My Kids Don’t Ruin Mass

Confession: my kids are not typically little angels at Mass. ‘Typical” Mass behavior being our 3-year-old banging the kneeler open and closed and then dropping it on his own foot. Commence siren-like wailing. Or the kids tussling over who gets to hold the Baby Jesus finger puppet. And, to no one’s surprise, the preschooler throwing the St. Joseph finger puppet at his baby sister’s head doesn’t solve the dilemma. The newborn is startled out of a deep slumber by the bells heralding the Consecration and starts screaming. The toddler yelling (and I mean yelling) “Jesus! Jesus COME OUT!” as the Consecration approaches and he knows that “Jesus is coming.” And, yes, I said “typical” behavior. Don’t even get me started on the extraordinarily humiliating days.

Have you been there? When you just want to crawl into the floor and die of shame because surely your kids are ruining Mass for everyone? Your cheeks are burning? You consider a cross-country move?

You see, I grew up Protestant in a tradition in which young children do not attend “the service” until they can sit quietly with their families. It’s quiet, it’s composed, and you can actually hear the words of the sermon. I am still getting used to “the hum” that graces the background of every Mass: squirming toddlers, whispering preschoolers, fussing babies. Children are not banished to the nursery. Our Parish doesn’t even have a cry room. You see, children are not just tolerated, they are welcome. And what my parish has shown me, is that my children are wanted.

So that moment when I thought I would surely die because my 3-year-old made a mad dash for the altar when I was about to receive the Blessed Sacrament and I had to make an awkward wrangling motion to grab hold of his Houdini body in between the “Amen” and the moment the Host touched my tongue…well, the priest’s eyes didn’t narrow. He didn’t give me a stern look that said, “I hope the grace of Our Lord helps you recover from being the worst mother ever.” Nope. His eyes sparkled. He smiled. And, dear me, was that a quiet chuckle?

It’s the moments when I think my kids are the ultimate distraction that my parish family shows me that they are gifts of God’s grace.When the baby is fussy and the toddler is grumpy and loud and I think that surely the homily is going to be a desperate plea for our family to high tail it out of the church so everyone else can enjoy Mass in peace, the priest says, “Look around you. Look at all the babies and children in Mass today. As I’ve been hearing the sounds of infants and children this morning, it reminds me of the amazing gift of new life. What a blessing. I am so glad they are all here.” Gift? Blessing? My kids could have passed themselves off as small dragons this morning, and you heard their whispers and shrieks as echoes of God’s grace?

Or when the baby is insistent on nursing, even though I nursed her right before Mass and the only way to avoid a screaming fit is to nurse right there in the pew. I can feel my cheeks get warm and pink. Is my scarf covering us up? Am I flashing anyone? Is this ok? Is everyone looking at us? That lady in the back certainly is. Is she glaring at us? After Mass, there she is again. She’s probably coming to tell me off… But to my surprise she touched my shoulder and said, “I just wanted to tell you what a good job you did nursing that baby. You are such a good mom. It was so special to see a mother nursing in Mass. I remember having small kids in Mass and how hard it is. Your kids are always excellent.” Well…that last part was surely a kind-hearted fib, but could our family have blessed her by being there? By not sending our kids to the nursery? By trying to make it through Mass without causing a fire or anyone needing stitches? By choosing to nurse my baby, did that image of love between a mother and child actually make Mass more meaningful to her?

Because I think that’s part of what it means to be pro-life. To see children always as gifts of grace, not 

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inconveniences. As always welcome as part of God’s family, not as distractions to be avoided. To encourage and love them and show them that they are wanted. That we want them there because Jesus wants them there. 

There’s one sweet couple and their adult daughter who have adopted our family during Mass. They make it a point to always sit near us. The mother is a bonafide baby whisperer and when Lucy gets fussy she will say in my ear, “You pass me that baby!” and she will snuggle a shockingly calm Baby Lucy sometimes for the entirety of Mass. Benjamin adores their daughter and on one occasion, we weren’t sitting close enough to “Miss Kerri” for his satisfaction. So he snuck out of our pew, tip-toed across the aisle, and plopped down right on her lap. As I prepared to stand up, bring him back, and reprimand him for leaving his spot, this dear soul gave me a look that said, “Don’t you dare! He’s FINE.” He sat like an angel with them for the rest of Mass. He even knelt quietly during the whole Consecration (usually our wrestling-match time). And as I knelt and peeked at him out of the corner of my eye, I started to feel tears roll down my cheeks. Because he looked so wanted, beloved, and cherished. Because this family’s love for my children communicates a vital message: Jesus loves them. Jesus wants them. They are not inconveniences and distractions. They are blessed outpourings of God’s grace.

I pray that during Mass, and every day, I can remember to see my children the way Jesus sees them. The way my parish sees them. I am so thankful for the love my children receive, even at their worst. And thankful for the reminder that Jesus wants all of us, even at our worst, to come and love and be loved.

image: Petrenko Andriy / Shutterstock.com

Haley Stewart

By

Haley Stewart lives in the deep south with her bearded husband, three kids, and seven backyard chickens. She went to a Baptist college and surprised herself by coming home Catholic. When she gets a moment to herself, she loves to read Austen, Waugh, and O’Connor with a strong cup of coffee in hand. Haley muses about cultivating a Catholic family through literature, liturgical living, and urban homesteading at her blog Carrots for Michaelmas and just released her first ebook: Feast! Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year.

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  • MotherOf13

    May God continue to bless you and your awesome family! :)

  • MedinaMark

    That is awesome. I wish our parish was like that. You should see the look on some of their faces when we walk in with our four children (always 10-15 minutes before Mass). We have even had (many times) people move when we sat down. I haven’t been able to sit through Mass in ages because most people expect us to remove our kids from Mass the second they start to fuss a little.

  • Mary

    Jesus did say , “let the little children come to me”. God bless you and yours.

  • Ray

    Parents give glory to God by bringing their kids to Mass. The kids, in turn, give glory to God, by being kids — by behaving like kids.

  • Curtis

    With my three boys now all competitive football players, my wife and I would take them to a park/play structure for half an hour before Mass and let them run off some steam. Mass was a little more peaceful for all. :)

  • Lana

    I remember those days all too well!! But now, as a grandmother of 16, I LOVE the sound of those babies at Mass!! They are the future of our parish, of our Church! All too soon they will be grown up, these days will be just a memory of a special time in your life, and you will have some amazing adult Catholic children who have a deep faith & love of the Lord! Blessings to you & thank you for your column!!

  • Butterfly_J

    Thanks for publishing this! We’ve got our hands full too, but everyone is very kind. We get the “your kids were very good” comment too; it’s often not true, but I appreciate the encouragement!

  • ManeeVee

    Sorry, you may think YOUR kids don’t “ruin” Mass, but somebody’s sure do! I get what you are saying, that little kids are wiggly and vocal and do not like to sit still and be quiet, but in the “olden days” no kids were allowed to act like that at Mass. They were expected to behave and be quiet, or they were left at home. And mothers NEVER nursed a child during Mass. Honestly! Where is your modesty? Where is your sense of privacy? Where is your sense of consideration for your fellow man, and I do mean men? If nothing else, can you imagine what a distraction it is for a man to see a woman nursing a child? In CHURCH? Don’t you think all would be better served if you excused yourself if the need occurs? Don’t they make bottles and breast pumps anymore? And are you really praying along with the priest while your child suckles?

    Your generation makes excuses for yourselves and your inability to manage your kids instead of acting as parents. Your generation does not like to be the authority. You do not like to say no. You don’t like having to DISCIPLINE your child. Discipline implies training your child in correct behavior, so they gain SELF-DISCIPLINE, and can ultimately control themselves in all kinds of situations. Your generation of parents don’t demand anything of your children, and it shows. You haven’t matured to the point of understanding you are the ones who must make demands on them and enforce the breach of those rules, so they grow up to be well behaved with MANNERS. So it’s not bad enough your child throws a tantrum when corrected, but then we witness you not becoming stern with them and demanding they act correctly. No, you coddle their little selves. Your cheeks turn pink. Why? Because you know these little tyrants will REALLY create a scene if you get stern. They have you right where they want you. They are winning the battle of the wills. The rest of us must endure the results. THAT is what is really going on. I don’t know what books you all seem to have read to adopt this parenting style, but you are creating little narcissists and imposing them on the rest of us, and we are tired of it.

    To make it worse, your generation has no sense of place. You have no framework for worship. You do not recognize the sacred. A church is not a park, or a pre-school, or your living room. Your child should be trained to understand the place demands special behavior, and you should be teaching them that.

    You are mildly offended by people moving away from your family when you enter a pew, but honestly, you can’t really be praying when your child is throwing a finger puppet at your other child. And neither can the people sitting near you who witness it. They are equally distracted by your older children who has no sense of where they are or what they are doing at Mass. Your child doesn’t have this because you don’t have it. And you can’t teach what you don’t know, or practice. So they leave the pew three times to parade up and down the aisle without regard for what is going on up at the altar. It’s as if they are at home, and a movie they are not interested in is on TV, and they are bored and decide they have to 1) go to the bathroom, 2) go get a drink of water, 3) go get a bulletin, 4) go who knows where. And you stare straight ahead as if you don’t even see them coming and going. Because they have autonomy. They are not accountable to you for their whereabouts. And all the rest of us do our best to ignore them too. I wonder what you would think if after leaving the pew one time, they never came back: if someone whisked them out the door and into a waiting car, and you never saw them again. Oh yeah. That could never happen. Because it’s a church. And everybody who comes there is a goodly person. And no one would think, hey what a great place to grab a kid. Who no one is watching.

    Would you expect to take your kids to work with you to work and expect to conduct business, have meetings, talk on the phone, and at the same time expect everybody else to put up with the distractions they create there, and in addition, you spending time, not doing work (not praying), but running around after them? Or how about taking your kids out to a night at the theater, a play perhaps, and expect everyone there to think they are so cute as they do not pay attention, scream at the top of their lungs, run up and down the aisles, try to get on stage, and you try to rein them in? Awww. How adorable. And you are so good, your cheeks turn pink. But those with frowny faces glaring at you are just bad people, mean and intolerant of your good, albeit hapless, intentions. Oh please.

    No one wants to chase you out, or be mean, but you impose your unruly
    children on us, and we are the ones asked to be charitable to the point of wondering where we can escape to, where we might find a Mass where we can pray the Mass and focus on the altar and not endure the equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese going on all around us. Then you throw up the “suffer the little children” line at us, as if it should be a zoo in church, and you just miss the point. Please, correct your children at home. Demand something of them at home, even of your one year old, so they are ready to be corrected and behave correctly when out in public. Please.

  • frances

    ManeeVee, are you serious?! Yes, there are a few parents who make no attempt to correct a child but your response is way overboard and unwelcoming to the majority of families who are doing their best. I hope my very human imperfections as a mother or typical childhood behavior of my children never cross your way at mass. What about a little mercy for new parents who at least attempt going to mass! Even Jesus said, “Let the children come to me”.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I think you are way over heated and have set up an idol about “days gone by”. Please calm down.

  • Just a thought

    I think her response is spot on. Not very long ago, when my son was a toddler, he was absolutely reprimanded IF he misbehaved in mass. I would never tolerate poor behavior in Mass or anywhere else. I don’t think anyone gets upset if a child gets a little out of hand during Mass but more often than not, it is ignored. I’ve seen kids playing with toys, eating a Happy Meal and coloring, which is completely inappropriate at Mass. Most Churches have a crying room. If you are not certain how your children should behave during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, perhaps the crying room is the place to learn.

  • jim

    i hate to say this but i think you have a discipline problem. iraised my 7 children from day one to attend mass.as a family. sometimes i had to take them out. threthened dicipline measures later other times i would sit and hold the child and explain the mass etc

  • Jim Dorchak

    We have 6 children (one in heaven) from 21 down to 5 years old and we have been homeschooling for 16 years. Many of our friends in the USA have large families and they like us too have been through 4 small ones making a rukus in Mass. We too had the same situations as you did, but when one of the monkeys was just too rowdy we would take them out and either calm them down or dust their pants off. Here in Chile the children run around the sanctuary during Mass (it is so cute) and it is also so distracting as well. I guess there is a point where the Mass can become about competing babies making noise.
    We used to go to a parish in Spartanburg South Carolina (hi y’all) and there was a specific family who had a child that was the center of excitement during Mass. One of my buddies and I (he has 11 children) would joke about the young parent syndrome, as it was apparent that the child was in charge at that house hold (it was so cute!), and the parents fed (literally and figuratively) this 2 year olds temper tantrums. No one would dare interrupt the little tyrants ravings in the middle of the sermon or during the elevation as we did not want to offend or upset the parents lack of sensibilities. My point is that there is a line at which common sense takes over and the parent resolves to step out or to the back of the church for as long as it takes. I remember many conversations with my wife and other families at get together events were we would lament how we totally missed the whole Mass because Thomas, Joshua, Andrew, Samuel, Jimmy or Emily……. would not behave, and how we would love to hear one sermon in a month of Sundays. You see we knew that we were obligated to raise our children to respect the silence of Mass as we were taught by our parents and so on and so forth. Painful as it was it is our calling as parents to do what parents are called to do.
    I am so pleased to read that you have followed the path that so many of us have followed and continue to follow as we raise up our Catholic children in the ways of the Church. We like you had a supportive pastor and parish family who loved ours and others children as we as parents raised them to become the next Catholic generation.

  • Beppy

    Manee Vee makes too many logical viable points to be labeled over heated or reactionary. There is something terribly gone wrong in contemporary child rearing practices and I also suspect it is due to lack of maturity and education on the part of the parents. Regardless of the tolerance of the priest or other church goers, it is not only unreasonable and ignorant to expect a very young child to behave in such a setting, it borders on unintentional child abuse. As Manee brilliantly points out: Would you take this same child to your workplace or a theatrical production and expect him to behave like an adult? A simple, as well as best solution for everyone concerned, would be for the parents to attend different Masses so one of them could stay home with the little ones.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I do see your point and thank you for your contribution.

    I would argue, however, that Mass is not an office or a theatre production and shouldn’t be treated as such. The family is part of Christ’s body and belongs in Mass.

    Thanks again.

  • PGMGN

    Yes, Michael, the above poster seems to be overheated, but with definite reason. And longing for ‘days gone by’ isn’t a watchword for idolatry. That said, count yourself blessed if you can concentrate at mass with all of the above going on. It is a blessing.
    As for solutions ManeeVee, try the early, early mass. Try the cry room yourself if it is empty – which too often it is. (I would.) Try ear plugs and blinders. (A heavy lace mantilla can block out a lot). You are NOT alone.
    Sadly, I feel the pain of this mother too as the culture of which she is a product has failed in transmitting the formation of which you speak in your posting. Being a faithful Catholic these days takes heroic virtue as society, instead of working to promote the good, actually works to promote the disgusting, lurid, misinformed, indulgent, and everything-goes. Parents are beaten down on a regular basis for stifling juniors free expression by using that dratted ‘no’ word. It’s psychological torture, ManeeVee. You want to discipline your child, but you don’t want to scar them or break them or ‘whatever’ them. Parents today, much like everyone else, have been emasculated by a pop culture devoid of discipline of any kind. A wonderful tactic to distract folks from their God-given vocations.
    So thank God this woman and her kids are at mass. I pray they keep going. And I pray YOU find some of the quiet you need and should have. No kidding. Perhaps you retreating to the empty cry room will send your message better than anything else. If anyone asks you why you go, you can tell them.
    As for the ‘calming down’ you request, Michael, that is a tall order when Chucky Cheese – LOVE that analogy – is what you get at holy mass. Again, give thanks for your gift of compartmentalization.

