The Sound of Crying Babies at Mass…

…is the sound of a healthy, thriving Church.  God send us many more.

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  • Shannon

    These everyone is welcome at mass pieces always focus on babies and little ones. I felt a lot less unwelcome when my kids were crying babies then I do now, with a severely autistic and loud 13 year old. It’s been ages since I made it through a mass with him. My pastor encourages me to bring him, but the reality of him being loud enough to drown out the priest for those close to us followed by the stares and stink eyes means it often doesn’t happen.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Check with your archdiocese office of people with disabilities. Archdiocese of Portland OPD offers special needs adaptive mass twice a month for people in exactly your situation, and we’re currently trying to recruit more priests to do this.

      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.

      • Herb_VA

        Matthew Chapter 19 covers a lot. I believe you are referring to 19:13-15.
        I’m sorry you think us “anti-children people” because we are unable to pray, meditate or be at peace during Mass with so many noise distractions. I hope you can find some pity in your heart for us and our inability to maintain focus. Most of us pray for the noise makers and ask forgiveness for our impatience.

        • Carol

          I have ADHD. Everything is a distraction and difficult during Mass for me. Sit in the front if you must. If children make things so difficult for you go to the 6 am Mass; you won’t find families with children there. Are you somewhere where there are hardly any Masses or church options? If so that’s probably due to not welcoming children at all and thus population drops as do Catholic numbers drop. If you try to change your attitude about it maybe you’ll learn to focus on the Mass over it. Try something new. Smile when you hear a child and say “Thank you God, Amen.”

          • Beccolina

            If he lives in a rural area, a mission church, or a parish where the priest has to travel to a mission church, there very well might be only one or two mass options. Those of us with children are asking for some Christian charity, and we can extend it to people as well. Even the lady who drenches herself in rose perfume and gives me a headache every week.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I do understand this one- my own asperger’s makes Mass very painful for me at times. A solution I’ve found is visiting local religious communities.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Some time ago, I made a promise to myself that I will never reference the Bible in less than a chapter. I’m not a prooftexting fundamentalist.

          If you truly have such an inability to maintain your focus, perhaps:
          A) that’s what you should be praying for
          B) it’s time for a monastery vacation (a personal retreat).

    • Beadgirl

      I hear ya, Shannon. I’m glad that at least the priest is supportive of your efforts, and I hope it all gets easier someday.

    • Beccolina

      That’s a hard situation. I wish I had advice for you. My sister-in-law has similar problems with my 22-yr-old nephew with Down’s. People are pretty nice about it, since he’s been part of the same community and parish his whole life, but there are always those who want quiet.

      I have days when I wish I could go to mass by myself so I could focus. It will pass and there will come a time when I attend mass with just my husband, but it seems very far away sometimes. When I was pregnant with #3 and my son was 2, I started going to daily mass 2-3 times a week. The shorter weekday masses made a nice practice run for my toddler and 4-yr-old, my parents were always there to help, and the other regular attendees knew me as a toddler. I suppose it seems counter-intuitive to bring a child who is disruptive during mass to mass more, but it helped a lot.

    • Jen

      Hi Shannon,
      I’m one of those who gets really annoyed when parents won’t take their loud crying children out of the sanctuary. However, I have attended a Mass with families with children with disabilities, and I give them a huge pass. It is such a different story. I would say go back and bring your son with you. Cranky me would stare down any parishioner who didn’t welcome you all to Mass.

      • Newp Ort

        I think it’s fair to expect parents to remove loud children from the sanctuary. They really shouldn’t be up there by the altar and tabernacle, they should be with the rest of us in the congregation.

        • Jon W

          Ha ha! Love it. You have no idea how many times I, a former Protestant, have failed to make this distinction and caused my Catholic-nerd friends to look at me funny.

          • Newp Ort

            Thanks, I’m glad somebody got my pedantic jibes and enjoyed them.

  • priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)

    Shannon- that is tough! Perhaps your boy would be more comfortable in a small hospital Mass at a local Catholic hospital (another idea- maybe he can go to the earliest Sunday Mass at your parish- these tend to be smaller- more wiggle room)

  • Shannon

    Thanks priest’s wife, I’ve tried different masses at multiple locations, but my daughters like to be consistent at least with the parish since they are in RE and youth group there. He’s perfectly comfortable, he’s just not able to be quiet for longer than a couple of minutes at a time. It’s out of his control ( and mine).

