten parents do the books/quiet toys thing, but there’s always that one parent who brings in weird stuff. I once saw a kid playing video games in the pew. Fortunately, such things are pretty rare, I’d say.
    As a parent of two little boys, I appreciate this message from this priest. For the last three weeks, we’ve been out of town. The parish we attended was not ‘child friendly’, however one wants to interpret that. Lots of old people who gave us crusty looks. Believe me, I’m not being overly sensitive or merely interpreting a glance uncharitably. There was a palpable hostility when the kids made any noise at all. And it was such a *quiet* church. The priest had his mic on very low, there was carpet, and the organ was down right muted, I’m telling you. So my two year old, being a two year old, would act like a two year old on occasion. He wasn’t naughty or even loud. But man, did I feel like a jerk in that church every time my kid made a peep.

    Fortunately, my church back in Queens is a very kid-friendly place. Glad to be back!

    P.S. I’m also against cry rooms. But I don’t mind if the narthex is door’ed off from the sanctuary proper. A little bit of a sound buffer never did anybody harm. :)

  11. Oh. One more thing.
    ‘No’ to cry rooms. I agree.
    But what about a Koala in the bathroom? That’s a reasonable request, no?

  12. I like what the pastor quoted here had to say, I agree with you that it is sensible and pastoral.
    I am not totally against cry rooms; when I was a young mom I liked the option of being able to use one if I needed to. A baby being a little fussy isn’t going to cause a big problem; but once in a while they pitch a conniption fit and nobody can hear anything else. So parents also need to use some common sense. If I attend Mass with our son and daughter-in-law, I am glad to walk out in the vestibule with our granddaughter if she gets too restless, so her parents (and everyone else) can have a more peaceful Mass.

  13. I used to live in South Carolina, in an area where Catholics make up about 3% of the population. So we were pretty exotic to our various protestant neighbors! One thing that our parish did was to tape one of the weekend masses, and then the recording was played that Sunday night on the local radio station. Our pastor told a story about one time he was at a nursing home visiting with one of our parishioners, and he got to talking to one of the other ladies there. When she found out that he was the Catholic priest, she said that she listened to us every Sunday on the radio. And she thought it was so wonderful that you could here the occasional baby or toddler on the tape. She said, kind of wistfully, “You pray with your babies. We had to send ours to the nursery.”

  14. A parish we attended when I was growing up had no cry room – but they did have two rocking chairs in the back. It was a tiny parish so everyone knew everyone else and it was so nice that not only did no one get mad about kids being kids, but there was always someone who would hold an infant when a parent had to deal with a fit-throwing toddler (or distract the toddler while mom was busy with the baby).

  15. I was being facetious, Brother Deacon!

  16. It’s not the “noisy” children but the noisy toys that some parents allow their children to bring to church. There are plenty of soft toys/books that parents could bring but I have been in church when toddlers have brought toy cars and raced them up and down the pew without the parents saying a word.

    When I was a little girl I brought a doll with me everywhere-except church. My dad was the one that was very firm about that. It did impress upon me the concept that church was a special place. We lived within walking distance so I was used to making regular visits with my mom during the week.

    Still-if a child has to bring a toy, please make it a teddy bear or something soft.

  17. Deacon Steve says:

    I love to hear the sounds of children in the Church. Does not bother me at all, even when I am doing the homily. We had an inceidence a few weeks before Christmas where a friend of mine who has an autistic child was at the Sunday evening mass. I was doing the homily and I heard her son making a fuss, but didn’t really notice, it was just a child at mass with his mom. After mass when I was heading back to the sacristy I saw her talking with a couple of parishioners and I went up to say hello to them and saw that she was upset, almost in tears. Apparently some of the people sitting around her were gving her looks and making her feel most unwelcome even as she left Church till he calmed down and came back in. Fortunately the other 2 people talking to her were very welcoming to her. I told her that she and her son were always welcome at mass, even when he was having a rough day. We need to be welcoming to all those that come to mass. We are the presence of Christ to them, and they are the presence of Christ to us.
    And I can’t stand crying rooms, they are just about the most unwelcoming thing I can think of in a church.

  18. My father always told parisshioners to bring babies, “Even if they cry through the whole mass” (My Dad was an Anglican, then Catholic, priest). It made sense to me as an adult–he explained it thus: Those early memories of Church are in your DNA. Later in life, when faith might wane, those will come back and sustain you. It quite literally, is part of who you are.

