Why don’t parents take screaming babies out of church?—UPDATED

I’m opening up comments for this, to see what you parents out there have to say.

A reader writes:

Hi Deacon Greg,

I am desperate to find answers to above question!!!  When I politely ask the parent of a screaming child why they refuse to leave Mass so they don’t disrupt it for everyone else, they get angry at me!  I really want to know what they think their screaming child is getting out of–or adding to–Mass!

I have Meniere’s Disease, & high-pitched noises cause me to get dizzy, nauseated, headache, etc.  Last Saturday, there were 4 screamers at the morning Mass–every Saturday the same families show up with screaming babies & STAY in the chapel with them!  People have expressed their desire that they leave the kids at home, but they don’t.

What do the parents get out of Mass, if anything, when they have to juggle a screamer?

Thoughts?  Comments will be moderated.

UPDATE: Providentially, someone posted this item on Facebook this morning. It was written by a young mother:

I’ve gotten plenty of dirty looks.  But more often, by God’s grace, I’ve gotten affirmation.  People thank me for bringing “my” kids and compliment me on their behavior.  Once after John Paul threw a particularly loud fit at Mass, an elderly man came up to me and told me it was the holiest sound he’d heard all day.  “He reminded me that I’m alive,” he said with a smile.

But more often than not you don’t notice the smiles.  You notice the rolled eyes and raised eyebrows and dirty looks and you think that at best you’re not making anyone angry.  But that’s not true–at best, you’re making the people around you saints.  You’re pulling them out of their self-obsession and reminding them that being at Church is about emptying ourselves for God and each other.

Prayer is so often just a veil for narcissism.  We talk and talk and talk about ourselves and then slap an “Amen” on the end and consider ourselves holy.  When your kids start screaming, it distracts us from ourselves.  We start praying for you.  Or for them.  We pray for single parents.  We pray in thanksgiving for our grown children or we beg for screaming children of our own.

I was visiting with my grandmother the other day and mentioned that Cecilia shouted stream-of-consciousness for the entire Mass today.  She said, “Oh, do they let children in the church?”  Needless to say, she’s not Catholic.  But it’s an attitude I’ve found from some Catholics.  “Until they’re old enough to sit quietly,” they say, “leave them at home.”  Or maybe “You know there’s a cry room, right?”  As if the Mass is their personal property and they get to decide who stays and who goes.

Jesus embraced children, folks, and so does our Church.  If you don’t want to hear them cry, the solution is not to remove the holy little ones from the church.  The solution is for you to go to the 7am quickie Mass or the solemn high Mass that takes 3 hours.  Find a Mass kids aren’t going to and shut yourself up in that one.

Or maybe offer up your distractions and frustrations for their parents, who are so much more distracted and frustrated than you.  Take this as a sign that God is calling you out of yourself.

UPDATE II: The original author of the e-mail, after reading comments here, dropped me a note:

Thank you for posting my questions; I really do appreciate it, as do a few of my priest-friends who are also wondering what more they have to do to get parents to take disruptive babies & young children out of Mass.

The comments really saddened me.  I have worked as a DRE for all age levels, & am working on my master’s degree in theology.  My husband & I also have 6 children, ages 15-27, so we have a fair amount of experience with kids at Mass.

What most saddened me were the comments by clergy & laity alike saying that disruptive children belong at Mass.  It seems that we’ve forgotten what the Mass really is–the worship of God, the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.  It is not meant to be a place to socialize children.  They should be prepared to join the worship of God along with the rest of congregation.  It is not a place to be oogling the newest baby or be waving at kids who are antsy.

People like to say that because the Church encourages couples to have children that we are obligated to have babies & young children at Mass.  It seems to be that when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” He wasn’t teaching in the synagogue!

Yes, parents have a duty to raise up their children in the faith.  But, before they have the ability to participate in the Mass & have a basic understanding of what the Mass is about, they belong at home.  It isn’t fair to expect them to behave beyond their age level.  Babies & young children have almost no attention span, & need to be moving around.  It isn’t fair to them or the adults who’ve come to Mass to participate in parish Masses to be constantly distracted by crying, screaming, banging toys, etc.  That’s what happens in day care centers.

I appreciated the few comments by adults who agree with what I’ve said.  When we had babies & toddlers who couldn’t handle Mass, my husband & I split-shifted.  He’s always attended daily Mass; Sunday Mass was my one chance to worship Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Our pastor told us one evening when he was at our house for dinner–he came over frequently because all our kids (& my husband & I!) loved him–he enjoyed walking in for 7:30am Mass on Sundays & seeing me sitting quietly in prayers, completely at peace–”She always looks so peaceful, like she’s already in heaven!”  He understood.  I was with Our Lord!

When a mom has babies & young children, that is the time to develop a very deep inner prayer life that will carry her through the rest of her life.  It is the time to be available to your kids, to play Mass at home so they can learn about it.  To invite priests & religious brothers & sisters to your home, to visit religious good stores, to take opportunities to introduce your kids to the faith on their level.  My husband would take our kids to Saturday morning Mass once they were able to sit still while reading or playing a game for at least 30 minutes, usually around age 4+ yrs.  Sunday Mass began when they entered kindergarten.

All of our kids are practicing our faith.  All of them know it well enough to defend our faith in high school & college classrooms, at work, to friends, in the newspapers, etc.  We receive many favorable comments from priests & friends about the apologetics work our kids do.  They’ve learned their faith through family discussions as they were growing up.  We homeschool for religion.

Kids remember nothing of their religious instruction before age 5 or so. They remember the fun things they did like playing Mass, role playing the gospel readings, etc.  They’ve always enjoyed being at Mass because they never were forced to sit through it before they were able.  Young children learn best through fun activities & that’s what we, as Catholic parents, provided.  But, Mass is not “a fun activity,” & should never be reduced to that.

Thanks for reading this long post, Deacon Greg.  I guess, after sacrificing for so many years, I feel like I’ve paid my dues & am entitled to be at Mass without being forced to leave or not come because of the crying & screaming.

  • https://foothills.wjduquette.com/blog Will Duquette

    Your reader seems to have particular reasons to dislike screaming, which makes the question a little more pointed than usual. But as to what the parents of these children get out of coming to Mass while juggling a screamer: they get the Blessed Sacrament. They get to reinforce the habit of coming to Mass even when it’s difficult. Perhaps the parents get to come to Mass together; if they left the kids at home they’d have to attend two different Masses.

  • Jim Banister

    I am a parent (though of four middle-aged kids), a grandparent and a great grandparent.

    So if you call me a curmudgeon, I won’t object and you probably aren’t far off the mark.

    That being said: (there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?) ;)

    When my kids were too small to reason with (i.e. threaten), we often attended Mass as a family. But we sat in the cry room and even then, when one of the kids would get too fussy, one of us would take them outside the Church until they settled down.

    I’m sure that many parents can come up with perfectly justifiable reasons why their toddlers should remain in Church while screaming their lungs out and distracting others from this Most Holy of times.

    But I’m convinced that in most cases, the reasonable (and Christian) thing to do is take them outside so that others can better focus on Our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Fiestamom

    I have 5 kids, and I used to go to the cry room. But the cry room seems to be an excuse for people to let their kids play, and eat. If I have a disruptive child, I take him/her to the back of church. If they are making *any* noise during the consecration, then we go outside. The emailer uses the word ” screaming”. If a child is truly screaming, then they should be taken out no matter what.

    Parents of young ones need all the grace they can get, that is why we continue to attend Mass. When my kid is acting up, and I spend the whole time outside, it’s frustrating, but just offer it up. It’s hard when I’m doing my best and people are glaring at me and my child.

    I think of the loaves and fishes. There were 5,000 people on that hillside, and surely a lot of fussy babies, cranky, hungry toddlers,with mothers who wanted to be near to Jesus and hear his words.

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    Honestly, I don’t know. Is the child actually screaming all through Mass? Is the child screaming as opposed to just making baby noises?

    If ours is just making occasional baby noises, we don’t leave. And if ours is screaming and we think we can calm them, we might take a minute to try. But if a child is continuously loud, I don’t know why a parent wouldn’t take the child out of the nave unless there is no where else to take them but even the back of the church is better than the front. Generally speaking, I don’t believe in leaving my children at home. They should experience the Mass and receive its graces and blessings too but we have no problem removing a child from the nave if she is causing a problem. But our church also has a narthex separated from the church. The question, to me, is not why not leave the kids at home but why not make a space at the church where a parent can take a screaming child? Otherwise you’ll have parents missing mass just in case a child might act up.

  • Denise Jobin Welch

    First, I am sorry you are suffering with this illness. I can not imagine what it must be like to have all those symptoms you describe everytime you are in the presence of screaming kids or similar sounds. I hope you and your physicans might one day find a way of getting rid of them.

    But I also sympathize with the moms and dads of the kids.

    In answer to the question:

    Besides being in the presence of God, in word, sacrament, presider and community, which I would think is pretty obvious:

    -They get to see other adults. As a mother of young kids,I was oftern starved for adult company. Going to church was a big deal –and not one I could actually manage every week.

    -They get to NOT have to pay a sitter, or worry about who they have chosen as a sitter.

    -They get to not have to pull any older brother and sisters out of Mass.

    -They get to see friends, hear news, and meet people who share their values.

    - And as awful as the screamers are for you — and as hard as this might be to believe — some see them as a blessing. See this:
    http://www.piercedhands.com/your-screaming-kids-are-distracting-me/

    Hope this helps. I appreciate the honesty of your question.

  • quzysue

    That’s a tough one. I have a 2-y/o grandson and know firsthand that kids and church don’t always go well together. If he was really screaming and wouldn’t stop, we would certainly take him out, and have done so. I guess the question is, who gets to define when screaming becomes annoying and out-of-control? If it were up to my daughter-in-law, she would just as soon not bring him and run the risk of getting out of the habit of coming to church altogether. Is that really what we want as a church? I don’t think so. My husband and I have resorted to bribing them with great breakfasts after mass at our house or out somewhere just so they will get into the habit of bringing him, because I believe that bringing him regularly will help him learn to behave eventually. Our pastor always tells them he is glad they came and brought Noah, but I’m not sure all the parishioners agree!

    It’s a situation that calls for patience, from everyone. Many older parishioners feel like parents today are too permissive and let the kids rule. When a parent is asked by someone to remove their child, the message they receive is “we are not welcome.” When parents don’t take out screaming kids, the message they deliver to the rest of the community is “I don’t care about your mass experience.” We have a nursery and that can be a help. Our parish’s sound system is excellent, too, so if parents have to take their children out of mass they can still hear the readings, homily, etc., and they don’t feel like they are missing out.

    Could this parishioner change seats and get further away from the screamers? I know in our parish the front seats are ALWAYS open and there are certainly no young kids up there (their parents would be horrified to be so close with a somewhat misbehaved child!). I guess what I believe parents get out of the mass is the habit of attending. Once their children get a little older, it will be easier for them to attend regularly because they know what to expect and be a little better behaved (I hope!). I know I much prefer going to mass childless (and I am the mother of 5), but if I want my kids or grandkids to go I need to suffer through their misbehavior for a little while, in order to give them a habit that will last a lifetime (or at least until they graduate high school). :)

  • Jeni Tutwiler

    I’m all for taking the screaming and wailing out of the room. I did it with my kids. If I have a coughing fit, I leave the room. Because that’s good manners, and that’s what I’d hope someone would consider on my behalf. Most kids don’t cry for all of Mass, or all of any event — if they do, they’re tired, hungry or not well, and someone’s got to do something! Parents can come back then. Crying is one thing — but when I can no longer hear a priest or a speaker who’s hooked to a mike, that means I’VE got to go. And sometimes you have to miss the Blessed Sacrament, which IS unfortunate…but those kids only scream for a couple years. It’s transitory. I agree with Brigham Young, who once said, “Crying chidren are like good intentions…they should be carried out.” Peace and love!

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    I’d also add that tag teaming masses can be complicated. Of course you don’t get to go with your family that way, but not all masses are the same. At our parish, one mass is the contemporary, one the traditional, one the choir and at some parishes I’m sure one is in another language. It might be more complicated than just going separately.

  • Krafty Momma

    As the mother of an eight month old infant, I live in fear of a parishioner that asking, “Why is your child in Mass?” As a baptized Christian, my child should be a celebrated member of the congregation.

    Some weeks, I spend a majority of the Mass in the back of the church looking at statues and other beautiful artwork because my son simply can’t handle sitting still for an hour during Mass. We try to be respectful of the other parishioners around us and leave briefly when my child acts up, but sometimes it’s not possible to get to the gathering space before he really belts it out. Understanding parishioners go a long way towards difusing a situation. A child can sense when Mom or Dad is not at ease.

    It’s also not just about what the child gets out of Mass – the parents are there to worship as well. God must give a special grace to parents of young children, because some weeks I don’t feel like I got anything out of the Mass. However, when my husband and I baptized our child, we promised to bring him up in the faith. How can we do that if he doesn’t come to Mass with us? And with no family in the same town as us, if we didn’t bring our child to Mass with us, we wouldn’t be able to go at all.

    Where do you usually sit in Mass? Typically, parents of young children tend to hang out in the back pews or in the cry room (if your parish has one). Most of the time, the first few pews tend to be “child-free.” Due to your medical condition, you may wish to find a more “child-free” Mass by going to an early morning Mass.

  • Ima Mom

    Why stop at babies? What about the man who didnt bathe or the lady with dangly jewelry or the guy with the oxygen pump that makes noise? Why dont they stay home so you can hear? We are a society of intolerance for those who arent convenient. We promote the culture of death by being intolerant to children in the most loving place Jesus created for us. Priests love crying babies. It makes people “try to hear” when they probably werent paying attention in the first place. Offer a smile to that poor mother that was most likely up all night with the sick infant, and cut the family some slack who are just trying to fulfill their Sunday obligation. If only adult pious people were welcome in the pews, the pews would be empty and the church would not survive.

  • Matt R

    Cry rooms are the devil as far as I’m concerned. I have 6 kids under 8 and they are generally well behaved. But a cry room sets a precedent that kids can act up in church without worrying about bothering anyone.

    What would Christ say about sending kids away? Pretty sure he frowned on that. Cry rooms and chapels are a new-age Protestant invention that have no place in the Catholic Church. My grand father was an orthodox priest. The Orthodox love screaming babies at liturgy and would never dream of having a cry room.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Matt

  • Kathy Schiffer

    Funny– About 15 minutes ago, I sent this to someone who needed a reminder. Crying babies mean that the Church has a future. http://blog.adw.org/2009/11/crying-babies-in-church-another-reason-to-thank-god/

  • Diane

    There’s room for accommodation on both sides. I raised my two to be quiet in church, in movies, etc. and I see too many parents allowing their children to run the show. You wouldn’t let your kid scream through a movie (we hope!), so don’t let them scream throughout mass. Of course kids have different tolerances for that hour – if they are full-on screaming or the crying is more than a few moments or they really cannot sit still, stay near the back and take them out when necessary. If it’s just a bit of crying or fussing, well, our Msgr calls that the sound of life and that’s what we want in the Church.

  • http://fromthepulpitofmylife.blogspot.com/ Ruth Ann

    At my parish there was an exemplary family, in my opinion, and they had six children, three boys and three girls. When one child, usually the baby, cried or made too much noise the mother took that one to the vestibule, found a chair and sat there or walked about in that area until the child calmed down or fell asleep or something like that. If and when all was well they quietly returned to the church. Once these children were over age two or so, they all seemed to know the limits and behaved beautifully.

    Part of being a Catholic Christian is practicing charity or love of neighbor. That goes both ways. Sometimes parents need to show respect by removing a child temporarily, but not necessarily leaving the church altogether. Other times, those who don’t have children need to exercise patience, another Christian virtue. Prudence is a good virtue, too. It means making good decisions under the circumstance. No one will have a perfect solution to all problems.

  • Modern Revert

    We are blessed to belong to a thriving parish in suburban Philadelphia. The 9:30 Mass on Sunday is a writhing, seething “mass” of children of all shapes and sizes. It’s impressive to view from the balcony. We also have a cry room, which is rarely occupied. Perhaps because it does separate you from the experience of community? Parents seem to prefer to leave if their kids are acting up. There are times when the prolonged screaming of babies get on my nerves, but I am too preoccupied with my fidgeting nine year old to pay much attention.

  • Preshen

    There are obviously two sides to this issue, as with any, shown by the comments. The parents of the children seem fine with a fidgeting toddler being at Mass, while those without children find that to be an annoyance. The majority of the comments here seem to side with keeping the child in Church during Mass when they misbehave. I have been at Masses where families with young children and babies sit up front, and the children act up and are not taken out. I have been at Masses where the crying babies are in the back of Church and that sound echoes throughout the Church. I have several friends who are priests, and they do not like crying babies at Mass, although they would not say so publicly for fear of alienating the family. That should not be the case. If a child is causing a disturbance, they should be taken out until they are settled down, Period.

    There were times when the noise from irate children was so bad and the parents weren’t doing anything about it, so I left. I could not take that much disrespect and distraction. Please don’t use the “Jesus loves the children” line. Yes he certainly did, but that doesn’t mean we all should tolerate noisy babies at Mass. Please don’t tell me to go to an earlier Mass, my work schedule doesn’t allow for that. God gives me special graces too for being at Mass. That is not unique to parents with young children. Getting the kids started young does not guarantee they will continue to attend Mass as they get older. I have been around a long time, and have seen countless young parents believe they were setting the right example; years later, those same kids are nowhere near the church.

    I consider myself to be a devout Catholic, have been all of my life. I go to Mass because I want to participate. I want to honor Jesus. I want to be around other adults too. I want to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Do I have to do penance by listening to a screaming child in order to accomplish this? No, I should not have to. All of the focus here seems to be turned on those “poor Parents’ who are doing their best, which I have no doubt that they are, but would you sit in a restaurant, a theater, a ball park, or any other public place and let your child/baby act up? I very much doubt it (well, some people are arrogant enough to do just that, I have seen it). After so many years of this, I have gotten to the point where I just leave whereby denying myself reception of the Blessed Sacrament, although at times I have waited outside until Communion time then came back in to receive. As parents you must understand something. You are not the only one’s who are “offering it up” by stepping out of the Church when you child acts up. I have offered up the distraction of the crying many times. Finally, I also am a parent, when my children were young, it was a given that I would step outside with the babies anytime they acted up/cried or fussed. My thought was about the others who were present at Mass, that they should not have to put up with this. Most parents at that time did the same. My parents did the same. If we missed a part of the Mass, that is the way it was. I didn’t feel denied any graces because I felt that being a considerate parishioner was more important than putting others through unnecessary beguilement. I didn’t center the whole thing around myself like I have a “right” to be there so I will just let my kids cry. Of course, that was in another era, when people were more considerate and respectful of others. It wasn’t the “all for me” and what I want generation. There are sacrifices all young parents must make. In my opinion, one of those sacrifices is removing an irate child from Mass when the situation is warranted. If it means going to the cry room, then go there. If you have to go to the narthex/vestibule, then go there, or go outside in warm weather. But don’t think you have a “right” to cause a disturbance to others because you do not.

    I have every right to be at Mass too, and have the right to be able to pray without distraction. I am rarely at a Mass anymore, including weekdays, where there isn’t some child acting up. I have even been at Adoration, supposedly a time for quiet prayer with Our Lord, and someone would be there with a crying baby and would not leave. How insensitive! I do not consider myself to be a pious person. I am a Catholic like all of you who is also doing my best to survive. I have my own problems in life to cope with, just like you do. That is my opinion, however unpopular it may be here. But I will tell you, my opinion is not unpopular among my peers. The question asked here was a pointed one, so I am giving a pointed response. God Bless You.

  • Deacon Steve

    It is a difficult subject to address. Honestly as a parent when my kids were little if they got super disruptive we would take them out for a bit, but then come back in when they calmed down. It is hard to address all the needs of those gathered for mass, and young families need to feel welcomed at their parish. If all they get are glares, and comments (no matter how loving the person tries to make them) then they are not going to feel welcome in the parish, they will go elsewhere, even to protestant churches to try to connect with God. It is also important to remember that those children are Baptized into the body of Christ and have every bit the same right to be at mass as anyone else. What needs to be done is find some sort of middle ground. If a person suffers from a disorder of the hearing that makes loud sounds painful, there might be ear plugs that will help to reduce the noise but allow them to hear and fully participate in the Liturgy. Accommodations need to be made on both sides. We should work with those who are suffering from ailments, but they also need to take steps to be able to be part of the community.
    I have had babies cry in the middle of a homily, many cry during the Baptismal Rite, and I have learned to just continue on, or acknowledge it and incorporate it. Crying babies and noisy children at mass are to me a sign that God wants his creation to continue. The sounds of family include crying babies, and when we gather as a parish family we need to be prepared for that.

  • Bill McG

    When my wife and I had preschool kids, we usually went to different masses and, when in a church that had a crying room, used that if necessary (but many people in the crying room just let their kids run wild). But it shouldn’t be necessary to keep the child at home all the time, and there are times and circumstances when it doesnt work. Babies and toddlers are part of the family and parish. I think people should be tolerant of toddlers and noise and parents who have to raise little kids. They should not take it upon themselves to issue a rebuke. But if a baby/toddlers is really crying loud and can’t be pacified, I do think the child should be taken out..

