They said my kids don’t belong at Mass. Now what?

Hey, parents, how did Mass go yesterday?

Let me guess: Everyone was exhausted and cranky, the kids were still sticky and vibrating with last night’s sugar, several faces showed traces of whiskers and fake blood, and all in all, you kept thinking how nice it would be to venerate the saints any other day at all but this one.

The only thing that could make it harder? If another parishioner went out of his way to make it harder. Yes, it happens! If it’s never happened to you, you’re lucky.

Yesterday, a mom asked me how to get yourself to go back to Mass after it happens once too often. It wasn’t just a passing glare, sigh, or stink-eye from a crabby fellow Catholic, she explained, but the person actually hissed in her ear that her children do not belong at Mass. That she is doing a bad job as a mother. Incredibly, the complainer sought her out after Mass to double down and say it again: Your children don’t belong here. Do not bring them here.

Let’s be clear: This is a message straight from Hell. The Mass is humanity’s main source of grace and life, and if no one goes, then no one will have grace or life. Telling parents their kids don’t belong at Mass is like trampling down every seedling you find, then clucking your tongue over the poor harvest.

 

So, yes, children belong. Yes, even if there is a cry room and a nursery and a separate kiddie liturgy available.

You as parents may believe this with at least part of your heart. But what do you do about the people who don’t believe it? What if the prospect of setting yourself up for another public flogging next Sunday just feels crushingly impossible? You know how much you need Christ, but you also know you’re going to spend the entire hour feeling tense, angry, guilty, and defensive; and it’s not as if the kids are begging to be there, either. You know you need what Christ has to offer, and you know grace isn’t a matter of how you feel. But even knowing all of this, sometimes it just seems pointless, utterly pointless, to go. What to do?

Sometime before Sunday, talk to the priest. This may or may not work. Some priests over-value silence, and some underestimate how hard it is to keep kids quiet. Priests are human, and no human responds well to all situations.

But many priests will be horrified to hear that families are being discouraged from coming to Mass. When the pastor insists from the pulpit that true pro-lifers want, need, and love children in the pews, and insists that we act that way, it changes the culture of the parish. So ask your priest if he will say something, or put a note in the bulletin, or distribute some of these encouraging cards. Have more than one conversation, if need be. Yes, the priest is busy, but your complaint is not trivial.

Make a simple strategy ahead of time. Not necessarily a plan for how to manage your kids (although that’s important too; although some mornings, not arriving naked is triumph enough), but a plan for how to respond if someone does harass you. When I’m already frazzled by a rambunctious toddler, I’m not going to be able to improvise a sensible response to an equally unreasonable adult (hereafter referred to as “The Hisser”). It’s invaluable to have an all-purpose tool at the ready.

Suggested stock phrases: “Thanks, we’re doing the best we can!” or “We’re having a rough time. Let’s pray for each other” or “Go back to hell where you came from, you old warthog.” Well, maybe not that last one. But you get the idea. Smile blandly, stare just over The Hisser’s left ear, and repeat, repeat, repeat. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Just having a ready response and sticking to it helps you regain control.

Third, enlist help. This is a tall order, I know. If you had an army of helpers surrounding you, you wouldn’t be struggling to begin with. But often, we see our pews as little isolation chambers, everyone turning up with their own personal issues; but the Mass is supposed to be a communal experience that extends beyond the sign of peace. So look around and see if you can spot a sympathetic person to act as a buffer between you and The Hisser. People pick on parents because they can. If they discover those parents have bodyguards, they will be less bold.

Find a spot close to another family or a friendly elderly couple. Gather up your courage and whisper, “Hey, listen, could you help me out? I’m trying to teach my kids to behave, but sometimes they get away from me, and it would be so great to feel like not everyone’s mad at me! If anyone gives us a hard time, could I ask you to stick up for me?” It’s weird, I know. But it’s hard to imagine someone turning you down, and many people (especially those who wish they had kids of their own) might be honored.

Prepare spiritually. This one is indispensable. We rightly think of the Mass as a meal where we are nourished (although that nourishment may not be a lovely, cozy experience every time), but it is also where we go to offer ourselves to the Father along with Christ. The Eucharist may be an unbloody sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean we won’t come away feeling bruised.

Sometimes Good Friday feels more present than Easter Sunday — even at Mass. Remember that Christ, too, was mocked. Christ, too, was castigated. Christ was told that He didn’t understand how to worship properly, that He was dishonoring God’s house, that He didn’t belong there. He knew it wasn’t true, but don’t you think it hurt Him anyway?

As you enter the Church, offer what is to come up to the Father. It is real suffering, and a worthy sacrifice to dedicate.

 

Remember you won’t live in Babyland forever. I cannot say it often enough: This stage passes. You may feel like you’re going to spend the rest of your life getting dressed up once a week to be screamed at in a drafty lobby for an hour, but it will pass. Kids grow up. They turn a corner. Even if you have baby after baby, the older kids can help with the younger kids, and they can set a wonderful example for their siblings, too. Babyland is intense, but it is not a life sentence.