  19. ‘parishioners’. Arrgh.

  20. I am in full agreement with the pastor. I have no problem with children at Mass and in fact I encourage it. When our church was built though I insisted upon a “cry”room. The reason why is that I have seen mothers out of the church consoling their crying infant. Why they choose to leave the church? Maybe it was the unkind looks of their neighbors in the pews. I don’t know.

    They way it works in our parish is that parents have their children in the main church. If the child starts to cry they sometimes stay where they are or sometimes go to the “cry” room or maybe to the restroom to change said baby (and yes Dads do as well)

    This image of mothers walking with their babies in the church parking lot is burned into my brain. I hope to never see it again. At least in the “cry” room they can hear and see the Mass.

  21. Big thumbs up. Speaking as a liturgist, bug thumbs down to cry rooms. They are a bane.

  22. I’ll chime in. As a pastor, the “scuffle” of children at Mass speaks to me that, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “the Church is young!” That is, the Church, which boldly proclaims the Gospel of Life rejoices in the joyful noises of our young people. Yes, parents should take care to watch over their young ones, and prudence might dictate sometimes taking a little one for a walk to a nearby vestibule for a little respite, followed by a return to the worshipping assembly. However, I would never “deport” our little ones and their families to a “cry room.” I literally DESPISE the notion of a glass-walled closet where these folks are corralled. What good could possibly come from that. That being said, this does challenge us to look at what our parishes are offering by way of ministry to these groups. Also, I would get hung up on the idea of a “youth mass” or other similar “style.” Everyone is welcome at every Mass. These “code words” are simply a subtle way of telling other folks that some elements of the liturgy are going to be geared to appeal to a particular group. All are certainly welcome, but some might choose to opt out. We do something similar in our parish by letting people know when a Mass might include baptism, the Sacrament of Confirmation, incense, or anything similar that might attract (or repulse) them from choosing that Mass. So, after many words, I agree with this pastor’s words and their spirit. Let the children come to us.

  23. It was during a retreat at a home of a friend’s when a baby cried, that a priest said, “a Church that asks you to have children very well can’t tell you to leave them at home.”

    As a Catholic mother open to life, 16 years separate my oldest to youngest. That’s a lot of years with young children in church. While my older children were very manageable, my youngest is the most spirited child imaginable. If anything, he’s taught me to sympathize with parents who have a difficult time keeping their children quiet during Mass. I’ve even gone out of my way to talk to them after Mass and reassure them that their children are ‘okay.’

    Of course, I’m a deacon’s wife so everyone notices when ‘the deacon’s kids’ act up.

  24. I am the father of an 8 month old and I like the crying room at our Church in the beginning. We could put the car seat on the floor on in a chair or take up a whole row which is very useful. Also, there is room for me to walk around with baby over my shoulder when necessary. It helps to keep the baby from being around all the people too before he gets all his shots. I would appreciate a changing station in the bathroom – there is plenty of room for it. We now sit mostly in the pews though and so far have never had dirty looks from anyone. Fortunately our baby has been mostly quiet through Mass but even when he is fussy people just love to see him and they coo at him and smile and wave.

  25. David_J_White says:

    It’s not the “noisy” children but the noisy toys that some parents allow their children to bring to church. There are plenty of soft toys/books that parents could bring but I have been in church when toddlers have brought toy cars and raced them up and down the pew without the parents saying a word

    I’ve often seen this, and I can’t understand it. When my sister and I were little (mid-late 60s), the only things we were given to amuse ourselves with at Mass were little booklets written for children about the lives of the saints, the mysteries of the rosary, etc. We also had little plastic rosaries.

  26. I hate to be the skunk at the garden party, but I have to admit I find a wailing baby or a noisy child really disruptive. I don’t mind if it’s only for a minute, but when it gets extensive it just breaks my connection with the mass. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it feels like I leave the church not having full spiritual nourishment, if you know what I mean. I have a two year old boy, and I haven’t taken him to mass yet knowing he can’t sit still for more than ten minutes. That said, I don’t wish to deny children coming to mass. I’ll manage and say an extra prayer.

  27. In my sister-in-law’s former parish, they built the church with a big cry room, with giant windows into the church. And some Einstein also put the light switches for ALL of the lights in the whole church down on the short wall underneath the windows. Emphasis on “short” — perfect height for little fingers to go exploring!