  • Deacon Brian

    As a deacon and father of 9, it is very important to my wife and I that we bring up our children in the presence of our church community and teach them what it means to be a member of that community. In previous parishes, we were expected to exile ourselves and crying children to the cry room where many times that sound system was not working and felt like we were the star attraction at the zoo. Now, our current parish does not have a cry room, nor any other area a parent can bring a child to comfort them and still try in participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. My lovely wife spends hours getting the children ready for Mass while I am already away serving the earlier services, drives 40 minutes to the parish I serve at so we can at least be present at the same Mass. To top it off, she suffers from bouts of severe arthritis and cannot wrangle a child out of Mass without a struggle.

    So I would say to your reader, who notes they have to struggle to deal with the noise created by children, to put themselves in the parents place and understand that these parents want nothing more to attend Mass with perfectly behaved children. But since there are none of those, they want to be present with their community in love and support and be present with the Lord. How about lending a hand to help comfort the children? Isn’t that what community is supposed to be about, loving one another?

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen any parent refuse to take a screaming child out of the nave. But we also cannot teleport and I cannot count the times we’ve been ousted from carefully chosen escape-accessible seats by ushers or other parishioners. Getting out usually takes time.

    Second, a far more frequent occurrence than prolonged screaming is the intermittent shriek. We can’t predict when they will let one go, whether it will be repeated, or whether it merits the parental walk of shame.

    Third, parents dislike having attention drawn to them and leaving the pew with an intermittent shrieker draws more attention than the noise. I’ve actually been shamed mid-homily by the celebrant for taking my son outside when he was being noisy!

    Fourth, as they get older, kids learn all they have to do to leave boring old church is make loud noises. There’s a balancing act for taking out a 2-3 year old that’s different for every kid. Cry rooms or a closed off narthex, while well intentioned, are especially ineffective because they always seem full of other kids eating or playing.

    Fifth, I find my son making tyrannosaurus shadow puppet jaws is far more disruptive than the loudest baby cries. :-)

  • Carol

    Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    Well, I hope people also love guys with Meniere’s disease throwing up helplessly all over the pews….

    We can love parents and babies while also loving people who aren’t parents and babies. It’s okay for parents to go in and out of the pews, or even the nave, as kids need it. And it’s okay for everybody else to take a little movement and a few noises in their stride.

    Of course, when I was growing up, our church frequently had people, including families, standing in the aisles at the popular Mass times, so a few parents getting out of the pews or walking their kids in the vestibule were not particularly noticeable among the throng!

  • Denise

    I think it is wonderful that parents take their children with them to the Church. Week masses, I enjoyed seeing a Young mother with her newborn (now 4 months old) which is truly an angel. The child seem really with angels during the mass.

  • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

    Hmm. The reader who sent in the question is asking why the families won’t remove their babies from the “Saturday Morning” Mass in the “chapel.” Frankly, families with small children who are attending an extra Mass on Saturday mornings are already being quite heroic, in my opinion. That said, if the children are really screaming the whole time (and the chapel is presumably small) perhaps the priest could gently request that screaming infants be removed until they calm down.

    On Sunday, it’s a different story. Presumably on Sunday families are simply trying to fulfill their Sunday obligation. Split Masses or babies left with sitters may work for some, but not all (especially in rural areas or when the baby is a nursing infant who can’t be away from mom yet). So on Sunday I would advice heroic charity on the part of those who are occasionally inconvenienced by a crying child.

  • Jim S

    Here’s a really interesting post from a priest in Minneapolis. Some great points.
    http://thejesuitpost.org/site/2013/02/an-open-letter-to-parents-thank-you-for-not-using-the-cry-room/

  • Lila

    As a former Orthodox, I understand what Matt is saying…but even in the Orthodox Church, a true and real screamer would be taken outside to calm down. Regular everyday kid noise, though, was and is not a problem. It’s a part of everyone being together. Don’t forget that in most Orthodox churches, there are no pews! :) I had babies once, back in the day. I generally didn’t take them to Mass until they were a few months old, and then hubby and I did the tag team thing, taking turns removing them when needed, bathroom trips, etc. When they got older, I used to take the “Mass bag” with me…little soft toys, soft Catholic picture books, etc., to keep them busy, esp. at homily time. I never did the eating thing, and that is one thing you can’t seem to stop once you start. Would you eat a burger in church? Then don’t let the kids start the eating in church habit, even if it keeps their mouths engaged. Anyway….yes, it’s not realistic to expect little babies to be perfectly quiet for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If a baby is truly screaming, as only little babies can, it’s only respectful and courteous to others to take them out until they calm down. We are not the center of the universe (contrary to contemporary beliefs). Other people’s needs should be taken into account by us.

  • marye

    Parents tune out a lot of noise, so it could be that they don’t hear the crying until it gets really loud and insistent. A parent may hear “baby sounds” while others hear “crying” or “screaming.” The difficulty is that a child’s crying can be truly disruptive to the people sitting nearby, or even aisles away, depending on how piercing a particular child’s voice is. And . . . some parents are simply more sensitive to the experience of others, while (I’m sorry) other parents seem to expect others to take crying (or loud whining and complaining by older children) in stride. I would hate for parents of babies and toddlers to avoid coming to church, but if a baby or child doesn’t stop crying within a minute or two, one of them should take the child to the back of the church.

  • Ann

    I am an “older parishioner” and I am not bothered by hearing the babies at all. Most parents will take them out if the noise gets to a ridiculous level. As I understand it, cry rooms have been discouraged in new buildings and our parish does not have a nursery provided as most protestant churches seem to have. The noise level at the Easter Vigil Mass this Easter was very high; HOWEVER, I think over 20 people were baptized and the church was packed with some people standing. The Mass lasted over three hours and those families with young children sitting around me stayed until the end. I love to go to the to the Spanish Mass because it is full of kids and it is a joyful experience that reflects our growing and diverse church. When I hear babies crying I am reminded of the Church’s teaching on sanctity of life.

  • Marie

    When my grown children were young I remember many older people during Holy Mass smiling and helping with my children. There were some who looked for us and asked if we were gone on a trip the next week if we were not there. I see the celebration of the Mass as a community celebration. During retreats I have had the beauty of the peace and quiet and also during participating with local religious. The catechism does speak to this : 1140-”rites which are meant to be celebrated in common, with the faithful present and actively participating, should as far as possible be celebrated in that way rather than by an individual and quasi-privately.” So with the community comes the difficulties of seeing the alter and/or hearing at moments. May our Lord give us the grace to love being together during the most important moments we will have here on this earth.

  • Deacon Norb

    Bottom line — you will never NEVER hear me chastise parents because their child is talking or praying or even singing during mass. My wife and I have seven children we raised to adults and we have fourteen grand-children so I speak from some experience.

    This Sunday I am presiding at the communal baptisms in my parish. I have eleven “on-deck”; six boys and five girls. There will likely be some fussing but it will all go according to the plan of the Risen Lord when he says (in one of the two Baptism Gospels) “Let the little ones come to me and do not hinder them.”

  • Kim

    I have actually found that having my kids in the front of the church cuts down on the noise. I think more of these parents need to sit in the front with their kids. I remember when someone suggested this to me. I was horrified at the thought! However, it does work. The kids are right where the action is. They get to see everything; the priest, the altar servers, and when put on mom’s shoulder, all the faces of the other parishiners. I would just suggest to parents struggling with the wigglies and such to move to the front!

    As for screaming in church, some of us have found that if you continue to remove the kids, they will learn how to play the game to get out of church to play. Yes, I had 2 of these out of my 4 kids. I had to juggle the fussing vs. how disruptive it was because they had to learn that we were there for God, not for them to go and play outside while everyone else was inside. I spent many a mass outside or in the hall ways. We learned early on to avoid the cry room since it was either chaos in there with parents letting their kids roam wild, or it had teens avoiding the mass and chatting. It is better to stay in the church proper.

    Why am I there even with a fussy kid? Because I need God! I need the graces of being in His presence to get me through to the next week. I need my kids to know that this is not an optional thing. That is my take.

  • Sus

    Just reading this stresses me out because I’m remembering the awful masses I’ve attended when my kids were little. Once one of them actually told the other they smelled like a butt loud enough for the priest to hear.. When my kids misbehave in public I want a hole to open up so I can dive in. My kids considered being taken out as winning. The cry room had toys! Other people had snacks!

    Does the mom with the screaming baby have other kids that she’d have to take out along with the baby? Maybe that’s why she stays.

    Thankfully my little darlings are old enough to understand the “mom look” so it isn’t much of an issue now. Although we sometimes still all hold hands during Mass. That seems to help them keep their attention on the service. I recently found out that’s a no-no but it’s a family habit that I like so we still do it.

    I say give the parent a break. They probably don’t hear the screaming like people who aren’t around it all the time hear it. I’ll be the first one to complain if someone brings a kid somewhere like an R rated movie at 10pm but I’d never say anything about kids at Mass.

    These screaming babies are our future Catholics.

  • Deacon Mike

    In 1984 my wife and I lost our second child after an eight and a half month pregnancy. Everything throughout the pregnancy was seemingly fine but all of a sudden our baby had died. She was perfect when delivered except for one thing, she was not alive. I never heard her cry, not one sound. As I held her in my arms I longed to hear her crying.

    We had two more children after that and each of our three children joined us at every Sunday mass unless one was ill. There they learned that there are times for quiet, they learned about mass, the Eucharist, what it means to be community, etc. if they were ever obnoxious one of us would take the offending child out so as not be disruptive.

    As a preacher and a deacon who has assisted at the altar for almost 29 years, I can say there were very few times when a crying baby was disruptive. Crying babies have never really bothered me. In fact, maybe I am a little jealous because it reminds me of a daughter whose voice i never heard twenty-nine years ago. Crying is a sign of life and how can I be pro-life and then resent new life?

    I am now privileged to have seven grandchildren. I pray for them every day. I also pray that one day I will hear my daughter’s voice

  • Stephanie

    Since the gentleman posing the question has a specific condition, I assume he is already taking responsibility for it himself by wearing earplugs to dampen the sound?

    I’m also thinking that perhaps “screaming” to him probably sounds like “fussing” to most parents. Your tolerance kinda builds up over time and # of kids. Not saying a true “screamer” doesn’t need to be taken out, just that it’s all relative to one’s baseline noise level.

  • Dave

    I read once about certain saints (priests and lay) that actual saw angels around the altar while Mass was being celebrated. One Sunday I was praying that I would be able to see them as well, but several crying babies were distracting me. It then hit me – those little babies were angels.

  • Sandra

    Okay, I was an infant and toddler during the days of the Latin Mass for all. My parents and grandparents learned early… if I could SEE, I was quiet. from the age of 9 months on-ward.
    If we were early, and I was on my own feet, I RAN, literally ran up the aisle to the communion rail to basically “gawk” at the altar and tabernacle.

    For the consecration, rather than kneel, I stood on the pew to see, transfixed (according to a number of aunts).

    Nope I was fussy, disruptive and loud when I could not see. At our home parish, I was not the only toddler to “get-away” and stand quietly in the aisle, and our pastor, allowed for the quiet ones to stand and watch or even sit on the kneelers/steps at the communion rail.

    I have found, over the years, with both our children (and now grand-child) and with those of friends and relatives… when allowed to SEE what is going on, they are attentive, and often more reverent than many adults around them.

    Overuse of the “cry room” the children never seem to grow INTO the faith, it’s NOTHING SPECIAL. By the Way, nearly all of the “cry rooms” I have ever seen are FAR FAR AWAY, and you cannot see, let alone hear the mass in the other room. You might as well have stayed home.

    One priest friend told me he gauges the time to wrap-up his homily by the number of toddlers getting restless. “They’re more honest about just when you go too long.”

    Crying fussing infants, babies and toddlers are signs of a healthy and growing community, may all our parishes have infants, babies and toddlers present.

  • Erik

    I once heard Archbishop Flynn of St. Paul say, “Praise God!” After a baby let out a loud cry during a Confirmation ceremony. He then said, “too many little cries have been silenced, praise God for that beautiful cry!” Thank you Archbishop Flynn.

  • Pingback: Why don’t parents take screaming babies out of church? - CATHOLIC FEAST - Sync your Soul

  • Elaine S.

    Everyone has good comments here but I’d like to add this. My parents were both very observant Catholics (Mom was a convert) but they did not start taking me or my brother to Mass until we were about 4 or 5 years old and could sit still long enough not to be disruptive. That meant Mom and Dad had to attend separate Masses, or leave us with our grandparents who lived next door. Both of us have been lifelong practicing Catholics so it didn’t do us any harm to wait until we were older to attend Mass. Also, bear in mind that a child is not OBLIGATED to attend Mass on Sundays until he or she reaches the age of reason (traditionally, around age 6 or 7).
    For these reasons, I believe that if a child is going through the “terrible twos” and keeping them from being disruptive during Mass is a constant struggle for the parents, it’s OK to let them stay home for a while and then try bringing them back when they are a little more mature. While I have no objection to bring little children to Mass and am reasonably tolerant of babies and toddlers who are a little bit restless (I have a daughter who was like that once), I don’t think it’s a given that you MUST bring your children to Mass every Sunday from birth lest they “never learn” how to behave in church — some kids might learn better at a little later age.

  • naturgesetz

    I agree completely with Preshen, at 8:09 p.m.

    I’d also like to suggest that if it is at all possible to leave he very young with a baby sitter, or to stagger the parents’ Mass attendance, then the children can have it presented as a privilege for “big boys and girls.”

    I’ll also note that many people acknowledge in their comments that children who are screaming at Mass should be removed, but seem to think that they are disagreeing with the original writer — as if that weren’t exactly what he said. Instead of getting on his case, they should be getting on the case of parents who are so self-centered and lacking in Christian love for their fellow Mass-goers that they are unwilling to remove their screaming infants until they quiet down.

  • Marie

    We have a wheelchair bound young man who screams randomly at the youth Mass. He has yelled at several bishops and at least one cardinal. Visiting priests are warned that it will happen. Someone who complained to the pastor was advised to attend a different mass. Mass is the highlight of this man’s week. If a screa ming baby bothers you find a different mass. Or maybe volunteer to start a nursery qministry.

  • Maggie

    I do ‘t know. I never had children of my own, but I do find the screaming really hard to bear at times. Last Sunday I was at a 7:30 PM Mass that was graced by a real screamer who seemed to want to be in competition with the priest, the lector and the cantor. He or she was quiet when there was silence, but once anyone spoke the screams began. A little cry once or twice is not objectionable, but this was absurd. And, contrary to how some commenters have taken this question, the problem is not with children over the age of three or four, but with babies and toddlers, the little ones who have no ability to understand or even be directed to anything.

    When I was little my parents took turns attending Mass. It wasn’t till I was about three and had been prepared by my mother through nimerous advance visits to the church so I knew what it was and Who lived there that I went to Mass and we were able to go as a family. The slight delay doesn’t seem to have damaged my spiritual life!

    Obviously, the noisy children are blameless as they are too young to understand any of what is happening or even where they are. For them it’s simply an uncomfortable experience of enforced inactivity in a strange place with strange sounds and smells. No wonder they cry and scream! I can’t help wondering if their presence really is of any value for them, or if it leaves them with unhappy memories of a place in which they were confined and uncomfortable. My belief is that it is more a source of the latter. And I personally think that it is more parental laziness that is the reason behind all the screaming.

  • Barbara

    Don’t you find that the parents who allow their children to disrupt a Mass, are the same parents who allow their children to disrupt in restaurants, movies, stores – generally anywhere in public? There really is no hope for those parents – they are ignorant of societal norms and general rules of etiquette. I notice that the parents who are raising their children reasonably will arrive fairly early and take one of the back seats or near one of the exits and will sit on the aisle in order to make a quick exit when a child begins to act out.

    My parish has volunteer babysitting for children during Mass — mostly us old Grandma types who love being with little ones. I also find that the crying room is just quiet enough for me when the ignorant fool parents are letting their children scream. You will often find the crying room filled with us oldsters — peace at last.

  • Preshen

    I neglected to add something when I commented earlier. Each of my four children are grown now with families of their own. All have remained practicing Catholics throughout their lives. In their college years, they were all involved in the campus ministry programs and university parishes. They each married a Catholic and are active now in their respective parishes. They each have young children who they will take out of the church when necessary just like I did with them and my parents did with me.

    To say that putting up with crying or noisy babies at Mass is necessary and that “they are the future of the church” is a distortion of the facts in my opinion. Yes, our Church needs a future, but I have to tell you that when my children were growing up, it was the example we set for them that kept them on the right track, not the fact that we hauled our toddlers to Mass. Yes, I needed God in my life. I would love to have stayed through the homily and reflect on what was being said, but I felt that stopping a disturbance to others was more important, so I sacrificed. I never felt like an outcast at my parish.

    It is a daily job, hour by hour, to set a good example, talk about Jesus and what is right and wrong. Pray together, eat together, turn off the computer, TV, and games. Do things as a family and teach the kids lessons as you go. Don’t allow sports and other activities to take you away from Sunday Mass. I do not attribute my children’s faith to my making them go to Mass at a young age. I always took them out when they were ornery. I spent many Masses in the vestibule with other parents who did the same. That is just what we did out of respect for others. We never felt it was right to disturb others because we needed to “feel” like we a part of the parish. We already knew we were a part of the parish community as many people at the time told us. They appreciated what we did for them by removing our children when necessary, and they in turn helped us when we needed it. There were times when other parishioners would take our child out for a while just to help us. We now do the same for other young families who might be struggling through Mass. I too wanted to hear the homily. I didn’t always like being outside or in the back with a fussy child. But I did it out of respect and consideration for others, and as I said, my 4 children are fine young adults now and are doing a fine job themselves raising their families. It may take a little more work to accomplish this. That where I see some of the problem. It is certainly easier to just stay put at Mass and let the child fuss and cry. I urge you all to think of others too, just as you are asking others to think of you. We all need God in our lives. I want to experience Him fully as much as anybody else, but it might take some work on all sides to accomplish this.

    I realize there is not going to be total agreement on this topic. But we all need to support one another and work together-that to me is the future of our Church.

    The point is this: set an example and it will be appreciated by other parishioners. Set that example at home and your kids will be fine.

  • n

    due to “female” problems, i had to have a hysterectomy at age 30. my son is the only child i will ever have. no matter how “bad” my week has been, seeing all of those children in the mass makes me happy. hearing them always makes me smile. my son is spectacularly well behaved, and has been since he was born. i have seen the “walk of shame” to the cry room, and i think it’s heartbreaking. it seems like we’ve become so involved in what we want for ourselves, that we don’t see the other PERSON. i love that parents take their children (of ANY age) to mass. i’ll never forget going to a marian feast mass and watching a new mom try to placate her little one, who couldn’t have been one yet. he calmed down during the hail mary, but he SANG ALONG during the singing of the ave! that’s when i knew i was in the right parish. i’ve seen new born babies in mass, and i’ve seen older children with down’s. ALL of them make me wonder what might’ve been, but the fact that they are there at all makes me proud to be catholic!

  • anony

    An interesting and thoughtful discussion. My experience as a parent of a large family is that our children went to Mass every Sunday from the time they were in the womb. Mass is a way of life, in fact central to our life, and “second nature”, something you do. People often remarked how well-behaved they were – in church, in school, etc. – with the typical “how do you do it?” We can only attribute it to the grace of God and the fact that they were raised to go to church every week. As others have mentioned in their posts, sitting on an aisle/near an exit, can provide a way for a parent to discreetly, and briefly, step out to comfort a fussy baby. I don’t recall any of my kids ever “screaming” throughout Mass. Another suggestion for restless little ones is to sit up front. It’s no fun for a child if you’re in the back with tall people in front of you and you can’t see what’s going on. If we teach them from a young age that church is special, and why it’s special, children are very open to the mystery and beauty. It’s very frustrating to see people bringing cheerios and sippy cups in church. Sometimes that is more distracting than a child’s occasional outburst. An hour is not too long to pay attention, even for little ones!

  • oldestof9

    To all the parents who choose to remain in back at mass—
    My parents used to haul the 9 of us to the FRONT of church so that we could see what was going on. How would you like it if YOU were 3′-2″ and had to look at everyone’s backside….I’d scream too.
    Sometimes they just want to know what’s going on….give it some thought…

    Peace to all

  • Lawrence S. Cunningham

    Some years ago I was at Kentucky’s Gethsemani Abbey for Sunday Mass at which a baby cried rather loudly. After Mass I ran into an old priest hermit who had come in from the woods for the community Mass, mail, and supplies. He asked me if I had hear the baby crying. I told him that one could hardly miss the noise. He answered: “It will be a sad day in the church when we don’t hear babies crying at Mass.”

  • Todd

    Seems to be a lack of understanding of the reverence of the Mass, and a show of their selfishness.