  • ManeeVee

    You are right, Mass is not an office or a theater production: it is much, much more special and sacred and should be treated as such. The problem is not families being at Mass. The problem is an unwillingness or inability to correct children when they do not behave in so sacred an arena.

  • ManeeVee

    Yes I am serious. I see parents all the time staring straight ahead like soldiers in front of Buckingham Palace while their three year old runs in the aisle. Last Sunday a dad stared straight ahead as his two boys right next to him tried to see if they could get their leg over the pew in front of them. I honestly thought it’s too bad I could never go so far as to videotape some of what I witness. But I bet it would make no impression on the parents anyway.
    It’s not about your imperfections or “typical” childhood behavior. It’s about correcting misbehavior. Are you too insecure to take charge of your child and insist they act correctly? Do you think typical childhood behavior is okay? Why not let kids throw a ball to each other across the center aisle during Mass? Would that be wrong? I’m sure you would say it is. Would you stop your kids from bringing their mitts and ball to Mass? I hope so. But if you didn’t and they started playing catch, should I just suffer in silence while they behave as typical kids during Mass? How nuts. What about a little consideration of the people who are there to pray?
    I hesitate to make this analogy, because in no way do I view children of any age as animals, but in the same way I do not allow my dog to behave with “typical” doggy behaviors (like chewing my shoes, jumping on guests, barking incessantly when outside, or pulling me down the street when out for a walk, biting people) that does not happen because I STOPPED THE DOG from behaving in unruly ways, and demanded through training that the dog behave in a way I WANTED. You have the duty to train your children, teach them, the RIGHT WAY TO ACT IN CHURCH, and expect them to obey you or get consequences. And the right way to act in church is, for under 6, you shall not scream in church. You shall not leave the pew while we are in church. You shall sit or play quietly next to me while we are in church. And for over 6: you shall pay attention to what is going on at the altar during Mass. You shall not leave the pew during Mass. You shall not talk during Mass unless you are on fire. I could probably think of a few more, but I’ll let it go at that.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I understand the frustrations. When I was still an agnostic and first attending Mass, I hated the liturgies that had kids. I mean, I made a point of find night or early, early morning ones that had no kids. We live in a contraceptive culture, so of course I was not wanting anything to do with kids, whether misbehaving or not.

    Then I became Catholic and went to places where kids were never in Mass. Believe me, it is a frightening experience to realize that so few families attend church in your area. I felt like I was on the set of Children of Men. So, it’s not a special grace that I have that lets me tolerate kids. I guess I just don’t want the opposite extreme, which is much, much more prevalent in our society.

  • PGMGN

    I agree with you, Just a Thought. That said, I’d give a hearty thanks to whoever instilled in you the truth about what parenting is all about. I haven’t seen the Happy Meal in mass, but was confronted face-to-face with a mashed up fist full of chocolate Teddy Grahams. Didn’t make me smile as I like chocolate very much, was rather hungry and would loved to have had a few myself.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    No disagreement from me, my friend. This might also be a case of different, very subjective experiences. I’ve been Catholic for almost ten years and I don’t really experience the kiddy anarchy that you seem to describe. I hear crying, especially at a child’s baptism, but that’s been about it.

  • PGMGN

    And parents give glory to God by acting as their vocation demands and correcting said kids when they misbehave which is often what children do ;^)

  • http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/ Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas

    I can’t respond to all of your extensive commentary. And it’s truly confusing and saddening to me that a piece about a parish that was whole-heartedly pro-life and supportive of raising children in our beautiful faith would elicit such an angry response. But I think a few things certainly need to be addressed:

    Leave children at home instead of bringing them to Mass?! Leave them home with WHO? Are you suggesting that young families should not attend Mass? I have 15 more child-bearing years ahead of me. Should I just check back in 20 years? How are young children supposed to learn how to behave in Mass if they are not given the opportunity? There were many challenging moments when our now 4.5 year old was 2 and 3 and wriggling through Mass; however, because we faithfully brought him before the Blessed Sacrament week after week, he can now sit quietly and respectfully kneel with us (and even help his little sisters.)

    Mass is not a movie theatre. We do not go to Mass merely for an individual experience, nor is it a performance. It is heaven touching earth. It is where Jesus calls us to be, joining with his Church, where he pours his graces on us and even offers us the unfathomable gift of his own precious Body and Blood. The idea that a child squirming in Mass or anything else COULD ruin it is strange to me. Because Our Lord’s grace does not depend on our individual experience during Mass. This is what makes a Mass so very different from a Protestant worship service in which individual experience is the most important facet. If your attitude is that you will begrudge the grace of Our Lord to a young family because you need absolute silence to worship, unfortunately, you may experience just that: a silent Church, an empty Church. Once your generation passes away, if you have alienated young families from Mass, do you think their children will want to draw near to a place they have never been welcome? And as to whether I would take my kids to work with me: most workplaces are not designed for children. Thankfully, the Church is designed for everyone: people who sing badly and too loud, the teenager with special needs who turns around and smiles at me over and over again, the mentally ill woman who stands up once or twice and shouts something, the man whose cell phone went off, the lady who coughs, and squirmy children. I am glad each of them is there at Mass, because Jesus wants to be close to them. Would you recommend telling any of them that they can’t come because they’re bugging you?

    As for breastfeeding in Mass. What do you think mothers did before formula? I encourage you to look up the beautiful images in Christian Art of Our Lady nursing the Christ Child. I will follow her example of beautiful love and purity. I am very sorry that your generation lost the art of breastfeeding that I am so grateful my mother pioneered that road for me so that I could confidently nourish and bond with my children in the lovely way God intended. How sad to view that as perverse. And as for whether I’m “really praying” when my children nurse: few moments of my life are as prayerful as when I can see the reflection of the Eucharist and God offering us his Body and Blood as nourishment in the reflection of my own body feeding my child. I would recommend a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine.

    I’m so glad Jesus doesn’t feel imposed upon when we come to Him!

  • PGMGN

    Well said! Missing the sermon and mass when you’re out correcting little children reminds me very much of young mother’s missing a warm meal because every time they sit down to one duty calls. Or missing out on sleep because duty calls. The list goes on and on. That’s being a parent – not having it all.
    Thanks for the job you do and have done in rearing a large Catholic family!

  • Connie

    I have news for you, it’s not always the kids that act up at Mass. I have been at many a Mass that has been disturbed by Adults! The adults that constantly talk in a not so quiet whisper, or the adults that bang the kneelers down so hard it rattles your teeth. The “adults” that walk out the door while they are still chewing the Host not to mention the adults that come late and make a big noise by going to the front of the Church to set. I for one am mortified to come in late. Even at the end of Mass they file out of the Church like there is a “Blue Light Special” outside.
    Clildren at Mass are a pleasure and a Blessing. Bring ‘em on!!!

  • MonBon

    Haha! Once, during mass, my brothers and I were punching each other (quietly), and the man behind us got fed up and told my dad that there was a cry room in the back. To which my dad responded- “So why don’t you go there?”

  • PGMGN

    Quiet prayer is looked upon as having little value these days, ManeeVee. At least in my experience. It’s all about the visible, the active, the extrovert today. It is a cross, to be sure.

  • Tom Sundaram

    In Heaven, every sound we will hear from someone else will be a cause of joy as we recognize the extraordinary mercy of God in the mystery of salvation.

    But apparently, in the Mass, which is the intersection of Heaven and earth, we cannot have sympathy with mothers whose children don’t match the children of a culture where Mass was said in silence or in a foreign language?

    I am a student of Philosophy and Theology, with a minor in Latin, and with a great fondness for the Dominican and Tridentine Rites. I entirely understand the desire for solemnity. But if your desire for solemnity leads you towards self-righteousness towards the children whose mothers have to continually live in fear of people like you giving them the evil eye in the house of God, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities.

    This article is to be commended. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God — and we are all fussy children in Someone’s eyes — and yet He freely pours out salvation in Reconciliation and in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. And we, to our shame, can’t even spill out the slightest sprinkle of sympathy to women who help bring His beloved ones into the world?

  • PGMGN

    Again, Michael, you are blessed in your experience. Then again, having been Catholic for only ten years, Our Lord is likely gifting you with that just married period that is always followed by trial. So get all the graces you can while you can!

  • Jim Dorchak

    Thank you…………… There is a happy medium and consideration on both sides is the answer. We go to Church to learn and listen (all ages) as much as we do to pray ( all ages). So commons sense is very important in these cases.
    Thank you for accepting my comments.

  • http://www.talesoftheelders.com/ Caitlin E

    Wow, such heated discussion. I am very thankful our priest makes a point, even during his homily sometimes, to say “I love the sound of babies and children. It means our parish is alive!”.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    You may not want to assume too much about my life or faith. :) I’ve had plenty of trials and frustrations, believe me.

    Thanks for the pleasant chat, by the way. I always appreciate these kinds of conversations.

  • PGMGN

    You’re welcome, Jim. I would that more parishes and priests would take advantage of the wisdom of those who have ‘done the job,’ encouraging said veterans to share the value of the happy medium. And that includes the supposedly old and sour adults that frown – often times they are the ones who have had the most experience of all.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • ManeeVee

    Really? Overheated? How about the time I saw a mom pull out a bowl, pour cereal in it, top it with milk from a small carton, and hand it to her (about) 9 year old son, who proceeded to eat it during Mass. How about the brothers playing “gotcha last” by punching each other in the arm in the line for Communion, with mom and dad oblivious, never turning around. How about the dad and little two year old he was bouncing up and down on his leg during the Eucharistic prayer, her squealing with delight at the game. How about the adorable two year old with one shoe who the mom finally chased and caught just as she was about to get up onto the altar. It was always louder at Masses well attended by families with kids, but in the last 5 years or so, it’s become a free for all, and it has to be corrected.

  • PGMGN

    Nobody is dissing babies for the sounds they make, Caitlin. Of course, that means the parish is alive. But it is also necessary to set a guideline of expectations so that there can be balance. Even parents need help sometimes in knowing when junior’s antics have reached their limit so that in good conscience they can excuse themselves from mass and correct the situation.

  • mjsts

    ManeeVee, You are really what is wrong with the Catholic church today. You want the Church to go away? Then continue to make every young family and child feel like they are not welcome. Soon the Church will be non existent. I cant believe how ignorant and mean you truly are. You should examine your conscience and you will find that the true problem here is you and your harbored hatred.

  • Mark

    My friend, I recommend you read Mathew Chapters 5 and 6 daily for at least a month. We are supposed to be merciful at all times, not cold and judgemental! If Christ could pray more fervently during his agony in the garden and can even pray, “Father forgive them they know not what they do!,” all the while being killed for a crime he didn’t commit, surely you can carry the tiny little cross of having to block out a few infants crying…. I have a strong feeling there are many other crosses you’ve left to the shoulders of others throughout your life so I recommend you start by confessing your pride to a priest. Why are you paying so much attention to non-malicious acts of children in Mass and not all attending to your own pride? Isn’t the whole Christian purpose to give your ego to Christ??
    No matter how much you discipline a two-year old inside or outside of Mass, they aren’t going to respond. That’s why in the 1930s, they called it “the lawless age.” It isn’t something new. And why in the world would you leave a child at home!?! Jesus clearly said, “Let the children come to me! The kingdom of Heaven is filled with such as these.” If you can’t stand them in Mass then perhaps they won’t be able to stand you in heaven.
    Faith without love is vanity.

  • ManeeVee

    See what I mean. This proves my point. If the father can’t correct recognize bad behavior and correct the kids, then our Masses are going to be a free for all. What lesson was learned by the brothers? Dad lets us do what we want wherever we are, and the other person is wrong. My dad would have apologized to the man, and we would have been corrected in church, and punished when we got home.

  • MomTryingHard

    Perhaps ManeeVee should sit in the very front pew. That way, the lesser of us Catholics and our sad excuses for children are not in your view. I suspect, however, that you would prefer to sit near the back, not singing or responding, where you can judge all of those that sit before you. I’d venture to guess that if there were NO children in Mass, you would find SOMETHING to complain about (someone’s voice, dress, hair color, the time they came in or left). People like you make me want to change religions.

  • catholicexchange

    Please, everyone, no ad hominum attacks or making rash judgements about people’s parenting skills as I doubt you know them. Keep it civil and charitable, thank you.

  • PGMGN

    No assumptions, Michael. But you are blessed indeed if all the distraction you’ve had at mass is crying at Baptisms. So soak up that quiet time and prayer. It is such a Godsend.
    I used to have the grace of daily mass in a very quiet parish. I miss it more than I can say.
    And thanks for the conversation too :)

  • mjsts

    Amen. ManeeVee truly is despicable in all forms of the word.

  • ManeeVee

    Amen! Don’t get me started!! :)

  • Masha

    ManeeVee, You’re very wrong when you say mother’s never used to nurse their children during the Liturgy. Perhaps in the fifties, American women didn’t often nurse in church, but then, American women didn’t often breastfeed then either. In the universal church, breastfeeding during the Liturgy has a long and healthy history. I agree that children need to be taught to respect the Church, and the Liturgy itself as a sacred time of prayer and worship, but they need to be taught within their ability to absorb, or else, like so many of the well-behaved children of the fifties, they’ll grow to reject the Church as a place of repression and fear without understanding it or calling it their own.

  • http://www.talesoftheelders.com/ Caitlin E

    Well, I hope PGMGN that if you take it upon yourself to remind a parent what those guidelines are, you do it in a charitable, loving way. Perhaps offer to take the screaming baby yourself so that the parent might be able to listen to an entire homily for once in a long time (mortified Mama will probably say no! but it’s worth asking!).

    Side note: One day after Mass, I apologized to a priest about my kiddo crying (and I did take her to the cry room, and all those things that everyone’s suggesting responsible parents do), he looked me in the eye and said, “It’s ok. Do you know what’s worse than a crying baby in Mass?” I shook my head. “Only old people” he deadpanned. I’m pretty sure I snorted, I was laughing so hard.
    And in that moment, even more than happiness, I felt relief and mercy and love.

  • Jim Dorchak

    I am unique in that I still have a 5 year old squirming in the pew beside me and a 21 year old squirming money out of my wallet in college at the same time. So I have neither extreme point of view of a elderly Mass goer or a newly wed. My wife and I are kind of in the middle and as such have a softened perspective.
    SO we do not expect COMPLETE SILENCE but we expect it from our children and hope for it from other children in Mass. Also we do not berate or belittle young parents after or during Mass. We invite them in and help them as many are very scared and defensive newbies with little kids and little sleep and little patience and are easily pushed over the edge.
    Dear Jesus I do remember how scared we were with our children. So many people telling us how to do it. The best resources were the veteran parents who had been down the trail we had just started. The parents who were like I am now, in the middle. “so what if your brother threw up! quietly clean up as best you can and please take him to the bathroom” . It is no big deal and life goes on………..
    New parents do not see this unless they have a larger group to show them the path. In the old days the family took this chore.