    Whenever the lights would flash on and off randomly during mass, I would think, “Aha! You thought you could lock us away back here and forget about us! But we will make our presence known!!!”

  28. I tell parents to “bring your screaming babies and toddlers…but leave the cheerios and noisy games at home. Let them yell so the parish knows we are growing! The speaker system and the priest are louder than than the loudest baby!”
    I love it when we have babies competing with the choir! The Church is growing! No homily can be better than the witness of new life!

  29. Manny, here is another “skunk” to join you – The occasional crying baby does not bother me, but when it continues for a period of time, I get distracted. I know that children will figit, but when you have a child who is 6-8 years old who is acting up, I find myself watching them and not paying attention to the mass. My heart goes out to the parent who is trying to comfort a child, but I have seen some parents do nothing when a child is totally unruly. For some of us, mass is the one quiet time of our very busy, very hectic, too noisy lives and I cherish that time. I definitely want to be welcoming, but also want to to have an opportunity to be nourished by the Word. I love the crying room and my parish has a very nice room where as one commenter added, parents can still hear the homily, but there is room to walk around and comfort a child. No one in my parish seems to not feel welcomed because of the crying room – we are a growing parish with lots of babies and small children at all of the services.

  30. When my son was very small, I was fine those weekends we ended up in the cry room. It was space where we didn’t have to worry much if he started to babble a little (he usually wasn’t a persistent cryer) or felt the need at 12 months to crawl around on the carpeted floor a bit. We could still see and hear and participate in the mass, albeit at a slight remove. (For a few months, the speaker in the cryroom was out, and that was a pain because you did feel isolated. But at that time the church’s whole audio system was old and breaking down.)

    I certainly wouldn’t want any parent to feel that they HAVE to head for the cryroom if they don’t want to. I’ve seen one or two parents given dirty looks by people who don’t like to hear a child make any noise at all. Sorry, folks, we’re a pro-life church. Hard to be that and hold a grudge against babies and toddlers…or their parents.

  31. Hey there Manny and India here comes another skunk. A baby (under a year) crying is one thing and most parents walk out when it becomes prolonged. But I have seen parents bring such toys as remote control cars. They then sit themselves in the last row of pews and spread out so junior and janie can play with the remote control toys, eat from boxes of cheerios and drink apple juice. Then junior and janie get bored with the noisy toys and move on to yanking on mommy and daddy. Now mommy and daddy are soooooooo into their prayers that they just can not seem to hear their little noisemakers so the BRATS (yup I said it) then leave the pew and wander the church. Now it is time for communion and suddenly mommy and daddy realize that they don’t know where junior and janie have hidden so they make a big fuss trying to find them. By the time the mass is over the last pew is a sticky mess, everyone in the church is frazzled but we have all “welcomed” the precious little children. HA!
    The last pew could have been better served to seat the people who were standing because the brat family took up the whole pew. And my parish is so lucky we have at least 10 of these families.

    I raised my 8 children pretty much on my own (our families lived overseas — my husband traveled a lot for work) and after they were infants they knew better than to make a fuss in church. How did they know? Because I gave them “the look”. My youngest (now 13) and my oldest (now 28) were reliving memories of “the look”. My oldest said that a lot of his friends’ parents would scream, yell and spank but Mom (me) never did any of those things — “she just looked at you and you if you immediately stopped whatever it was you were doing — sort of like a visual freeze tag”. How do these parents take their children into stores or restaurants? I imagine the children must behave in those public places. So it is just in Church that they are allowed to bring horror?

    We have pretty much all had children — most of us realize that they must not be allowed to disrupt the atmosphere of the places they enter. And when the priests and deacons say “Oh welcome the little darlings” the other kind of parents think that means that Church is a free babysitting service. Why don’t the priests and deacons tell the parents that Mass is a learning experience for all of us so both adults and children must be TAUGHT to be open to the learning experience.

  32. At our parish, our 9:30 Mass is considered to be a “family mass”. We have a children’s Liturgy of the Word in place. Children who have not made their first Holy Communion are dismissed at the beginning of mass and have an age appropriate Liturgy of the Word in the lower church. They are catechised by one of the priests or Deacons. They return right before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It always brings a big smile on everyone’s face as we watch the children being dismissed. Any other “noise” remaining is usually taken care of by a parent who leaves temporarily with the child. We do not have a cry room. I’m actually opposed to them because I’ve seen adults without children sit in them. It’s a way to be at Mass but not really requiring your full attention and participation.