  • Ellen

    My oldest child sat still through a whole funeral service in the front row quietly and politely. We thought we were pretty good parents. My second? It seemed he could not sit still, though he was still sweet and good. Fortunately, the church we were attending when he was very young had the cry room where the old choir loft used to be. They glassed it in, and it had a very good sound system, so the children up there could see clearly what was going on and hear the mass as well. Knowing his disruptiveness – not noise, just disruptiveness – would be, well, disruptive to others, we just went upstairs immediately. He would have one small thing to hold, and the rest of us (Dad, Mom, and older brother) would quietly and respectfully listen and participate in the service. What we told HIM was – and it worked wonders for us – “I’m sorry – you aren’t able to behave like the big people yet so you don’t GET to sit down with everyone else yet. It’s ok, you will get big like your brother soon.” Thus, sitting with everyone else was something he WANTED to do, and he got no rewarding interaction for not being still and quiet. However, if he was behaving, I would smile quietly at him, or squeeze his hand gently, or run my fingers over his hair next to me. Some quiet acknowledgement that I noticed and was proud of his efforts. Humorously, his efforts eventually led to some rewards for others. He attended 3 year old kindergarten at our next church (when we moved). The monsignor there required EVERY teacher to bring all of their students to the Friday morning mass. The poor teacher and her aide had their hands full, but not with my formerly fidgety boy. He had developed by then the ability to go immediately to sleep when he sat in the pew :D ! And let me tell you, his teacher was FINE with that! He has gone on to be a very well behaved, weekly mass attending 23 year old. The older one not so much, but we’re praying. And yes, he’s still fidgety, just “adult-style.” But I’m so proud to have him with me, and have HIM know and believe the importance of being there. Hugs to all who are enduring the distractions (they bother me too!) and Hugs to all the parents who are trying to work with their kids. Those who can’t smile at the parents who are trying, and the parents who say why should MY kid have to be quiet – maybe we should quit lecturing others about putting us first and put our neighbor first. Kids won’t be perfect, nor should the mass become a pre-school free-for-all. Adults, remember that the quieter the ADULTS are before and during mass, the quieter the kids will be – it’s not just the KIDS who drive me to distraction! :) And finally, you can smile at the parent who is dealing with the misbehavior, but PLEASE don’t smile at the misbehaving child, or even make eye contact when they are not behaving. Often times, THAT is why they are doing it – the interaction.

  • Ellen

    I have a 16-mo-old who HATES being held, but my husband and I take her to Mass every weekend and really much prefer to sit among the congregation rather than a cry room. We think there is great grace and blessing for both her and the people around us in being in the church proper.

    It is important to remember, though, that children that young may need a break. When our little one needs a break, we take her out into the gathering area of our church for a break and bring her back in as soon as there is a good moment. Most Masses are in the middle of the morning, which is often right during a little one’s nap time. Parents have to roll with the punches to go to Mass as a family. Also, many parents (including myself many Sundays) are often attending Mass with their children without another adult because their spouse is not Catholic. My spouse most often attends with my daughter and I, but there are weekends that I take her on my own. I can’t imagine if I had two or three to bring!

    We also do a few things to make sure we give our daughter every opportunity to behave well in Mass: we sit near other families whose children give her some entertainment and who understand what it’s like to be at Mass with a little one, we make sure she is clean and well fed and as rested as possible, and, as I mentioned, we give her a break if she needs one.

    I do think there is a balance here. Parishioners (and priests!) should cut parents a little slack, and parents should make sure they are giving children every opportunity to behave.

  • kat

    Like anything in life teaching children how to behave is a proccess. How will they learn to behave at Mass when they are older if they are never taken when they are little? Far more distracting and disrespectful to me is not a fussy baby or playing toddler but a child of 8 or 10 or even older who has no idea how they are supposed to behave at Mass. They spend the whole time playing with their hair or turning around looking at everybody or playing on a muted electronic device.

  • Joy R.

    Having been there and done that, there is a difference between the parent who is getting the child adjusted to church and the parent who is ignoring a child’s needs, such as the child may be expressing hunger or the need for a diaper change. I have also sat through Sundays in the cry room with the blocks, trucks, and flying Cheerios. I found a cranky baby or toddler in the sanctuary to be a lot less stressful than being in there.

  • Carolyn Izzo

    I took all four of my children to mass every Sunday and many daily masses. If they cried or acted up they went outside until they were quiet. This was the practice when I was a child when there was no such thing as a cry room ( which is now just an excuse for play and visit time for family’s in the cry room in my church). I don’t understand why these family’s feel no need to correct their children or remove babies in respect for the church at large that is trying to pay attention to mass and hopefully celebrate it. My only answer is the what the society at large has become….”it is only about me” form of narcissism.

  • Tami

    Ok, so as a mother of 6 ages 10 to 1-1/2, I feel like I should give my two cents worth on this topic. 1. They can’t learn to sit still in church if you never take them, so leaving them at home is not an option. Plus, Jesus said “Let the children come.” 2. Sometimes it is hard to take them out of church and more disruptive trying to do so. In our case, you take one out and then the other 3 little ones panic and then you are having to take 4 out at once. Most parents are hoping they can calm them down in the pew. 3. cry rooms are a joke. People let their kids do everything in there and it reinforces the bad behavior. 4. there are several Masses to choose from, so pick the one that has less younger families. Ours is the 7:30 am Mass. 5. you can’t create a culture of Life and no birth control, if young Families are constantly being looked at as an inconvenience to others in the Parish. 6. Mass is not about you and what you get out of it, but about what you put into it. You don’t have to hear to participate. I know because I can rarely hear with my crew. Rather than criticizing those that are trying to lead their children to Christ, maybe you should just say prayer for them.

  • Jill

    At some point, training a child to sit still for an hour needs to begin at home, not at Mass. Reward quiet sitting in increasingly longer increments. And remember that these crying/trying times are only FOR a time. Eventually, they grow up and give crying babies funny looks.

  • http://coucoumelle.blogspot.com Jeanne

    I’m the mother of five. There is a difference between children just being children (unable to sit still for a whole hour, some of them unable to shut up and not talk for one minute, let alone one hour, etc…) and children wailing and screaming. If one of my children were really wailing, I would take them out. Note that this is not an easy feat when you have 5 and you are alone with them all at mass. I often had to take 3 out at a time, because one was misbehaving and the other 2 too young to be left alone.

    I think it simply a matter of etiquette to remove a wailing child. On the other hand, when the child is simply talking non-stop because he is two, and just WILL NOT SHUT UP, no matter how often you try to get him to not talk because HE DOESN’T GET IT that he’s not supposed to talk, and then people turn around and give you dirty looks, even though he’s not wailing, or being extra noisy, or make comments about mass not being a day care centre or “could you please get him to stop talking” that’s when I get upset.

    People PLEASE. I am trying MY HARDEST to bring up my kids in the Catholic Faith and doing it ALONE on top of it. If I don’t take them to mass when they are young, guess what. THEY WILL NEVER GO. Ever. Do you think if I start taking them to mass at the age of 6 or 7, that they will take to it like a fish to water and not complain every time they have to go again? And since I am already up against opposition, I don’t NEED more opposition!!!

    Christ welcomed the children. You know, if your mass was disturbed by one child talking behind you, one Sunday, in your whole year, really, was that so intolerable? EVERY SINGLE Sunday mass for the past 19 years has been anything but relaxing for me. And you know what? You don’t even have to deal with the child yourself. I do. When I hear other peoples’ children talking in other benches, the rare times I get to go to a mass alone, I hear them, but they don’t disturb me. I DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH THEM!!! Hallelujah!!!

  • Lynn Loring

    It is apparent that this thread has a sampling of the usual population of extremists. I did read a couple balanced comments, thank goodness! Each person’s situation is different, but I will offer a couple thoughts. First of all, to those that say the “cry rooms” are a joke because people use them as an excuse to play. Well, let them. It’s not your business, but don’t let it stop you from taking your screaming baby or toddler out! I believe it is prideful and uncharitable to stay seated while a child is crying in a prolonged manner! I don’t care how hard it is to get out of the pew…please go! It is good for your heart to humble yourself and for those around you. The baby/toddler will miss nothing. Grace fills the entire place and in fact, if your child is sick or having a bad morning…do a spiritual communion on their behalf. I disagree with limiting God’s goodness to the NEED to be in the same four walls. God sees the heart. I raised 7 kids, three special needs. My life is sustained on Mass and all it means. This nonsense about…oh gee, all the screaming means new life, means our future, etc. Bull! That is sentimentality and it is used so you can sit and not move in your stubbornness. Believe me, I know…sentimentality is a cloak for pride and stubbornness. I was there! It was me. Thank goodness I, even if begrudgingly, took my child out when necessary. Yes, it feels humiliating for some reason, but nonetheless…it is charitable. This discussion should only have to be had in the RCIA’s for the newbies so as to teach them how to behave and respond as Mass. But, some sentimentalists have now caused such as climate that those who speak the obvious truth about what is charitable and common sense…have now made people afraid NOT to embrace screaming as some De fact o wonderful proof of God’s love for children and some great future in the screaming child. No one is saying stay at home until your child is 7 and no one is saying that a child should not be allowed a minute or two to settle before leaving for the cry room…but to disturb? It is God’s house of prayer…seriously? Come to my house and see what happens if you allow your screaming baby to disrupt all 50 guests. I will lovingly help you to my bedroom to quiet your child down, which when a child is removed works well. Since I am a grandma now, I have offered my help to young moms (apparently alone) and they scoff at me as if I’m intruding. I only had a kind sweetness towards them, but instead of being instructed wisely, these sentimentalist have infected their minds to the point of refusing charity when given…..Again, how ridiculous that a screaming baby is going to miss out on grace because they are taken to the cry room or even the car if need be. That is a lack of faith and teaching.

  • Patty

    Our pastor recently wrote a column in our bulletin on this issue, as a young mother contacted him upset about an encounter during Mass. They are older now, but my little children made noise. Our church does not have a cry room, but a former parish did, and I disliked using it because they seem to create license for kids of many ages to have a free for all. My daughter used to scream (both intermittently and not so intermittently) during Mass. We figured out when she was just vocalizing a little and when she was getting a good head of steam. When she was getting a good head of steam, we used to take her out of the church into a foyer area (where I could still see the altar) until she settled down. Some days were better than others. I used to get very frustrated with not being able participate in Mass the way I wanted to, but what I needed to do was to grow in patience with my child and give up getting my way right.this.minute. We found more exposure to Mass, especially the shorter, daily Masses, were helpful in getting her more used to Mass, and also sitting in the front where she could see kept her “busy” and less likely to shriek for entertainment. I too now have Meniere’s Disease and can understand where the original writer is coming from in terms of the pain and other discomfort involved when encountering loud and particularly, high-pitched noises. Sometimes certain pitches in the music bother my ears! The masses at our parish all have different flavors, so to speak. Perhaps a different Mass time would better suit?

  • http://www.piercedhands.com Meg

    Thanks for linking to my post! It might help those who read it to know that I’m not actually a young mother. I’m single and speaking as a woman with no children, I’m glad to hear the sounds of little ones. Sometimes it seems that it’s only parents of young children (or parents of formerly young children) who are trying to be supportive and patient in this but I know plenty of childless people who rejoice in the noises of children–when we notice at all.

  • Patty

    From our pastor’s column in a recent bulletin (the “I” in the excerpt is not our pastor, but the author indicated below):

    “As Meg Hunter-Kilmer writes here, we need your wailing kids at church not despite the distractions they bring, but exactly because they are distractions from what otherwise can be – let’s admit – a sometimes selfish time. We need them to pull us out of ourselves, or at least I do. And although we usually don’t say welcome or thank you, we should. Because, as Ms. Hunter-Kilmer puts it, More often than not you [parents] don’t notice the smiles.
    You notice the rolled eyes and raised eyebrows and dirty looks and you think that at best you’re not making anyone angry. But that’s not true – at best, you’re making the
    people around you saints. You’re pulling them out of their self-obsession and reminding them that being at Church is about emptying ourselves for God and each other.
    (from Fr. Joe Simmone, SJ, http://www.thejesuitpost.org)

  • Lynn Loring

    Would like to add…there is a reason that it is NOT a requirement to even take a child to Mass until about 7…because our God and our church understand the intricacies of baby/toddler days. Also, using the scene from scripture where Jesus says, “let the children come to me”, etc. is not a good analogy. An analogy only works if it fits the scene and it does NOT. Babies, toddlers, children are most beloved by our God and our church…but unless the parents are taught humility (such as caring about NOT disturbing others in a prolonged manner) then have fun when the child grows up. There is a spirit that is NOT good at work here…lack of humility and stubbornness is prevalent in our time, along with sentimentality…all of it the opposite of what following our Lord is about. There are plenty of opportunities for all of us to truly love the babies, toddlers, children, and special needs children, daily! There are plenty of God sanctioned moments of sacrifice on their behalf…but, at MASS…the parent/caregiver is given an opportunity to patiently and lovingly remove the screaming child…the only one who is truly being hurt in the long run by the sentimentality heresies is the mom…she is not encouraged in a spirit of humility. The child, if raised in this manner and mindset ends up having to suffer an extra does of pride to have to conquer…sad…But, yes as some say…rewards will be given to the priests and the people who have to endure the care givers pride…resulting in NOT removing a screaming, unhappy baby/toddler….NOT TO MENTION….how unfair to the baby. A baby quiets down when removed for a reason…they are having a sensory melt down…get them out…it is the loving thing to do. The care giver’s nerves is not exactly conducive to an upset baby being kept in a place where every single person is only able to concentrate on crying…seriously…imagine…no one is in a deep trance at Mass…they are awake, alert…what the incessant crying (not occasional and short lived) crying does is hurt every single person, even those deceived by sentimentality

  • Linda

    As a mother of four girls i have gone from my first being an angel who was very quiet and would at 10 months old sit quietly by herself as i went to take the readings(i was a lector) to my second who was given the nickname “miss wiggle bottom” because she would not sit still, mind you she was also quiet but she would be constantly hopping on and off the pew, then my third who was also quiet but extended her movement to standing in the isle and coming back to her seat which made me start sitting at the end of the pew to my fourth, who is two years old now and has decided to test every ounce of patience i posses. She will yell if she does not get her way, she wants to be free to run round the whole church at any time and onto the alter when she wants to. I have simply had to find a way to make her understand that she cannot and will not have her way without disrupting the mass for others.I would never dream of letting any one of my children miss mass unless they were ill and as my husband is not catholic i have to take them on my own. I agree with the people who say sit in front so that the children can see and food and drinks in church is a no no (obviously except for nursing babies). The children have to learn about mass and and we as adults have to learn to be both considerate and tolerant of others.

  • http://kevinhickson.blog.com Kevin

    The next time you hear a child crying in church say a prayer such as “God bless that child’s activity.” Children at Mass are a sign of family unity and that the faith continues. There is such an attack on the family today, we in church should be encouraging families to attend Mass together. We need to welcome all.

  • Tammy

    I think we all deal with crying children in different ways. My children went to daily mass with me, it was usually 20 minutes long and most of the time they could behave themselves and I think they learned a lot of self control at an early age from daily mass. On Sundays, our parish had a beautiful garden with the Stations of the Cross, my husband would take the restless ones out there and they would do the stations. We were lucky to have a beautiful area to take our children. My children were the best behaved by the ages of 4 or 5 years old. The beauty of taking your children to mass is watching them to grow in Gods love. I’m excited to say my 11 year old son wants to become a priest! He just stated the other day “when I become Pope”, so the child has big dreams. God bless him and all who tolerated his outburst as an infant. You never know who that child will become with lots of love and understanding.

  • http://www.catholicmomma.ca PZallas

    Do babies belong in Mass? Of course! Should parents be conscientious of the people around them? Of course! There needs to be a balance. As a mom of 4, I often am faced with the decision of how loud is too loud? When I feel it crosses the line, I am blessed with a parish that has a separate area for families with kids. My concern? Many parents use this area as a playroom. This isn’t the understanding I want to instill in my children of what Mass is intended for. I would never, ever lose the graces offered in Mass because my child cries, and I would never take the opportunity to receive those graces away from them either. Maybe we need a quiet area for people who can’t stand families? My children, and yours, are the next generation of Catholics. They should be welcomed as what they are: brothers and sisters in Christ, even when they are crying.

  • http://revertedxer.blogspot.com Gen X Revert

    My son will be 2 very soon & we take him to Church and thankfully people have been very happy to see him. We noticed the crying room encourages him to run around so we now stay in the pews. I take him out when he makes too much noise. Thankfully there are statues and great stained glass to occupy him somewhat. I have noticed since becoming a Dad how inadequate the parishes on Long Island are for young children – few have changing stations in the bathrooms for example and the outlets in the crying rooms are not covered. I think a pro-life Church that wants children should work on that.

  • http://thingsiwontapologizefor.blogspot.com Jessica

    My family attends a small parish in which 75% of the people are over 50. I have two boys ages 1 and 3, and have never had a negative word about either of my children from a single parishoner, despite pew banging, singing at inappropriate times, crying out when a brother has taken a snack or toy, and yes, screaming babies.
    My husband and I disagree sometimes on when to take the boys out of Mass. If a baby is crying because it needs to be fed, quickly slipping on my nursing cover and letting the baby eat is faster and more painless than taking him out and then also creating the problem of the older child crying because mommy left.

    I think that in our parish, most of the older people have had families, and have all “been there, done that”. It really is a wonderful atmosphere, and I have deep respect for all of the seniors who attend Mass. That being said, if one of them seems to be bothered by my children, I try to alleviate the situation out of respect for them – or at least show them that I’m trying my best to ensure the children are under control.

    It’s a tough debate – and there are many other instances where more respect could be show to people who attend Mass that would facilitate more welcoming communities.
    My personal pet peeve is those adults who come to mass with no families, and sit on the very edges of the pews, only moving their legs to allow moms with toddlers, lugging their sleeping babies in humongous carseats to squeeze by. Then looking at the mother with irritation when their baby has pooped and she must leave the pew to change it, or to take her toddler to use the bathroom. I haven’t asked any of these strangers to move down, but I have attended Masses where this occurs in practically every pew!

    I’ve digressed from my point a little, so to bring it back: Everyone who attends Mass should be made welcome – and this might require compromise on everyone’s part, not just older people who’d like to hear the Mass, and not just young mom’s who are trying to bring their children into the Presence of the Lord.

  • Joan Chakonas

    Complainers about kids and other annoying people: Read the Magnifcat for the liturgy, homilies are nice but I’ve heard Cardinal O’Connor recite one sentence for a homily; the Eucharist is the alpha and omega of Mass so really, be a Catholic and get over yourself.

  • Constance Hu.

    I don’t mean to sound uncharitable, but why would I leave my toddler at home during Mass? She is baptized. That means she is a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. She has to learn how to sit still during Mass. It is not going to magically come at a set age. I understand health issues being a concern. If a child is screaming at the top of their lungs for the entire Mass that is one thing. Being squirmy and making a little bit of noise is another. Babies and toddlers like to make noise, they fuss, and they like to sing and talk along with the Priest. They are learning! My parish is pretty good about children, but I have been to others where people have given us dirty looks. First, Mass is not about you or me. Second, My child is a member of the Church. Third, Children have something to teach all of us.

  • Adelfa

    I am a convert and my kids are grown (I’m not yet a grandma). I love what I perceive as a greater tolerance in Catholic churches for baby noises as opposed to Protestant churches which in my experience is zero. Honestly, if married couples are going to follow church teaching, there are going to be A LOT of little noisemakers at Mass.

  • http://theintelligentcatholicsguide.com Maureen Williamson

    Being 60-something I remember a day when mothers and fathers went to Mass separately so one could stay at home with young children. Today that is not the case. While it is nice to go to Mass as a family; one also must consider the other Mass goers and the parents themselves. This is a time for God. Young children and babies can’t understand that. One thing to do is to sit at the back of the Church so that it is easy to remove a child who is screaming.

    Personally, I would not take a habitually disruptive child to Church at all until he reaches the age where he learns to behave. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t take one at all.

    For most of us concentrating at Mass is a challenge. A crying child, or even a child who behaves, makes it that much more difficult.

    I especially resent it when a child is disruptive during the Consecration.

  • Steve

    What a self-assured, arrogant response from this woman. Oh so she finds that screaming infants help her relationship with God? Good for her, she can attempt to pray while her baby screams at home.

    As for the rest of us, your child screaming does *not* make me a saint. It takes my attention away from God and tempts me to hate my brother or sister Catholics.

    Your self-assurance that the crying will be *good for us* is worse than the college bro blasting Macklemore from his dormroom window, assuming everyone with ‘good taste’ will be down with it at that moment.

  • rachel

    I don’t really know any inconsiderate parents who let their small ones scream through Mass. I’ve never seen it, and we have a lot of babies at my parish. Maybe my mom ears are desensitized to others’ kids (but super-sensitive to my own, as I think most parents’ are). My parish always seems to have a low-level hum of baby babbling and occasional crying, but it has never been an issue. Sometimes I think people just need to be around babies more, or be a little more patient with parents. We’re trying! We’re here for Jesus, just like you! This is what a culture of life looks like–if you want babies to be seen, you’re going to hear them, too.

    We try to be as considerate as possible AND we are trying to raise our children with a love for the faith and love for the Mass. I’m always mortified when DD makes noise, or scratches us in the face, or screams NOOOO loudly. But I don’t have ESP and I can’t predict her moves, it’s not like she screams constantly, just the occasional yelp that will be sooner quieted in the pew. It is more disruptive to everyone and rewarding to her if we leave for every. little. yelp. Our home parish doesn’t have a cry room, and if we go to the narthex she sees it as lap-running time. Other cry rooms are hit or miss…sometimes great tools, sometimes snack-fests and playtime that don’t do much to foster an environment in which we can teach our daughter appropriate behavior at the liturgy.

    The main thing I’ve come to believe/understand about children (and really, ANYONE) at Mass, is that we aren’t there to “get something out of it” besides, well, Jesus in the Eucharist. It is seldom that I hear a homily or can recall the narratives of all of the Mass readings afterwards, since I’m so busy keeping a two year old in line, but my heart is there and I have still “participated” in the Sacrifice. Our children experience the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist even if they aren’t paying attention and don’t receive Him. As a parent, even if I’m corralling a toddler for the. entire. Mass., I still receive Jesus in the Eucharist, and all the sanctifying grace He brings. So do my fellow worshipers. I do my best not let my child disturb you, but perhaps a prayer for both of us to grow in humility and love of neighbor, big and small, would be a good idea.