  • Albee

    Exactly… My parents would have been mortified if someone said
    that to them. I’m was embarrassed when someone brought to my attention that one of my kids was being disruptive somehow. It meant that I needed to be more alert and not let my guard down. Kids will be kids…. This “ignore the behavior” philosophy that has been promoted
    over the last 40 years we can see where that has gotten us.

  • Albee

    If someone expressing their opinion makes you want to change religions, then
    there are more problems here than just kids acting up.

  • PGMGN

    Again, I say that veteran families are the best resource for ‘how to’ in these situations. As to involving the older folks, I’ve found that preemptively seeking their advice on what they used to do can have the effect of softening them. Not that you have to take it in every instance, not at all.
    But while the young families are too often beset with everyone telling them what to do and how to do it, the old are often marginalized as not knowing anything. This contributes to their sourness as everything they lived for, fought for, prayed for, paid for (in building up parishes), sacrificed for is often discounted as nothing but a cleaving to the past. Not very kind treatment of the elderly. And not a wise road for those would benefit from the cache of ‘how to’ often in our very midst.
    That’s why I like viewing the family as a whole – young and very old alike – even those not in my family per se.

  • catholic Mom

    I have enjoyed reading this article as much as the dialogue and comments. It’s interesting that the “noise” in Church is blamed mostly on the children, who really don’t know better. I must say, that I find lack or reverence and noise to come from the older ones who should know better.

  • Albee

    ManeeVee is not despicable, just being honest. Get over the
    touchy feeling parenting already. If you see yourself somehow in
    ManeeVee’s description, then be a mom, own up to it and
    teach your children how to behave. God doesn’t expect perfection,
    but He did give us the graces to be parents to the best of our ability as
    a result of the sacrament of matrimony. We are all sinners and need
    mercy and the strength to persevere in our vocations as parents. M’s
    post was meant to inspire all of us as parents to look at how we
    parent–or not parent. As Catholics we should want our children to be better behaved than the average kid, and we as Catholic parents should want to inspire and demand respect for Our Lord–in how we act,
    dress, speak, etc. in private and public life.

  • NewCatholicMama

    I’m in the process of converting. I took my 2.5 year old to his first Mass. I told him all about it and how he should behave. Of course he wiggled past me and ran up to the alter. I took him to the nursery. He kept saying “mass?” I told him we couldn’t go back to Mass until he could behave. What kind of message does that send? Here is this child who wants to learn about Jesus and I’m telling him no. I’m very glad the God didn’t tell me that I couldn’t come to him until I could behave.

    I grew up Protestant. I grew up attending Sunday school and children’s church. I couldn’t stand going to regular church. I would much rather have been coloring and singing than in the big church. That was one of the things that I first loved about the Catholic Church. My wild 2.5 year old is welcome. He is wanted. He is learning about God and not just a kid friendly version. Sometimes he sits still and quietly listens; other days not so much.

    So for all of you who think children should be seen and not heard in Mass, how do you recommend us doing that? Personally, I love the noisy little kids in Mass. It reminds me that God loves me even when I misbehave.

  • Therese

    This grandmother of 7 (and mother of 6) cried tears of happy memory at your words.

  • Eucharist4ever

    My kids were good until I had an over zealous woman always coming over during Mass to “help me” which led to my children not wanting to sit still, sit with me or be quiet during Mass. After which, I had her friends constantly come over to pooh pooh about how I was struggling in Mass to take care of the my kids, yet when they’re not around my kids behaved. Consequently, it led to us going to another church (which they followed us to) with the constant criticism that I was a bad mother who couldn’t handle her kids. When I did get them to behave, I was also a bad mother for being too strict. I tell all parents of active children, don’t let anyone make you feel unwelcome at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You do your best and know that God loves you abundantly for trying. God bless that parish that is so welcoming to kids. Yes, we must teach our children that the Mass is important and sacred, but it will come in time with parents persevering by GOING! I see so many older kids with parents at their wits end in Mass when they should know better. The little ones, when they participate especially singing, are like angels because so many of our older ones (adults even) don’t participate. Thank God for understanding priests!!! Many of them are harassed by the same self righteous parishioners who are too selfish to share their faith with little ones. This is the reason why we are losing our youth to the Protestants. Our churches are filled with old people; cronies who sit around and lament why the young chooses other things on Sundays and Holy Days. How about telling the young parents that you hope to see them next Sunday?!!! Better yet, invite them to one of events that no one but old people support and attend! My kids are usually the youngest at the dinners, rosaries, special Masses, etc. I’m almost 50 and I’m the youngest at many of the events going on at the parish?!! Drag those kids into the church because they will fill our old fogey spots when we’re gone. They need to see how it’s done so that they can carry on our legacies and learn to love our Catholic Faith! That is how I learned to love my faith…by going and dragging my kids with me despite the complaints, glares and shunning. Young parents, show up for all parish events and get to know these people. Some of us need to be humbled.

  • Therese

    Wow! What a nasty diatribe.

  • Bill E.

    Screaming infants, or otherwise unruly children should not be allowed to distract worshippers (and the celebrant) during the Mass. Most churches have “crying rooms”, etc. I would have no problem with nursing mothers, but incessantly crying infants and children running amok should never be allowed during the Mass. And, I LOVE children, but, please, let’s use some good judgement.

  • Ray

    Suspect that many kids continued practicing the faith as adults because, thankfully, their parents fell short of your standards.

    “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” — St. Paul

  • Bill E.

    I can see why you and your brothers were so unruly. You father is very disrespectful to the rights of others.

  • PGMGN

    You don’t know what my standards are, Jim. That said, I thank God that you have used the word as it implies that you do have a standard. That is what folks are discussing here.

    Proverbs 29:17 – Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

  • Ray

    You must love your dad!

  • James

    Under Canon Law, children are not obliged to attend mass until they are old enough to have some understanding about what is going on, which is usually about 6-7 years old.

    Canon Law is, of course, the law of the Church, not the law of God, yet I’m sure this provision is there for a reason.

  • PGMGN

    No doubt there is a good reason for this provision, James!

  • Newcatholicmama

    I came to the Catholic Church through the attraction of several families, Haley’s being one of them. I’m grateful I didn’t hear your words when I was contemplating leaving the Church I’d grown up in to become Catholic. Had I read your words I don’t think I would be in RCIA. I wouldn’t be reading all of these new books and learning prayers. Becoming Catholic is huge. Deciding to raise my son Catholic instead of Protestant is huge. I just can’t honestly say your words wouldn’t have detered me from taking a huge leap into the unknown.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I came into the Church as an adult. It’s a rough ride, but oh so worth it! I feel like I gained a whole new family when I converted. Always remember that there are a lot of people who may frustrate you, but they are part of the body of Christ and need the sacraments too.

    I’m really, really glad you are in the Church! I’m even happier to hear that you’re raising kids to be in the faith. God bless you for that.

  • Kerry

    Great article! I am usually all over the place with my children. I have 3 children (ranging from 13 months to 5 years old). My 5 year old is mostly quiet, my 3 year old son not so much but he’s not loud either (just chatty to himself). My 13 month old son, on the other hand, is wanting to be on the go constantly. I don’t usually last through the homily with him as he tries to escape. I will spend most of my time in the vestibule where I am still able to take part in Mass and listen/pray but I can pace back and forth with a babe that does not yet know how to sit still (and that’s okay, he’s a baby).
    The trouble I find with our cry room, however, is that it tends to be social hour in there. So if our 3 year old is having a bad day we usually opt for the cry room. I don’t like to, however. Chatty parents, kids running around like it’s a play room, and some kids even playing games on ipads or cell phones. I personally think that, if we are to get our children to behave during Mass, we need to let them sit in the pews, see everyone there doing the same things, and then they will eventually come around to sitting quietly and participating.
    If everyone were okay with a little chatter from little ones then I would probably remain in the pews more often. When my 5 year old was 1 1/2 I received a very hurtful comment from another parishioner because, as a 1 year old, she was a little chatty. I was actually headed to the cry room when she made the comment. Eventually, the lady did apologize (she felt very badly because it really upset me) but ever since then I’ve been really paranoid about my kids making so much as a tiny peep. Luckily, most of the comments we get from fellow parishioners are nice. I especially appreciate it when someone says, “I heard your little one singing during Mass!” Parents need encouragement…especially when they are trying to do the right thing. Getting the kids dressed up for Mass, as well as myself, and getting everyone in the car in a timely manner is stressful enough as it is. Thanks be to God we are able to attend Mass at all and we recognize that as the most important thing for our family!

  • Joyce

    When my boys were little, I felt like I hadn’t heard a sermon in 2 years. I was complaining about it to an older gentleman, who was no longer Catholic. He said, “There’s something to be said about remaining faithful.” Those words were like gold. Now my boys are in their 20s, and both are still church goers. There IS something to be said about remaining faithful.

  • Pro Life

    When my oldest son, who is now 56 years of age was 18 months, we were sitting in the front row so that he could see the Altar. Suddenly, during the consecration, he ran out from the pew, dashed under the altar rail and joined the priest on the altar. I was mortified and unsure as to what I should do, being a young first child mother. The priest bent down to him, spoke with him as an usher plucked him up and returned him to me. The congregation smiled, patted me on the back and told me how cute he was. Some said he would probably be a priest – well, he grew into quite a wonderful man with a loving wife and six beautiful children and 1 3/4 grandchildren.
    Don’t worry about it, your children will grow into wonderful adults – hopefully continuing your find example of taking them to Church.
    Remember Jesus’s words, about a little child they were trying to quiet – He took the child on His lap and said His beautiful words “Let the children come unto me and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.”
    Matthew 19:14-15 God Bless you for taking your children to Mass

  • moot

    There is a difference between criticizing how some parents turn a blind eye to poor behavior in mass and desiring all children to stay away from church. To suggest someone is sinning for holding the former opinion is kind of ridiculous. You criticize others for being judgmental and in the same post have the gall to chastise someone for the sin of pride and tell them to go to confession?! Hello hypocrisy.

  • moot

    Manee vee is talking about children who are old enough to behave but were never taught to. I go to a parish where children behave. Yes there are always babies crying and making noise, but the ones that aren’t babies behave incredibly well. You will not see them with coloring books or food in church (I have seen this at other parishes). If you are going to take your kids to mass and bring distractions for them, you might as well be leaving them at home. I understand some kids are hard to handle, but that doesn’t mean they should have free reign to do whatever they want. Parents should at least attempt to get their kids to behave in a way that won’t distract others and is befitting of what is going on during mass. I agree with Manee Vee: it’s kind of selfish to expect others around you to just ignore the obnoxious and distracting behavior of your kids. Consider that many people without children do not have the kind of patience that being a parent develops. I’m perfectly fine with giving plenty of leeway to a parent who is at least making an effort to control their kids, but the ones who make no attempt and pass the buck to other parishioners to pay attention when their kid is using the church as a playground? That’s just being irresponsible and inconsiderate.

  • Mark

    The problem in the world today among both parents and so many apparently old people who can’t remember how hard it is to raise a type A personality 2-year old, is nobody is willing to carry crosses. Everyone wants the world to revolve around them. We all want Mass to be quiet – even us parents – and we do our very best. Believe me, I’ve spent many, many Sundays in cry rooms and in the narthex. But sometimes, the nursery is closed, or a Mass is being offered for a deceased loved one and it is very important for the family to be together. Since none of you here are omnicient like God, just realize that there could be an important reason for the family to be there that day. Do a little evangelization – smile at them and welcome them. Ask them if they need any help with the child. And perhaps you can also offer some of this prized parenting advice some of you are talking about. I know as a parent, I am ALWAYS seeking advice from my parents and from others on how to raise my children. But don’t push people away, accept them where they are at and try to let go of your pride. You probably aren’t any better than them… and if you are let God be the judge.

  • http://www.talesoftheelders.com/ Caitlin E

    Yay! So glad we’re on the same page. And it must have been very difficult for you to have all your kids in Mass without your husband!

    I agree lines must be drawn, especially as kids get older. It just saddens me that Haley’s excellent post, about how it can be difficult to be in Mass with young children, has seemingly been hijacked by a discussion about those lines and guidelines.

    My feathers got a little ruffled by some of the ad hominum attacks against the author, because I see so much of myself, and Mass experiences, in her words.

    I think Haley was just trying to express her thanks to a loving, vibrant church family who continue to show her children charity, even when they are unruly.

    I continue to give thanks for the same thing she does, (and the subject of my original post) that our parish loves my kiddos.

  • Craig

    O thank you God that I am not like those other parents who don’t discipline their children and let them be loud at mass and are awful parents. Thank you that I knew how to discipline my children and that they always behaved in mass.
    Hmm … that sounds familiar.

  • James

    I understand the fears of the “contraceptive sanctuary” and I do believe that children should be welcome in Church. They are, after all, the future. But younger children are not obliged to attend mass. Looking back at when ours were young, we are solidly in the “Where is the nursery?” camp for toddlers and preschoolers, at least for our own.

    I don’t mind other people’s children, nor would I ever judge others for having their children with them, but for us, taking small children to mass is stressful. We spent all of our time and energy trying to make them not be too much of a disruption to others. They’re bored. They are not developmentally able to sit through an hour long mass without getting the wiggles or needing something else to do. Bringing toys or coloring books can get them to behave reasonably well, but that’s one more bad habit you have to break later.

    Of course, family dynamics are different. Some children scream and cry when they are left at a nursery. Ours ran off without looking back. Because toys.

    I hate the cry room, though. It’s the all problems of the nursery combined with the all problems of taking children to mass. The children are bored and the families are excluded.

  • Deacon Joe

    I’ve said before on other threads, “Kids belong in church!” My dad started taking me when I was barely able to walk. He was in our choir for 50+ years, so I grew up in the choir loft. At my current parish, our priest doesn’t tolerate little kids all that well. Our former pastor loved the kids and they loved him. What a difference.

  • jonnybeeski

    Yeesh, this is the exact same comment pattern that always, it seems, comes out on articles like this. One side brings up some egregious misbehavior that the author of the article being commented on never sanctioned, endorsed, or copped to, then there are responsive comments about how Commenter One has problems with children, etc. It’s like we are all talking past each other. I would wager that in a particular situation in which commenters on both sides of the divide could witness a particular misbehavior, both sides would agree on an appropriate response 99% of the time.

  • SunnyHuny1

    I can’t even get past the part of you being so outraged that a mom would nurse in Church. As a mother to a young son who still breastfeeds, it is my right to nurse wherever and whenever I want. Who are YOU to decide when MY child eats?? If my child is hungry, I’m supposed to miss part of Mass so that YOU’RE not uncomfortable?? How about YOU excuse YOURSELF or (and I know this may be quite a novel idea to you) LOOK AWAY!! It’s such a wonderful, spiritual, bonding moment and a loving connection between mother and child (and God). And yes, I can pray along just fine while I breastfeed my child in church–in fact, b/c it’s such a holy, bonding moment, I’m probably getting in some really great prayer time b/c I’m not trying to wrangling my child whom, I’m sure, was just disturbing you so immensely. Also, so you can be educated: not every woman pumps and not every child takes a bottle (I know a 14 month old who absolutely refuses a bottle). Maybe you should go to Mass at a convent or monastery so you aren’t so (wrongfully) offended by something that is completely natural.