  33. By all means the more babies the better! I do agree with several comments on this thread about the parents who show up with all the toys and the food! Children can eventually understand how to behave at Mass. ..but NOT if parents show up with all that GEAR! A Children’s Bible for older kids is a great idea. One of my favorite gifts for new babies…a metal ring full of laminated holy cards to look at during the Mass!!! Regular Mass attendance is a must…practice makes perfect!!!
    My favorite food at Mass story…as our Priest elevated the Host…the little guy in front of us elevated his potato chip! ;-)

  34. I’ll be the skunk too. I don’t mind a fussy baby. I do mind silly parents. The mother who brings metal toys, electronic games, (Little Johnny likes Angry Birds? Nice, but this my dad’s funeral Mass sooo…), food treats, and who lets her kids wander the aisles deserves a hard glare.

  35. Yes, some parents are clueless, and unwilling (or too tired?) to teach their children how to get along peaceably in various environments and respect others’ needs (e.g., the need to focus and pray). But I’m saddened when I read comments that refer to “brats” and “brat families,” along with complaints about how there are ten or so “brat families” at church. Of course, those families could have stayed at home more easily. For some reason (maybe a Christ-centered reason?) those parents managed to pack up their young children and make it to Mass. No, they don’t deserve Nobel prizes for that, and yes, they should teach their children how to get along with the world and not always solely on their own terms. But maybe it’s not just those kids, or their parents, who have some learning to do about being respectful and charitable toward others.

  36. Mary Russell says:

    I am the mother of two. One mildly autistic 4 year old boy, and one moderately autistic 2 year old girl. Were it not for the nursery my church runs during mass, whereby we can leave our 2 year old in the care of nursery attendants, my husband and I would not be nourished be able to attend to mass except in the most perfunctory way. And, sorry to offend, but Cheerios during mass is the only way to get my son to sit still. I am so grateful that my parish is tolerant of this and does not adopt a one size fits all approach toward children having to be with parents at mass.

  37. If Cheerios are the only way to get a child to sit still so be it. I cringe in Church on Monday mornings when I see Cheerios all over the pews and floors as well as empty water, juice bottles and dirty tissues squeezed into the missalette racks. It would nice if people would clean up after mass.

  38. Amen! Sounds like a GROWING church to me. At the end of our Spanish Mass, parents bring up young children for special blessings from the priests and there are frequent presentations and other celebrations involving children. There are kids everywhere at the Spanish Mass and of course, they can be noisy and distracting if you are trying to concentrate on the homily — particularly if it is in your second language.

    Much is being written about the the recent HHS ruling. Those quiet Masses make one ponder.

  39. Oregon Catholic says:

    Guess I’m somewhat of a skunk too. I just don’t see the point of bringing young children to Mass who are not able to sit that long and have to be entertained with toys or pacified with snacks or shuushed up. It’s one thing if you have no option except bring them or stay home, but to bring them by choice and either distract everyone around you or spend most of your time in the vestibule (you could be unintentionally teaching them to misbehave by doing that) seems pointless to me. Far better to have one parent at home with the youngest while the rest go to church and then switch off, IMO. It’s just one of the many accommodations parents make when having young children and is only temporary. Someday everyone can go to Mass all together.

  40. In my parish, there is an amazing family with 11 children, ages ranging from around 12 to newborn. They all attend Mass together. Those that are not altar servers (yet!) are well-dressed, quiet, attentive…and Cheerio-free. It is all about how parents like these are able to stress the importance and reverence of the Mass. I stand in awe of them!

  41. Oregon Catholic says:

    I’ve known some families like that too. What I’ve noticed in those families is that all the children seem to have great affection for each other and turn to each other for help, comfort and attention. There is none of the picking at each other or jealousy for the parents attention that leads to squabbles.

  42. I think this comes downtown plain old common sense. Of course, it’s great for babies and families to feel welcome and come to Mass. It should be as welcoming an environment for them as for any other groups. A little bit of crying or disruptions should be tolerated and not a issue. I think when it becomes loud or disruptive then parents need to act to resolve it in a way that works for them.

  43. Regina Faighes says:

    I agree, Mike R.