  • tanya b

    Well, the 800 people at one Saturday evening Mass heard my 3 year old son shout, “Doooooonnnntttt spaaaaaannnnnkkkkkkkkk MEEEEEEEEE.” As I hustled him down the center aisle after he refused to sit quietly in Mass. *sigh* I DID spank him, but honestly, it was the last time I did that at church. We did spend about 8 years standing in the Narthex with squirmy baby/toddlers so as to not bother those who were trying to concentrate.

  • Sr. Mary Dismas, fti

    Children are a sign that the Church is thriving. I feel if parents bring their children to Mass they should prepare the children by telling them what they should or shouldn’t do at Mass. If they are of an age that they don’t understand they should get up and walk around in the back of Church until the children calm down.

    The thing that bothers me more than children crying is when parents bring cheerios or other food for their children to drop all over Church. They should feed them before bringing them to Church. Kids learn by example. You can’t teach them to fast before communion if they are brought up eating at Mass.

  • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

    Wow. It’s amazing to me to see the hostility toward children on display in this thread. Taking your child to Mass is like taking him or her to a theater or fancy restaurant–in other words, don’t do it? People have the “right” to a quiet Mass where they can thank God they’re not like those noisy open-to-life families? Sheesh.

    My girls are teens now. We took them to Mass from babyhood onward, and yes, I always stepped outside with a fussy infant or loud toddler. I also got glared at just for showing up, and once I thought an older woman’s eyes were going to pop out of her head because she was rolling them so hard at my two-year-old for being “noisy” with a plastic rosary (which she was simply holding in her hands, not shaking or rattling). Guess what? My teen girls still go to Mass, sing with us in the choir every Sunday, and the oldest just signed up to be on the parish communications committee. The kids who showed up once for their First Communions and then later as teens for their Confirmations, meanwhile, haven’t been seen since.

    On Holy Thursday this year the incense set off the fire alarm. You want to talk noisy and disruptive?? But Father had already started the Canon, and guess what? He kept going. Over the earsplitting din of the alarms, over the bustle of the ushers opening doors, turning on fans, and taking the incense outside, the most important part of the Mass proceeded as if our little hearing issue didn’t matter–because it didn’t.

    I wonder how many people went home grumpy either with God for letting the alarms go off and disturbing the quiet peace they were expecting (after all, they have a *right* to it!), or with Father for not stopping the Eucharistic Prayer until things had calmed down enough for everyone to be comfortable?

  • FW Ken

    I never had kids myself, but I’m pretty sure making noise in in their job description. At my age, getting cranky about it is probably my job, but, sue me, it ain’t gonna happen. If a parent near me is having a problem, I try to give them a smile and wink to tell them it’s ok.

    It is fair to say that some noises kids make clearly need a parental response, and I do get a little annoyed at parents when they don’t provide that attention; but what do I know? They may be going through their own stuff and may be too tired to be the perfect parent at that moment. And I can’t say I would do any better. It does seem to me that a screaming child may do better with a few minutes in the darker, quieter foyer to calm down. There is such a thing as overstimulation. Maybe specific kids don’t need to come to Mass until they are a little older, and parents can figure that out for themselves. Which is to say: consider what works for your family, your kids’ personalities, your personalities, skills, and limitations.

    But bring those kids as much as you can. My nieces, nephews, and godsons are grown and gone, making babies of their own in other places. It’s just a joy to see little ones, even the fussy ones.

  • Paula Wethington

    I don’t remember how I handled a crying baby although I was at church every Sunday. I do remember taking my daughter in the hallway for a time out to stare at the wall or corner when she was in preschool age and needed a reminder of how to behave.

  • Paul Adomshick

    What it comes down to is tolerance and respect on both sides. People with children who are distracting should be respectful of those who have difficulty focusing on the mass when children are being noisy. People who are distracted should be polite when asking the parent of a noisy child to remove the child temporarily. Parents who are asked to remove their child should not be offended when people respectfully ask them to take their children out until they are no longer a distraction. Forcing, or attempting to force, your side of the issue on someone else, or reacting with anger is selfish and un-Christian. For me, the sounds of young children playing quietly (but not silently) is not a distraction, but when children are unruly or loud, I believe that parents have a responsibility to take their children out until they are quiet.

  • Becky

    Her response saddens me, because it seems to be so intolerant and dismissive of those who have different opinions about the appropriateness of children at mass. I understand her POV, but it’s not feasible for all families to “swap” kids and have mom and dad attend different masses until the kids are old enough to pay attention. I always take my son to the cry room when he gets antsy, but the idea that he doesn’t “belong” at mass because he’s too young to understand exactly what’s going on is just … ??? really??? I mean, obviously, he’ll get faster the more he’s there, and I don’t think that at-home role playing is even remotely the same. The letter writer sounds, ironically, like irritated “child-free” bloggers re: the presence of children. I am sorry for her medical condition, but in this lifetime, you never “earn” the right to be free of occasional irritation from other people’s children in public places, including church, regardless of how many “dues” you paid when raising your own kids.

  • http://kraft.im Kraft

    It’s a balance, a dance. I’ve spent some Masses standing in the atrium for the majority of it because one kiddo was having one of those days. We’ve had Masses where all three of our children (oldest 3 years old) have been silent the entire time. The majority of the time, they’re rather quiet. The baby may cry until we can get her breastfeeding. If either of our older girls start misbehaving, we take them out.

    That said, though, I have never seen a screaming child kept in the church. Typical baby gabble, yeah. Even with a screaming child, it can still take a couple of minutes to get out of the church—passing the baby to the parent best able to leave, ensuring the other kids are in reach of the remaining parent, offering the toy/bottle/etc that 80% of the time calms them down. It’s not something that the second a baby screams, we’re up and out. Not feasible.

    Likewise, I know couples that split-shift. That may work for some couples. That would eliminate half the day of the one day we’re able to focus on family. We’d not only miss Mass together (including the majority of the Masses that go well), but the time together we spent after Mass.

    Not saying this is the case of your original poster, but some people will never be happy. I’ve been chewed out when my kid kept crying *in the cry room* after taking them out of the church. Literally, someone came into the cry room to yell at me for having my six-month old at church because they could hear her on the other side of the wall.

    If you ask families not to attend church with kids until the kids are older, my thought is we’ll lose a lot.

  • Becky Lehto

    The assumptions made in this thread sadden me. I see many, many moms by themselves at mass with their children, what would you have them do? Leave their 5 year old in the pew to take the baby out? Take all the kids out and have the mother and older children miss mass entirely? When you insist parents “juggle masses” you assume 2 supportive, Catholic parents in the first place. Or how about “take them to the vestibule”. There are some churches that have neither cry rooms nor vestibules, but it’s ok mom stand in the rain with your screaming brat so I’m not interrupted. Not all “problems” have simple solutions. And once we’ve banned the babies who can we ban next? Teen girls whose skirt lines are deemed immodest, surely THAT is a distraction! How about oxygen tanks, those can be really annoying! And as soon as allergy season hits get those hackers and wheezers out of there, gross! And those women who sing too loudly (off key, mind you!) and wear too much perfume, let’s make a special area just for them so they don’t bother the rest of us!

    We all have our triggers and things that annoy us, that is called life. Being able to tolerate them with grace is the key. In the words of St. Josemarie Escriva, “Don’t say: ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.’”

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    I can’t help but wonder if there is a miscommunication between children in general and children who are screaming, crying hysterical.

  • quasimodo

    The one time I was most irritated by an over “active” child in Mass, had little to do with the child. It was Grandma constantly trying to quiet him down. She was far more irritating than the kid.

    My grandchildren are, in fact, really very good in church, but the slightest wiggle got my daughter a dirty look from the priest … thus ended daily mass for the family.

    Parents should try to draw a line somewhere and quietly take kids out who cross the it. The rest of us should praise God they are there … instead of staying home because that is easier.

  • Fiestamom

    Aww, I’m sorry to read the original writer’s newest communication. What was it that Flannery O’Connor said about the Catholic Church? “Here comes everybody.” I used to think “offering it up” was outdated, but it really is a gift that our Church gives us.

    When I was a kid, there was a homeless man who probably took a shower once a year. Our church was old, with poor ventilation, and no air conditioning in the summer. He made it difficult to worship every Sunday. Would anonymous email writer and her perfect kids (and her priest friends)have asked him to leave?

    At my current parish right now,there is a man suffering from alcoholism. He comes every Sunday morning, dressed in a suit jacket, smelling of alcohol. He is also an usher. He is a friendly guy, and never misses. Is he not welcome at Madame Emailers church? Maybe he should stay home until he can get his act together and quit drinking. Surely, he’s not “getting anything out of it”, and she needs her quiet time to worship.

  • Michele

    As a DRE and Pastoral Associate, I teach Baptism classes to parents and Godparents, and this comes up quite frequently as a concern-both the snotty comments from parishioners and eye-rolling- and the ‘what should I do?’.
    Our historic Church has a single bench in the vestibule that seats 3 people, maximum. It’s usually full of people who are late to Mass. As an aging Anglo community with a primarily young Hispanic population who have children, I’ve actually been asked, “where are all the white children?” by the very same ones who crab about crying babies or Hispanics with many young children who are a little disruptive. We only have 1 Saturday evening Mass, 1 English morning Mass, followed by Religious Education classes for children, and 1 Spanish Mass. It’s not like there are any other options for Mass- the other Catholic Church in town has Mass at the exact times we do and no Spanish Mass. The next nearest parish is 25 miles away over a single lane road!
    I encourage young parents to bring their children to Mass but to walk them in the vestibule if they really are screaming; but I also smile at them and offer to snuggle the little ones when I see Mom and toddler and cranky baby struggling in the pew because Dad is working or there is no dad in their lives anymore.
    Daycare isn’t an option and with the background check and sexual abuse training and training for every child enrolled in a program and parent training required;we just can’t find any volunteers to create another new program for children.
    Since I also run the RCIA program, I am also very sensitive to the fact that it is the duty of baptized Christians to be at Mass- only the unbaptized are dismissed to ponder the Word of God more deeply.
    I don’t know what the answer is but I wish everyone would be a little more thoughtful on both sides of the issue. Remember, we are all in a different place in our life and in our faith.

  • Ann

    There are lots of dignified, quiet, protestant churches with nurseries run by paid personnel. Maybe Catholic parents would appreciate having a nursery available. Are there Catholic parishes that have them? Bring it up with the parish council.

    I like the noisy, diverse Catholic Mass and love seeing the babies at Mass.

    Now, MY pet peeve –Would someone realize that today Catholics are one of the most well educated groups in the U.S. (e.g. the composition of the Supreme Court) and quit reading the entire bulletin to us at the end of Mass. It is such a letdown after the beauty and majesty of the Mass. Or else, have the final blessing first so those of us who can read may leave.

  • Preshen

    I agree with the original writer’s follow up. She is absolutely correct. Furthermore, we all needs God’s grace to survive. That is not unique to young parents. Grace is given to different people for various reasons. Yes, young parents have a tough job and need the grace of God. Older people have struggles too; illnesses, financial problems, burdens. We are all “entitled” to the Grace of God. When I read these posts from parents of young children who say they need God’s grace and that is why they bring their young children to Mass, I consider that to be selfish. We ALL need to look out for one another. It is NOT “all about me” as so many in this generation believe. I come from a different time, as I said in my previous posts, when folks were much more respectful and wouldn’t think of keeping, or even bringing a young child to Mass. There is talk here about love and I love my grandchildren (and all children); but where is that love for others?

  • http://cascadiancatholic.wordpress.com Mitchell

    My wife and I bring our 8 month old daughter to church every Sunday. Now she is a really calm and easy baby so she only fusses a little. Frankly we have more trouble with her giggling or blowing raspberries during Mass. But we only take her out if she is exceptionally noisy. Who is to say what she gets out of Mass? Even if one does not fully understand what the liturgy is all about surly even the littlest ones receive grace at Mass, they receive God’s love through the liturgy. This notion that we ought to ban children from Mass, even disruptive ones seems to understand the liturgy as an intellectual event that has its benefit by being able to understand it. Instead we should see the Liturgy as the Mystical Supper of the Lamb, the representation of Calvary. It is a mystical, sacramental grace, not a lecture at Oxford that demands silence. This is why at different times in the Churches history all three sacraments of initiation were given to infant children. They need not fully understand to receive the grace God gives. If they are crying, do what you can to calm them either in the pew or in the Narthex/Vestibule. But what is more important than silent contemplation (if that is what you really need, perhaps you should go on retreat to a Cistercian Monastery or something of the like) is being present at Mass, even of the littlest children.

  • Betty b

    I attend solemn high Mass and there areMany children there. When babies start screaming the parents take them out of church for a few minutes and bring them back when they get calm. By the time the children are 2 yrs old they know what to expect and how to behave in church.
    Sounds echo through out the church. During the homily especially it should be quiet so as not to distract the priest and allow people to hear.
    By the way–
    There are mostly young families at our high Mass. It is usually pretty quiet because the children are very well behavd

  • Elizabeth Duffy

    Haven’t read the other comments carefully, but the bottom line seems to be that no lay person has the authority to decide who gets to attend Mass. The original letter writer seems hell-bent on using her own good experience and personal wisdom to devise norms about Church attendance that inadvertently exclude a huge portion of present and future Catholics.

    “But, before they have the ability to participate in the Mass & have a basic understanding of what the Mass is about, they belong at home.”–by such reasoning, the senile, the mentally ill, non-Catholics, and prospective converts, as well as small children, and the parents who care for them, all belong at home.

    Perhaps the original commenter would be happier in a church of one.

  • Mattb

    I always remember a statement made by our rector in seminary. I’m not sure if I agree or not, but it is an interesting perspective.

    1. Baptism removes all original sin and all actual sin.
    2. First Reconciliation is set at the age of reason (7) because prior to that the child has insufficient knowledge to commit sin
    Therefore = young, baptised Children are sinless, and have a legitimate right to be in Church, more right that any of the adults who have committed actual sin.

    Now of course, I can understand the controversy, but to be quite honest, the pressures on a young family to abandon their faith are rather high. The pressures on a middle-aged or elderly person to abandon the faith they’ve practiced all their lives are rather low. Of course both have their own sets of difficulties we should be sensitive to, but actions have meaning. I often encourage families with young children to sit towards the front so that their children can see what’s going on, rather than stare at peoples backs. We must encourage young families, for they have a far greater danger of abandoning their faith than those who have practiced all their lives.

  • http://archaeologycatmusings.blogspot.com/ Susan

    As my wise pastor recently said, it behooves us all to consider that we don’t know the whole story. For example, the person who recently complained about my 5-month-old grousing at Mass (I have 3 kids and we sit in the front so we can see, per my former confessor’s recommendation; they do much better there) didn’t know that he’s teething, that he was having indigestion because of what I ate, that it is a fight to nurse him because his tongue tie partially reattached, that his lip hurts from having the lip tie clipped, that the 3-year-old likely would’ve thrown a fit had I tried taking her and the baby out, but I can’t leave her in the pew. Oh, and the baby would grouse for a minute and then stop, then repeat a couple of times and finally latched on.

    Likewise, I don’t know if the person complaining was having a bad day, had a headache, just got bad news, or whatever. So I try to remember to pray.

  • http://archaeologycatmusings.blogspot.com/ Susan

    As for nurseries, sitters, etc: my youngest cannot be away from me. He has multiple health issues and is solely breastfed. My 3-year-old has recently started freaking out if away from me. My husband sings in the schola. I’ve had people tell me I technically don’t have to attend Mass since I’m caring for small children, but then when would my eldest go? When would I go, since we hope to have more children? I know I’m a much better parent when we attend daily Mass. I do remove my children for full-on screaming, but not grousing or jabbering. My daughter can either be quiet or be still, but not both, so she paces in the pew. My eldest can join in with most of it. I know others have different thresholds, and I do the best I can. We can all get distracted by something, though, even if it’s a private Mass at home.

  • Win Nelson

    It seems that there are two issues here and they are interwoven where perhaps they should not be.

    The first is that the writer has a serious disease and that relief is not coming by asking parents to take their small children out of Mass. The second is the perception that the children don’t belong there in the first place.

    In reading the replies, I came away with the understanding that most if not all responders would want relief for a person with a serious disease. Where there is disagreement is how that happens, and that launches the second disagreement as to whether children should be in the Mass. Maybe I misunderstood and if so, I apologize.

    For the pressing issue of the writer’s health and well being during Mass, he or she has turned to fellow parishioners who show no understanding, perhaps as they are unaware of the writer’s ailment. A suggestion then – perhaps to appeal to the pastor or deacon – could there be another way to help the writer such that parishioners would be more accommodating to him/her? An announcement might embarrass the writer, and yet it might actually promote understanding and community.

    Just a thought from someone who has been grateful to the parish for their understanding when I was recovering from brain hemorrhages and surgery to remove a large brain tumor. Believe me, I know what it is to have been embarrassed.

    It helps if you understand what your fellow parishioners know about your medical condition and if you give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes.

    I hope that the writer can work something out with the clergy and parishioners there.

    God bless.

  • Connie Rivera

    I think the parenting is the problem. Children get their way when they scream in stores, restaurants, home…why wouldn’t they do it in Church? It’s not fun for them so if they scream mom and dad often take them outside…so there is a reward. We have a family with 6 children aged 9 to 9 months at our parish and every child is a model of perfect behavior during the entire Mass. Because their parents have trained them not to be disruptive. I see Mom put her finger to her lips and shake her head whenever one of them even makes a peep. Very gentle but firm. It can be done…most of us over 50 grew up being trained to be calm and quiet in Church.

  • Oregon Catholic

    There is absolutely no logic in saying that you bring little babies and children to church to train them to know how to behave at church. First of all, you can’t teach an infant or even a toddler what they are developmentally unable to learn. Secondly, the training ground is the home. If you are not training your child, or they are not yet capable of following your instruction to sit quietly and look at a book, etc. they are probably not ready for church if they tend to be very active and/or vocal. Bringing them and allowing them to be disruptive to others around them because that’s just who they are at the moment doesn’t teach them anything. It’s just as disruptive to see a parent constantly nattering and fussing at their little child, trying to get them to behave, as the child’s behavior is in the first place.

    There are lot’s of things parents of young children can’t do the way they used to before having children – like go to church together or go out on a date whenever they like. That’s life – get used to it. It’s both one of the joys and one of the sacrifices of being a parent.

  • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

    Deacon Greg, I’m glad you posted the original writer’s newest remarks. I want to look at two things she says:

    “Thank you for posting my questions; I really do appreciate it, as do a few of my priest-friends who are also wondering what more they have to do to get parents to take disruptive babies & young children out of Mass.” and

    “Yes, parents have a duty to raise up their children in the faith. But, before they have the ability to participate in the Mass & have a basic understanding of what the Mass is about, they belong at home. It isn’t fair to expect them to behave beyond their age level. Babies & young children have almost no attention span, & need to be moving around. It isn’t fair to them or the adults who’ve come to Mass to participate in parish Masses to be constantly distracted by crying, screaming, banging toys, etc. That’s what happens in day care centers.”

    Both of these perspectives–that is, that babies and young children should be taken out of Mass because merely by being present they are disruptive, and that babies and young children belong at home–are, quite frankly, erroneous. Baptized babies and young children are fully Catholic. Some children even die before they reach the age of reason, tragic though that is, so if the Church thought what this writer thinks some children would never get to be present as members of the Body of Christ until their funerals.

    The Church quite simply does NOT teach that babies and young children belong at home. She uses “care of infants” along with “illness” as EXAMPLES of possible serious reasons why the Sunday Mass obligation may be excused on occasion, but people are supposed to use their judgment and reason. Caring for a colicky newborn who hasn’t slept recently may excuse Mom from her Sunday obligation just as Mom’s own stomach virus might; the mere fact of the child’s existence may be no more of an excuse for her to miss Mass than the last stages of Mom’s mild cold (if, for example, that cold hasn’t kept her from missing anything else). We’re supposed to consider each situation as it occurs, not to think, “Mothers and their young children don’t belong at Mass until the youngest child is in kindergarten, or until the youngest child is making First Communion prep,” etc.

    Realistically, that kind of idea would prohibit many mothers of large Catholic families (I’m the second oldest of nine children, for instance, and my youngest brother was born when Mom was 47) from attending Sunday Mass for decades! I wonder what the original writer would have advised me to do when we lived in a rural area with ONE Sunday Mass (no dailies), and the next nearest Mass was over an hour’s drive away? Just not go to Mass (except for the Easter Duty) until my youngest was five or six? Because Heaven forbid that someone not get his or her perfect Mass experience of placidity and peace?

    The idea that adults are somehow entitled to perfection on earth and that the kids and their moms just have to accept the added isolation and stigma of being “unclean” and unwelcome at Mass until their children are old enough for perfect behavior is not a truly Catholic one. I’ve already known young Catholic families who left the Church because the local Protestant church was much, much more welcoming of them *and* their kids. If that’s what we want, then by all means we should keep acting as though Moms who show up with young children at Mass are committing a grave social solecism. But if we want families to be and to stay Catholic, we need to work harder on welcoming children in our midst.