You may have to find another parish. I believe in blooming where you’re planted, and I believe in improving the soil when you can. But some churches simply don’t want kids. So shake the dust from your sandals and let them have their wish — not vindictively, but because you and your kids don’t deserve to feel like pariahs simply for existing.

Once you’ve found a friendlier home, let the old pastor know why you’ve left, in as civil terms as you can manage. If enough people do this, he’ll notice the trend and maybe turn things around before it’s too late.

Just don’t leave the Catholic Church altogether! If you have left for a time, do come back. No welcome is warm enough to substitute for the sacraments.

***
Image: Detail of window in Lansdowne Church in Glasgow; photo by Tom Donald via Flickr (Creative Commons)

122 thoughts on “They said my kids don’t belong at Mass. Now what?”

  1. For the record learn how to control and discipline your children. It takes effort and constant attention. If your children act up, discipline them. If they continue, remove them from the Church for that evening and punish them when you are home.

    While we want you and your children at Church we don’t want your out of control, undisciplined, wildabeasts running amok.

    It’s tough enough for us to keep our own kids under control

    Thank you

    1. “wildabeasts” oh my don’t call them wildabests. oh wait the writer called that lady a warthog. which is worse wildabeast or warthog? hmmm. well maybe since we are talking about children the wildabeast is worse. But I’m going to go out on a limb and I’ll bet the “warthog” was a little old lady. so it’s close.

      But seriously the name calling should stop. in fact it shouldn’t have started to begin with and that is on the one who wrote this piece. “hisser”, “warthod”, “straight our of hell”

  2. My goodness, what an exciting thread! Hissers, warthogs, tired parents, good parents, bad pastors, good pastors, Cheerios, bathroom breaks, whether being gay is a sin, Martha and Mary, so many different things all going on at once!

    The confusion over who is responding to whom I think is greater than usual, so for clarity I would like to suggest that if you are responding to a particular statement that you quote that statement, or at least reference the person’s name.

    I want to respond to a lot of the points, but right now I have to say something about Martha and Mary. With all due respect to the many, many homilies I have heard on the subject, I have spent many years meditating on this as person who can say “although I must have Martha’s hands, I have a Mary mind.” I am convinced that the point of the story is NOT, as it is often said, the conflict between the active life and the contemplative life. I think the point is this: Jesus very said “Martha, only one thing is necessary.” Now, I don’t think that any Catholic can believe for an instant that the “one thing” is a contemplative life, or any particular vocation. The “one thing” can only be Jesus himself. If we are focused on Jesus Himself, no matter what we are doing, we are not going to be so critical of what other people are doing. If Martha had been focused on her active life as a gift from her to Jesus, she would not have been upset that Mary was not sharing the work with her, she would have been glad that she got to do it all.

    1. Excellent point Becky. Yes that is the point of the story. But I would add that it is extremely difficult to focus on Jesus with a screaming baby right behind you. Note I did not say a baby playing with a small toy or a baby that has to go to the bathroom or a baby that is doing any other number of things that make a small amount of noise. I said a screaming baby and more specifically I am referring to the parent of the screaming baby who is doing nothing. With that parent doing nothing it is asking the impossible (or in fact asking true saintliness) for others to continue to focus on Jesus. They are being pulled out of the mass by that parent who is doing nothing. It is mentioned in the article that an action by a parishioner was “satanic” but in fact pulling people out of the mass through this type of inaction is much closer to satanic. And please note I am not the one who brought up the term satanic. the writer of the article did.

  3. CHildren most certainly DO belong at MASS. I have known some children, mine in particular, that have more maturity and social grace than people three times their own age, so JUDGE NOT. This was most certainly a message straight from HELL, because Jesus himself commanded us when HE said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Whoever dares to chastise a mother with a unruly brood DURING MASS has it coming….

  4. I’m confused why the “hisser” is an “old warthog” You believe that person should have to listen to crying out of control babies at a Mass? That seems very strange to me. The mass is a place to encounter our Lord not a place to have to listen to a lot of screaming. I just don’t get it. You seem very knowledgeable about the nature of the mass and yet you make the “warthog” out to be the bad guy. She should not HAVE to listen to you children crying. It doesn’t make her a bad person that she doesn’t want to listen to your children. She wants to meditate on the mystery of the mass and you are keeping her from doing that. You have thought of that correct? No doubt it would be heroic of her if she was more like St Therese and did and said nothing just as St Therese did and said nothing as water was being splashed in her face. But remember YOU are the one doing the splashing not her and not even your children. She is not an”old warthog” just because she is not able to rise to that heroic level, but yes you are still the one doing the splashing. Hisser, old warthog, unbelievable.

    1. What an outrageous comment! Families belong at mass. Families include babies and small children. Babies and small children sometimes make noise. Dealing with that patiently is more virtuous than any amount of meditation.

      1. incorrect. prayer is the single most important thing that we do. and Mass is the single most important prayer. if you don’t understand that then you need to learn a little more. it is the difference between Mary and Martha and our Lord said Mary choice the better part. Meditation (really entering into the mystery) is most important. “Go and glorify the Lord” is what is said at the end of mass and we do that by being kind and charitable to each other and our neighbor but while you are their we should be focusing on the Lord. Doing that quietly is being kind and charitable to each other. Period. I am done with this discussion. FOCUS on the Lord and keep as quiet as possible.