  44. Absolutely there are some children who have special circumstances that may require something extra. I know one family who’s daughter was diagnosed with diabetes at age 3. Whenever they came to Mass, they always had a diabetes emergency bag with them including a juice box. Now, I’m sure if anyone saw her drinking a juice box in Mass but didn’t know she was diabetic, eyebrows would raise. If cheerios are what an autistic little boys needs, that is understandable.

    I think what most people get irritated at are the extremes – like the McDonalds hash browns, electronic gaming, snack buffets, etc.

  45. It comes down to you two things: 1. Your understanding of community and 2. your understanding and belief with regards to grace. Once a baby is baptized, he/she is a member of the Church and the community and, as such, has just as much claim to attend Mass as anyone. It has likewise always been preached and believed by the Church that even just being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament can bring graces to a soul. If we really believe that, we cannot negate the priceless gift of grace as a blessing to every soul present at any Mass, including the baby or small child.

  46. Bruce in Kansas says:

    Prayer is a very good response. Remember we come to Mass not to get, but to worship Almighty God and offer ourselves in union with Christ to Him. Loud children should remind parents to teach their children to be reverent at Mass, but I found our fidgety kids (and we have ten) bother my wife and me more than other pew-sitters. I’m sure we have benefited from their prayers a lot over the years.

  47. Bruce in Kansas says:

    Like eating at a restaurant, there’s quite a spectrum of child behavior out there; and like eating out the more they experience it, the better they generally do at it. We tolerate quite a bit in our large family, but we have a rule for three and above that that if they have to get walked out, they get disciplined. We are NOT the large family with eleven pious and focused children in Mass; we’re the other large family. God smiles.

  48. Janet Baker says:

    I don’t know why cry rooms seem to be getting such a bum rap. We have one and it gets put to good use. The occasional yelp or giggle will happen, no big deal. But if the problem gets loud and persistent, it’s only fair to everyone else that the troubled child be removed until he/she can contain themselves. Consider the hearing-impaired parishioners, who often are simply unable to filter out the noises from the homily – do they not deserve to be welcomed and accomodated as much as anyone else?

  49. I agree, cry rooms are just there as a convenience for both the parents and congregation. No one has to use them; it’s “parental discretion”. As Dcn. Luis pointed out, it beats walking in the parking lot, if you have a 3-month old in full melt-down! Also beats sitting in the choir loft. Ours is an older church with a choir loft, and there are some families who think it is a “cry room-lite”. Well, the mikes are live throughout most of Mass for the musicians. So any noise gets amplified. Not such a good option.
    As a side note, our church cry room is the adoration chapel during the week. So it is very pretty, with a couple of stained glass windows, not at all sterile and uninviting.

  50. I thought about this article last night while my wife and I were at 5:30 p.m. Mass at our local parish and we BOTH agreed with the “skunks” on this post. We saw children at least 3 and probably older than that wandering during Mass much to the amusment of their parents. Our does not and has ever had a crying room although we wish that it did. Only ONCE did I ever attend our 10:30 a.m. Mass otherwise known as the “Family Mass” andn I vowed NEVER to that again and in 15 years, I haven’t. Yes, the behaviour was THAT bad. My wife, who works with children every day in her job, was even harsher than me in her assessment.
    Let me also say that I was raised in the pre VaticanII Church for most of my childhood and was from a large family that went to church in shifts, IF you got up early enough, you to 8 a.m. with Mum and her friend from across the street(who drove, Mum didn’t) OR you went to 10:15 with dad(he worked 6 days a weeks and slept in a bit on Sundays). In EITHER case, you KNEW to behave from the earliest times (age 3 or 4) OR ELSE! Mum was tought than dad, by the way.
    These days, my wife and I make it a point to AVOID family resturants as well especially on Friday night because of the dicipline problems or should I say lack thereof.
    Like Garrison Keilor, my parents said it best “Behave, you’re just not that special”. And I think some parents would well to use that on their errant children.

  51. What I wonder is if all the food, juice packs, etc. Mass is usually just an hour. (I do not include breastfeeding babies or bottles in that.) Would it be dreadful to post signs about food, drink, and gum in church? I also don’t understand why children are allowed to wander around outside of the pew. One certainly wouldn’t expect very small children to sit at attention in the pew, but wandering the aisles is something else. I do think that we need to be tolerant of young children, be thankful for them and the parents that brought them to Mass.