  • MomTryingHard

    You misunderstand. I’M not the one complaining about the children. If someone claims to be a Christian, I would think they would be understanding and forgiving. Jesus was! I’ve had my share of judgmental, overbearing people who tout their “Christianity”, claiming they pray better, behave better etc than anyone around them. Nobody wants to go to church if ALL THEY GET is condemned!

  • Albee

    …..”This is what makes a Mass so very different from a Protestant worship service in which individual experience is the most important facet.”

    Haley–
    I’m a Catholic convert from Protestantism myself. Protestants do weigh a lot on feelings, individual experience and that welcoming thing. And, there are many Catholics who are overly concerned about this, too. I’ve known many Catholics who’s only reason to join the Church was its capability to be “welcoming and socially hip”.

    The Catholic Faith is not based on feelings. Hellllloooooo…….

    The point I think some are trying to make is that parents need to
    be more aware of their children’s behavior, how it affects others—and their own response to it or lack of response to it. Adults need to be more respectful of Our Lord as well, and be the best example for their children in regards to behavior in Mass and out, and towards others as well. Children test their parents, as you know. They want to see how far they can get before Mom or Dad finally says or actually means “enough! Stop now or else!” And for some parents that point never comes. The kids just walk all over the parents. Mom and Dad just may not know how to discipline. They may make excuses for their lack of attention, and then turn the tables and blame others for even looking snarky at them. And so the blame game goes.

    …”If your attitude is that you will begrudge the grace of Our Lord to a young family because you need absolute silence to worship, unfortunately, you may experience just that: a silent Church, an empty Church.”…

    You are over reacting here. The Church needs young families–young families with lots of children. Of course these families get graces. But you are taking this too personally. No one is saying that the faithful need absolute silence for worship. Come on!!! I hope as you grow in wisdom and grace, that you will step out of yourself and see what ‘M’ and so many others see. There are parents with kids who don’t have a clue on how to parent, much less recognize that their kids are becoming disruptive and need to be taken out of Mass for bit. I’ve seen the frustration on these young parent’s faces…they don’t know what to do. Or, they don’t want to be “seen” as authoritarian, or whatever. Or, they somehow think their
    children will learn to respect the Mass someday without help from
    Mom or Dad. Infused knowledge? I don’t know. But God did give
    YOU (and all parents) graces to deal with the struggles of disciplining your kids. Pray for guidance on what to do and don’t let “feelings” hinder you from acting as a parent should when your kids start to really get out of control.
    Also, the way people (all ages) behave during Mass, could be somewhat representative of society in general. Of course there have always been the disabled children those with mental and physical challenges–I am not talking about these people here. But there has been a general decline of respective behavior over the years during Mass, and general disrespect towards the Holy Eucharist. And, we have had abuses of the liturgy to thank for that, as well as many priests, religious and others who have openly mocked Our Lord, through their own actions, preaching, etc. So, when young children are left to run amok (extreme), then their behavior is a symbol of a society that doesn’t care anymore, and barely goes through the motions of piety. Are folks here saying YOU have these problems?
    No. But you touched on a sore spot with many, many people. Be prepared for venting, and it is not meant at you. It is meant for the leadership of the Church who let things get out of hand: who traded
    piety, respect, humility, etc. for feel-good, politically correct inclusive churches. Feelings……sounds like ’70′s song—sounds like a Protestant church.

    …..”Once your generation passes away, if you have alienated young families from Mass, do you think their children will want to draw near to a place they have never been welcome?”….. Really?

    WHAT is up with this? Pardon me, but it sounds like you have a bit
    of growing up to do…and a total lack of respect for those “older”
    Catholics who have fought long and hard to keep the
    Faith AND tried to keep some semblance of respect and reverence for the Lord. They had children too, and worked hard to teach the Faith, and I’m sure it started with teaching their children respect for the Mass, even if it meant taking the child out for a time if it became too disruptive. Faith is more than feelings and being made to feel
    welcomed. Our self esteem and our children’s self esteem should not be based on whether we are made to “feel” welcomed. What type of welcoming do YOU expect? Totally acceptance of your children’s misbehavior? No mention on how so-and so’s kids are disrespectful brats, and the parents make excuses for it? We are all sinners, and at times need to be called on the carpet for our weaknesses.

    If children do not remain Catholic, it could be the parents’ fault. If a child/adult does not remain Catholic even if the parents do every thing they could–live a Catholic life in everything, AND teach the Faith, and the child chose to leave–it was the child’s own free will. If their excuse is they didn’t feel welcomed, then didn’t put much effort into learning their Faith, did they? We as parents should continually pray for our children AND ourselves that we persevere in all things.

    Being a parent in these times is tough. It is tougher being a Catholic in a world that hates Catholics and Our Lord. It is easy to allow our feeling to get hurt when all we do is focus on feelings instead of fighting the good fight, learning and practicing the Catholic Faith, and think/perceive everyone is out to get us. I’m for one not out get
    anyone, but I want all of us Catholic parents to strive to be the best
    parents we can be, and sometimes we need to
    “tell each other off” —I hope you understand my intent. I understand your frustration and those of many, many young (and old) Catholic families who are trying to fight the good fight. But we can’t make excuses nor can we defend behavior we know that might disrupt others.

    As for the nursing in church—I know many mothers who nurse their children in the church, and no one knows about it because they have mastered the ability to be stealthy. If everyone “knows” about it, then the mother needs to leave the church for the vestibule or cry room. Some babies are noisy nursers and some moms are gregarious about it…(sigh). If the mom is trying to be discreet and other
    parishioners are offended, then DON”T LOOK!!! They are being voyeurs. A SIN!!!

    But Haley…
    …”I am very sorry that your generation lost the art of breastfeeding that I am so grateful my mother pioneered that road for me so that I could confidently nourish and bond with my children in the lovely way God intended. How sad to view that as perverse.” Really?…..
    Really? Is it the “us vs. them” feeling again or is it something
    else here? If your baby is a noisy feeder then go somewhere else.
    No one wants to hear slurping and suckling going on in the middle of the canon of the Mass. Be respectful of others. Don’t use the defense of nursing as a political or social platform to attack others.
    Be discreet if you have to nurse, but don’t attack those who might find it distracting. Move somewhere else if you have to. There are other battles much bigger worth fighting for.
    Pax–

  • miles

    Please know that the Mass is not about children or adults. The Mass is about Jesus, our Father and the Holy Spirit, and every word of every prayer should be heard. If you think our Heavenly Father will choose any one of us over his Son then you have met a different father than me. Love is an action. Love of neighbor would be considering that the Holy Mass is not a social event and some are in the pews needing time seeking God, grieving and just trying to make it through the days.

  • MomTryingHard

    Condemnation is NOT inspiration! Perhaps those parents are only doing the best they can.

  • teresa24

    Hi people. I’m single and have read posts recently on children and Mass. For educational purpose,smiles, I’ll read the posts but will try very very hard to not make more than one comment. I’m single too so. Children “can” ruin Mass by the noise they make and so can adults. As for mothers being glad that the priest “values” their child, hey, as far as I’m concerned, if I’m the mother and I love my children till death do us part, I could care less as to what complete strangers would think of them. I, personally, would find the article’s writer incident “funny” and hope, that it wouldn’t appear at every single Mass I attended that had small children. Please show your maturity in not taking these comments personally. I already “know” that “people” are “alive” at Mass simply because there are no coffins, see what I’m saying? I don’t need bawling toddlers to remind me of “signs of life”. I very much value the peace and quiet at Mass which allow “me” to participate from the heart more at Mass. What I may think of little children is, in my book, totally separate from what I think of an “experience” at Mass. I have nooooooooo idea as to why people think that maybe someone who complains about children’s noise at Mass may not “like” children. Theyr’e two totally separate issues in my mind. If I find it distracting to hear and see children’s antics at Mass, well, that’s all it is, a big distraction. Obviously, I’m not in the position, even if I was married, with kids, or without them, to grab the kids or talk to the parents. I would simply put on earplugs or go to a quieter Mass, assuming that the parish I was at had it. I think that people personalize the comments about kids and Mass too much. Yes kids are a distraction and they can be inconvenient to those who need more quiet. But, that’s in the “conceptual” understanding okay?? Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that they are “blessed outpourings of God’s grace”. What we can’t do is throw blame around to any and every parent out there who, in “our opinion”, just didn’t manage their kids at Mass or elsewhere “until and unless” we get to know the parent/s well enough. It’s up to the individual to do what’s in his/her options? ( not sure what word to use here). If it means going to another Mass where there are less children , so be it. It doesn’t make any sense to blame the parents for normal children antics, whatever you’d “classify” as normal. Just some thoughts. take care. teresa24

  • SunnyHuny1

    This doesn’t make any sense to me. If I have a child who is under 6 or 7 (and I do, my son is 1) and there’s no cry room/nursery, how am I supposed to attend Mass? He might not be obligated to go but I am so he has to go with me, obviously.

  • ManeeVee

    I am so sorry you are insulted by my comments. It is my perception and my experience that I reflect in them. I cannot sit in the very front row because some parents feel their little kids need to see what’s going on so the first three or so row are filled with little and grade school aged kids. I would have loved to try that solution.
    I don’t think you have sad excuses for children. I don’t sit in the back. I pray all the prayers and sing all the songs and responses. I am there to worship God. I hope you don’t change religions because of people like me, since you should want to be there because you love God, not because you like (or don’t like) me.
    Too bad some people can’t see what the problem is.

  • catholicexchange

    One more reminder to keep it civil and charitable. Very few of you know each other in real life so there’s no need to make disparaging comments about someone you don’t even know. Thanks everyone for a lively debate!

  • ManeeVee

    There are many completely natural things (I won’t list them. Some of them are holy, bonding moments as well. I hope you know what I mean) that are not appropriate for public places. I am so sorry you are defensive about this, but it is not just for me to “look away.” It really is a matter of consideration and discretion. I know many will continue to do as they please and defy others who are offended, but hey, what else is new?

  • ManeeVee

    Okay, I’m gonna go to confession as soon as possible to confess my pride. And also going to confess not wanting to carry my cross. Thanks for the tip.

  • Jeni

    I suspect this all could be settled if the parish offered a grouchy-people only mass for those who don’t like children. The homilies could be dull and dead as well.

  • ManeeVee

    Hey, sounds like a great plan Satan has devised, doesn’t it? Make all the parents ignore the uproar and misbehavior of their kids in church, and get defensive, offended when told about it, and make those who have to witness it infuriated by it, so that both groups leave, disgusted by the other, and the churches will be shuttered.

    Sad, sad. So defensive you can’t even hear the complaint or see the problem, or admit there is a problem.

    You know, sorry you find my opinions ignorant, and mean, and that the problem is about my harbored hatred. I thought it was about how kids can ruin the Mass.

  • ManeeVee

    Sign me up and tell me when it is! I’m sure I won’t be able to find a seat!

  • Sally

    In the 50s we did not need finger puppets at mass, there was no breastfeeding in church, and even 3 year olds knew how to behave. I see families every week that have well behaved children, even young ones. Here I see excuses.

  • Jeni

    lol well thankfully the church is a hospital for sinners. Not a museum for saints, as they say :)

  • James

    You have every right to bring your child to mass, but you are not obligated to. There is nothing wrong with going in shifts with a spouse or using a nursery if one is available.

  • Anita

    What no one seems ot have mentioned yet, is that most Catholic churches have a cry room, which is really for the benefit of the little ones who obviously get restless at Mass.
    Yes, it is a distraction to the adults who want to particpate quietly at Mass, but it is also a burden for the little ones to be still and quiet. Therefore, in a cry room they can run around, play with a toy and do whatever they want to keep occupied, without disturbing the rest of the congregation in the outer part of the church.Their parents can still participate in the Mass and everyone is then satisfied, including the children.

  • ManeeVee

    Wow, now I am the one with the problem, eh? The discussion is about noisy and rambunctious children at Mass, and you suggest the problem is with the observers, not the actors. That is rich!!! And I should leave Mass. Oh, THAT’S not going to happen!!! I will never, never, not because of any screaming or running children, or immodest women, or pompous men ever, ever leave Mass or the Catholic Church. I WILL NOT LET THE DEVIL CONVINCE ME TO LEAVE OUR LORD. EVER. Note, I am not accusing you of being the devil. I am saying that the devil can use all of our weaknesses to work on us to convince us to leave God, getting us into a haughty and self-righteous huff and egging us on to justify our behavior. The devil doesn’t care how he gets us away. His goal is to get us away. So, no, I won’t be leaving Mass.
    And it will not be a sin for me to continue to suffer the disrespect shown to Our Lord and our fellow Catholics during Mass. However, I cannot say whether parents who neglect teaching their children the correct way to behave can say the same.

  • Mandy P

    This was beautiful! Made me cry this evening:)

  • N Martinez

    Haley sounds like a wonderful mom. There is no doubt about that. She is also right about children being gifts from God. Aint’ no doubt. My only issue is that if children do become a distraction, then the Mass becomes no more important than a meeting at a park, or a movie theater, or a mom’s club. What needs to be remembered is that, at a Catholic Mass, we are in the presence of G-O-D through the Blessed Sacrament. Since Protestant churches do not have the real presence, throwing finger puppets isn’t a really big deal. I remember my best friend belonged to a Baptist Church, and when I (very infrequently) attended it with her, they would literally sing and dance around the church. Because there was no real presence, it was no big deal. That drastically changes in a Catholic Church because reverence and respect should be shown…above all things and before all attending. We are there for God. We are there to praise and thank HIM. To think less is to demean the celebration, and I do not think any Catholic would want to do that. Beside, a crying room is just as good. God doesn’t mind glass.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    My 1st child was incredibly well-behaved, & I once had the arrogance to pat myself on the back for how well I was raising him when another mother had to take her child out of Mass (while noisily yelling as loud as she could that she really did have to go pee). God taught me humility by gifting me with a 2nd child who was oppositional-defiant. And my 4th was so hyperactive that I spent every Sunday in the narthex until he was 4 yrs old.

    So my heart ached one Sunday when I saw a frazzled mom getting ready to leave the narthex in the middle of Mass because her kids just would not settle down. But then one of our long time parishioners, a father of 4, approached her, and gently implored her not to leave. He said the kids weren’t really disturbing anyone back there and asked if there was anything he could do to help – it was awesome! And the look on that mom’s face was priceless! And yes, she stayed. :-)

  • Elleblue Jones

    I only have a problem with parents who don’t get up and go to the crying room or narthex until their child settles down. That worked in past years so why wouldn’t it work now?
    As to the disturbing ‘adults’, don’t even get me started! I’ve told yapping adults more than once that “I didn’t come to church to listen to them, I came to listen to God.” That usually shuts them up.

  • ManeeVee

    Haley, I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth with you, because I respect your opinion and your article. I get it. I really do. I get that you were expressing relief that others in your parish are tolerant of some of the disruptions they experience because of your kids, and that they reach out to you to reassure you that it is okay, and that seems to be a very pro-life behavior, and it makes you feel better about your embarrassment, since you are aware just how disruptive your children have been. I get that you feel this is a great positive for the Church.