  • Michael Matthew

    I am the father of 5 children and know all too well the trials of bringing the family to mass. Through the years I have implemented much of what Dr. Popcak suggests and thankfully we are in a great small parish that is generally very welcoming to young families and children. However, about 2 months ago, my family attended Saturday vigil mass at another church in our metropolitan area due to children activities from the weekend. Unfortunately, we arrived a tad late and took a seat as quickly as possible. After looking around, I noticed we were the ONLY family in the church. Everyone else was at least 50 and older and the average age closer to 65. I generally can blow off the looks and stares from other parishioners but the elderly lady in front of us was quite visibly upset with us. Our 2 year old was a little wiggly and on several occasions she turned around with a stare that could melt the wax off the Easter candle. I proceeded to take him out to the outer hallway outside the church. As I was holding my son, I had this profound sense of sadness overcome me. With the intensity of a lightning bolt, the reality of our society was made clear as follows; is it no wonder children are not welcome in the womb if they are not even welcome in the “womb” of the church?

    • MarylandBill

      You know, I have noticed a similar phenomena at my current parish’s Saturday Vigil mass. Far fewer families, and a few (Though thankfully just a few) who seem to disapprove of young children at mass being young children at mass. While my previous parish’s vigil mass was also dominated by older members of the parish, whenever I visit with my young children, the reaction we are most likely to experience is delight at seeing the kids. Of course that might have something to do with it being a smaller parish and with them knowing me… so I don’t know.

    • Ken Crawford

      At least in my neck of the woods, there seems to be an unspoken rule that Saturday night is for the elderly, Sunday night is for the teens and Sunday morning is for the families. This rule seems to apply to all of the parishes I know of. Not sure how universal this is. In any case, while there are certain upsides to tailoring Masses to different demographics, the downside is that people become much more intolerant to “outsiders” who don’t “fit in”. Thus I’ve seen many more grumpy people regarding infants and toddlers on Saturday nights than at other times. The implicit justification is that there are other masses for toddlers, and the people who come to to this mass do so to escape the toddlers, so you’re “breaking the rules” by not going to “your” Mass. It’s very disappointing to see.

      As an aside, it works the other way to. I’ve seen people get up in arms when someone suggests using the organ (or any other “traditional” thing) at the Sunday evening Mass as if it’s an affront against teens to do so.

      • Beccolina

        Our parish is the opposite. We see more young families on Sat. evening, more families with teens on Sun. morning. We don’t have a Sun. evening mass since Father has to travel to give mass at a mission, too. In general, though, I think my parish is pretty tolerant of kid wiggles and fusses. It’s much better than a previous parish where a few families would sit in front of the cry room, then turn and glare every time someone opened the door, or the baby’s crying reached such a pitch that it penetrated the glass. There’s room to sit on the other side of the parish, far, far away from the cry room, folks!

      • Faith

        This is similar to my parish. I hardly ever go to the 5:30 p.m. Saturday mass, but our 8:15 is when the children’s choir sings so lots of kids go then. Then usually at the 10:00 (traditional) and 11:45 (folk) they have a children’s liturgy for K-6, so lots of families go then as well. We have a teen mass one Sunday evening a month during the school year. At our 11:45 mass we have two regular disabled young men. One is in a wheel chair and often makes loud grunting noises. Sometimes when it gets too intense the mom or dad will wheel him out, but usually he stays in. Our pastor is lovely and has sometimes made comments about how we need to be inclusive and patient about these sorts of things. The other young man has Downs. He loves, loves, loves the folk music. He sits right by the choir and dances in his seat. Sometimes he gets so excited he ‘ll get up and dance a bit right in front of the folk group. Nobody minds. It is the sweetest thing to witness. For the closing song he gets to go up with the musicians. They give him a shaker of some sort and he shakes and dances for all he is worth. It is the happiest of sights! I know people like to make fun of happy, clappy masses but in our parish you really do feel the joy of the Holy Spirit there. As for children, I think because of our pastor’s gentle open ways, there is just no issue. People are patient and tolerant and it seems to me all the parents are pretty considerate about taking their kids out when they start shrieking and that sort of thing.