  • Preshen

    I would like to respond first to Erin Manning. Erin, your three posts tell me something serious about your experience in life. I can understand living far away from a church and/or having only one Mass available near you. The point here isn’t about what is convenient. Yes, children are baptized members of the Church. There was never any question about that. The concern was raised about disruptive children. You stated “The idea that adults are somehow entitled to perfection on earth and that the kids and their moms just have to accept the added isolation and stigma of being “unclean” and unwelcome at Mass until their children are old enough for perfect behavior is not a truly Catholic one.” Erin, nobody in this entire thread ever said anything about any stigma of being unclean. As for perfect behavior not being truly Catholic, I would disagree. We all are striving for perfection. That is why we go to Mass to receive the Graces of the Eucharist. None of us will ever attain perfection until we meet Jesus at our death. Obviously, you have a different idea of how that should be accomplished. That’s fine, but don’t put your ideals and unrealistic expectations upon the 90 or so percent of the congregation that is there for those Graces, Prayer, and the Eucharist. Whatever happened to consideration for one’s neighbor? Does that only apply to the rest of us while you get to do whatever you want?

    Secondly, you said “I’ve already known young Catholic families who left the Church because the local Protestant church was much, much more welcoming of them *and* their kids. If that’s what we want, then by all means we should keep acting as though Moms who show up with young children at Mass are committing a grave social solecism. But if we want families to be and to stay Catholic, we need to work harder on welcoming children in our midst.” That is a falsity. I know plenty of Protestants who have the same issues in their churches. Take Baptists for example. Many of their Sunday Services last most of the day. Older children come, infants do not. Children are welcome in all denominations. We are talking here specifically about infants and toddlers. Many protestant churches also have programs for small children to attend during the service, or they may stay for part of the service then go back to their classroom. There are Catholic Churches in my area that are very welcoming to families with young children. That is not to say that those same children are allowed to dictate how things are going to be run during Mass. If someone needs to have their own way to feel welcome, then by all means find the right Church. The fact that young parents are bringing their toddlers and babies to Mass does not guarantee a lifetime commitment from those children to the Catholic Church. Only the example set in the home will accomplish this, and giving children their own way is certainly not setting a very good example to the children. It teaches them to be spoiled, stomp their feet to get their own way, and basically be self-centered. Children need to be taught at an early age how to respect others. That doesn’t come from hauling toddlers to Mass. It comes from an example set by the parents

    Finally, to the others who commented that maybe most of us should go to a church of one where we can experience silence during Mass, I will turn that theory around and say, maybe you can find a Church that only caters to crying babies and toddlers. Then you will be happy also and not receive so many bad looks from others that you claim to receive.

    May God Bless all families with young children. Moreover, may God Bless the parents of those children who are not seeing the full picture because, in my opinion, they were raised to have the freedom to do whatever they pleased. That is a problem in our society today.

    Thank you Deacon Greg for starting this discussion. It is certainly obvious that there are different opinions on the matter.

  • http://archaeologycatmusings.blogspot.com/ Susan

    Amen, Erin!

  • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

    Preshen, the original concern was about babies being allowed to scream constantly during Mass. I’ve honestly never witnessed that (though our dear pro-life pastor, God rest his loving soul, used to say when us moms would get up to take a fussy baby out “Oh, don’t leave! I love that sound, and so does God”). We took the fussy ones out anyway. I don’t know of a family who *won’t* take a screaming infant out of the Mass for a few moments to calm down.

    But it quickly became apparent that some people here–in fact, many people here, including the original letter-writer–think that babies and children under a certain age (four, five, six or seven, depending on the writer) simply ought not to be allowed to set foot in church on Sunday during Mass. That is wrong, and deserves to be pointed out as the anti-life, anti-child, anti-family and anti-Catholic stance which it most certainly is.

    By the time my oldest was 2 she knew how to sit quietly at Mass. Why? Because for the preceding 104 Sundays (except for illness or the birth of a new sister) she was there! Children learn by doing, and I heartily disagree with the idea that there is some magic age when children are suddenly “old enough” to be in Christ’s Eucharistic Presence. In fact, I’ve known parents who bought into that theory and took the children to Mass for the first time at age four or five, only to have to wrestle a shouting four-year-old out of the Mass because the child wasn’t prepared to sit that long and that still doing (from his perspective) nothing. Of course, a poster at a traditionalist website I once read opined that the way to get small children to sit still and behave at Mass is to start beating them during the family rosary until they learn…

    A parish full of families with small children is a parish with a future. A parish where the average age of attendees at Mass is 65 and where everybody frowns at those who cough, sneeze, or set the kneeler down too hard (and where everyone practically faints at the sight of a small child) is a parish that will be closed as soon as the local bishop gets around to it.

  • Guest

    “The idea that adults are somehow entitled to perfection on earth and that the kids and their moms just have to accept the added isolation and stigma of being “unclean” and unwelcome at Mass until their children are old enough for perfect behavior is not a truly Catholic one.”

    That is so over-the-top. If that’s how you feel then I think maybe you have a bigger problem than dirty looks at Mass.

  • gradchica

    Screaming, truly screaming/yelling/loud-babbling babies get taken out, that should be a given for everyone, although I can see how if you’re on your own with a baby + a few more littles, the escape might not be as swift or non-disruptive as sensitive others might want. That being said…saying children don’t belong in Mass until 5 or 6 seems unfair to them and to their families. We’ve taken my sons to Mass since birth. Older son has been able to sit quietly with his Bible story books & lovie since about 18mo, needing no “time outs” in the vestibule. He can follow along with most of the Mass parts now at 3.5yrs and the highlight of his week is saying hello to the priest and the deacon after Mass & going to the chapel to pray–by himself–the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and his own special prayer to St John. Mass is never something to dread for him, even though he doesn’t “get” it all–he knows Sunday is church day and is excited. He knows when Father says the words of consecration that Jesus is there on the altar. He knows the liturgical year bc we tie in what we see on Sundays to activities and stories at home. Younger son is tougher bc he’s wigglier, more active, & less verbal, so at 16mo he moves around a lot between us in the pew, but is generally quiet. My husband takes him out if he babbles too insistently, and we’re fine with spending most of the Mass in the vestibule if we have to. Finally, when you have a husband working 6 days a week, Mass is one of the few times you get to be together as a family–and what better way to start, and end, your week than together with Jesus? Mass is about being present with Christ, it is not all about what you “get” out of it. I understand the difficulty of the insistent screamer/crying baby that drowns everything else out, but not the apparently dire distraction of the fidgeting toddler who asks the occasional question or roots around for a book. I am easily distracted by the inappropriate dresser, the adults who play with their phones, the too-much-perfume lady, and the older folks who talk loudly to each other during Mass. Oh well, poor me. Wish I could send them to the cry room, too. Oh wait, neither parish I attend has one. Most of those distractions–including the babies–are minimized by sitting up front at the 7 am Mass, fyi to the easily distracted…because, hey, if it’s just you and a spouse, it’s much easier to get yourself to the unpopular Mass time than to expect all the families in your parish to split their Sunday obligation to provide a tranquil, silent Mass experience for you.

  • Ann

    @Deacon Mike
    Before this thread is closed I just want to thank Deacon Mike for taking the time to comment. You brought tears to my eyes. I pray that you will one day hear your daughter’s voice.

  • Elaine

    I think most people are trying to do the best they can under their circumstances. I have 5 children, one is an altar server and two go to the children’s liturgy and the youngest are 3 and 1. If they get disruptive I try to leave, but I have to think about making sure the older kids can find me when they are done. Sometimes I get hot and dizzy like I am going to faint and then I am not as vigilant about their behavior. My husband works offshore so I can’t always rely on his help, and I have no extended family here. I try to do my best to not let the kids disturb anyone and act unselfishly, but Jesus Christ is at Mass and I can’t stay away from him. I get exhausted, overwhelmed, and I guess sometimes my kids might disturb somebody momentarily or maybe people don’t think I am parenting well. If I don’t get there 15 minutes early both cry rooms are full of adults and it is hard to find a seat. Sometimes we aren’t dressed up, or someone’s shirt is backwards or their shoes are missing. I am doing the best I can, but I fail sometimes and I hope that people can forgive me. I am sincerely sorry this person suffers so much at Mass, I really try not to cause anyone such discomfort. I feel hurt, unwanted, and devalued by some of the comments. I am not angry, because people are entitled to be irritated. It would be nice to have the love and approval of others all the time, but in my inability to live up to everyone’s expectations all the time I will just to look at whether or not what I am doing is pleasing to God.

  • Jem

    Would it be ok for me to smoke a cigarette during mass? How about chat on my cell phone? If that bothers others, that is their problem. They should treasure my presence. And don’t dare to say anything to me–I’ll get mad and not come back.

  • http://verbamundiusa.com Deirdre Mundy

    Jem- are your cigarette and cell phone baptized Christians? Did Jesus say “Suffer the cigarette and the cell phone to come to me?”

    I find it disturbing that you are equating a living, breathing, thinking, praying human being who happens to be on the short side with random bad habits.

    Though, my husband quipped last night that clearly the problem of babies in church goes back to the 4th C, at least, since St. Jerome complained about them. So maybe the cranky folks on this thread are just devout followers of Saint Jerome.

    I have noticed these people seem to exist more in bug suburbs on the East Coast than in small towns where people actually have children. Maybe they need desensitization treatment from lack of exposure…Or perhaps they could post on their parish website that children aren’t welcome there, so we don’t have to make the mistake of going.

    (We went to two parishes over Easter in Alexandria, Virginia while visiting family. St. Mary’s, the ‘arch conservative’ parish, welcomed us on Good Friday, and my kids were in awe at how beautiful and alive it seemed. Also at the schola, which did an incredible job. And the fact that over 1,000 people came forward to venerate the cross. I’d definitely go there again.

    The one with a prison guard-bell tower (forget it’s name) exiled me and my toddler to the hallway because she was quietly moving hymnals from the holder to the pew, and trying to sing along. (Crying area was full b/c it was Easter, so I had to go stare at concrete walls.) I ended up sticking around for the Spanish Mass, which had was much more welcoming to babies who were behaving well. The odd thing is, this parish had posters all over the hall talking about how they support pregnant women. Guess it ends once the baby is born. Anyway, that was a horrific Easter experience (until the Spanish Mass, which fixed it.) and I will never set foot in that parish again.

    Imagine if I had been a lapsed Catholic returning to church with my children for the first time in years? Which parish would have brought me back to the faith? Which would have driven me further away?

  • Matt R

    Her recent update was even worse. For someone allegedly in Theology training, she lacks a fundmental understanding of the mass. More of the “me, me, I, I” talk that comes with the new age mass territory. “I can’t concentrate” “it is distracting to me” “I can’t pray”, etc. I reiterate…mass isn’t about you. It isn’t about us. It isn’t a family dinner or gathering or whatever new age liturgists put in your head. Mass is about standing in the presence of God and celebrating his salvation through Christ. Sticking kids in cry rooms and leaving them home is denying the existence of Christ in the Eucharist. You mention Christ wasn’t in the synagogue when he mentioned about the children. Guess what, Christ himself is the temple. Again you seem to lack that understanding. Sure a screaming kid can be taken out temporarily, but once the kid is calm, should be brought back in. To complain about kids at church because you can’t concentrate is troubling. Perhaps a Protestant church would be more suitable?

  • http://n/a Jim Koval

    Dear Deacon Greg:
    I have been one of your infrequent correspondents, but this question is one I would like to comment on as a 53-year old dad of 5 children. The issue, as I see it, is not one of either leave your children home or bring them to Mass no matter how they behave. My wife and I discussed this question many times when our kids were young. We had a few strategies depending on their age. First, we thought it important that they come to Mass with us so we could be there as a family and so they learn the habit of we go to Mass every Sunday period. When they were truly infants, we brought pacifiers and as my wife nursed the children, she would nurse them at Church maintaining modesty at all times. Second, once they reached toddlerhood, we sat up front (1st pew). We found if they could see what is going on they were more interested. Third, if they became disruptive (e.g., screaming, crying for more than a couple of minutes) we took them out of the sanctuary into the cry room/gathering space/entryway. From toddlerhood on, the children knew what kind of behavior was expected of them, and that there would be punishment if they did not mind what we told them. At times, this did include spanking (let’s not get side tracked here with the whole question of whether spanking is appropriate or not). We, too, received many comments from parishoners for the well-behaved children, thanks for not letting them carry on too long during Mass, etc. The issue is balance. We all have to respect each other. That respect carries over into how does the behavior of our children affect others around us. Baby noises, a little toddler talk, to us was never an issue, but loud crying, litterally screaming, and we took the child out of the sanctuary do lessen the disruption to others. A concluding story, when our second child was about 3, he was creating a real disruption to Mass right there in the front pew. He was told to stop; he was given an alternative activity, and then he was told if he did not stop he was going to be taken out and get spanked. He didn’t stop. I took him by then hand and began leading him up the aisle toward the back of the Church. The carrying on stopped immediately and was replaced by, “Daddy, don’t spank me. Daddy don’t spank me.” all the way out to the gathering space. There was much quiet laughter/snickering as we left the sanctuary. We were at first mortified, but after having conversations with fellow parents, and unsolicited feedback from fellow parishioners, we felt we had done the right thing. Now, with the passage of time, I like to share this story with people on occasion and get a good laugh out of it myself.
    Blessings,
    Jim

  • http://verbamundiusa.com Deirdre Mundy

    I’m a big fan of the ‘Boring Corner.’ if I have to take you out and you’re old enough to know better, you stand with your nose in the most boring corner of the vestibule until you are ready to go back. Church is much more exciting when the alternative is isolation and boredom.

  • anonymous

    Many years ago, attending daily Mass at a local retreat center with a two year old and an infant, the normally well-behaved two year old decided to play “alligator” and spent considerable time wiggling around under the pews despite my best attempts to encourage reverence. After Mass the elderly priest invited the little “alligator” to the kitchen for milk and cookies. It made quite an impression and the alligator never came to church with us again. : ) (Said “alligator” has now been an altar server for many years) I’ve always chuckled over the memory. The bottom line: children should go to church from the time they’re born. My experience is there must be something seriously wrong the rare occasion of genuine “screaming” happens, and it can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis with parents quietly stepping out for a bit as many others have suggested.

  • MaryMargaret

    Lol, Jim. Something similar happened with my older brother. Apparently, when he was about 3, he was acting up a bit at Mass. Mom and Dad had a conversation about it, discussing whether a little swat on his behind might straighten him up. Dad told Mom that he didn’t like to get rough with him in Church. Sure enough, the next Sunday, he was acting up and Dad gave him a little swat (trust me, my father was very gentle with us both, always). My brother turned around and said very loudly, “Don’t get rough with me in Church!” The whole congregation just cracked up..remember, this was around 1959..low Mass..very quiet.

  • jem

    Jim, I appreciate people like you who wish to bring their children to church, find creative ways to occupy them and help them stay quiet, and then take them out when the screaming starts until they can be quieted and then bring them back in. Your methods are just about identical to the ones my wife and I used when our children were small. I have on many occasions taken “the walk” to the back of the building with screaming child in tow, and have at times when the kids got older and knew the expectations for worship spanked them when they refused to comply. They are grown now and doing just fine, and knew at a young age that their behavior in public didn’t just affect them but all those around them.

    Several contributors have tried to set up a “straw man” argument and turn this into a discussion of whether children should be brought to church at all. I would hope that isn’t the issue we’re discussing, as it is almost ridiculous to suggest that Christian parents should leave their children at home. The issue is (or should be) whether when a child begins to scream so loudly that no one can hear the words of the priest if it should be taken out and allowed to calm down in a cryroom or narthex.

    I see this issue as a symptom of what I believe is an ill that besets our society as a whole, the refusal to be considerate of others, and to demand “tolerance” and even “approval” when I take actions that inconvenience or offend others in some way. It seems obvious to me that a person who is considerate would not allow their infant to scream unchecked in a public setting, especially a worship setting. I agree with Matt R. above, that a screaming child should be taken out, shushed, and brought back in. I don’t think they should be left at home–it is our duty and honor to bring them to church. Neither should the parent be banished from church–God forbid! But when the child’s behavior begins to infringe on the ability of others to even hear the words of the mass, simple decency dictates that they be removed for a while to calm down. To suggest that those who don’t want to have their worship disrupted are narcissistic and in the same paragraph to tell them if they don’t like your child’s screaming to go to the “7 am quickie mass” seems a little inconsistent to me. It isn’t narcissistic to expect a minimum level of consideration from those around you, and allowing someone who has come to mass to actually hear the words is simply being considerate.

    I have never been anywhere where there weren’t lots of people willing to help a young family dealing with this issue, whether by watching the other children while the mother or father took the crying baby out or by supplying a playroom/cryroom where infants could be cared for while the parents worshiped.

    Sadly, one of those making comments above invoked the Catholic version of Godwin’s law, the dreaded “If you don’t like it, just leave the church and become a Protestant.” This is sort of the Catholic combox version of overturning the chessboard when one’s king is in check–not really acceptable. Do you truly want your brother or sister to leave the church because they disagree with you on an issue like this? We’re not talking about the doctrine of the True Presence or Communion of the Saints or Purgatory here, we’re talking about crying babies.

    Most negative behavior at church can be worked around or ignored. However, an infant screaming at high decibel level in the pew behind you is difficult to ignore. I would never personally ask someone to take their child out in a situation like this, as I would rather deal with the disruption than offend them or cause them to stumble. However, I would hope they would be considerate enough to think of the others around them and to calm their child outside the worship area. It’s really pretty simple: Child cries and becomes disruptive, parent does their best to quiet it in the pew, child refuses to calm down, parent doesn’t want to allow their child to disrupt the service so they take it to the cryroom, child calms down, parent brings the child back in.

  • Deacon Norb

    Just got back from presiding at that “eleven-baby” communal baptism at our church I mentioned above somewhere. Because of the time constraints, I had to get the whole scene done in one hour — the ceremonies were done in 45 minutes and the photos took all of the available time. Lot of “singing” babies; lots of talking babies; some crying babies also but that did not last long.

    I stand on what I have said in the earlier post. I have never NEVER told a family to leave because of their child being disruptive. It just doesn’t happen and it will not happen — PERIOD!

  • Preshen

    Deacon Greg: What are your thoughts on all of this?

  • Robert J. Fallon

    I have read with mixed emotions the comments of many. I am the father of 6 children, now grown who have presented us with 16 grandchildren. My children are all practicing Catholics as are their children. This is largely due to the fact that we brought them to church most every Sunday and Holy Day. I can empathize with health problems of the person who initiated this disscusion but I also empathize with the parents who decide to bring their children to Mass as a faithful and faithfilled response to their conscience and Catholic beliefs. Our first 5 children were only 7 years apart, so you know that we had some tense moments at Mass but we also had our share of “atta boys” from some of our parishioners and pastor. The main problem as I see it is that some of us too easily lose our focus as to why we are at Mass to begin with. Some have too much on their plate to begin with and they bring this baggage with them and as such are easily disrupted. Satan is at work here, even in Church and some of us become easy prey for his evil assault on our minds, hearts and souls. If he can convince us to leave our children home especially in today’s battle with evil and the secular culture, he wins an important victory. He stops both us and our children from receiving the gifts, graces and blessings which come with and from our participation in the Mass and Eucharist. These gifts are our armorment against his constent assault. We are all part of this spiritual war for our souls. Satan and his minions are constantly attacking us from every angle. So the next time you find yourself in this spiritual perdiciment, you might try and old trick which always works for me, even when some little whippersnapper is blasting away. Take a deep breath, refocus on what is going on here and why we are here to begin with, make a fervent, loving and prayerful Sign of the Cross and ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to guide you through this momentary test of faith and moment of spiritual weakness and distraction. Say “Jesus, I love you and I am here to share this time with you. Don’t allow Satan to steal any of it from both of us. IT WORKS, IF ONLY WE HAVE STRONG, TRUST AND SINCERE FAITH IN JESUS. As too parents missing Mass to attend to their crying children, I have my doubts, if they are there with the sincere intention of participating fervently and humbly. As Jesus said, “If we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains”. I believe, with such faith that we can also block out everything but God’s love and desire to be with us and our children (crying, squirming and fidgiting) especially in His house. Satan can only win if we allow him to. The graces which our children receive at Mass will protect them through their lives. So as my mother was fond of saying, “when satan gets at you, just offer it up for the soul in Purgatory. The payback is eternal”. Peace,

  • Preshen

    Last Comment: I want to say that I agree with the original writer 100%. She is very accurate in what she is saying. I also worked in parishes most of my life, raised my children, and saw a lot of self-centeredness among young people. A church is a place to pray. If a toddler can sit still quietly, by all means bring them to Mass. Nobody here, that I can tell, would disapprove of that. All we want to is to be able to concentrate on our prayer. That what Mass is for. There is nothing Anti-Catholic or anti-anything about that.

    As for the “I, I, or Me, Me” mentality; look at yourself before pointing the finger at everyone else. Our society is unfortunately filled with that way of thinking today. Everybody wants things their way, or they are “discriminated” against. Respect others, that is the first rule anywhere, especially in Church. The Church is mainly for prayer. It is not a theater. Sadly. I have been to many parishes where it is the norm to chat while waiting for Mass to begin. To me, the time before Mass should be time for prayer, to calm one’s self in preparation for the Eucharist. It is not a time to “catch up” with those seated around you. That time comes after Mass, and at parish activities. Same is true for fussy babies. I do not think I am asking too much to be able to actually pray before and during Mass. If you think that is asking for too much, then I feel sorry for you. Again, it is that self-centered attitude which is so prevalent in our American culture today, and it is not helped by the media who perpetuates that mentality.