    However, after you read some of the comments here, you found others who are not so understanding, so you minimized the disruptions in your comment above, describing them as “squirming.” But you yourself described it in your article as not merely squirming (because who would care about that?) but loudly banging the kneeler, hitting a tiny foot, screaming a siren scream, throwing a finger puppet at your littler one, yelling (and your words, I mean yelling), during the Consecration, almost getting onto the altar, leaving your pew and sitting with others who are friendly, and so on. That’s not just a kid squirming during Mass. That is a major distraction for others around you. Were you going for hyperbole? Well, even if you were, many of us recognize that scenario as exactly the way Mass goes these days. And perhaps you don’t notice it because you are so busy with your own, but multiply this by say 15 families with children exhibiting the same behavior, and it does become a real challenge to stay focused on the altar and not on the loud activity around you. It is very frustrating. And it is not the same kind of distraction as the mentally ill person who occasionally shouts out, or the developmentally disabled kid waving his arms, or the poor singer. I am sad you are deliberately choosing to misunderstand the problem.

    Secondly, I don’t know what could be arranged for leaving some of the littler ones you can’t get to behave well at home. I don’t know your situation. I understand the dilemma. But you cannot expect the rest of the congregation to suffer in silence while you struggle to keep things under a low roar.

    Thirdly, people should be at Mass because they love God. Anyone who leaves the church because they didn’t “feel welcomed” was there for the wrong reason anyway. They should not be there because everybody was always nice to them regardless of what they did. That is a false religion. How are these kids going to grow up to come to Mass on their own without understanding the nature of sin, without understanding the problem created by their own fallen nature, and the need for a Savior? Not that I am saying little children can grasp that concept at all, and snap to attention. But we honestly misrepresent Jesus and his mission when we act as if he tolerated all kinds of bad behavior and just wanted people around him. In actuality, he went out to find those who were fallen away, not to condone them as they were, but to get them to draw near to himself, to get them to correct their inappropriate behavior and turn away from what was displeasing to him. I am only saying people cannot claim God is okay with them just as they are. He asks us to come, he welcomes us, but he expects us to change. If we don’t, then we are missing the point of conversion. For kids, the lessons are simpler, but important. Understanding the sacred. Getting that church is a special place and requires special behavior. If they can’t do that, week after week, something is wrong.

    You and other young people with a family are no longer children. You are a mothers and fathers with the duty to teach your children right from wrong. You cannot expect everyone around you to indulge your children as you do. We expect you to be parenting them, even when they are very little. It is difficult to express the problem to young parents who become defensive, indignant and self-righteous when someone indicates displeasure when their children have not done well at Mass. I’m sorry you are embarrassed. I’m sorry it stresses you out. I don’t know what you are doing to teach your kids, so I can’t speak to what you do, but it is frustrating to witness parents where I am doing almost nothing about it. And for me, THAT is the problem. Not the kids so much as the parents who let it happen and ignore it.

    Lastly, I will never agree it is appropriate to breast feed in church. I am not of your generation, and your generation has been told that if others are uncomfortable with you breastfeeding in public, that is their problem, not yours, and so on. However, that is not true. We are responsible for how our behavior impacts others, and we are accountable for our actions that are disrespectful of the dignity and propriety of the situation, and the sensibilities of those around us. That is why immodest dress is an issue as well.

    In my own case, I have never, ever said anything to or given dirty looks to those whose children are causing major disruptions. I usually just close my eyes so I don’t see it, and refocus listening on the priest on the altar. I try to get back to praying. I ask God to bless that family, those kids. I take a deep breath and try to look at God with the eyes of my soul, and ignore all else around me. I ask him to help me with the distractions, and apologize to him for my lack of attention. I admit that once I did leave my pew and stood in the back of church (because it was crowded and there were very few seats left) when a young woman in the pew front of me began to breastfeed her child (who appeared to be about 1 1/2 years old). That just seemed to be beyond the pale.

    However, I am very pro-life, and happy there are so many young people turning away from birth control, using NFP, and having the children God wants to bring onto the earth. I am also happy they are bringing them to Mass. But I am not happy that they seem have no respect for the rest of us, and expect us to indulge them as they indulge their children.

    Honestly, from your reaction and the reaction of many other parents with young children who commented here, I can see that this kind of thing is not going to change. I find it so very sad that you, as did another commenter here, refer to the days when my generation passes away, as if then you will experience blessed relief from our unrealistic expectations and standards. But wait until you see the world that results from the “tolerance” for bad behavior you seem to long for.

    Jesus told a parable about a man who was holding a wedding feast, and all those he invited begged off, making one excuse or another why they could not come (obviously referring to the Pharisees), and so the man told his servants to go out to the highways and byways and invite everybody they met to the feast. And so they did (as you say above, the Church is designed for everyone) Scripture says, both good and evil ones. But that is not the end of the story. As the guests filled the hall, one man was not dressed in wedding clothes. The man giving the feast said to him, how could you come not dressed in wedding clothes? The man was speechless. And the man giving the feast had the servants bind him and throw him out. Why? Because he didn’t convert. He didn’t see the invitation was not come as you are, you’re fine, and be who you are, you’re fine. No. Jesus ends with “many are called, few are chosen.” Kind of a harsh message, considering how you want to portray Jesus as liker of everybody, tolerant of everybody and everything, and see us who are bothered by your lack of respect as Pharisees.

  • Paul Baylis

    Good on you! The real question to ask those who look sneeringly sideways at you and your children is where are THEIR children? We’re supposed to be Catholic aren’t we? That means what?..no abortion, no contraception..so where are their children hiding? We have five children by the way, between the ages of 1 and 10. They can be a handful. That being said, if they do get too loud, we take them out of the Church for a while and we work hard to keep them quiet during Mass.

  • Jane Ellen Hautanen

    Hey, if I’m not allowed to wear a mini skirt or a low-cut dress to mass, why should a woman be allowed to nurse in a pew? And as for leaving kids at home or taking them home, in some cases you’re rewarding bad behaviour. If kids learn they can get out of mass or anything else by misbehaving, they’ll continue it.

  • http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/ Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas

    That’s our method, too: remove the child to the vestibule (not allowing them to play or leave my arms, so they know it’s no fun to be taken out) until they are calm and ready to go back in. However, I think we have to be really careful how we view couples in Mass with no children because we simply cannot know why that is the case and the cross of infertility and loss is hard enough to bear without being judged by families who don’t suffer in that way.

  • Molly W.

    When I was in the process of conversion I went to Mass alone one Sunday with my 1.5 year old; my husband was away for work. We sat in the front, but it was not a good day. Nothing my son did merited stepping outside, but he was noisy at some parts and it was hard to keep him in check that day. I was constantly re-seating him and doing every trick in my bag to keep him quiet. At the end of Mass I felt defeated, I was about in tears because I was certain I had ruined everyone’s experience. I was so frustrated. I had hardly heard a word of the homily, barely gotten thru a song or a prayer without a distraction and I couldn’t even receive communion yet.

    As I was gathering our things to leave another Mother, herself with a handful of old children leaned over the pews. I thought that I was about to get schooled for my toddler. The woman looked me straight in the eyes and said “You did a good job.” I nearly burst into tears.

    Every good, worth while parent of a noisy or misbehaving child is already embarrassed and sorry for the problems we cause in Mass; we are not talking about the ones who don’t care and don’t pay attention. We are not trying to ruin anyone elses experience. We are simply trying, after what might have been a long week of parenthood, work and anything that life throws at you, to receive our share of Grace. Sometimes, after the worst weeks, the sacraments are all we have to get us through.

    We’re sorry if our children distract you from time to time, but instead of glaring at us, or berating us online or in your own heads please PRAY for us. We are trying to fight the battle of the modern family – we are bringing our children to Mass when society at large tells us all they need is a Diet Coke and an Ipad. We are human and we fail, but we need support more than anything.

    Please remember that none of us know another’s experience, life or thoughts. Those parents struggling to keep their preteens in line might have just had a huge struggle to even get them to Church. Those young parents with the fussy baby might have just received a terrible medical diagnosis. That young mother with her child might be feeling the call of the Church herself.

    We all need prayers, forgiveness and love. We need our sacraments. We need Grace. That is why everyone is in Church; you, me and my noisy children, too.

  • CDville

    I think you misunderstood Curtis. His point was that he took his boys to the park first to expend their excess energy so they could sit quietly as a family.

  • CDville

    We learn from our experiences. Maneevee has had some very bad experiences (cereal and milk!), so his reaction to Haley’s column expresses his frustration with his personal experiences. He generalizes, though, accusing all young parents of letting their children run wild and all breast feeding mothers of inappropriate behavior. He is probably unaware of the times babies have been nursed appropriately, simply because it should be discreet. So much depends on the wardrobe of the mother and the age of the child. There comes a time when the child can and should wait for the next meal, but there is also a time that discreet nursing is necessary and appropriate. If discreet is not possible, then poor mom does have to take the baby out, but if discreet isn’t enough for you, please have compassion and don’t be a voyeur.

  • ME

    I’m a cradle Catholic who attends Mass regularly, and the worst disturbance I have ever experienced at Mass–and it was bad–was when a man was sitting with his family and his phone went off. His ringtone was the song “Milkshake” by Kelis complete with lyrics. Instead of silencing his phone (which he should have done before Mass) when it went off, he allowed it to continue “ringing” as he walked out to the narthex.

    I love seeing babies at Mass. My boyfriend and I sit by our friends who have an infant every week, and although mom is often apologetic about baby’s noises during Mass, I honestly don’t have a problem with it all and don’t think she needs to take him back to the back of church or the narthex although she does probably every week. She was raised Protestant so maybe that does contribute to the way she views her baby’s noises during Mass.

  • PGMGN

    Glad we’re on the same page too, Caitlin. I understand your being taken aback by what you’ve read in the discussion here. That said, being on the back end of the little children arena, I’ve come to see that many older folks or single folks for that matter are often dismissed as having no care or experience with regard to children.

    It’s the dismissal of them that often gets them the angriest (and not by you either, but by the pastors who seem overly focused on retaining the young.) Not always. Sometimes it is the gross lack of parenting that occurs in Church – not the examples you point out.

    I’ve found that actively engaging the sour ones outside of mass helps tremendously. They get to know your struggles (I used to get dinged because my ‘husband’ should be there helping me manage my kids. That IS until they learned he was in a war zone.)

    As for Haley, I hear you. She was expressing herself and her joy at her experience. ManeeVee is doing the same. And while it might seem like an attack, and perhaps it is, some issues she brings up are valid. Seeming sour pusses can often point out with accuracy when a child is running their parent. That was sure my experience. Not always, but kids are often very smart. (My kids, at very young ages, used to agree to fight among themselves just for the pleasure of betting how long it would take for me to lose it – they weren’t mean, per se, just very smart and I was harried beyond words.)

    That said, while I see it is very important to retain the youth for the visible growth of the Church, it is also vital to the salvation of souls not to let the older folks get so marginalized and/or demoralized that they fall into despair. Not when they are facing those end of life issues that will leave them hardened in heart and prime pickings for a bad death.

    I’ve seen that too. And in the life of the Church it’s really about souls – all of them. That’s why I hope there can be a balance struck, especially in forums like this.

    Thanks, btw, for struggling with your children at Mass. It is so worth it and you will never be sorry. Even with the scowls.

  • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

    There’s a middle ground between letting one’s kids run roughshod over everybody else and having one’s kids petrified to misbehave or being relegated to the cry room. We tended toward the former, though not by much. Here’s what our older grown daughter says about kids at Mass: http://www.piercedhands.com/your-screaming-kids-are-distracting-me/

  • bellflowermillers

    As the happy father of 6 kids, (heck yeah I’m proud of it, they are a lot of work) I love kids at Mass. It warms the heart and reminds you of when yours were young. We are past the nursing stage now and our youngest is 3. Mass is our special time where she has to sit still long enough for me to hold her and whisper in her ear all the wonderful things happening around her. To all the cranks who don’t like the “distraction” of kids in Mass I say “have a heart.” Mass is worship of the living God and children worship in an uninhibited carefree way that only lasts a little while. Enjoy the little children. Seems to me Jesus said something about little children once or twice and I am pretty sure he likes the little buggers. Maybe we should too.

  • ME

    Fraternal correction is for sinful behavior. It’s not sinful to take your kids to Mass. Peace

  • PGMGN

    It seems ManeeVee that ‘liking’ and ‘feeling’ are what it’s all about these days. If you don’t ‘feeel’ welcome, you leave. If you don’t ‘like’ what’s being said or experienced, you go away.

    This is not so much a problem with parents in my opinion. It’s a problem with what is being taught and not taught from the pulpit.

    People cannot teach what they have not been taught. And no amount of talking on your part or pointing out what is right versus wrong will change until the proper authority – the priests/bishops/etc – step up to the plate to outline what is and isn’t proper behavior. But they, like many parents, are afraid of being labeled as mean, medieval, etc.

    That is the scenario you outline of kids running amok in mass for fear of putting them off of the Faith (translation: what they like and will accept) is what is running parishes. Not Truth.

    Your predicament is very much like that of the Faithful priest who prays….” How long, Oh Lord. How long.”

    Pray for priests, ManeeVee.

  • PGMGN

    Perhaps they’re not, MomTryingHard. Why not address the actual examples ManeeVee has given instead of whitewashing everyone as ‘trying’.

    ManeeVee is trying as well. And asking for some acknowledgement for justifiable issues.

    Try to understand the other POV.

  • PGMGN

    Thanks, Haley. I have only 3 children and used to get snide remarks all the time – from old and YOUNG. Painful that as it took years of treatment and pain to get the 3 that I have. But then I realize now that the experience of pain and marginalization have tempered me for which I am VERY grateful.

  • PGMGN

    Goodness sakes, Jeni. Address the issues that ManeeVee points out instead of doing an emotional grandstand of judging that is no better than what ManeeVee is supposedly being accused of.

  • I’m With HIM

    several years ago i was at an evening mass during lent. the church was dimly lit and the congregation was singing “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” It was indeed a very reverent, quiet, contemplative experience for the congregation–such union.

    Well, there was a little girl, under the age of 5, dancing throughout the entire church. Her arms were out and she was just floating in her dance while everyone was singing. It was a most beautiful moment. When the singing was done and the Mass continued, the Priest stood up and said, “that is what we should all be doing” just being in that place of our heart, dancing with the Lord.

    Pray unceasingly – Allow Love to prevail. Choose to see through the eyes of the heart, perhaps considering the Lord is working on one’s focus, keeping one’s eyes on Him, no matter the distraction this world is so saturated with. even and most especially, once we walk out the doors of God’s place of prayer. peace~

  • Ted

    To my brothers and sisters in Christ. St. Therese of the child Jesus simply would include the distractions of others during Holy Mass as part of her prayer offering to God which is quite pleasing! It is far better than complaining or becoming angry about the distractions which are not fair but nevertheless a chance to offer something up. Our merciful Lord will still reward us with the same graces as if we were paying complete attention without becoming distracted. Food for thoughts.
    Yours in JMJ,
    Ted

  • Albee

    Did you even read M’s post? Did she say it was sinful to
    take your kids to Mass? Don’t put words in her post that weren’t there.

  • PGMGN

    My word, what a fantastic post. I wish I had your talent for putting things into such clear perspective. You nailed EVERYTHING!

    God bless and keep it up.

  • PGMGN

    No, Albee, it seems that most are emotion-driven, reactionary posters. Another reflection of society today.