        • Beadgirl

          Aw, I love that story!

    • Rosemarie


      The last time I noticed a negative reaction to a baby was Ash Wednesday Mass at 9 am. A mother towards the back (near me but across the aisle) had an infant who was making some noises… not screaming, mind you, but noises and fussing. When we all got up to get ashes, I saw an elderly man make an annoyed, disapproving face toward the mother and child. I never like seeing that. Never

  • Jack Quirk

    I’m with you Shannon. I have a son with a similar condition. Fortunately, our current parish is populated with understanding people: you know, Christians.

    Now I’m not a traditionalist in any party sense of that word, but if there is a Latin low mass near to you, that might be something to try. That’s a mass that’s indestructible. I took my son to one of those once or twice and his conduct was (a) better, and (b), to the extent that it wasn’t perfect, proved incapable of really disrupting anything. My son has sensory processing issues, and the noisy character of modern masses dis-regulates him.

    Anyway, give it a try.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll look into them. My parish does have an All God’s Children mass once a month Saturday mornings which we go to, but that doesn’t address the weekly Sunday obligation. Anyway, enough of my hijack…..

  • Au contraire…

    The sound of crying babies at Mass is an affront and annoyance to aging baby boomers who miss out on all the glory of the guitar, drums and tinkly-sounding things at the 9am “Contemporary Mass”.

    Based on my parish, that pretty much sums it up. Fortunately the Holy Spirit graced us with a very good Italian-born priest who s-l-o-w-l-y has been making needed changes over the past couple years. Radical things such as, you know, a crucifix above the altar, a prominent adoration chapel…but, unfortunately, has yet to take on the gray-hairs and the music…yet…

  • B-Rob

    I’m a HUGE fan of “cry rooms” in the sanctuary. I think they should be implemented everywhere if possible.

    • Debbie

      Hmph. I dislike cry rooms for a number of reasons. First, they give cranky people “justification” for being cranky (“Why don’t you go sit in the cry room? We don’t want your child here.”). Second, they give lazy parents an excuse to fail to teach their children how to behave (“We’re just in the cry room. The kids don’t have to be good here – that’s what the room is for”). Third, they separate people with children from the rest of the community. At our parish, there’s a cry room, but the EMs can’t bring Christ in the Eucharist to us in there. I was irritated that they had no problem bringing the offering baskets in. Like, we’re happy to take your money, but you’re not sufficiently part of the community for us to bring you Jesus. Fourth, if we sit in the cry room regularly, our child only sees bad behavior as her model for how to act during Mass.
      In the 14 months she’s been in the world, she’s missed one Mass – when her father and I were both too sick to go. We go to Mass as a family – none of this split shift thing, just so cranky people can have quiet. Suck it up, y’all. If there’s a baby crying near you, offer to help. The least you can do is smile and offer up your annoyance to God. Ask Him to help you pray in spite of the baby crying, to help you incorporate the crying into your prayers.

      • Beccolina

        Maybe all you say is true, but cry rooms are very helpful for families with a very vocal or very wiggly child (I’ve had one of both). My youngest has only needed the cry room for poopy diaper changes. My oldest sometimes needed it when she started walking because she would NOT stay in the pew. My middle. God help us if we had not had the cry room for him. Sometimes, it is necessary, and giving it your “hmph” just shows how little you understand when a parent has a difficult child.

    • Rachel K

      Personally, I adore cry rooms. We have a two-year-old boy, and he’s physically incapable of sitting still for an entire Mass because, well, he’s a two-year-old boy. By the time the homily’s over, he’s ready to move around. There’s a foyer area that serves as a cry room, but A) there’s nowhere to sit down, so ALL he can do is run around–we can’t sit and read with him, we can’t encourage him to sit and color, nothing; B) they sometimes open the doors when it gets hot to get a breeze going through the church, and the people give us dirty looks because they can *gasp* HEAR our children acting like children when the doors open; and C) the foyer isn’t truly a cry-room so it isn’t child-proofed, and my husband spends 80% of the time out there either trying to stop my son from burning himself on the candles at the Sacred Heart of Jesus shrine or from pulling down all the prayer cards at the religious goods store. Worst of both worlds. I would dearly, DEARLY love a cry room.