    I would like to say thank you to all who commented. I will personally take into consideration both sides of the issue and I appreciate the opportunity to see both sides of the issue. God Bless our young people. You are loved. God Bless our toddlers and babies who through no fault of their own are made to be a part of this thread. God Bless all of those with illnesses who try their best. God Bless all the older folks with grown children who want to be accepted too. Whether to bring young children to Mass or not should not be a war between two factions. May God Bless our world which is in so much turmoil. Thank you.

  • MomWithSense

    So why is tradition all of a sudden made to give way to sentimentality? St. Therese remembers clearly about being given the honor of attending mass; she was finally mature enough! So if HER parents kept her home until she was old enough to sit still and pay attention, then we should learn from those who raised a saint.

    I have plenty of kids of my own and it’s uncharitable – not loving – to force your screaming kids on other people. Basic Christianity.

    I cannot stand the sentimentality of the comments about loving the sound of babies because they’re the future church. They’ll still be the future church once they can behave themselves at mass.

    “Jesus said let the little children…” but he was in the temple, where even WOMEN weren’t allowed, never mind babies.

    “If I don’t take them they’ll never learn…” because, what, you can’t learn something at 4 or 5?

    “I like the sound of babies…’ Good for you; some don’t. Why is your preference ok and theirs not?

    Where is the LOGIC in most of these responses?!

    The best I’ve seen was: a father quieting a toddler by promising to bring back some “bread” for him, when he returned to his seat after communion. It’s for the chilllllldrennnnn….

  • MomWithSense

    *should be: he WASN’T in the temple when he said let the little children come to me.

    You can bring babies and little toddlers to Jesus whenever you like; pay a visit to church when it’s quiet. Do a 10 minute prayer service at home for a few years, to get them used to it; increase the time as they can handle it. Make a big deal when you believe they are finally mature enough to attend an entire mass without screaming.

  • http://archaeologycatmusings.blogspot.com/ Susan

    Jim, with the exception of pacifiers and spanking, that sounds like what we do. I also go over the Mass “rues” and expectations prior to Mass. I also receive encouragement from a family I know with child #14 on the way, for they are always at Mass – daily. It’s beautiful.

  • Kate

    Many of the comments from people who love the sound of crying babies seem very patronizing to those who don’t.

  • Pingback: Screaming babies II: “The comments really saddened me…”

  • Katie

    My kids remember things that happened, in Mass and out, from when they were 2. Who benefits from bringing my kids to Mass? My whole family. Children are just as entitled to sit in that pew as any other parishioner. They are Baptized Catholics and they belong at Mass. Period. (If my kids are naughty I take them out. That’s a no brainer.) I feel like “screaming all through Mass” is a gross exaggeration. I have had the benefit of attending Mass in various states and countries and never have I dealt with a child literally screaming through the whole Mass.

  • Elaine

    So basically at Mass, Jesus Christ is literally there, body and blood, soul and divinity, and he wants you to receive him in Holy Communion so that he can transform your soul. I just don’t understand how you can believe that and then not understand why people want to be there even though their kids won’t sit still.

  • Robert

    The Archdiocese of New Orleans just gave out a flyer for our Year of Faith and Family encouraging parents to bring children to Mass from birth, even if you have to go to the crying room or outside sometimes. It explicitly discourages split shifts or having babysitters at home.
    I always thought there should be a Quiet Room instead of a Crying Room. If adults wanted to remove yourself from everyday distractions during Mass, they could go to the Quiet Room.

  • Pingback: Screaming Babies in Mass, and on the Internet

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    My thoughts? I have no problem with crying babies during Mass. High-pitched, continual screaming, though, is something else. At a certain point, common sense should tell a parent when it might be wise to take the child out into the vestibule, or even the parking lot, out of courtesy and respect for others, and to see if there’s something seriously bothering the child beyond just another bad homily by the deacon ;-) And the parent should know, I think, when the child has crossed that threshold. But that’s a judgment call for each parent.

    And I think kids have to learn, somehow, how to behave in church (and, of course, elsewhere, too.) They learn through doing and going. Some of that doing and going may involve crying. C’est la vie.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of crying rooms. I never grew up with them, and I’m glad my parish today doesn’t have them.

  • http://archaeologycatmusings.blogspot.com/ Susan

    This is one of the times I wish we followed the practice of our Eastern brethren and gave the Eucharist to infants, as surely bringing them or not would not be debated then?

  • http://archaeologycatmusings.blogspot.com/ Susan

    Random: I see the photo at the top and think “I bet that baby has a tongue tie!”. Oh the things you think after dealing with a tongue-tied babe.

  • Ann

    Do people really stay when a baby is SCREAMING? I can honestly say that I have never seen a parent keep a baby in mass long enough to annoy me. They always leave before I find myself wishing they would leave. Maybe I have a high tolerance?

    I am certain that the original correspondent has a low tolerance, due to her illness. I also suspect that when she complains to fellow parishioners or priest-friends, they just agree to be agreeable. Do people really say, “It’s not the baby, it’s you,” when someone complains? I know they think it!

    And finally, why would she subject herself to 4 screaming babies when she has such a serious reaction? Why doesn’t SHE leave mass? She has a good reason! Or at least put some ear plugs in until it quiets down? Then everyone gets to stay.

    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…” Why is that so hard to understand?

  • wineinthewater

    I think this thread is filled with both really good comments and strawmen.

    I think that everyone agrees that misbehaving and persistently loud children should not be in Church, whether that requires them staying home or them stepping out for a few minutes. Different people may have different ideas about how loud is too loud and how often is too often, but that is the sort of thing we should be working out with love and charity within our communities.

    The correspondent’s most recent comment, though, is distressing to me. S/He is clearly saying that children under a certain age do not belong in Church at all, and I find that to be utterly foreign to the substance of the Catholic faith. How can we honestly think that Jesus didn’t mean what He said (or that He only meant it in a very limited sense) when He said to let the little children come to Him?

    My daughter showed obvious signs of the formation of her faith at 1 year. She has benefitted from being at the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of our Lord. Her childhood has been imbued with worship from the very beginning. I see it as my Christian duty to take her to mass, to immerse her in Catholic worship and give her every opportunity to join in as she grows in faith. I can understand this attitude in a Protestant church. With no Real Presence and a focus on preaching and singing, I can understand the view that young children may not get anything out of it. But at mass, the King of Kings descends to be physically present in our midst. How can a child not “get anything” out of that. If the mass is truly what we say it is, what good parent could justify not bringing their child .. at least most of the time?

    But I also have a responsibility to my community. Even my very well-behaved child has had to go to the “boring corner” (absolutely love that term BTW). It is unreasonable for others to expect my child to not come or to not make any noise at all. But it would be unreasonable for me to think that my child’s disruptions are not disruptive and that the distraction they might cause other worshippers aren’t important.

    That the correspondant even mentioning parents who don’t take screaming children out of Church makes me think that the whole thing is a straw man, that perception is significantly divorced from reality. I’ve worshipped all over the country and I’ve never *once* seen a parent with a screaming child not scuttle out of the church, even if that meant pulling a train of other children behind. I’ve known inconsiderate parents with disruptive children not leave and they are clearly not showing sufficient charity to their fellow worshippers. But considering how common it is to receive a withering stare for even small noises, I can’t imagine enduring the onslaught from multiple directions for keeping a wailing child in the church.

    We must walk with love. “Leave your child at home” is no more loving than “deal with the noise.”

  • Ann

    “he WASN’T in the temple when he said let the little children come to me.”

    The Temple? That’s a moot point, isn’t it?

    Where do you go to find Jesus? Where do you take your child to see Him? Mine go to Calvary, to the Upper room, to worship Him with the heavenly host. <—— That's Mass.

    Sometimes Jesus went off by Himself to be alone to pray. <—– That's not the Last Supper or the Crucifixion. People who want and need silence for prayer should imitate Jesus and go off somewhere and be alone to pray.

  • Abigail Benjamin

    I am HORRIFIED about what I’m reading in this comment section about negative comments regarding bringing young children to Mass. I am an adult convert to the Faith. I have 5 kids under the age of 10. I’m also a 3rd Order Carmelite. If I attend a Marian Feast Day weekday Mass, it’s me alone with a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old, plus 3 older kids.

    I grew up in a Protestant Church where there were no kids in a Sunday Church Service. We had Sunday School at the same time and a nursery. I didn’t go to Church with my parents until I was an acolyte at age 10.

    Dear DRE, it is absolutely not true that kids don’t remember anything in church until age 5. That is NOT TRUE. That is an untrue statement. It is shocking how much kids learn about going to Mass at 2 and at 3. We blow kisses to Jesus in the “Jesus box” (the tabernacle). We pray. They have a relationship with him.

    My kids see us pray together as a family at Mass. Its not perfect. We’re not plastic people. (Oh, I leave that sanctuary if its a hard day for a toddler or little one). We pray together as a domestic church. I missed that growing up. I never saw my Mother or Father pray in Church unless it was Christmas Eve. Because I was always in another part of the church building coloring Jesus Loves Me pictures.

    Finally all people need Silence–with God–but let me tell you honey, as a Carmelite, that silence is an inner peace that comes from time spent with God in prayer. That prayer better happen OUTSIDE THE MASS.

    The Mass is Holy. It is awesome. It is heaven. It is also Public. The Mass is a public prayer. There is going to be noise— it comes fromt the old men with oxygen machines in addition to my gurgling 3 month old baby. The Mass is a holy moment for the family of God. Babies are in the family.

    If you are constantly irritated that there isn’t “Silence around God” so you can pray, then you don’t have “inner silence.” Maybe its a sign you need more prayer of the quiet. Maybe you’re supposed to be a Carmelite? But the answer to “I’d like to get more in touch with Jesus” is “lets bann all the children from Mass.”

  • Embarrassed DRE

    After stumbling upon this via Twitter, I am in shock. I was bothered enough by the original post, but when follow up showed I share a profession with her… I was embarrassed on behalf of my profession! I will note that I have not read all the comments (there are a lot and still going!), so I apologize if I’m reiterating the sentiments of some of you.

    To Deacon Greg’s letter writer-
    Meniere’s disease is nothing to be mocked or taken lightly. It’s a serious illness that warrants serious discussion. That said, it’s not the job of your fellow parishioners to cater to your illness. If that was the case, the Catholic Church would need to do away with the Sign of Peace and Blood of Christ (germs! and some people have auto-immune deficiencies), bouncy houses at the parish picnic (brittle bone syndrome), and the sacred cow of our denomination- Coffee and Donuts (diabetes, obesity, allergies, etc.). You could wear a flashing neon sign to Mass stating: Meniere’s Disease- will vomit and get dizzy if you make high pitched noises near me… but that’s not the solution either. What if it was feedback from the priest’s mike or the elderly lady’s hearing aid that distracted you? I’m sure you wouldn’t be seeking advice or complaining then. This is about you and your struggle (a legitimate one) to manage your illness. If the conditions around you are making you ill, it is on YOU to remove yourself from the situation, whatever it is. Is it fair/fun/easy? NOPE. Jesus never promised us easy and having to leave Mass due to a chronic illness is a fairly lousy cross to bear. It sure isn’t one I’d bear lightly and it sounds like you aren’t bearing it very well either. I pray you will learn to remove yourself from situations that make you ill (at church or elsewhere) and offer your suffering up for those bearing much heavier loads.

    To all those reading-
    Thank you to those of you champion keeping parents and families together at Mass, encouraging bringing kiddos to church, and griping about the “Cry” (a.k.a. Run-around-scream-and-play-forgetting-why-we-are-here) Rooms, I agree with you 100%. I am glad the letter writer has been able to raise faithful kids by starting them at Mass at a later age. As a DRE, I am assuming she has the knowledge, experience and ability to do that but not all parents do. Most parents don’t know enough about their faith and Mass to educate at home when they cannot bring the kids to church (for whatever reason).

    I’m not a mom (yet), but I am an aunt to 1, an “aunt” to many family friends, and DRE to nearly 1000 kiddos. I know a few things about noisy kids at Mass. A few anecdotes:

    My best friend just gave birth to her 4th child. She is normally a stay-at-home mom to her two youngest (her oldest is usually in school), and an in-home provider to 2-3 other munchkins. Whether she has 2 or 5 kids wit h her she goes to daily Mass. Without fail. She’ll start going again with one more once she’s recovered. How does she do it? Shortly after the birth of her third and before she became a day care provider, she started attending daily Mass. Her husband works, so she was alone 99% of the time. The elderly folks at daily Mass noticed her trying to balance her load and her faith life. They summoned all their grandparenting love, skill, and expertise… and started offering to take the girls. Soon, she was sitting at Mass with her oldest beside her and the daughters peacefully being held by their new “friends” in the pew behind her. When I visit, I hardly see M & K during daily Mass. Even my sporadic visits aren’t enough to take away from their desire to sit with their Mass friends. My guess is that by the time I visit next month, little A will have his own set of Mass buddies and, except for the occasional need to breastfeed, will hardly see Mom during Mass. This is a true sense of what Church and community should be about. For all of you who see these families at Mass, how are you helping? You should befriend them before/after Mass. Build a relationship and, in time, trust. Within two or three Masses, you could have your own little Mass friends allowing a better worship experience for you, Mom & Dad and everyone around you. Praise God!

    I was at my parents’ parish for Easter and at the Easter Vigil some guests sat down behind us with their toddler. They were guests of someone coming into the Church so they needed to be at that lengthy Mass. It must have been 20-30 minutes before Mass started and their child was quietly, but happily babbling. They asked their friends if there was a cry room and did they think they should go there. After their friends told them where the cry room was, I turned around and said, “Your son isn’t bothering our family, so please don’t feel you have to move on our account.” They smiled graciously and thanked me. My parents thanked me for expressing that sentiment. Besides, our first-grade niece/grand-daughter had yet to arrive and would no doubt be a distraction too! They, thankfully, stayed the entire Mass. Halfway in our chatty pew neighbor fell asleep and was zonked out the rest of Mass. So grateful I gave those guests the chance to feel comfortable and welcomed.

    I recently had the joy of helping at a baptism rehearsal for two brothers- aged 2 & 11. For several reasons, the 11 year-old couldn’t be done at the Easter Vigil, so it happened last week. While the liturgist went over detailed instructions with parents, godparents, and the 6th grader, I quickly realized I was of the most help by chasing the 2 year-old around the church. He didn’t want to run or be rude or disrespectful. He wanted to do church things. Even though his and his brothers’ adoption was just completed (allowing them to FINALLY become Catholic), D has been to church since his birth. He often has to leave for the cry room. His mother hates the play room and his dad supported it, until I commented on D’s knowledge of Mass and his faith… even at two. As we approached the exterior of the church, D started yelling “Hallelujah!” He doesn’t say Church, Mass, or priest… but he knows that word. During our exploration of the Church, D wandered to the tabernacle. I lifted him up, pointed, and whispered, “Jesus is in there.” For the rest of the rehearsal, he would periodically wander over, point, and ask me, “Gee-jush?” “Yes, Jesus is in there, D.” We didn’t bow, genuflect or reverence the tabernacle in any way. God forgive me. I just wanted D to know that Gee-jush was right there. Present. With us. D wandered to a pew, sat down, and opened a hymnal. A moment later he held out his hand. “Peace.” WOW!!! “Peace, D”. D doesn’t typically see the inside of church other than Mass. Now that his parents could see how much he knows, they are confident he belongs in the sanctuary. I sat in the pew in front of D on the day of his baptism. He gave me the Sign of Peace. Twice.

    I work at a parish where Mass attendance is dismal at best… 25% or less of our registered parishioners attend weekly Mass. When I see parents there with their kids, I congratulate and praise them. I thank God for bringing their blessings to worship with us. Kids can (and need to) learn to participate in Mass at an age appropriate level. They can only learn that by attending. Regularly (at least weekly and Holy Days of Obligation). While I’m not against kids who “play Mass” (I used to be one of those kids, according to photos my parents have), that cannot and should not be a substitute for the real thing and the Real Presence of Christ. Blessings and graces come to us in abundance at Mass well before we’re able to receive the Holy Eucharist. D and my friends’ kids are true, living examples.

    To Parents-
    Keep trying. Keep praying. Keep bringing your kids to Mass. Sit up front. Find a prayerful community that support you and will help you when you need it. Try to reform the parish cry room so it can be used for its proper intention. God gave you (and those of us around you!) the blessings of your little ones. If Jesus is the most important person at Mass, then His opinion is the only one that truly matters. Pax!

  • Faith

    I often didn’t take my kids to Sunday Mass until they got to be 5. Then I made a big deal about how they were old enough to now go to Mass. This all started with my 2nd of 5 children who was obviously ADHD from the get go. I simply couldn’t handle him at all. Of course my dh didn’t go to mass with us at the time (now he does! Alleluia!) so it would be me by myself trying to juggling wild and crazy children. And I hated crying rooms because they were so chaotic usually. But the truth is, I kept my kids at home for a very selfish reason. I would get so frustrated and angry at them trying to keep them well behaved that I would come out of mass a mess. Any grace I might have received was long gone! I am just not that patient or holy a person. So leaving them at home with my dh turned out to be the solution. I got to go to mass by myself usually (except when I had a nursing infant or when dh was out of town). I would however take my littles to a daily mass once a week. Daily masses were on 30 minutes or less. We would stay in the cry room but the other parents who go to daily mass seemed to be very intent on their kids learning about the mass and how to behave so it wasn’t the zoo it was on Sundays. I would approach this mass as training. When my youngest got to be 5 and big enough to go to Sunday mass, thank God, my dh got lonely on Sundays and started coming with us. He still hasn’t converted but he enjoys attending a lot.

    Anyway, I wished I had the patience to deal with children gracefully in church. I feel a bit for the original poster. Noises affect her and she was originally not talking about a Sunday mass but about a Saturday mass in a chapel where 4 families come with their little ones who apparently are pretty darn disruptive. I am sorry it is troublesome for her. However, I have to say I was dismayed at her saying that she’s made enough sacrifices and now it is payback time from everybody else!! At least that’s how it came off. I don’t think we make sacrifices so that one day we are entitled to certain things. When we grow in true holiness we become more forgiving and more humble, not ‘now you all owe me.’ So that little remark really saddened me. The thing is as someone with older children now (youngest is 11) we forget, we older parents, sometimes how rough it was. Sometimes we get a little puffed with pride and recall all the times we handled things with aplomb and not our nasty moments when we really tanked. It is not good to be chiding the younger moms or moms with younger children. We should offer support and encouragement and not judgment and condemnation. The funny thing is just recently on another Catholic patheos blog, I believe, there was a conversation about children on airplanes and it sounded so much like this one about children in Mass! Complaining about being imposed upon for having to listen to them cry. And that made me sad too. We should have more loving, patient, humble standards at Mass. We should be ready to offer up any discomfort (I personally am still working on this one!). It’s that offering up that is the refining fire for our souls. Think of St. Therese and how she offered up all the little irritants that tortured her! Everything, everything for the glory of God!

  • Sarah

    From the Catechism:

    CCC 2226 Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.

    Need I emphasize earliest years?

  • Patty

    I’ll never forget the evening my rambunctious, loud screamer of a daughter looked up at Jesus during the Consecration and said, “My Lord and my God” clear as a bell in the silent church.

    She was four. Thanks be to God.

  • dcs

    I was visiting with my grandmother the other day and mentioned that Cecilia shouted stream-of-consciousness for the entire Mass today. She said, “Oh, do they let children in the church?” Needless to say, she’s not Catholic. But it’s an attitude I’ve found from some Catholics. “Until they’re old enough to sit quietly,” they say, “leave them at home.” Or maybe “You know there’s a cry room, right?” As if the Mass is their personal property and they get to decide who stays and who goes.

    Surely there is a happy medium between sitting quietly and shouting throughout the entire Mass.

  • http://shinyhappycatholics.blogspot.com Martha

    I see a trend – the same life-long Catholics who tell women to be open to life, who are (rightfully) praying outside abortion clinics, urging people to have big families, complain about married couples contracepting – but don’t want to see kids anywhere. Not on planes, restaurants, movie theatres, or Mass. Have those kiddos and keep ‘em at home, or maybe at the park, if you have to.

    You want your Mass, your way. With the priest you like, in the church you think is pretty, in your pew, after having parked in your parking space. Nothing should inconvenience you or take away from your experience – your Mass.

    But it isn’t your Mass. This sacrifice belongs to God, to Christ the King. So whatever inconveniences you, disrupts you, upsets you – offer it up, or seek out another Mass. But recognize that the Mass isn’t there to be perfect for you. Mass is there to offer grace to any who wish to receive it.

    I don’t mean to ignore prudential practicalities; although I’ve never taken my child out of Mass, I have had to nurse her so she’ll settle down (I know – I’m immodest and going to hell, despite my use of a cover. it’s okay – you can talk about that later). I know that if she truly could not be comforted I’d take her out, and I’m sure I’d be baffled by a parent who wouldn’t do the same for a child who was truly screaming for a prolonged period of time. I get that. But…if I don’t know the person, know their situation, their child…I let it go. I don’t know why they’re staying, but maybe they have a reason. I have my reason for going – Jesus – and I just try to focus on that.

  • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

    This thread continues to be amazing and interesting.