  52. At the time when I was growing up I was the oldestof7 instead of oldest of9. The church we attended (Ruthanian Byzantine) had a “cry room” but no one ever used it. The parents with young children, including my family, sat right up front. Oh rest assured there was crying, and occaisionally my mom would have to take one of my brothers or sisters out to the vestibule, but for the most part every thing was good.
    But that was also a time if when the older kids were misbehaving, all they needed was a stern look from dad and the linegot towed.

    Peace to all

  53. I beg all of you who are so quick to condemn parents’ ways of handling their children in church to use your energy instead to pray for the parents who are caring for the disruptive child /children. When you see a child misbehaving, a parent that “refuses” to discipline (BTW, sometimes ignoring a child for a moment IS the best way to calm them down quickly), a child eating cheerios, a toy that is disrupting your concentration, realize that you have no idea what is going on in that child and/or parent’s life. There have been many times in the past few years (my child is 4) that I have sat at Mass barely able to keep from crying because I did not know how to get my child to behave and completely overwhelmed by my own life, my falling apart marriage, etc. The Eucharist, Mass and my church community have been the only stable thing in my life and if I couldn’t take my son to Mass I would not be able to get there nearly as often, and I may only be alive because I have had a church community that helps me keep my connection to God. I don’t have family I can leave him with and my church doesn’t have nurseries or programs for small kids (because they are encouraged to be at Mass with their families). And my child now is getting better behaved at Mass (and at life in general!) and asks to go to church with me because, I think, he feels he is a part of the community, so I think he’s gotten something out of it too.

    Until recently, I had no idea that people were actually offended by bringing food to church for small children. Yes, of course, people should clean up after any mess a child makes, but I do worry about a church that is more afraid of a few cheerios and the damage it could do to their carpet or padded pews than having children in church. My own parish has no rules about food and I hadn’t even considered not bringing cheerios as my son grew past the milk-only stage; during the toddler years cheerios kept him occupied for at least half of the mass and I (along with everyone around me) might actually be able to concentrate on the readings or homily etc. Then last year I was visiting another state and attending various daily masses with my sister and her infant daughter. Although I have been trying to wean my son off food in church, we weren’t there yet, and thus I came armed with books and cereal to keep him occupied in what turned out to be a fairly crowded daily mass in a small pin-drop quiet chapel (the mass we had set out to attend at another church had been unexpectedly cancelled). As my child quietly munched his cereal, I noticed that no one else’s children were eating and began to feel self-conscious. When, later in the mass, my son got a bit louder (it is very hard to keep a 3 year old pin-drop quiet for any length of time with or without cheerios), I took him out and in doing so noticed a sign on the door going into the chapel that said no food or drinks. Needless to say, as a good Catholic, I was mortified and embarrassed. But then I couldn’t go back in even when my son calmed back down because I was so worried that he’d ask for more cereal. And then when we went back to the same church a few days later (not my choice, but I was a guest), I ended up out of mass for about 3/4 of it. And then I started noticing that most of the churches in the area had no-food policies. And I started feeling very not-welcome. And finally came the day of my infant niece’s baptism (at a church that mercifully did not seem to have a no-food policy, since we had to get through an entire Sunday mass and a baptism ceremony), and at the end of the mass the celebrant, a BISHOP who was visiting from another diocese (he was originally from the area) made a wonderful little proclamation about how wonderful it was to have all the kids there, making noise, being introduced to the faith and how important it was for families to be welcomed in bringing their children to church and I STARTED CRYING after a week of feeling completely unwelcome if I had my child in tow.

    Thus, I am all for giving parents options: whether it be the option to bring food, toys (yes, of course they should be quiet ones), or a cry room as an option (no one should feel forced to go there, but as a parent sometimes feeling like I don’t have to keep my child pin-drop quiet is a bit of a relief). As parents, most of us are trying very hard to have ourselves and our children be as minimally disruptive as possible. We realize everyone has a different take on how best to teach children, and unfortunately “the look” doesn’t seem to work very well these days (I’m guessing because “the look” was often backed up by corporal punishment which may produce marvelous behavior in church but has its own share of issues as well). Meanwhile, I am very grateful to be at a parish where I know the priests and enough people in the community to know we are welcome, even if we are not perfect.

  54. Mary Anne, I will definitely pray for you. I am a teacher and I am expert with “the look”. My ” look” is never backed up with corporal punishment, just with consistent consequences, even for little ones.
    Perhaps to truly be welcoming to families with children, we should do more than just offer children’s liturgies – we should offer support groups to parents.

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