    • Herb_VA

      Amen to the crying rooms or at least a room for those of us who have completed our years of attending Mass with spirited children. We don’t mean to glare or make you feel uncomfortable when your little ones do what little ones do, but please try to understand, without our children to demand our attention at Mass we begin to focus exclusive on the Eucharist. We know how hard it is to raise good children; we’ve done it. Just be as patient with us as you ask us to be patient with you.

      • MarylandBill

        Herb, I am trying to put this the right way but… sorry, I don’t think you can equate the two situations. The parents here are talking about the lack of charity that they have received from others. It hurts us when people glare at us for doing what we believe is the right thing. I don’t think it is fair to ask us to be as patient with that as we are asking you to be patient with little children being little children. Does Jesus really want people so focused on him that they are uncharitable to others? More importantly, are we really focused on him if we are uncharitable to others.

    • Andy S

      If you we’re called to be a desert monk like some of the early church fathers then that is where you should be. Mass is not for your personal meditation. It just isn’t.

  • Julia

    I was visiting my mom to help her recover from surgery. At Mass my two year old threw the fit to end all fits. My six month old was too heavy for my mom to hold. The woman in front of me grabbed my son and kept him completely entertained the rest of Mass, while her daughter helped my older daughter remember when to sit or stand or kneel.

    Those women showed Christ to my children in a way a nasty stare to get to listen to mass in peace never could.

    • Debbie

      Julia, I want to go to Mass at your parish. :)

      • Julia

        It wasn’t even my parish. It was a gospel-singing Jesuit parish that I was sure I was going to dislike because it disagreed with my aesthetic sensibilities.

    • Jon W

      And those women got more grace out of that eucharist than 15 hours of silent meditation.

      • Rosemarie



      • Herb_VA

        Jon W. – Having done both, I respectfully disagree. We give what we can. Graces are not earned nor justify.

        • Jon W

          While I fully acknowledge the point that, with regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man, we cannot lose sight of the fact that “moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life” (CCC 2010, emphasis mine).

          These women were filled with charity, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and according to 1 Corinthians 13, that’s more efficacious than pretty much anything. That’s all I was saying.

  • Jon W

    Could it be that Western Christians just have a poor theology of the mass, such that so much emphasis is placed on our subjective ability to “enter in” and not enough on the objective nature of the worship going on?

    And I’m not arguing for a return to praying a rosary while the priest mutters in Latin but rather an understanding that a little more of what looks like “chaos” in the church isn’t going to destroy the grace God given to us in the Eucharistic celebration.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Exactly. I’m a pretty strict liturgist, but you’ve put your finger right on it. Ever attended a Mass with primarily Hispanics? In my area, it’s a noisy zoo. A crowded zoo full of life and faith.

      That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be reverent. Just remember that noisy people are coming to Mass to encounter the Lord, who will be there regardless of a baby’s cries.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

    If the babies and other kiddos are bringing the noise, you bring the joy and it’ll all work out. Time enough for peace and quiet in the grave.

    • Herb_VA

      Let me quietly meditate on that thought for a moment and it begin to make sense.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Lemme guess…you’re “pro-life,” right?

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Not to be too snarky, but there’s more truth in your average baby’s cry than in half the hymns we sing in church these days. Not to knock our choir, which is great. It’s the songs themselves. It seems like half the hymnal was written by touchy-feely Protestants bound and determined to make us all self-actualized.

  • Lotsofboys

    Thank you, Mark. I needed to hear that today.

  • Helen

    We attend mass in God’s House. It is not Our parish, Our mass, or our right, no matter our age, to be rude in God’s house.
    God’s House is a Holy place deserving quiet and reverence, yes. It is also to be filled with the joy of life and hope. The grumpy ones would take offense if guest in their home were rude to others.

  • Fiestamom

    Every Mass has an “inconvenience” for somebody. Maybe it’s a crying baby. Maybe it’s an extremely obese person whose fat rolls are touching the person next to them. Should the fat person not come to Mass until he loses weight? What about homeless people who smell bad? Do the folks who want their Mass, their way, not want the homeless guy there? I was in the confession line on Saturday, and there was an older kid with autism sitting with his dad. The kid had his finger in his nose the whole time, and it was pretty gross. I know the family, and his struggles, so I tried not to pay attention. Should the dad have made him stay at home to please the Keep Your Kids Home crowd? I hate to bring up a hippy dippy song that I loathe, but can we break out the tambourines and sing “All Are Welcome” together?