    To those who remembered taking a child out for a spanking or even spanking the child during Mass–when I was a child it was perfectly fine for parents to do that, and everyone else in the Church would smile and nod with a “been there!” expression. But for those who complain that today’s parents are selfish, entitled, undisciplined and won’t discipline their children, you should know that ANY public spanking of a child in this day and age may get you a visit from the local Child Protective Services agency.

    This is a true story, but I wish it weren’t: I met a woman in our diocese who is very strict with her children and who was seen disciplining them in church. Someone called CPS. Her children were taken away for a couple of days. When they came back she learned that one of them had been molested while in the foster home. That this woman still takes the children to Mass on Sunday at all is a testament to her faith.

    So carting a screaming infant or toddler out of Mass is a good thing to do (though knowing the exact moment to do so is something I cut new parents a lot of slack on–it takes a while to learn the danger signs of a meltdown, and each child is different). But actually spanking a misbehaving child in any public place, including Mass, is perilous at best these days, and parents should be forgiven for not doing so. They may find it safer in general to adopt other discipline methods even at home given how much spanking is frowned upon by pediatricians, school teachers, and most other child professionals in this era.

  • Preshen

    Yes Erin, (and everyone else) this thread continues to amaze me too. I never spanked my children in public. I rarely spanked them at all. There are other forms of discipline. Secondly, the arrogance displayed by the attitude of some comments is baffling. Where is the love of Jesus? Is it only present when things go a certain way; your way? What about teaching respect to your children? What about some parents learning to show respect themselves? Let’s look at a different perspective. Young Mom’s need support for sure. There are also many different approaches to parenting. Who am I to say what is best for your child? The reactions here on this blog are mostly that young children belong at Mass and too bad if it should bother anyone when they are ornery. As a hypothetical example, what if, as an older fellow parishioner, I told you that I was leaving the Catholic Church, to go to a non-denominational mega Church, where the children have their own service, because I couldn’t handle the noisy toddlers? Would you encourage me to remain Catholic? Would you tell me that I am most welcome at the Catholic Church and should stay? Or would you say “Great, we don’t want your type here anyway”.

  • Faith

    Preshen, I don’t think people are saying what you think they are saying! They are saying, for the most part, people should take their screaming children out, but that some people think any fussing is the equivalent of screaming and sometimes it is hard to get the child out fast enough, if you have other children that you need to drag with you etc. Your original complaint was: why don’t parents take their screaming children out, because apparently you encounter a real problem where you are on Saturday mornings (and that does sound like it could be an exceptionally irritating situation) but then you upped the ante by saying that children don’t belong at mass at all! And you gave your way of raising your children sort of as the way everybody else should handle it too. People disagree with you. Reasonable people can disagree.

    Let us all remember to be charitable That is where Jesus is. We are not here on earth to feel put upon by our fellow Christians, but to suffer for them and pray for them. And to give each other the benefit of the doubt because in doing that, in performing that self-control we become just a little a bit closer to Jesus. Getting along with other people is HARD! There will always be some kind of abrasive, whether you are the harried mother with a tantruming toddler or the older woman with Meniere’s disease.

    At any event, we should not let this disagreement escalate or make it an occasion of sin.

    Ok, enough of my preaching. Now I am off to commit an untold amount of sins today just in my normal day to day living! LOL.

  • Annie

    And we wonder why our parishes are struggling to see young families at mass every week? This thread of comments is so sad. To say that one has paid their dues and has somehow earned the right to peace and quiet at mass seems somewhat selfish. Mass is an act of community worship – we all contribute to and make up that community from the infants to the elderly. It is reasonable for a parent to step outside with a particularly fussy baby or child – but please, don’t make them feel that they are not welcome to come back. Do you have any idea how devastating that can be on whether a family keeps coming to mass or not? Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday – God holds each of us as a Shepherd holds his lambs – not wanting to lose any of us. How are we acting as Shepherds to those around us? How are we acting as Christ to those in our communities? In our Parishes? How we reaching out to the ‘lost’ that these young families have the potential to become just because someone can’t tolerate a little noise for a few minutes each week?

  • Maria

    No, Jesus wasn’t in the synagogue when he said, “Let the little children come unto me.” Because Our Lord and Savior wasn’t present in the synagogue, but in their very midst. Today, however, Jesus is present to us in the Blessed Sacrament . . . which, is in Church! Gimme a break lady.

    And someone who is studying for a degree in theology shouldn’t be so ignorant of the religious development of children. Those first five years of exposure are far more important than any other time of their life. Might I suggest that our budding theologian read Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions?!

  • Kate

    I can very easily understand and sympathize with the various points of view on this issue. It can be so hard to maintain a balanced perspective on this issue, because what people perceive as disruptive and are willing to tolerate vary widely. There are folks who aren’t tolerant at all. Just the sight of a baby or small child is disruptive enough apparently, because that person will likely spend the rest of Mass waiting for the other shoe to drop and the child to prove they were right all along. There are some people who can’t handle fidgeting or any noise of any kind (other than singing or prayers or what is typical for Mass). Still there are others who feel that it’s okay for a crying child to stay and be present at Mass. I’m a parent. I can tell you I’ve seen the looks, the stares, and yes have heard the comments. I’ve also had others try to stop me from removing my disruptive child because they’re “beautiful” and “you have a right to be here” and it’s only “a joyful noise”. Well, if I as a parent can’t handle my child’s racket, I’m quite sure there would be any number of people who would be grateful to be spared it too.

    Now, I have another dilemma. My child is autistic and is now 11 years old. He fidgets, stimms, makes little noises or tries to talk about unrelated things at times. He, like the woman in the original post with Meniere’s Disease, can’t handle loud noise or certain pitches. There’s a particular Mass setting that will cause him to cry, cover his ears, and try to make noise to drown it out. Since this primarily affects the Liturgy of the Eucharist, this makes it additionally problematic. Fortunately, our music people and pastor worked for over a month, unknown to us, to play with the music until they found out what the exact trigger was (it was the C minor chord) and futzed with it until it stopped being an issue. They told me that our son had as much a right to be there as everyone else, and they wanted to make Mass accessible to him. I was amazed and humbled by their care, concern and response and only found out what they were up to when they finally figured it out and at that Mass my son didn’t cry or get upset. It was amazing and wonderful and I am forever grateful to them.

    Now, to get back to the issue of tolerance and Mass. At a typical Mass I attend on Sunday, I hear children (including some who need to go to the vestibule to get it under control), the feedback and noise of older hearing aids from time to time, the smells that accompany the problem of adult incontinence, the noise of scooters and canes. There is one scooter that if it starts being low on its charge will make a constant beep. Every once in a while, someone’s cell phone or other electronic will go off. Some how, some way, we all manage to make it work – together. Some weeks are much easier to handle than others. I stayed away from church with my autistic son for years (4-5) and only brought him when our pastor told me he had reached the age of reason and had a right to be there and that he would work with the community to be welcoming and accepting of him and his autism. It’s been a few years now, and things are going well. To be honest, it’s harder as our son’s parents to handle our child’s outbursts in church than it is for the rest of the community. Even the most strict parishioners in our parish are more accepting these days.

    There are no easy answers to this issue, no one size fits all prescription. I do know that it takes persistence on the part of parents with small children, and a willingness on the part of the community as a whole to help each other out. It takes knowledge and education and awareness. In most parishes in our area (New England), the Saturday afternoon vigil Mass is the one most heavily attended by the elderly of the community, so I tend to avoid going to that Mass with my children. It’s the same with the earliest Mass on Sunday morning. I recognize that doesn’t work for many of those who’ve posted here. It comes down to working things out together.

  • Preshen

    To the original writer with Meniere’s Disease, I want to apologize for all the negativity against you. You have done well as a servant of God in your parish, I am sure. You are absolutely right in what you say. I have had some of the same experiences. Young parents don’t understand that we have already been through raising our children and maybe, just maybe, we might have some wisdom to impart to them, if they would be open to listening. It is sad that you have come under attack over your needs and opinions.

    Young Parents: no one is against you. Everyone is trying to help you become even better parents and you are picking out certain phrases from those you don’t agree with and concentrating on those. Maybe when you are a little older, you might look back on this and say, Yeah, those folks had some good points. May God Bless you as you try your hardest to raise your children in a world that is full of hatred, and where our society and culture tell us it is OK to be respectful because one has a “right” to it. Television, movies, and the internet certainly do not help the situation by providing vulgarity, insensitivity, and hostility toward all forms of religion. The liberal news outlets share what they want to share, not always the total picture. Keep the faith in these difficult times.

  • Pingback: The Contraceptive Sanctuary: Why you SHOULD Bring Baby to Church

  • Preshen

    Sorry, my previous post should say “OK to be disrespectful.”

  • Dcn. Chick O’Leary

    I too get tired of hearing the whining and crying and screaming at Mass… but the pastor is so set in his ways he is not about to change. On the other hand, I really detest seeing three adults and a seven-year-old sitting in a cry room as a group — I have to wonder which of them is most likely to break out in screams. The vast majority of parents of young children in church realize when it is time to take a child to the vestibule. The toddlers of those parents who sat in the nave rather than in a cry room or vestibule seem to be far better behaved and far more attentive at Mass than the grade schoolers of those whose parents routinely let them run around in the vestibule while Mass was going on. The cry of a baby is a sound of life, for the benefit of others there is a time when children need to be taken out and most responsible parents realize that.

  • Bituin

    I am now the mom of a 16 year old who is going through (his own choice) his Confirmation sacrament preparation. When he was a newborn, I brought him to church and he slept through the whole Mass. I loved that he was there just being part of the grace of the moment. When he got older and more “vocal” I realized that it was a transitional time so I would bring him in for as long as he could tolerate, for exposure and familiarity with “church on Sunday’s” sake, but far from being the prim little girl I was brought up to be, he had a degree of healthy little boy energy that I could not conveniently leave at the door. I would be the first, however, to say that I had no right to sit in church while he screamed or ran around distracting others. I simply carried him out at that point just as I did in every restaurant or retail store when the same thing happened.

    When we moved to California (he was a bit over a year old) I literally visited about 10 churches in our diocese until I found one with a proper solution for new parents. The amazing parish I found actually provided a co-op babysitting ministry, so that I only had to “miss Mass” once every two months or so instead of having a weekly shortened liturgy. We ended up moving in short order to the city where this church was, so please no comments about being geographically correct Catholics…

    While I have NO problem with ordinary children’s squirming, baby noises, etc. I think it is absolutely ridiculous and insensitive to pretend that one gets something out of sitting in the pew while one’s child “loses it” in church and not even attempt to bring the child to the cry room, etc. This too shall pass! It’s a growth stage… and why not help each other with the tag teaming idea… I think that’s a great way to support each other’s faith and show common consideration for the community. It’s a COMMUNITY… not all about you getting to sit thru church while your child is obviously miserable and making everyone around them miserable. I promise you, if you keep bringing them for the period they can tolerate, they do grow out of the screaming stage and then will come the time when you can start to catechize, explain, etc. Children can’t hear you or the priest while they’re screaming, and to pretend that they are actually getting something out of the service while in that condition is… well… unbelievable…

    This is all said from the perspective of someone who truly loves children. I teach primary age religious ed at my parish and have volunteered to for about 10 years because I love to work with kids, energy and all. I have been a single mom forever, so didn’t have the option of having someone else deal with my baby while I was at church. However, this church thing seems to be only an extension of a cultural free-for-all that I witness no matter where I go. I see out of control children in stores, restaurants, etc. with parents blithely looking the other way as though they couldn’t be bothered teaching social restraint of any kind to their children. They are NOT doing their children any favors, because the rest of the world will not find them darling and sweet, but obnoxious and react accordingly. So, with regard to the church moment, I hope there can be a moderate understanding that young children belong in church as long as they can tolerate it. Past that point is pointless for all involved.

  • http://the-american-catholic.com Paul Zummo

    Secondly, the arrogance displayed by the attitude of some comments is baffling. Where is the love of Jesus?

    It sure as heck isn’t coming from you.

    We are fortunate enough to belong to a Parish teeming with children, so this isn’t really an issue. We do provide babysitting – and I say we because the parents volunteer to do it each weekend – and we have, until now, regularly taken our two little ones to babysitting, more for our own ability to participate at Mass as for others. Very recently we decided to take them with us to Mass, and while they are not exactly stone still reverent like some of the other kids who we are amazed at, they generally keep to themselves.

    At times past when we did have to bring the kids with us when they were even younger, I made sure to remove them to the back when they got out of hand. Now that they’re older it just seems wrong to deprive them of Mass, and in fact I think it sets a bad example – or at least it’s a failure on our part to properly catechize.

  • Mary Jones

    A little stunned at the number of people who seem to think mass is only for adults or that children can be left at home for 4-5 years then mirculously will learn how to behave in mass and what to do during mass.
    First, there is a difference between a screaming-control lost and not regained- infant or child and fussing or screaming that is consoled/contained. Also, even if you have a screaming child who cannot be consoled, there is a lag time between loss of control and being able to exit your pew etc.
    The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is for everyone. Every parent I know takes their child out of the sanctuary if their infant or child cries and cannot be quieted quickly. Most of the parishes we attended did not have a cry room. I took our son to mass from the time he was born and rarely had to take him to the back. He was quiet and I always brought some Catholic board books. The same with our daughter.
    A few times I was in the cry room of my brother and sister-in-law’s parish, it was play central for the children. They had problems getting my nephew to want to sit in the sanctuary as he got older because he wanted to play. Once when I ended up in the cry room of a parish with our daughter, she looked at is a playtime so the next week I had to let her know the expectation was she look at her books or sit on my lap, but it was not play time.
    A family I know where the husband felt children did not belong at mass until they were 5-6 then had great difficulties with their child who had no idea what to do at mass and was resistant. I see 2 and 3 year olds at my parish (especially those who are able to go to daily mass with their parents) praying the responses, singing and genuflecting approriately.

    It is not a “me” statement to bring your children to mass. The vocation of marriage means sacrifice in its way just as other vocations. Families are meant to emmulate the Holy Family and the sacraments, especially the Holy Sacifice of the mass, are key to parent’s being able to live their vocations fully and well. My youngest child is six and due to my age when she was born, there are no more little ones possible. When I hear the noise of a little one or the quiet “shh” and movement of parent, I do smile as children are a blessing to their parents, but also to us in the Church. I also try to make certain parent’s know I do enjoy seeing them and their children at Sunday mass and daily masses.

    On Sundays, we attend the EF form of the mass always, and often the available mass is a low mass which, for those who don’t know, if very quiet. All of the parents remove and calm down any child that screms. There are numeous families with children and we love any of the sounds we hear as it is another confirmation of God’s goodness and blessings including the wonderful blessings of children.

  • Sean C Tracey

    Did I read this right that in her followup, the original author is stating that “split-shifting” meant that she went to Sunday mass and her husband went to weekday mass? The solution to fussy children at mass certainly isn’t to commit mortal sin, is it?

  • http://thismamaneedscoffee.blogspot.com Jenny

    Seriously the saddest thing I’ve read all week. And considering the week, that’s really saying something.

    I guess the obvious question of whether or not someone with a disorder such as the writers truly expects to be accommodated by the entire world is a rhetorical one.

    Just to be super clear: I’m supposed to stay home all week raising my kids and trying desperately to cling to my Faith – and foster theirs – in the midst of a contraceptive and hostile culture – and then I’m supposed to not attend Mass with my husband on Sundays?

    Awesome.

  • Theodore Seeber

    What bothers me in this whole conversation is that the anti-children people seem to have forgotten Matthew Chapter 19. Go and read it before you respond to me please.

    My own son is special needs, and has yet to make it through a Mass without trips to the restroom. Teaching him to respect the sanctuary was hard. But the Archdiocese of Portland Office of People with Disabilities has an EXCELLENT answer: adaptive special needs masses offered twice a month in my area. We’re trying to recruit more clergy to do this. At a special needs mass, if a child wanders out of the pew, we don’t worry about it. We dramatize the gospel and include as many of the “children” as possible- some of them with mental age of six and a physical age of 35.

    Let the little children come to Jesus. Please. Let them.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)

    Some people are so disturbed by children they seem like Baroness Bomburst in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-

    screaming baby? Fine- take her out, give her some water and a string cheese stick (oops! we forgot to give the kids something to eat- no wonder he is hysterical)- and try to get back inside

    Fussy 2 year old? hmmm…..let’s try some new tactics and a soft Bible toy

    ADULT answering a cell phone???

  • Dunadan

    This sour old woman’s final lines in the follow-up email say it all – she “feels” she has “paid her dues” and is “entitled…”

    Her and the rest of her sorry generation, unfortunately. While I’m sure this particular lady isn’t pro-abortion, welfare state, etc, it’s that entitlement attitude which played a large role in putting us where we currently are as a society. She, and most of the rest of her generation, never have accepted that life (especially Christian life) is one long continual sacrifice. She isn’t entitled to anything except eternal hell-fire, like the rest of us, and the Mass isn’t about her and her comfort. So, frankly, suck it up. Don’t expel children (and their parents) to some distant room for “undesireables” so that you can grovel in your own fantasies about what you think the Mass ought to be. Imitate Christ and suffer them.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)

    I believe my greatest sacrifice being married to a Catholic priest is that he is on the altar and I am in the pews- but we are worshiping together- No One should choose to do a split shift- or feel pressured to do so

  • Spastichedgehog

    “Young Parents: no one is against you. ”

    Parent of 2.5 year old here. It sure doesn’t feel that way.

  • Kate

    It is the rudeness to the original letter writer that is truly appalling. “Sour old woman” who wants to “grovel in her fantasies”? Is this the example you want to set for your children–derogatory names and insults? Do you really think this is going to change anyone’s mind? What is wrong with you people? What is wrong with you, Deacon Kandra, that you allowed such horrible rudeness to appear on this thread?

  • Preshen

    Jenny; I feel so sorry for you. You seem to have underlying anger. To say sarcastically that is is the saddest thing you have heard all week? In a week of tragedies in Boston and Texas, Floods in Chicago, Letters laced with Ricin, Earthquakes in China and Iran, and not to mention the usual daily murders that happen in our cities. So many lives lost and so many people injured, families are suffering, many people are hurting emotionally and physically. But this blog is the saddest? Many comments have been made in reference to the comment that it is all about “me”. Well, you have certainly proven that right. May God Bless all the hurting people in our world today. This blog, an issue for some on both sides, certainly is not more important that the tragic loss of life.

  • Embarrassed DRE

    I commend Deacon Greg for keeping this lively discussion going. God bless you for allowing us to dialogue about an important and sensitive topic.

    It seems to me the letter writer should be using this situation as a call in her ministry. Can she and her department help by: setting up child care (not my preferred choice, but trying not to judge), providing religious books, toys, puzzles, worship aids for children of all ages? This won’t help much with an infant, but once a child is 1 or 2, they can easily enjoy soft books, a Jesus doll, etc. Many people have talked about helping the children know what is happening. With my niece, I often whispered Mass commentary when she was 3, 4 and 5. “This reading is telling us we need to be nice to people who are mean. That is hard. Let’s think about that.” “That is the Body of Christ now that these prayers have been said. When you are older, you can receive it Jesus in your First Communion.” etc. Listen to CDs of Church hymns in the car. Your children will quickly become familiar and be belting out “Lift High the Cross” before you know it! Any DRE who notices this situation whether at daily or Sunday Mass should hear it as a call to provide tools, educate, and inform parents. If she isn’t doing that, she is doing a disservice to her parishioners.

    I would love to hear more from the original letter writer- what types of programs she offers at her parish, what age the students start RE, and where she is getting her Master’s degree. One of the greatest joys of my career in parish ministry was being introduced to the INCREDIBLE program known as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I didn’t want to try to “sell” it in my last post, but after reading all the comments, I think it can lend much to this discussion. Besides, in the wake of Good Shepherd Sunday, it seems appropriate. For those unfamiliar, let me start with a quote from the curriculum website (www.cgsusa.org):
    “The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the result of a long period of careful observation of children by Sofia Cavalletti and her Montessori collaborator, Gianna Gobbi, in Rome. It began quite by accident, without warning or planning, the way God so often comes into our lives. In 1954 Sofia was a Hebrew and Scripture scholar, comfortable in her role in the academic world, when a mother asked her to give some religious instruction to her son. At first Sofia refused, saying she knew nothing about children. The mother persisted and eventually, Sofia consented. That experience with a 7 year-old changed her whole life. She saw in that child and in numerous other children since, a way of being in the presence of God that is both unique to the child and a gift to the adult who stops long enough to notice. Perhaps it is because Sofia went before the child with no preconceived ideas of what should happen that the child responded with such joy. Certainly her background in Scripture made it possible for her to talk about God in a way that opened and enthused the child. From that day to the present time Sofia and Gianna remind us constantly to look to the child for that sign of a deeply religious life – joy – and to always ask the question: “What face of God is the child telling us he or she needs to see?” ”

    Rather than standard textbook learning, our students (though we always just loving call them the children or the bambini) experience their faith in a dedicated, sacred space called an atrium. I encourage you to read the website and do some research. It would take me pages to describe here what the website already so eloquently does. Instead, I want to share with you the stories of myself and my bambini, Sofia and her stories, and my many catechist friends and colleagues throughout the world. In her book, Religious Potential of the Child, Sofia explains the loving relationship we help the youngest children (our curriculum starts at age 3) come into with Christ. Please consider reading it… all of you… especially my colleague in ministry who seems to be struggling at her parish.