  • EbbyCalvin

    I am the father of three boys and I would not allow them to scream for more than a few seconds before I took them outside. I’ve noticed more and more parents allow their children to cry, scream, run around, talk, throw things, etc.. Personally, I think you are either too lazy or you simply don’t care that you are affecting the people around you. What if someone is just coming back to the church and is putting their toe in the water? Now they hear a kid scream the whole Mass, can’t hear the priest, and is frustrated by all of the distractions? There are a number of other scenarios I can think of that come to mind, but you need to wake up and be realistic. Most people are nice and won’t say anything to you during Mass, but I can guarantee they are either angry or frustrated. I know some of you will think I mean, but I’m just being honest. Oh by the way, I have seen more than one Priest stop his Homily and have to tell someone to take their screaming child outside.

  • PGMGN

    There is also being charitable to one’s neighbors, SunnyHunny1. As the mother of a teenage boy, I take issue with those who would assert their supposed RIGHTS to the detriment of another who may – unbeknownst to YOU – suffering through a time of much temptation.

    I wonder how you’re going to ‘feel’ when its your son going through these issues. Likely very different.

    Yes, I know breastfeeding is wonderful. I did it too. But there is discretion. Those who use discretion are being applauded. Those who don’t are being asked in mutual charity to have mercy on others whose struggles may not be so apparent.

    That’s why I love it when priests talk about the necessity to watch how we dress when coming to mass. Yes, a woman has a ‘RIGHT’ in society to do as she wills regarding clothing, but a woman who opts for asserting rights to the struggle of others is not practicing mutual charity. That is charity towards others outside of the cozy haven of her and her child.

    That said, if someone gives you a supposed dirty look for whatever it is you’re doing, you and others are at perfect liberty to LOOK AWAY. But you don’t. Many pout and scream about their rights while completely dismissing the RIGHTS of others.

    What did ST. Paul say about eating things that might give scandal to others. Something to the effect of – and pardon my paraphrasing – “I may have the perfect liberty to eat something without sinning, but if that eating will give scandal to my neighbor, then I won’t eat it.”

    Get it. MUTUAL charity.

  • PGMGN

    Read carefully, MomTryingHard. Try understanding the viewpoints of others. Nobody is condemning the child or the parent, but rather the behavior. And not the bad behavior itself, but rather the behavior that leads parents to accept that which is bad for fear of upsetting ‘their’ children.

    As for not wanting to go to Church because you get condemned all the time, that’s not what Faith is about. What you want or feel. It’s about Truth. And what ManeeVee is pointing out is the objective truth that there’s a disconnect if kids are getting fed milk and cereal in mass.

  • @caffdcatholicma

    We seem to forget that distractions are everywhere. We live in a highly distractable society. We can be distracted by someone’s perfume/colonge, by the length of their shorts, if they are wearing pants… ooh, is that a real Louis Vuitton? We do not worship in a bubble, we worship in community… you can’t be a Christian in Isolation. Community includes everyone… not just the ones you want there. I am a mom to three little ones (6,4 and 1 year) so maybe I am a little biased. We sit in the front rows so my 4 year old can see. My 6 year old recently shared that going to religious ed (CCD) is kind of boring because she knows everything already. Why does she know the lessons? Because she has been attending Mass with the family since she was 3 days old. We, as parents, are the primary catechists to our children. They will not learn about the beauty and reverence and power of Mass if we keep them away.

    In reading the post, Haley is not advocating letting kids run amok or to play video games or to eat sandwiches in the Mass. She is advocating for a little bit of grace from all of us.

  • PGMGN

    Thank the Lord for this woman who monitors her child’s behavior at an early age. It has nothing to do with having been Protestant, but being a responsible parent. God bless her… and you too.

  • Jeni

    But I’m not arguing. I didn’t make that saying up either. It’s really a moot point bc there’s no argument here.

    The Church welcomes everyone, sinners and saints the unruly the loud and obnoxious, the picky, the uptight, idiots and geniuses, women, men, children, new, old, those who are right and those who are wrong, and even babies who scream through their own baptisms. Everyone belongs in the Church.

    But then Haley said that better than I can!

    I understand it’s good to educate anyone who is ignorant in the faith and help guide them. If that’s what you’re saying, sure. But see, it’s not coming across like that. What I’ve personally been seeing in my own life, thanks to a lot of reading about Pope Francis actually, is that in order to correct someone, we really need to get to know them. So if you see a family at mass and you are pretty sure their kids are unruly because they have horrible parents, invite them to dinner or something. Get to know them. Then you will know if your opinion is even founded. Then you may lovingly “correct” them if it’s even truly needed. OR better yet–you can offer a hand because you will know them. I don’t know any parent, especially young catholic ones, with kids acting up in the pew who couldn’t use a hand with their little ones.

    Ask yourself, what is my goal? Is my goal to lovingly help this person reach sanctity–or is it because it’s “the right thing” to do. God doesn’t call us to be perfect–He calls us to love. With that love of God comes the wisdom and graces to do the right thing.

    What parents don’t need is condescending glares. That won’t make people want to come to church or know God or learn about the faith. That doesn’t better their souls or our own.

    Well that’s my 2 cents anyway. Especially since my unruly 5-year-old doesn’t appear to be special needs and cognitively delayed but is. So the criticism especially stings.

  • PGMGN

    I take your point, Jeni. Sorry if I misinterpreted you. That said, read my posts on this topic. It’ll spare me a ton of rewrites.

    You are right in that the Church is for all people. As for giving correction, I am not for folks correcting each other. (Leads to too much infighting and inflated heads much like it does when siblings take it upon themselves to play parent.)

    I’m for the priest exercising his authority in promoting peace by way of guidelines. Guidelines intended to address the sensibilities and needs of all. Priests see what’s going on. They are not blind. And, sorry, it is their job to correct us. Guide us. Often, they don’t for fear of offending people or losing parishioners. Sad state of affairs.

    And the disaster Chuck E. Cheese mass experience is often what leads older, single, and seeking people to leave too. It’s not all about the young families as you point out. Every soul has untold value as they are the temples of the Holy Ghost.

    If ManeeVee has seen all the things reported – and I do not doubt a single one – the issue should be put squarely in the lap of the priest. The Spiritual Father, the parent, if you will. It is his job to maintain order among the faithful.

    As for your child, take heart. All will be fine in time. That said my son was cognitively advanced and would humiliate me on purpose at five. And boy was he creative. His sisters helped of course. But there we are. God bless you!

  • Jeni

    haha that is EXACTLY what I was thinking… hmmm where was that I heard that before…. hmmm….

  • Jeni

    But how on earth do you know without a doubt that’s what’s going on? If you know the family then by all means, over dinner, at the next parish event when you guys are discussing parenting, bring it up and offer a helpful solution or a hand or something. But until you KNOW that’s what’s going on… how can you be critical of people you don’t even know?

  • Jeni

    Beautiful <3 :)

    It's good to see who's behavior is bringing people to the church and who is dividing it… just saying!

  • Jeni

    Beautiful and well said! This is the truth. :) Lord save us from sour-faced saints right?

  • Jeni

    very true! :)

  • QuoVadisAnima

    Actually, it seems to be a cultural issue. We were amazed, once when we were on a pilgramage, by a small group from a country I will decline to name, whose little children were playing in the aisles of the church during Mass. The children actually weren’t that distracting (not noisy & rambunctious like the ones we occasionally endure here at home), but because we weren’t used to it, we were distracted.

    We later learned that it is the norm in their country & were told by a friend of a Mass he went to there in which one child was actually playing with the priest’s vestment while he was saying the Mass, & the priest just kept right on praying as if he didn’t even notice. It brings to mind cherubs playing in heaven! :-)

  • teacon7

    True story. For what it’s worth, Lutheran churches are happy to have children in the Divine Service as well, see children as a great gift of God, and take the liturgy seriously. So… from the peanut gallery this Lutheran replies “Good point! Us too!”

  • PGMGN

    I admire your focus, QuoVadisAnima. I’m not blessed that way. Would that I were and I wouldn’t have to ‘go up the mountain’ to pray.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    ManeeVee, I almost totally agree with your post and yet I am still saddened by it.

    I once read a story about a novice mistress who was an expert at the rules of her order and was very diligent at making sure all the novitiates toed the line or else. The Lord showed her a vision of her heart – it was made of iron and bound with iron chains. He made her to understand that her righteous diligence lacked love.

    Your comments are true, but so are Haley’s. The truth, as St. Thomas Aquinas so often said, lies in the healthy balance between the two. And always, always, always we need to do our best to soften our corrections or critiques to minimize the chafing they are sure to cause. (As I am sure mine has, and for which I apologize, but please know that it is only because I am speaking, not from superiority of knowledge, but rather sad experience)

  • Albee

    True– Unfortunately it is misdirected zeal.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    No, I’m not sure where you perceived that from my comment; I am actually not very focused. Unfortunately, after 5 kids (some who behaved like angels & some who couldn’t sit still if their lives depended on it), I find myself struggling more to focus than ever. In fact, I suspect that I am somewhat ADD.

    Anyway, as I mentioned, I WAS distracted by their children. I was simply sharing the observation that it seems to be a cultural thing or at least largely so (what we are or are not used to).

    Just as I am used to being surrounded by the noise of my family and can tune it out, I am also fully aware that others are not used to it & have always done my best to try to minimize our impact on others. BUT having traveled across the country and nearly around the world, I now understand that was the mindset with which I was raised & other cultures have variations or simply do not share it.

    The energetic exchanges of opinions here seem to pretty much confirm that – so who determines which mindset it the “right” one? My guess is the one that demonstrates the most love for our neighbor – that would be sort of an all of the above! ;-)

  • Albee

    … “Let the children come to me! The kingdom of Heaven is filled with such as these.”……..

    Mark 10: 13-16

    Please…stop taking this scripture out of context. It has nothing to do
    with behavior so much. It has everything to do with disposition. Our Lord wished that all of us remain as little children in heart…simple,
    believing, innocent and humble. Please get a Catholic Bible
    commentary and read up on scripture before tossing the verses
    around like a loose cannon.

    The following article from The Catholic Education Resource Center
    is very interesting and touches on much of the subject of
    children at Mass the duties of parents. It addresses the issue of
    children’s self-esteem and that the healthy development of it
    is based on being well-mannered and striving for virtue. And only the parents can teach THAT!

    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/parenting/pa0050.html

  • Ann Morrill

    There has always been a dispensation for child care. This goes with Canon Law stating that small children are not obligated to attend Mass. This dispensation means the parent is not obligated to attend Mass in order to stay home with the children. It is nice to go every week but with small children it often isn’t possible. That being said, we are now in the me first era with Masses that are inherently noisier due to the false notion of “active participation” = noise making. In the old days when Mass was inherently more contemplative, disturbances such as we are talking about were not as tolerated. It also has to do with a change in manners, or lack thereof. Previously, each parent would tend to go to Mass every second week. Now we also have more single parents and this is not possible also for that reason.

    It is not as cut and dried as some have stated. My parish is quite orthodox and there are many families of 8-12 children. Sometimes the noise is so loud the music or preaching can’t be heard. Some would say they would love their parish to be that way but think about what it does to the reverence. Oh yes, there is also a change in what people consider reverent…

    So things are not as cut and dried here.

  • Albee

    Mass should be seen as a privilege, not a burden. Children who
    push their parents buttons just to get out of uncomfortable situation for
    them, should not be reward by being taken home, left in the vestibule or
    taken to the parish school’s playground for the duration of Mass. Once
    they calm down, then the child should be brought back in Mass. The child has to prove he can control himself in a special reverent situation.
    The parents and everyone else who attends Mass has to view it this way: that the Mass, especially the consecration is the greatest thing
    happening in the world at that moment in time. We are all in a special
    holy place. We as Catholics should reflect our beliefs, in our behavior and everything else, all the time –as best we can. It is a cross to be sure, especially in today’s times and family dynamics.

    But if we don’t pray as we believe…..where does that leave us?

  • Albee

    ….”People cannot teach what they have not been taught. And no amount of talking on your part or pointing out what is right versus wrong will change until the proper authority – the priests/bishops/etc – step up to the plate to outline what is and isn’t proper behavior. But they, like many parents, are afraid of being labeled as mean, medieval, etc.”….
    How so true,,, our society has become soft, and in many
    ways, so has our Church.

  • Albee

    Her post was not condemning anyone. If someone became
    offended then perhaps there are other things going on in their lives in regards not just parenting issues, but family issues, the economy, etc……diabolical confusion…..
    But we as a society are so programed to just put up and shut up under the guise of “oh, you’re so intolerant, so racist, so bigoted, so insensitive, you hurt my feelings, wah-wah-wah”….on and on.
    We are being forced to accept the status quo, even if the status
    quo is weak and and wrong headed.

  • PGMGN

    The only solace is time, Albee. Those who react with zeal now will understand with wisdom when their time comes. And it will. It sure has for me and all I can say is I wish I had listened more when my kids were still little.

  • PGMGN

    Sorry – I did misread what you said. It was the cherub comment that threw me.

    As for the difference in cultures, I’ve traveled largely myself and have found a modern mindset everywhere. That said, I’ve also found traditional standards – and not just related to mass and religion – in other countries, too.

    I find the older way of well behaved children (and that is giving credit to those here that are doing the job) and outward respect for elders refreshing. And that was way back when I was really young.

    Giving folks standards – especially little ones – gives them the opportunity to show just how smart and capable they are. And often our kids are far smarter and capable than we give them credit for.

  • Christina

    I have 6 children between the ages of 13 and 5 and we are on the down hill side of crazy mass behavior but I have been where you are and have had those day at Mass when my children have mortified me. Truly you are correct that you are not ruining Mass for anyone. My husband has works shift for his job on a regular basis and while he tries to be at church with us there are times he can not be there. The times that I have been the most embarrassed were the times that the usher would wink at me and give my shoulder a squeeze or the elderly lady near us in mass would shake my hand at the sign of peace and smile or speak to encourage me or stop me as we leave and thank me for bringing all the children to mass. I will be that lady someday and every mass I attend I will sit near those children and smile and encourage those mothers.

  • Jane Ellen Hautanen

    Nose-picking, belching, breaking wind and changing clothes are also completely natural, but we try not to do those in church, either. That’s why we have restrooms, vestibules, brides’ rooms etc.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    No dispute – but then that’s probably our common European roots if I don’t miss my guess? :-)

    Please understand, I am in no way attempting to absolve parents who are simply mentally or emotionally AWOL when it comes to disciplining their kids. However, I must confess to finding it frustrating that it seems no one can write an article on a topic these days without being criticized for failing to cover every aspect of the subject, or at least provide every possible disclaimer or caveat, even when that article’s intention was only to cover ONE aspect of that topic as it clearly was here.

    The judgment of those parents with fractious kids only makes the distraction from the Mass worse while also lacking charity – sure there are parents who are at fault, but there are also those who are struggling with incredibly challenging issues that other parents never have to think about let alone face – such judgment does nothing constructive for them or us.

    Along very similar lines, I really struggle during Mass in our southern state with the incredible lack of modesty these days. I find myself both saddened and outraged – but I learned from the writings of a mystic that Our Lord wants us to pray for them, & if we do criticize, we’d best be sure that our prayers outnumber our fault-finding. It’s a challenge, but then it is part of our cross, isn’t it?