    • Rosemarie


      It’s ironic, and a bit painful, hearing that song when I’m sitting alone in Church on Sunday morning because my husband is home with our two autistic daughters. They’re all singing about how “all are welcome in this place,” but would my kids really be welcome there, with all the weird noises they make and the occasional very loud screech of delight from my fourteen year-old daughter (we call it her “happy sounds” since we know it is a sign that she is happy, but others would not know that and might not interpret it so favorably.)

      At least there is a special needs Mass once a month in my diocese. So far, we *are* all really welcome there.

  • Andrew

    The worst part are lots of Catholic parents eventually give up going to Mass as a family, or one misses Mass entirely because they’re not to be felt welcome because of jerks who view Mass as their own little private retreat. Worse, are the occasional folks I’ll run into and I’ll casually remark, “Hey, haven’t seen you at St. So-and-So’s” and they’re remark, “We’ve been going to the Presbyterian church. It’s great! They have a family service where all the kids are welcome…” Okay, maybe they weren’t too strong a Catholic to begin with but it happens, unfortunately.

    • Beccolina

      I do know at least one family who left the Catholic church in their town because the parish was so unfriendly to their large family (6 kids). Heartbreaking and unnecessary.

  • Marthe Lépine

    I am in a parish that is very welcoming to young families. So much so that a priest with us for a month while our parish priest was visiting back home in Nigeria did mention during his “farewell” how much he liked hearing the sounds of young children in the church. As for myself, the only time I must admit to being annoyed was one Sunday, at the end of the Mass, just before the final benediction, the voice of a person who had been invited to give a testimony was almost totally inaudible from where I was sitting, because of a baby’s loud cries at the back. The mass was actually over, and I wondered why the child was not taken out, but all I did was move up to a pew closer to the front… Since I later found out that those testimonies later appear on our parish Web site, I won’t need to do it again.

  • Tracey

    I stopped being annoyed by the sounds of noisy children in Mass after I read Jennifer Fulwiler’s comment, “A church that is pro-life needs to also be pro-child.” Go us! Making babies! Bringing them up on God! We will take over the world!

  • PaulPeter

    As a father of three I hope priests read this blog. I think the #1 thing a priest can do which his parishioners will greatly appreciate (and it’s free!) is an honest-to-God family Mass. Crying babies, wiggly toddlers, spaced-out-10 year olds, the works. Have a gentle reminder that it’s the parents duty to EVENTUALLY get their kids to behave out but given that it’s impossible for a 6month or three year old, they’re welcome and as equal a part of the parish as anyone else.

    • MarylandBill

      I would prefer the priest makes it clear that every Mass is a family Mass. As far as I am concerned having special Masses and cry rooms and the like simply enforces the idea that the wiggly toddlers, spaced out 10 year olds (Though a 10 year old should be able to behave in Church (baring a condition that prevents it) are not welcome at the other masses.

      I think mass is the closest we get to heaven on Earth. When we get to heaven, does anyone think that God will have different sections for kids, or those who are otherwise different?

  • alr

    I have no issue with crying babies or squirmy toddlers at mass. What I do have an issue with is the mother and grandfather who tickle and tease a toddler throughout mass leading to shrieks of laughter and other merriment from the child. Or the mom who regularly brings electronic musical toys for her toddler to play with and the sounds echo through the entire church. Or the family who feeds their twin preschoolers breakfast in the pew and reads stories aloud to them during the homily. Please realize that a lot of people have reached their breaking point because of parents who do not have a clue how to behave in mass themselves let alone teach their children. We might unintentionally give you the look when you reach into the bag to get something for your toddler because last week a parent did that and got out something that drowned everything out for the rest of church.

    • Beccolina

      My biggest behavior issue with my older children is them wanting to “Entertain” the toddler, which usually makes the toddler loud. It’s extra frustrating since my toddler will play quietly next to me or sit and look at book if the older ones will leave her alone. We play divide and conquer. We sit with my parents and spread the kids out so they aren’t next to one another.