    I can’t recall where this story came from, but one parish had a 2 1/2 year old who started in the Atrium very young. During her work time, she took the 10 wooden sheep from the sheepfold (used to teach The Good Shepherd), locked them in the tabernacle (yes- we use child size liturgical items), and told her catechist, “Jesus will keep them safe in there.” If that’s not deep theology, I don’t know what is! Maybe she won’t remember that when she’s 5, but you can’t tell me she won’t benefit from knowing who Jesus is and how much He loves, protects and cares for her.

    During a recent prayer time after hearing of the Empty Tomb, my 4 year old preschooler prayed, “Thank you for helping God come back to life!” with such great joy in his heart. This was a child who squirmed throughout the entire presentation, couldn’t answer any questions when asked, and didn’t seem to be “getting anything out of it”. I left the room torn between tears of joy and a grin spread across my face.

    A few years ago, I was presenting to preschoolers on the Visitation of the Magi. Since my students had seen and heard of how far Mary and Joseph had to travel to have baby Jesus during previous presentations, this must have stayed in one 4 year-old’s mind and heart. “What gifts would you bring baby Jesus?” I asked. “I’d bring Mary a motorcycle.” she said in all solemnness. Mary had suffered enough and this little girl could see that. It was the best way she knew to express this sentiment in her mind and heart.

    The best is the touching artwork my students draw. This year, a catechist showed me a drawing from a 6 year-old during Advent: Mary kneeling before a manger. Inside the manger was not a baby… but a cross. She knew who Mary was waiting for. Wow. Our youngest students work with a puzzle map showing the regions of Ancient Israel. Samaria is green, Nazareth is orange, Galillee is yellow, the Jordan River and Sea of Galillee are blue. One day my 4 year-old student who couldn’t yet read asked me to help put his picture in his folder with his name on it. We found his folder and he said, “Miss Kathy, do you know what this is?” It was just scribbles… rough childlike scribbles in no discernible shape. “Tell me about it,” I implored, totally prepared to be underwhelmed. It was all I could do not to cry when he said, “It’s where Jesus lived.” He had seen the puzzle map three or four weeks before. He took only the colored pencils that matched the map and scribbled an area for each color. I told that story and showed off that picture for days on end.

    One last note: Next year, our curriculum turns 60 and celebrates 30 years in this country. The only changes have been to adapt to new languages (as needed as it spread throughout the world), revise materials, and make Roman Missal updates (we U.S. catechists were very busy last year!!). While it started as an R.C. curriculum, there are huge movements of Episcopal and Orthodox adaptations. It’s such a solid program, even a number of lower church denominations started using it and just remove the liturgical components. It’s THAT good. No text series (that I know of) can claim that type of longevity and adaptations to other denominations.

  • Preshen

    I have a challenge for most of you. Let’s reunite here in 20 years, God willing if we are all still around, and discuss our children’s lives then and how they turned out. I am going to predict that some of you will see things differently by then. Now I am going to pray a Rosary for our world that is so filled with violence, hatred, war, crime, and murder. Now that I realize it, this whole blog and comments are trivial compared to the real needs of our society. Won’t you join me?

  • MomWithSense

    @Maria, and your snotty “Gimme a break lady” comment…Our church doesn’t allow the under 7s to receive communion. You can have a crying toddler be just as close to him in the church when mass is not going on. Present in the Blessed Sacrament? Yes. Can a toddler consume Him? No. So, there is a difference. Don’t try and insist that all babies and toddlers must be at mass; they do not have to. That is not a requirement of the church.

    And still no one mentions my example of St. Therese. Her parents kept her home and I say they were wise and raised a saint. I choose to follow their example, not those who allow screaming crying babies and constantly whining toddlers to be at mass. And it’s usually the same kids, with the same clueless parents, every week.

  • Kate

    My husband and I are separated, and I attend mass with my three children by myself. I have no one to ‘tag team’ with, and I have children at different stages with very different needs. Sometimes I hope that the baby will calm down, and I jiggle and soothe and distract in the pew, because my two older children are being well-behaved and I don’t want to disrupt their religious formation. Sometimes I am completely tied up quietly explaining to my recent first communicant where we are in the missal, and don’t notice/choose to overlook the way my 5 yo is climbing on the pew behind my back. Sometimes I take the younger two to the back of the church and pray that my 8yo will behave himself in the pew alone. Sometimes I take all three back – which is still disruptive to people, and even more disruptive to them because the novelty of being back there induces extra mischief.

    But I once watched a woman, at mass alone with two preschool boys, so embarrassed and exhausted trying to rein them in that she left mass before the homily. I never saw her in our church again, and I’ve always regretted that I didn’t get a chance to speak with her and thank her for coming with her children.

    My mother always brought us to Church from infancy – she belongs to the ‘how will they learn to behave if we leave them home’ school of thought – and all 7 of us are practicing Catholics as adults. She has commented that the older ladies and gentlemen of her acquaintance who are most opinionated about the inappropriateness of children in mass rarely seem to have grown children who still attend church on a regular basis.

    In any case, it behooves us ALL to remember that those around us need Christ as much as we do – both children and elders – and that we will answer for the minutes we spend grumbling rather than prayings during Mass over the noisy children/grouchy old guy.

    And no one has a RIGHT to a reverent mass. For goodness sake, what an idea. We don’t have a RIGHT to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his gift to us in the mass at ALL. It’s pure and complete mercy, and we are beggars at His feet.

  • Pingback: Cry babies

  • Micha Elyi

    Why doesn’t SHE leave mass? … Then everyone gets to stay.
    Ann

    This is my favorite comment here.

  • Jennifer Evancho

    I was alone for about a year, pregnant for part of the time, with a newborn and three other kids the other. I tried to go to the family mass and sit in the back or somewhere with an easy exit. It was especially hard one Sunday to get to Mass. I had to leave because my son was extra disruptive but I didn’t want him to think he would get away with that. We drove to another Mass but it was over flowing and I really needed a seat and there was none so we waited for the final mass and they were hungry and really getting the point that Sunday mass was important and they behaved. We celebrated as we did every Sunday after Mass. But now I am in love with daily mass however my two year old is not still so I only go if I can anticipate a better behavior. And I love splitting up the mass. So do my older kids!

  • kat

    Wow Preshen, I have to admit as a lifelong Catholic I was embaressed by your response to Erin. I noticed later on you chose to employ a more chartiable tone but I can’t help wondering what are your true feelings. So much for “Peace be with you.” How can we expect to have God’s grace and charity dwell in us when we let such small matters turn us on eachother like wolves (metaphoricly speaking. Just like the un-clean comment was ment I am sure.)

  • KathyG

    I’m a mom of 4; my husband is not a practicing Catholic. I have almost always taken my children to church by myself. As often as I could, I would try to attend Mass at a time when my baby would normally nap. Also, we have a cry room (that I utilized when I had any child who was not old enough to behave for an hour) and it is a blessing. So many people who have visited our parish tell me that they WISH their church had one.

    To the moms and dads: YES, you’re crying, noisy child is disruptive. Most people understand that occasionally children make noise. However, if your child is continually disturbing fellow worshipers, it is inconsiderate to remain in the pews.

    Remember, children grow quickly. My challenge now is reminding my boys that the Sign of Peace is not a chance to demonstrate the strength of your grip.

  • Pingback: Vatican Approves Miracle to Make John Paul II a Saint - Big Pulpit

  • Ella

    Admittedly I’ve only been a Catholic for two years but I was a faithful Baptist for over 20 years before that. I’ve attended church services in several states and overseas and I have never experienced four babies screaming the entire time the entire service was conducted each and every Sunday. Something just doesn’t sound right.

  • http://www.bigbluewave.ca SUZANNE

    I think a lot depends on the child’s pattern of behaviour, and how disruptive it is. I will withstand a crying infant because I suspect the parent could not see it coming. But if the kid is disruptive week after week, maybe he should be left at home until he learns to behave.

    I like the idea of bringing family to Mass — *in theory*. But as a mother I’ve learned that it’s not practical to bring them before they’ve been to school. They don’t settle down and you’re stuck trying to keep your kid from killing himself (or in my case, herself) because she’s climbing the pews, walking and slipping on the kneelers, crawling under the pews and banging her head, etc.

    Kids aren’t the only disruptive people at Mass. When I was in my twenties, I lived near a mental hospital and there was a female patient in the congregation who insisted on saying the words of Consecration Every.Single.Sunday. Since she wasn’t all quite there, nobody wanted to approach her and try to get her to change. And I’ve also known another parishoner who would say the priest’s words out loud. I understand we should try to be tolerant, but Mass is supposed to be said a certain way, and when it’s not, it’s distracting and takes away *from what it’s meant to be*. It’s not meant to be a family celebration or any kind of celebration of “us” it’s supposed to be a memorial of the crucifixion, so our attention should ideally be focused on the Priest offering up the Mass.

  • kat

    I Just wanted to post some information on St. Therese ( also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus,) since she has been brought up. This is from the Society of the Little Flower. The emphesis is mine.

    What is the meaning of “the little way” of St. Therese? It is an image that tries to capture her understanding of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, of seeking holiness of life in the ordinary and the everyday. St. Therese based her little way on two fundamental convictions: 1. God shows love by mercy and forgiveness and 2. She could not be perfect in following the Lord. St. Therese believed that the people of her time lived in too great fear of Gods judgment. The fear was stifling and did not allow people to experience the freedom of the children of God. St. Therese knew from her life that God is merciful love; many scripture passages in the Old and New Testaments bore out that truth. She loved the MATERNAL images for God in the Old Testament and the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. In fact, St. Therese once wrote that she could not understand how anyone could be afraid of a God who became a CHILD. She also knew that she would never be perfect. Therefore, she went to God as a CHILD approaches a parent with open arms and a profound trust.
    St. Therese translated “the little way” in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She took her assignments in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She played no favorites; she gave of herself even to the DIFFICULT MEMBERS. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was steeped in a loving commitment that knew no breakdown. It is called a little way precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.

  • wineinthewater

    Preshen,

    I appreciate what you are trying to say, but it is rather condescending. There’s a reason that parents are reacting the way they are. As someone who is older, you should be horrified to consider that the “gray hair stare” is what characterizes most parent’s experience with “the wisdom of their elders.” “Leave them home” isn’t wisdom, it directly contradicts the teaching of the Church (as others have pointed out above). (With prudence and charity ruling so that truly unruly children are taken out or even left at home.) Tips on quieting a distressed child or loving guidance as to when noise is too much is the kind of wisdom parents would appreciate. Being glared at or being told to leave their kids at home for your benefit and to their detriment is not.

  • Michele

    This is for those people who, somewhat sarcastically, wrote about talking in mass, texting and cell phoning, etc. and then asked “would that be OK, just because this is what I want to do and I have the right to do what I want, don’t I? Because I want to be with Jesus.”

    I recently moved to a new town about 70 miles outside Los Angeles, where I previously lived. I honestly thought I would never have as bad an experience anywhere as I’d had in LA, where I all too frequently had to leave a mass because the priest was preaching actual heresy from the pulpit or someone other than the priest was giving the homily (not a deacon, but an individual who was not ordained or even studying to be ordained). Unfortunately, I was wrong.

    The small, conservative town in which I now live has only one Catholic Church. During mass, those in the crying room talk with one another constantly, text message, talk on cell phones and have literally no respect for what is going on within the liturgy. I am, of course, NOT referring to the infants and toddlers. I am referring to their parents and older siblings, aunts, uncles, et. al. In addition, the newly assigned pastor will not see parishioners. When I tried to make an appointment, as a new member, I was told he was too busy to see parishioners and the associate pastor was taking all his appointments. There are 2 priests and a deacon at this church where we have about 2000 families, I’m guesstimating. The new priest also stated from the pulpit that people should take no more than a couple of minutes at confession as he did not have time to be a spiritual councilor. Families with young children all crowd into the crying room bc it is obvious that the crying and noise irritate the pastor.

    I found another church in a nearby town. I tried to stick it out, but after my oldest granddaughter, who is of confirmation age and going through the classes, volunteered at Thanksgiving last fall and was yelled at for standing around when she had not been given anything to do, as well as spoken to rudely numerous times by a couple of adults, and then she and the other volunteers were told they were not to be given anything to eat, I decided I should find another place to worship.

    Last Sunday, at the new parish, a couple of little ones were vocalizing and moving around in the aisle next to their parents seat. The pastor spoke warmly and lovingly to them from the pulpit, welcoming them and all the children and asking that all of us make the children and their families welcome. He did mention the crying room, but said it was only their if the parents felt it would be best for them. He said children were welcome to move in the aisles so long as they were safe, and asked all of us to look out for them.

    I am older, and a little hard of hearing, but I have never had a problem hearing anything in that parish, and I love that pastor dearly. It is a small, poor parish with lots and lots of “diversity” among the members. The other parish was large and wealthy. Maybe that is the difference: a real community vs. a group that is more of an organization than a family, and a priest who is more of a real father as opposed to a leader of a business model. Perhaps I forgot to mention that the pastor of the parish I left spoke about his fundraising at EVERY SINGLE MASS! I did not once attend a mass at that parish where he was not either asking for money or talking about having taken a trip somewhere to successfully raise money, etc.

    I am sorry if this seems off topic for much of the post, but I think there is more going on here under the surface than differing opinions about the noise infants and toddlers make and the varying abilities of their parents to control them. I think, perhaps, that one of the big things we have lost with all this parish consolidation is a sense of community and the feeling that we are a true parish “family.” I don’t know anyone at the parish I now attend, yet I feel at home. I feel I belong. Now it is certainly true that I always feel that whenever I enter any Catholic Church, bc I know that wherever Our Lord resides, there, also, I will be welcomed by at least one member of the Body. But I WANT to go to this new parish every Sunday, whereas before I had to make myself go by reminding myself Who I was really going to be with.

    Somehow, His body is alive to me where I now attend more fully and completely than I was able to experience it at the previous parish.

    I have read most of the posts, and I have to say, I just don’t see this selfishness in the parents that some posters are calling them out on. I hear people who are desperate to be with Jesus and to try to raise their kids in the love and respect of The Lord and who need our help, love and support. And believe me, I am the least sentimental or lienient person you are likely to meet. If anything, I tend to be overly rigid in my behavioral expectations, and, as a teacher, I know all too well that parents are no longer teaching their children the most common and simple standards of behavior and manners. But after all, that is what the family is for–and we are supposed to be a parish FAMILY. As many others have commented, let us be kind to one another, take care of one another, and try to show consideration for all–the elderly, the sick, the young, the stressed, the overburdened, etc.

    There are so many times when the woes of my life are so overwhelming that I go to mass with a very bad attitude. I have refused to shake hands during the sign of peace bc I am angry that people are not more considerate about the danger of passing on their colds and flues during the winter–or at least that is my excuse. The truth is, I am just angry about something going on in my life, and don’t want to be part of a community on that day. I go to mass anyway, and receiving Jesus generally heals at least a little of my bad attitude, if not all of it. I can only imagine what young families must be going through, and how much more they must need that sweet nourishment than I ever could at this point in my life, where I really have no serious problems, just serious complaints.

    Sorry for rambling. Just one of the many issues we “old ones” bring with us to the “family.”
    God bless.

  • Fiergenholt

    Michele (10/24: 10:53pm)

    “sorry for rambling” Apologies accepted but common courtesy on this blog for many years has been that all of us regular commentators limiting ourselves to three main points and 200 words.

  • Pingback: The Third Rail of the Catholic Blogosphere, Part II: Crying Kids at Mass | The American Catholic

  • Dave Starr

    At our church, St. Michael’s in Flint Michigan, the pastor at the time, the late Msgr Earl Sheridan, once stopped a mother from taking a crying baby out of the church. He told her to return to her seat, as the baby was “praying in his own way”.

  • Charlotte

    When I first went to a Catholic Church, I was amazed that they let babies attend the mass and thought it was a beautiful witness to the value of children and fmily and showed that the Church takes its teachings about them seriously. It was such a stark contrast to my old Baptist church. I have to say, I’ve been heartbroken to find out recently that it seems my local parishes are the odd ones out. I went to mass at a different parish than usual lately and an older lady was upset at my special needs daughter for making noise at church. Then I go online and find articles complaining about children and I realize that maybe it’s not so different from my old Baptist church where children aren’t allowed into the sanctuary until they are teens. Which is sad, because one of the reasons often given for why children fall away from the faith is because they usually reach adulthood having not spent much time in church – they’ve spent so many years stuffed into nurseries and Sunday schools or simply not brought to church at all because they’re not welcome.

  • kharking

    I have been in church for upwards of 30 years now (most of which were pre-children) and cannot remember a single incident of a parent letting a child scream for more than a minute while they attempted to restore order–a momentary disruption at worst. If there was one, it clearly can’t have scarred me for life since I can’t remember it now anyway. Maybe there is a disconnect between some kind of hyperbolic language (screaming) that is being used here and talking or fussing that is louder than expected or desired in this setting? Otherwise it really just doesn’t make sense with any experience in a variety of churches that I have ever encountered.
    I’m in a congregation right now where there are nearly forty children under four, roughly 20% of the people present. Sure, the additive noise can make it seem constant but I am well aware that it isn’t any one family causing disruption, just the inevitable results of the total numbers. We do have a cry room of sorts but it was mostly set up for the many mothers who didn’t feel comfortable nursing in the pew and woe betide the poor father who tries to open the door! It can be nice to have the narthex or another room with sound available for those who want the opportunity for a little more space while the children are learning–but it is primarily for the benefit of the parent and child, on whom disruptions will always be harder than they will ever be for me. It’s really hard to understand anyone concluding that it is self-centered for parents to bring small children to church–good grief–look how hard they are working to be there, minimize misbehavior, expose the kids to corporate worship and not lose it in frustration when it doesn’t go as well as everyone would have liked! I can guarantee that no one is there for the express purpose of irritating others. Do we really want to have a contest of who is more self-absorbed and entitled here–the person who brings their children but can’t control them as much as everyone would like or the person who thinks that the mass experience is all about them and their right to quiet, reverent contemplation? I’d like to arm wrestle someone who seriously thinks that it isn’t at least as selfish of the second person with the fair warning that I’ve been hefting a combined 60 lbs of little people for the last couple of years and I would probably win.
    I love the opportunity for quiet contemplation as much as the next person. However, I don’t believe that I am owed that by anyone. On those days when the quiet is short-lived, I am thankful for the crumbs that I can get in the interstitial spaces or by virtue of simply being present.
    If I have a need that makes the behavior or conditions of others harder for me (particularly in a public setting like church which ought to be welcoming to all sorts of different people), it is primarily my responsibility to alter my own expectations or make my own accommodations for my situation. For example, I get very, very ill during pregnancy, such that the smell of other people’s body odor, perfumes, etc. can make me need to vomit at a moments notice. So I carry mint or grapefruit oils to unobtrusively sniff at necessary moments. The solution isn’t to insist that no one wear perfume or pass gas around me–that would be impossible to enforce even if it were reasonable to expect, which it isn’t.

  • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

    Michele, I think what you wrote was beautiful. :)

  • sg

    I have often wondered if screaming kids were the real reason that the Temple in Jerusalem had separate areas for men and women. The men and older boys would have their area and of course the women would have the all of the younger kids including screamers farther away and separated. That way the men would be able to hear.

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    Because there are no people in the pews who can be trusted to take the babies for a few minutes, much less a few hours to give the parents a bit of peace. If old people haven’t already gotten the message, it’s too late. Shame on all who frown on and mark against abortion without the heart to hold the babies of others.

  • Mary Beth Zabinski

    This woman is upset because other parents don’t share the same views as she does. I took my child to mass since she was a week old. We sit in the front row and if she cried or screamed, we took her to the back. My daughter also attends adoration, stations of the cross, benediction and all of the Easter Tridium services. She is almost 5 now. To say that a child cannot understand their faith at this age is absurd. She knows more than I did when I was an adult. What’s more distracting to me than children screaming is adults talking before, during and after mass. I think if you are going to discriminate against children, you should also reprimand the adults. Please whatever you do, do NOT give dirty looks or yell at people for taking their kids to church.

  • Pingback: Taking Little Children to Church and Living to Tell About It | 8 Kids And A Business

  • http://www.facebook.com/ella.warnock.7 Ella Warnock

    I admit to being unfamiliar with Mass. There was one church we attended for a few years, and there was a single mom, grandma, and young girl who also attended. Now, you pretty much knew that if you were seated anywhere near this family, you just plain would not be hearing the sermon, period. Yelling, laughing, flailing, throwing hymn books around, trying to crawl away, lying on the pew and kicking the wooden back of it over and over and over again. Every Sunday. This child was eventually old enough that, if mom and grandma had bothered, she could have started learning some age-appropriate behavior.

    Oh, and she didn’t have any disorders or illnesses that would have caused her behavior. Just a normal kid who would have benefited from some higher expectations. And I don’t know if anyone ever tried to give a gentle piece of advice, or if we were all too petrified that we wouldn’t be thought of as “nice” or that we might be judgmental of a single mom; nothing could have been further from the truth as she was not the only single mom in the congregation. It was actually kind of funny how we would always wait around to see where they would finally light so we could sit on the opposite side of the room. Didn’t always work, though, lol! I’m certainly not against kids in church, but this situation was really over-the-top. That degree of ignoring a child when she’s that young doesn’t bode well for when she’s older and can get in much more, and many more kinds, of trouble. I really hope things have changed, for her sake.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X