  • WMURD

    I have to agree! Our 2.5 year old is a very busy & talkative little girl. Not usually screaming or crying during mass, just busy. We definitely get the dirty looks & also had one mother who told me that I needed to take her to the back. Then, came back in the middle of mass to continue the conversation about how I was a good mom, blah, blah, blah…..but we have a cry room, a nursery, etc so she as a mother could enjoy mass in peace. Well, good for you, but as a mom who only gets to spend a few hrs a day during the week with my little girl, i’m not about to hand her off to someone else on Sunday!! And, how do children learn to behave during mass if we always remove them from the situation. We don’t have a crying room, but instead just extra pews in the vestibule. So, some other children are running around, families without small children hog the pews because they want to cut out of mass early, & other families lounge/talk in the còmfy chairs near the outside doors. I only take her back there in absolute desperation, because I don’t want her to think any of those things are acceptable during mass. But, despite being only 2.5, she knows why we go to mass. We pray daily with her, she can fold her hands in prayer, she puts Jesus’ money in the collection basket, makes the sign of the cross, and sings Alleluia before the gospel. That’s more than i can say for some of the adults there. So, Despite the dirty looks, I will continue to keep my child in mass.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    I was taught that children receive graces from the Mass even though they are too young to participate so we should try to bring them. I have always removed mine to the narthex of the church when they got too noisy. When I attended Mass at a chapel which did not have a narthex, I stepped outside & watched thru the window for Communion time. Any readings missed can easily be looked up in a missal or online. Happily, God blesses our efforts rather than demanding our success! :-)

  • Paul Baylis

    Absolutely there are couples who can’t have children but they would be in the minority and I doubt that they would be the ones complaining about noisy children. On the whole, it is very noticeable that Catholic churches are not as full of children as they used to be or should be. And the primary reason is that couples simply don’t want to sacrifice lifestyle for having large families. It isn’t a judgement, it is fact I don’t particularly want to acknowledge. People from our own parish question why we have so many children and have approached my wife asking whether she has considered contraception. It’s a cross we bear within our own Catholic community. We were asked once “Don’t you miss having a lifestyle?” We don’t feel we are truly immersed in a Catholic culture sadly.

  • PGMGN

    I lived in the South for a while and struggled with the same issue. My husband, a heathen at the time, but with spot on insight, said he could go to a club if he wanted what he saw at mass. So, yes, the dress or rather the lack thereof, was disconcerting on all fronts. Least of which was the lack of reverence for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament who is actually THERE – thing is, nobody is taught anymore. And that is a real crime. Outright robbery.

    The watchword seems to be, make no demands and they will come. In my experience, that is my own, making no demands led me straight out the door. If it doesn’t matter, then why bother at all. You know. And we’re getting further and further from that generation that was raised to know better, rebelled, and them came to their senses.

    As to the article in question, it is sad to see the contention it raised. But it just bears testament to the misunderstood on all sides. And the intense NEED of solid leadership. I wish our priests were more definitive and less fearful of giving offense. But again, modernity intervenes. I don’t think it’s better.

    …and yes, I’m of European decent!

  • PGMGN

    James – not sure if you misunderstood, but I was/am in complete accord with what you have said. There IS a good reason for the cannon you quote.

    And whereas it is reasonable for someone to miss mass on Sunday so that they can care for an elderly or sick person, I do believe it is also acceptable for a mother and/or father to do the same to manage small children at home if necessary. I’d check with the priest on that one, but I have known Traditional Catholic families that attend mass in shifts.

    Those who put the supposed necessity of families to attend all together at all costs are really putting their own desire to attend all together before the needs of charity. Or regarding the canon you quoted, in opposition to what the Church actually teaches.

    As you said, however, family dynamics are different and mutual charity is always in order.

  • Mary

    “I honestly thought it’s too bad I could never go so far as to videotape SOME of what I witness.”

    I think your problem is a severe case of: “looking down your nose at others.” I hear it can be cured by: “paying attention to the Mass and Christ in the Eucharist.”

    Peace.

  • Micaela

    Haley, I praise God that your parish makes you feel welcome and your children loved. Most parishes I have attended have been this way, although you may not know it from the comments below.

    I’d like to take a moment to remind all the commenters that you do not know people’s stories. Maybe the kid who was eating cereal during Mass was diabetic and had to eat every 30 minutes or risk serious health problems. Perhaps the child who is yelling has autism or a sensory processing disorder. Perhaps the old man who hums has a nervous tic. Only the Author of our life knows people’s innermost needs and workings.

    One thing we ARE able to discover, however, is what God is teaching US in that moment. Maybe we need to work on our patience, or our charity, or our compassion. I can pretty much guarantee God isn’t hoping we spend more time judging each other. Other than that, only you can figure out what God wants from you.

    One final thought: if we are responsible for pushing people away(through our judgmentalism or negativity) from the Church- from Jesus – we will answer for that after our death. Love people. Love them and love them and LOVE them, no matter how much they annoy you. It will make you a better person and you never know what it will do for others.

    Pax Christi-
    Micaela

  • Mary

    You see, your puritan “ideals” are born from the modern-day idea that boobs are for sexual attraction only. Breasts are PRIMARILY used for breastfeeding. That’s why they exist. Not to make pocket rockets. But to feed children in the way GOD intended.

    The problem is with society, and people like you–not with parents who are following God’s plan.

  • Mary

    You have such hatred for your fellow man.

  • Don Damien Orbea

    because of my ignorance and unbelief, I had an intractable dislike for children. When I came to JESUS 20 years ago at the age of 44, HE replaced, through HIS HOLY SPIRIT, that feeling/belief with empathy, understanding and compassionate love with awe for the miracle of life. GOD bless parents and children.

  • Don Damien Orbea

    refreshing insight-one mans trial is another mans lesson-cultures vary as do experiences-GOD is WONDERFUL

  • Don Damien Orbea

    LOVE is the answer to all things-LOVE GOD with your whole heart, mind, body and spirit and LOVE your neighbor as “I have LOVED you” said JESUS.

  • Don Damien Orbea

    enlightening exchange-JESUS said in Luke “If anyone desires to come after me, deny yourself daily, PICK UP YOUR CROSS and follow ME. ” Some crosses are easier to bear than others-only you know your life but as with any cross HE will not allow us to be tried and tested beyond what we can bear. GOD BLESS YOU

  • Don Damien Orbea

    Im a Jew and a Christian of European descent-(children should be seen and not heard)-but I consider OTHERS before myself and though I fail often, GOD’s good work that HE has begun in me will continue and therein lies hope.

  • Don Damien Orbea

    Amen-”Assuming” makes an (donkey) out of u and me-THANK GOD for JESUS CHRIST

  • Don Damien Orbea

    I was “corrected” so often as a child that I HATED GOD. When I was in college, my dad was dying of cancer and he told me how sorry he was for the extremes he visited when “correcting” me. I HATED HIM then but when I came to know JESUS, I forgave him posthumously and miss him dearly. I now “love much because I am forgiven much.” EVERY DAY I see/hear so much hatred, hurt and wreckage that I cry out to JESUS in anguish. Thank GOD for the peace that surpasses all understanding and a tender heart. I have a WONDERFUL life.

  • Don Damien Orbea

    amen, “A little leaven leavens the whole loaf”

  • Don Damien Orbea

    “there is a way that seems right to every man, but GOD knows the heart.” remember, “there is none righteous, no not one” and we can all learn from each other at the table of humility, grace and LOVE

  • QuoVadisAnima

    I understand – my heart aches when I see people cluelessly walk past Jesus in the Tabernacle without so much as even a reverent glance! They just don’t know any better. And you’re right, they need to be taught.

    So it seems like what we need is perhaps a sort of campaign directed to our bishops asking them to have the priests instruct the people on proper Church ‘etiquette’! What do you think?

  • http://www.CatholicAllYear.com/ Kendra Tierney

    Haley, thanks so much for writing this. It’s clear from the comment-pocalypse here that it’s something we as Catholics need to be talking more about. I have been on the receiving end of many really kind comments about my kids in Mass, and a few really uncharitable comments as well. But I know that what we as parents are doing, bringing our children up with the Mass is worth the occasional mortifications that come with it.

    I’m trying to do a better job myself of saying something kind to young families I see bringing their children to Mass. Even if the kids had a tough day. I know how important it was for me to hear those affirmations when I had only young children.

  • South of Reality

    Yesterday at mass I had the kid behind pound me on the back several times with his picture book. The father did nothing. A few weeks ago at mass I was in a pew with two kids having a war with their goldfish crackers. The parents did nothing. Then there’s the constant noise and chatter among kids who are old enough to know better and could be instructed to do so by their parents.

    What’s interesting is that if I were at a movie theater or concert, the parents who had had no hesitation in controlling their children; but at mass they feel entitled to it. Why should we enforce lower standards at Church?

    I’ve raised six children. When they were too young to behave, I had a very simple solution: I stayed home with them while my wife went to mass. Then, I went to a different service. No problem. Of course, going to two separate masses might just ruin some people’s Sundays and we can’t have that.

    When I did take them, I sat near the back at the end of a pew and when they started to act up: out we went until the behavior improved. I didn’t accept bad behavior because I thought was entitled and they learned very quickly how to behave because nothing less than that was acceptable.

    Look, I never had and never will give dirty looks or directly reprimand parents who allow that kind of behavior on the part of their children; but don’t take my silence as some kind of endorsement for lax or lazy parenting.

  • bsjy

    It is I who gets distracted and I can work on solving the problem. The harder solution is to concentrate more, to look within myself for the response to the issue that exists largely within myself. I can practice the self-control I prize in others.

    It is also I that chooses to abandon my role as servant leader of my “domestic church” and not help my children learn self-control. The harder solution is to reach over one more time and quietly teach my child that this is not the place to lose self-control, that we can be still just a little bit longer.

    The distractions are used by the Enemy to take us away from the central reality of the Mass: we come to Mass to worship and adore Jesus. We come in community to focus on Him, not each other. The cute baby, the squirming baby, the under-dressed young woman, the censorious older woman, the boys punching each other, the atonal man singing too loud; all these are God’s children whom he told me to love. The priest smiles because we are together in God’s house and we make a joyful noise. He keeps (or he should keep) the doors open the rest of the week when we can enjoy hour upon hour of holy silence, when the distractions will be different but equally present.

  • Pamela

    And let’s not forget the cell phones going off at all times during the liturgy. This is my pet peeve. I have even heard people answer their phones during Mass, instead of immediately silencing the confounded things or at least scurrying outside to take the call. Maddening!

  • Pamela

    I am not against children of any age at Mass and am tolerant and forgiving of the unpredictable outbursts of noise or straying from the pews that can occasionally take place, even from the most well-behaved child. However, I have noticed in our parish that some children are completely out of control and their parents seem oblivious. At our RCIA Rite of Acceptance two weeks ago, one child was running around the back of church and screaming at the top of her lungs, completely distracting our catechumens and candidates from this special experience and destroying all semblance of reverence for what was going on. This is not an isolated case at our parish and the priests refuse to say anything to the offenders, let alone politely suggest they retreat to the always empty cry room!
    We already see a lack of reverence in the pews from even the eldest worshipers who should know better. People reading the newspaper, people sipping on energy drinks, people blowing their noses (loudly) during the consecration, people arriving minutes before Communion and leaving immediately after, people chatting with each other (again, loudly), people wandering in and out of the sacristy who have no business other than to “say hi” to a friend who is the sacristan, cell phones incessantly going off. I shudder to think what the Mass experience will be like by the time today’s little ones grow up.

  • South of Reality

    The apple didn’t fall far from the tree I guess.

  • South of Reality

    How about this as a guide: Do not tolerate behavior on the part of your child that you wouldn’t tolerate at a movie theater, play, concert, or other public event.

    Parents CAN discipline their children in mass.

  • Rebekah Burns

    This is part of the reason we go to the church we do. There are 2 other Catholic churches in our town, but neither one seem to welcome our children as much as the one we attend. In fact, the one I went to durning my high school years feels downright hostile toward our children. (I have many other issues with that parish, but this is a large one.) Thank you for putting this into words for me. I also feel that children will never really learn how to behave in church if we don’t expose them to it. Like so many things in life, practice makes perfect (or closer to it) and that’s not going to happen if you never bring the kids to Mass.

  • South of Reality

    “Leave children at home instead of bringing them to Mass?! Leave them home with WHO?”

    With your husband. Look, my wife and I have 6 children and when they were too young to behave well in mass, I went to the 7am mass and my wife went to the 9am mass. The kids who were old enough to behave either went we me or her. When 9am mass was over, I had a nice brunch all prepared for the family. It was a way of showing the kids that Sunday mornings were special even when they were too young to appreciate going to mass.

    Not going as a family for a few years isn’t a disaster.

    “Mass is not a movie theatre”

    No, but it is a public space and respect for others is not suspended because it’s a mass. Why should the standards for behavior be LOWER at a mass than at a movie theater?

  • PGMGN

    Sad reality is that Bishops have other fish to fry. Etiquette is not looked upon as a priority. At least in my experience. Often it is the priests themselves who dismiss reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, talk about secular nonsense loudly in the sanctuary, and dismiss all manner of dress and other behavior. Not all mind you, but those seem to be in the minority.
    Walking orders are – don’t offend for fear of people leaving. It mirrors family life in many ways. Let the kids dress, talk, fraternize however they will. Don’t say a word or else they might leave home. ‘Be their friend instead of their parent.’
    Nothing like being hamstrung by your own fears of what actual parenting might do.
    Hence the overweening frustration of those seemingly sour-puss older folks who supposedly ‘don’t’ remember how difficult it is to raise kids. While this can be the case, most often it is not the case. Thing is the younger generation often doesn’t realize that by not saying NO now and disciplining their kids, they are in for a world of harder times as those kids get older. That’s why the notion of having more than 3 or 4 seems absolutely impossible.

  • PGMGN

    Oh, there is always hope. Not that I’m an advocate for children being seen and not heard. Children have much to say and are highly intelligent. For more than we give them credit for being.
    That said, they deserve the opportunity to be disciplined and given certain expectations so that their unique intelligence can grow instead of being hidden beneath a mire of unruliness.

  • PGMGN

    There’s a difference between correction and abuse, Don Damien Orbea. My goodness, while I am sorry for your experience, what do you think is being advocated here?
    Look around you. Do you not see that there is a huge lack of discipline, accountability, correction and respect for authority in our current culture? (In addition to the proper use of authority)
    Proper discipline and correction is one of the very necessary means that a parent has of communicating love to their children. Think of the 10 Commandments. Those are expressions of God’s ultimate love for us even as they are guidelines that require self-control.
    This is why God seeks to correct us as sons as it is proper sign of true love.

  • PGMGN

    That’s why I firmly believe it is the PRIESTS place to address these issues, Ashley. And they need to be addressed. And yes, stating guidelines, while not the only part of the answer, is necessary. That’s the beginning of “….how (I) would you suggest they be helped/corrected?”

    Much like making rules for driving on public roads. It is the common sense beginning of organization and working together. And I’m all of 49. Not young – doesn’t feel like it anyway – but surely not a crone – even though it does feel like that sometimes.