  • Katie

    Our parish was blessed with a new pastor who, when children were being noisy or babies crying, would stop Mass (if “appropriate”, never the consecration for example) and forbid parents to take them out. He would say they are talking to angels or in need of the blessings of the Mass. He only had to do this a few times, and it was amazing the change in attitude. We have so many more families at all the masses now.

    • Newp Ort

      I have a loud kid and if the pastor stopped the mass I might have run out the door in embarrassment I’d never be going back after that, well intended as it is. Admittedly, though, I’m a pretty weak churchgoer. I pretty much feel like shit at church all the time now anyway.

  • em

    When I think of all the Catholics I know, of all ages/generations and levels of faithfulness, I just don’t see a connection between the faithful families or individuals and whether or not they took their infants and toddlers to mass or were themselves taken.

  • Benjamin

    What exactly can an infant or toddler get out of a religious liturgy anyway? Why not drop them off at a church nursery?

    • Benjamin

      This is not snark btw. From what I understand, Catholics don’t give infants or toddlers Communion, correct? And they’re too young to understand scripture, or hymns, or homilies. So what’s the point?

      • Julia

        I’d say it has to do with getting in the habit of going. I find very few kids who scream about having to sit in a car seat, because that’s just the way it is.

        Similarly, kids learn by imitating their parents and seeing what is important to them. Seeing that their parents really BELIEVE all this stuff and aren’t just going through the motions.

        I have a friend who stopped going to Church because her kids were too young. She was shocked to hear her son say “my family doesn’t believe in religion”

      • Mark Shea

        The purpose of the Mass is not machine-like efficiency, but the presentation of our bodies to the Father through Jesus in worship. Presenting your infant to God the Father in worship by a mere act of physical presence is itself an act of worship. Their deriving benefit intellectually is not the point, but a side-benefit when the time comes. It’s not all about Us.

        • vox borealis

          Bingo! Agree totally.

    • Jon W

      Even on a purely natural level it would be difficult to sum up the effects of a service on a child merely by attending to his intentional engagement and understanding. An “atmosphere”, an unconscious sense of how many breaths a service lasts, the sudden lull in people’s fidgeting and the stillness that ensues when that little bell is rung: these things are experienced and imbibed, even though the child doesn’t know what’s actually going on. As a result, he’s being given the shape, the instincts, of a Catholic life even before he understands to what those instincts will be directed.

      • Julia

        Jon- I’ve always felt like I practice my faith with an “accent” of sorts. I stumble occasionally over words or gestures that my husband, who is a cradle Carholic, just knows every part of the mass instinctively. I want my children to have that feeling of being natives in church.

        • Jon W

          Exactly. I’m a convert, too, and I have the exact same experience. (At the same time, though, I will say I have a theological and biblical instinct that a lot of cradles don’t have. I’m not sorry for that. ;-) )

          • Julia

            I’m a convert from atheism, so I’ve been working slowly to get up to snuff on Scripture. But I have a great love for reason. I found Aquinus and fell in love. I love the diversity in our Church

            • Jon W

              Mmmmm, Aquinas.

    • Beccolina

      When we baptize our babies, we bring them into the blood covenant between ourselves and God. As members of that covenant, they have the right and obligation to come and participate as much as they can. My unborn baby gets still for the liturgical music and wiggly for the consecration. My toddler sings along and mouths what responses she can. My four-yr-old and 6-yr-old say the responses and prayers (And my 4-yr-old repeats, “He BROKE the bread” in very concerned tones every mass). They participate. The Eucharist is the height and center of the mass, but not it’s whole, else there would be no obligation to go to mass when we cannot receive the body and blood. We receive grace from the mass even when we do not receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.

  • Marthe Lépine

    What I remember from my own childhood is that my brother and I each a small age-appropriate missal to look at or read during mass. Of course my family was a little different: not too many toddlers do begin – like my brother – to teach themselves to read at age 2… Then and now! (I was a little slower learning to read because I maintained that it was not necessary since my brother could read the stories to me!) However, I do wonder sometimes why children nowadays are not given religious picture books illustrating the main parts of the mass, or other such things, and do not seem to be given any explanation by their parents. Many times, the kids seem to not have the slightest idea of what is going on, not even during Consecration. But maybe the parents don’t either…

    • pittsburgh mama

      This is our approach: our two-year-old has religious themed books and toys he can play with during Mass. I usually read the daily readings in the morning before we go to Mass, so if he fusses during the readings or homily I will (quietly) read him Bible stories. Or if he gets antsy enough that we need to leave the pew, we’ll look at the windows in the back and I’ll talk to him about the different people and things depicted in the stained glass. He’s beginning to get to the point where he really wants to watch the priest when there is “action,” so we sit in the front pews. I point out things as they happen. It’s not perfect, and we do have meltdowns occasionally, but it’s working, and we’re still teaching him about the faith. It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamic changes once his brother arrives in the next few weeks!

      (Of course, sometimes we are running a bit late and he will be incredibly agitated that he wasn’t allowed to go “say hi” to the statue of Mary before Mass begins, but I am willing to live with his budding devotion to Our Lady. :))

  • Wills

    No child is too young for mass. As the article puts it: if you are baptized, you belong. Period. The graces that flow from the mass flow because of the mass to all who are there. It is not a matter of being able to understand the homily– though that is nice. It is being able to be present with the Eucharistic Lord and receive Him or His blessing. And do please keep in mind that Eastern rite Catholics do give communion to babies: they maintain the unity of rites of initiation so an infant is baptized, confirmed and receives his first communion all at once. No one is too young to benefit from the grace of Christ being present in the Eucharist. No one.

  • Dean

    Not sure why there can’t be a respectful moderation of either position. No one should get upset over babbling children or a periodic squawk, but parents should also not expect disruption, caused by prolonged shrieking, crying or other very loud noises, especially if it is habitual, to be welcomed either. I’m the father of 9. My kids’ behavior has run the gamut, and the difference between what is tolerable and what is not, what demonstrates mutual respect for the needs of others and what does not, seems clear to me.

  • KML

    Thanks for saying this, Mark. I don’t think the good Deacon knew what he was getting himself into!

    We have two (soon three) little kids, and we have been extremely fortunate to be parishioners at a parish that is really serious about welcoming children and families. Our priest has had many opportunities to comment on child noise during Mass in a way that makes it clear he thinks it’s great. In our neighborhood there’s a mix of young families and older folks, and I’ve never sensed any tension between the two groups. In fact, there’s a trio of little old ladies who sit behind us often and have gone out of their way to let us know how much they enjoy seeing our kids at Mass, and another sweet lady in our parish took it upon herself to make little fliers with a place to color on one side, and a letter on the other letting parents know that their kids are welcome. I don’t think I really appreciated how fortunate we are until I read a bunch of the comments on these posts. Boy, a lot of secular ugliness toward children and parents has found its way into the Church.

    This conversation also made me think of another parishioner we see quite often. He’s a wheelchair-bound man with dementia who is brought faithfully by his caregiver every week, and he often will begin to cry or mean out loud during Mass. His caregiver (daughter, I think) does her best to comfort him, but they stay and are welcome. In many ways, he’s a baby again. I’ve thought about them often when I think about our own struggles with our kids. We bring them in the hopes of raising them in the faith, of fulfilling our baptismal promises and of watching them grow and learn. She has none of these promises or hopes. Her father will likely continue to decline until he eventually dies. So, why does she bring him? She does it not in hope that he will grow in understanding or get better, but simply to have him there to receive grace from the Mass, and he does.

    Any time we start stipulating who should be at Mass and what their reasons are for being there, we have failed in our Christianity. In conclusion, something about getting fitted for a millstone goes here.

  • Elaine S.