    And it is not just ‘young parents’ that are suffering from not listening or learning from their elders. It is society, Ashley. Note the disrespect on this thread for seemingly sour old people. That did not use to be the case in days gone by. Why? Because there were guidelines of respect and appropriate behavior.
    Don’t get me wrong. Of course the desire to toss off the admonitions of the old has ALWAYS been there. It is only in this latest age of man that actually doing so has been lauded as righteous. And what a wonderful means to disconnect those who need the most help, advice, and support from those veterans who could actually help out.
    As for LOVE being the answer. You are spot on. That is why Our Lord gave us Commandments and didn’t design parents to give birth in the woods and just move on. He wants us to have parents to correct, shape, guide, and punish when need be so that His children don’t all have to learn the hard and humiliating way. Cutting themselves off from the wisdom of their parents under the guise of misguided love. (Look to Wisdom in the Old Testament)
    Translations: GRACE builds on nature, Ashley. And having solid parents is a grace to be sure. A grace I pray every child could receive.

  • PGMGN

    Mary, it can be cured by paying attention to the Mass and Christ in the Eucharist! Well said!
    That’s why ManeeVee is desperately seeking the help of parents and priests to aid one and all in the accomplishment of the very goal you outline.

  • PGMGN

    Yes, boobs are primarily for feeding kids. That is why ‘physiologically’ they attract male attention. Because males are physiologically, despite social constructs and woman power ideology, built to seek females that are able to reproduce and care for young.
    That’s why doing so in Church, that is in an indiscreet manner, can cause rampant distraction for others. Mutual charity, please.

  • Lee

    It sounds like there could be great peace brought upon your parish if there was someone who felt compelled to bring to their attention the True Presence of Jesus Christ in their mist. The Catholic Church is the only place where this is the Truth. He is present 24/7 waiting for all to visit Him, not just during the Mass. Take time to seek Him in the quiet and encourage others.Our Father deserves our respect and our gratitude. The lack of reverence you speak of is certainly not the little children’s doings.

  • Ashley Star Hoffart

    Nursing can, and usually is, done discretely… on the other hand, I will repeat to you what I already commented once on this thread, which is: women in cultures which are the most modest and sexually conservative (moral), nurse their babies the most frequently and with least concern to “cover up”- and the same inversion to the picture you are painting is true in the small scale. As we work to help mothers connect to their babies, and to regain the lost art of breastfeeding in this culture, it is consistently the young women most exposed to and influenced by the sex culture that are not interested in nursing their babies. They aren’t embarrassed to attend, or even perform in a strip performance at a bar, but they would NEVER nurse in public, let alone a CHURCH, because breasts are OBVIOUSLY sexual objects! On the other hand, the MOST modest women, who are the least immersed in the over sexualized pop-culture have no qualms about nursing their children. They can accept their body for what it is- multi-functional. For instance, few would argue that the mouth is at LEAST as integral to intimacy between husband and wife as the breasts… yet, we are not ashamed for our mouths to be seen in public! Though in some times and places, Womens’ mouths absolutely could NOT be seen, or they would be at LEAST called out for lack of charity… or much worse. How do you feel about full Burkas? It’s the same conversation, and YES- I feel you about the modesty. I am extremely concerned with modesty, and am often surprised or slightly offended in church by even the older ladies! However, the nursing question really demands it’s own attention. The cultural hyper-sexualization of breasts (again, as opposed to, for instance, the mouth) is just that- cultural. Plenty of cultures more modest than our own are basically shirt-optional cultures for breastfeeding mothers… and do all their teenage boys suffer constant temptation and stimulation? Of course not. Now, I realize that we have to be sensible and charitable to the present culture, to the men raised with this unfortunate situation… but there is also a PRESSING need for change… why? WHY do we need our bodies, and particularly our breasts to be respected as more than merely objects of sexual gratification? Because we need breastfeeding rates to go up. For SO MANY reasons, breastfeeding is God’s beautiful design to meet so many of baby & mama’s needs and get them off to a good start. you want to decrease post partum depression? Breastfeeding. You want parents to own their God given role of parent more & kids to follow their parents instead of their peers? breastfeeding. Want to lower rates of allergies, asthma, diabetes, cancer, immunodeficiency disorders? breastfeeding. Want to give the poorest mothers in this country an extra $1500 to $2000 a year to spend on good quality food or other necessities? Breastfeeding. I applaud you for your concern for your son’s sake- and should I be blessed with a son, I am sure I will be frustrated very often by the thoughtlessness of women dressing immodestly. However, I hope he grows up seeing plenty of breastfeeding and can have a more balanced view of these miraculous organs whose PRIMARY function is the nurturing of children in a way that is SO miraculous that it has inspired millennia of art, poetry, and is even used by the LORD GOD Himself to describe His tender, near, perpetual, and all sufficient love and care for His own, “El Shaddai”- Almighty Breasts. I will try and link up a great article I read recently regarding the difficult task at hand for young men in this culture… http://natepyle.com/seeing-a-woman/#sthash.sjoojvMv.gbpl
    Love in Christ.

  • Ashley Star Hoffart

    Hi, I just wrote a large response to this kind of attitude toward breastfeeding, which I will not re-type, but hope that you will care enough to read. Just scroll up a little way… And yes, I have really struggled with not wanting to reward inappropriate behaviour by taking my kids to the “crying room” – which is often a playing room- during mass. Or sending them to childrens liturgy for that matter. Young children lack impulse control and many other aspects of higher brain functioning due to the fact that their frontal cortex is not yet up and running… so you can’t EXACTLY call it bad behaviour, but I certainly call it disrespectful and inappropriate, but even taking them out into the lobby for a stern talking to can become a silly little routine that livens up the long service… Which is why I often stay in, even when the noise or movement is getting too much, until my husband makes the call. But then I try and stay out as little time as possible… I might just walk around at the very back, behind people until the toddler calms down, then return to our seat… I don’t want them to get the idea that this environment is optional, I want them to GIVE UP, like they do in a carseat and just relax and see what they can see!

  • Pamela

    I agree, it’s not the little children’s doings at ALL. But with role models like I’ve described above, can you imagine how those little children will act in church as adults?

  • 1of2Techs

    Our current church is very tolerant of children and seem to truly treasure them. However, before we found our current church we nearly left the Catholic Church over a child/noise issue. I was Lutheran when I married but had agreed to raise our children in the Catholic faith and planned to join the church. Our son was 2 months and our daughter just barely 2. The church had a cry room but it was always completely full. Not full of just mothers with babies but entire families where the kids were 9 or 10. There was no nursery. We had been attending this church for a few months and were looking forward to becoming involved in the parish. We kept thinking that at some point someone would stop us and ask us about joining this or that group or helping with a dinner.

    One day after mass the deacon approached us. I was thinking “OK, here it is. He is going to ask us about helping with something.” I stood in stunned silences as he told us that if our children could not be quiet through mass that maybe we should keep them home.

    Now I understood why even older children were in the cry room. We didn’t attend any church for more than six months. The first day at our current church I sat hushing the children for every sound. After mass an older woman approached me, welcomed us to the church and told us what wonderful, well behaved children we had.

  • Channah

    wow. I think babies have A LOT to do with the sacred. And nursing them, has to do with the sacred. And if a man struggles with bad thoughts because he knows I’m nursing a baby UNDER A SCARF/COVER, then, I think he struggles because he knows WE ARE ALL NAKED UNDER OUR CLOTHES!
    I’m all for reverence of the sacrament. But kicking out the children, or demanding only perfect children come to mass, is like demanding only saints and perfect Christians come to church. OF COURSE not everyone coming to mass is going to be perfect at parenting (especially new parents!), and would you deny them Jesus? What if the little kid goes out and dies tomorrow in a freak accident, would you deny him participating in the mass till he was a big responsible kid? Yes, there totally should be reverence. But there should be life. And decorum=/= reverence. (Yes, we should do all we can to teach our kids decorum, but its a process, and keeping them away from Mass until they’re properly perfect is teaching them the sub-message that they should stay away from God until they’re ‘worthy’)
    I spent so much time in the dying high-churchy Episcopal churches, full of pomp and decorum and ceremony, devoid of children, devoid of holiness, devoid of real respect for the Holy.

  • Channah

    When did nursing become a dirty thing?
    Medievals (modest medieval reverent Catholics!) painted the Blessed Virgin NURSING JESUS WITHOUT A COVER…and put it on the altar screen.
    Now, I think people should use covers. But if people have a problem with someone nursing UNDER a cover, did it ever occur to you we are naked UNDER our clothes?

  • Don Damien Orbea

    “out of the mouths of babes” Scripture says-thank you for your thoughtful comments. I was raised very strictly-my dad believed that children should be seen and not heard. I am thankful that GOD raised me up and I do not think that way-children are incredibly bright and their views are welcomed.

  • Daniel Salisbury

    When masses are loud because of screaming children, I sometimes think about how loud a mass must be to the Lord. Imagine a room full of people whose interior lives are open to him. Where as I hear a child crying about her toy being taken, the Lord hears a man inwardly weeping over his pornography addiction, or a family who haven’t been able to have a civil conversation for a week and are now crammed in a pew.

    Crying children serve to humble me, because they are often crying out of sin. They are vocalizing the inner lives of the whole congregation. We come in weeping because we are selfish and our lives are painful, and God reaches out to us through all of that.

    How dare I sit there haughtily, when my own spirit is groaning and gnashing teeth and crying out “mine mine mine me me me,” every day of my life because of sin. God is in the room, but the children are shortsighted and ignorant and more concerned with whatever is in front of them. I see that and I realize that that’s exactly how I am. But the Lord calls the children to him and he calls me to him. In my relationship with God, I kick and scream 10 times and much as any baby in any mass. He loves us and breaks through all of that.

  • PGMGN

    My goodness we are breast and milk and baby obsessed here to the exclusion of reality.

    There is more to life than regaining the ‘art of breastfeeding.’ That is a natural function just like the ‘natural’ attraction men have to breasts. How about regaining the natural sense of modesty to keep that which should be private, private. (And I breastfed my children.)

    Since you don’t have a teen son, you do not understand the reality – that’s the physiological reality – that men (especially teen boys) are attracted to signs of fertility, specifically hips, butts, and boobs – sorry. And no, that is not only due to the adverse affects of culture/society. It is nothing new. (That’s why the culture uses it to hook and sell people.)

    And while I do not advocate Burkas for women, I would like you to note that in biblical times there was a separation of men and women, a covering, an acknowledgement that men are men and react as men and women are women and do react as women. Nothing sinful in it, not if you don’t act on it, but the ‘reactions’ are normal.

    That is why I advocate for breastfeed modestly or keep it to yourself as it is a wonderful, intimate, bonding ritual between mother and child. I’m in no way advocating that the women who breast fed are trying to be overtly sexual. Of course not. But whereas they do not perceive their ‘special bond’ to be anything but wholesome and sweet and healthy, there are those at mass who will, despite themselves, physiologically respond to what they see. That’s nature.

    Men are hard wired that way and have to learn via grace to control these natural urges that, in themselves, are part of what perpetuates the human species. Just like breast feeding. After all, if there is no attraction, THERE WOULD BE NO BABY AND NO CAUSE TO FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO BREAST FEED.

    So stop looking for so much information in lovely articles and studies and start looking around you and listening to those folks that are asking for mercy. Many of whom have already been there, done that, and learned. Not just your pet breastfeeding group that is intent on pressing an agenda that happens to fit in with those of your age dynamic.

    So the ‘hope’ you have for your future son had better be tempered with a good dose of reality or else you’ll be putting him through a good deal of emotional/spiritual pain. That is precisely why Holy Mother Church advocates MODESTY. That is precisely why ‘modest’ breastfeeding should be the watchword to show young men that while feeding a child is good there is also something highly intimate and almost sacred involved. THAT is why it is veiled. It is respected. And not for all to view.

    As for the difficult task of raising boys, you can hold the article. I’m living it. And I’m not a greenhorn with ‘hopes, and dreams, and aspirations.’ That has long passed

  • PGMGN

    Ashley – gain some real time experience with more than one child before you go forth citing higher brain functions and impulse control. The ‘struggle’ you experience and game playing of your child learning all the tricks of getting out of the whole service is the entire POINT! That is the job of parenting.

    Also, very kind of you to leave it to your husband to MAKE THE CALL. I bet he loves that. Sorry for the sarcasm, but I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t obsess about taking a misbehaving child (for whatever reason) outside.

    And again, as for breastfeeding breasts or breasts revealed by a woman wearing a low cut top – get real. Get a son going through puberty. Or ask your husband for a realtime talk about what guys experience regarding boobs.

    The touchy feely notion that it’s all social engineering that leads men to view boobs in a sexual way is just more social manipulation dung. By your way of thinking, we could all just walk around naked because the human body is not overtly a sexual thing. It’s primary purpose is to house the soul.

    Is that esoteric enough for you? Probably not as you are young with what looks to be one small child. You will learn. As for not calling behavior bad – YES – you can. This you will also learn, I hope. Because while you are dismissing behaviors because of a supposed belief that your child doesn’t have quite the right level of impulse control, your child is studying you like a PHD and learning every weakness they can exploit. Hence, your husband having to make the call. I thank the Lord that you have a husband to do as much or else there would be nothing but estrogen laden excuses for goodness knows what as time went by.

  • PGMGN

    Ashley, you are a young mother in the flush of learning. And nobody is afraid of anything. Stop sermonizing, please, and preaching to those who have already gone through the stage that has you so tickled.
    Everybody in this forum likely has experience with developmental stages, primarily because we’ve all lived through them – personally and in parenting.
    As for combativeness pricking your conscience, prepare for that in spades as your child grows. Giving your children space for developmental growth and expectations is all well and good, but often translates into kids taking full advantage of their parents.
    They’re smarter than you think!

  • FamilyLove

    Beautifully said. Carrying a child through pregnancy and nursing that child give a temporal meaning to the theological promise of Jesus Christ: this is my body, given up for you.

  • pas

    I enjoyed this article & I love how many members of the author’s congregation have complimented her & even taken her children under their wings. I am, however, frustrated by how few Catholic churches even have a nursery. As a stay-at-home mom with a part-time freelance business & a very big personal struggle that has been going on for several years despite various efforts to remedy it, I need to be able to take in the homilies’ messages on Sunday mornings & spend some time quietly reflecting & praying; not being distracted the entire time myself by hushing my children and/or taking them out into the hall. In fact, it is for this very reason that I drive 45 minutes each way to a Catholic church that has a nursery. I can appreciate the benefits of what children get from sitting in Mass, but for me right now, I hope that the routine of going to church, the prayers we say at home & the religious messages that my three-year-old is getting in preschool each weekday morning will suffice until he & his younger sister are better able to control themselves during Sunday services. Mothers need a little downtime too; aside from those who are Super Moms, it makes us better parents.

  • PGMGN

    Well said, pas. For what it’s worth, soak up every ounce of quiet prayer you can, it will gird you up for the ongoing struggle that is motherhood. The least of which is the little kid portion – believe it or not.

  • Brian

    I’ve read through a couple of your articles so far and I’ve loved every one! The person who posted this (and thus exposed me to this blog) ended up starting up a decent Facebook debate (which, admittedly, I prolonged quite a bit). I know it has given strength to several mothers, my wife included. Since there’s been some debate on here I figured I’d add in what I learned through the discussion. I learned that I apparently have the loud kids at Mass and I learned that a compromise might be stepping out after one minute of the child screaming inconsolably. I also learned that my 4 year old can say the Lord’s Prayer without help (even if he doesn’t know all the words). I’ll take that trade off any day. Don’t let anyone say that your kids aren’t getting anything out of being there because they certainly are.

  • http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/ Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas

    That’s very kind, Brian. Thank you.

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