    My own parents (dad was a cradle Catholic and mom a convert, both pre-Vatican II) did not take either me or my brother to Mass until they felt we were old enough to sit still and behave properly. I think they might have tried to bring my brother when he was younger but he was very hyperactive so they decided to wait until he was older, about 5, to try again. They always went to separate Masses (and in fact, continued that habit even after we were well past our toddler years; not sure why). I did not attend Mass for the first time until I was nearly 5 years old. I never had any problem adjusting to it and both me and my brother (now pushing or past 50) have been lifelong regular Mass goers, so the “leave them home” approach didn’t harm us.
    My own daughter, now 17, has attended Mass from birth. She is mildly autistic and to this day sometimes mumbles or talks to herself during Mass, but only sporadically and not loud enough to disturb anyone but me. Perhaps we are just lucky but I do not recall ANY instance, in any of the parishes we have attended, where anyone scolded us or gave us a dirty look or made us feel unwelcome. That didn’t stop me from feeling exceptionally self-conscious about her behavior, though, particularly when she was younger; and being constantly on high alert for any signs of an incipient outburst, meltdown or embarassing action could be very stressful at times. So on those rare occasions when I attended Mass without her, it was frankly kind of a relief; but I do not regret bringing her to Mass at an early age either.
    The bottom line is that Mass attendance for children below the age of reason is OPTIONAL — not forbidden, not discouraged, but not obligatory either. You, the parent, do not “have to” bring them (if you can leave them at home without neglecting your own Sunday obligation) nor do you “have to” leave them at home. Whether to bring infants and toddlers to Mass from birth or wait until they are older is for the parents to decide based on their own situation and that of their children, and either choice can be made for perfectly good reasons. (Parents should also feel free to change their policy at any time, or take a temporary break from it, if they or the child is going through a particularly bad patch; not for fear of disturbing other parishioners but simply to lower THEIR OWN stress levels.) The prime considerations should be the good of the child and of the parents, not “what other people will think.”

  • Balin

    I’ve been reading about this on several blogs and I’m finding all this back and forth on the topic puzzling. There are a number of adults complaining about crying babies as if Mass is performance art and they are being deprived of the complete theatre experience due to crying babies. I’m no fan of crying/screaming/screeching babies but then I just think of Jesus encouraging the little ones to come to Him and that pretty much puts me in my place and I offer up my problem and get down to participating at Mass. I seem to have to offer this up every week so maybe this is gonna be one of my crosses to bear for a while. And while I’m biting my tongue and gritting my teeth during the crying/screaming/screeching episodes I’m sure the parents aren’t too happy about their baby drawing all this unwanted attention toward them. The only winner in all this seems to be the babies. If Jesus can suffer the little ones I figure with His help I can too. But in the end it is the parents decision whether or not to bring their baby to Mass, not mine. My comfort at Mass is not their problem. They should never feel that their baby is inconveniencing me. It’s not about me. If they feel their baby should/needs to be at Mass, that’s my problem, not theirs. I’ll tough it out. Raising babies is hard enough without also feeling unwelcome in God’s House by people unworthy to be there in the first place.

    • Andy S

      Balin really sums up this whole issue perfectly. I don’t know any Catholic parents, me and my wife included, who don’t find Sunday Mass to be a totally daunting experience every week. We want to be there and need to be there, and we want our kids to be going through what we are now 15 or 20 years down the road. So, we go each week and work hard to ensure good behavior from our kids so Mass isn’t interrupted or distracted for anyone. Appreciate all our fellow parishioner’s understanding each week and hope you understand we aren’t bringing our kids for the sole purpose of annoying others…nice to see that some people do realize that.

  • KML

    It might be worth remembering, too, that not only did *we* promise to raise our kids in the faith at baptism, the *entire congregation* is asked if they will assist in the task and answer “we will.”

  • Audrey

    I think it comes down to common sense. I always took my children to Mass. I spent years working in group homes and I regularly took two or three disabled adults to church/Mass. In situations where I knew someone could cause a disturbance, I sat near an exit. One or two baby wails–no problem. Anything more than that meant I would step out with the little noisemaker. I often felt like I spent months standing along the back wall, gently rocking a little one. Eventually they could manage a full service without incident. My clients with disabilities did best when I reviewed appropriate behaviors and had a “next” on the agenda that I could remind them of–after this, we will do _____. If the noise went beyond pages turning, whispering, or fidgeting. we exited as quietly as possible. I think it comes down to good manners, for everyone. It’s rude to stare someone down or be unwelcoming. It’s rude to ignore the disruption someone in our care is causing. Personally, I’ve always found most parishes to be warm and friendly places with lots of children at most Masses. I dislike churches where children are almost required to go to the nursery! I think as long as we are kind and thoughtful–wherever we are on the age/noise spectrum–we can work things out.

  • Jan

    You have a point…but some of us have some kind of Autism. We have nothing against kids and some of us just can’t stand the screaming…is it Mass or a screaming contest