          1. your confused. you realize that that is the King of the Universe up there correct. If you were going to an Inauguration of a King or a King’s wedding do you think it would be appropriate to allow your baby to scream away during the ceremony and then call the people around you “hissers and warthogs” because they are annoyed at You Not the baby…You. Get real. Families do belong at Mass. Most definitely. Quietly! If you are having a hard time doing this then pray on it. And then pray some more and then pray some more. You will find the answer. But me being pulled out of the mass is Not the answer.

        1. Worship is the single most important thing we do at Divine Liturgy. Which is why it is the vocation of parents to bring their children to Divine liturgy or mass and form them spiritually by teaching them community prayer and worship of the Creator.

          Likewise, it is the vocation of the virgin to assist parents in teaching their children Divine worship. That is, those called to holy orders or to religious life are called not for their own sake, but for the sake of the wider Christian community.

          In fact this is a historical difference between Catholicism & Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. In Protestantism the traditional focus is upon one’s individual relationship with God, whereas Catholicism and Orthodoxy traditionally focus the communal relationship with God.

          That being said, for those for whom absolute contemplation without any distraction is an absolute must, the Church has this wonderful vocation in which one is consecrated to the cloistered life whether it be monasteries for men or convents for women. Here, male and women religious devote their entire day to contemplative prayer, free from any outside distraction including members of the opposite sex or children.

          Which brings us to your invocation of Mary (Magdalene) over Martha. It is only the gnostic tradition (most recently repeated by Dan Brown) that holds Mary Magdalene married Christ after the events of the four gospels, escaped to the coast of France on a long honeymoon, and there bore his children. In contrast, Christian tradition holds that St Mary Magdalene post-Ascension became a hermit and lived alone in a cave for 30 years so that she could devote herself exclusively to prayer.

          Yes, Christ told Martha that Mary had chosen the better part. But Our Lord did not denigrate the lesser part chosen by Martha, nor did He denigrate Martha for choosing it. Moreover, by tradition, Mary truly chose the better part. She did not hang around in Catholic comboxes denigrating Marthas for doing their part. Rather she forsook all, went into a cave, and spent the rest of her life (30 years) as a hermit truly consecrating herself to prayer and contemplation.

          1. bringing up the gnostic belief that our Lord married Mary is weird. Not sure why you mentioned that. I gave no hint of that strange and erroneous belief.

          2. Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, is NOT the same person as Mary Magdalene, and MM is not the same person as the woman the Gospel simply calls ‘the sinner’.

        2. “you realize that that is the King of the Universe up there correct. If you were going to an Inauguration of a King or a King’s wedding do you think it would be appropriate to allow your baby to scream away during the ceremony and then call the people around you ‘hissers and warthogs'”

          You obviously are not experienced with royalty. Actually living in a constitutional monarchy I can tell you that royalty are very child friendly–especially Prince William and Duchess Kate, whose public photos have included them soothing their own cranky royal toddlers at public appearances, as well as giving them baths.

          In fact, here’s an old photo of Princess Diana trying to distract an infant Prince Harry from making cheeky faces at a public event:

          https://cdn-03.independent.ie/incoming/article35838434.ece/eb05d/AUTOCROP/w620/george%20william%205.jpg

          I would say His Royal Highness, despite a few bumps as a teenager and young man, has grown into a courageous representative of the British Commonwealth. Not only is His Royal Highness the first British royal in several centuries to personally lead His soldiers into combat, having served in Afghanistan, but his personal service and attention to wounded veterans is recognized worldwide. In fact he recently led a team of wounded veterans on camping expedition to the South Pole.

          More importantly, in this particular case we have the words of Prince Dauphin himself, who states: “Suffer not the little children to come unto me…”

    2. As has been mentioned elsewhere, you can find a quiet Mass early in the morning, at a convent or monastery, or at a seniors’ community. Or maybe you can find a parish that has very few children. They’re dying out, because they aren’t pulling in parishioners who are producing future parishioners, but they’re still out there — for now.

    3. Matt, do you believe that Christ, our Lord and King of the universe, desires that children worship our God and Father in the Holy Sacrifice?

      1. you expect me to answer your questions but you have not answered mine. But to answer your question (even though you have not given me the same consideration)…of course… our Lord says “Suffer the little children to come onto me” however you must also take into account what I have said previously and keep in mind that we are there to unite In Chirst. In order to unite In Christ we must enter into the Mystery that is taking place. You make it extremely extremely difficult to do if you are allowing screaming to occur in my ear as I am attempting to do that. The entire issue is not about your children, it is about You. You are the one who is being rude to the person next to you. Not your children.

        1. The mystery taking place is Christ gathering (ekklesia) the Church from throughout time and space, into His eternal presence. This is why the Eucharist is not only Christ’s Real Presence but that of the post-resurrectional Christ who has ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. In essence, within the Divine Liturgy is a rupture between time & space on one side, and eternity on the other, and Eternity is made present within our earthly reality of time and space.

          Within this gathering (ekklesia) are babies and toddlers.

          Again, as Christ said, “Suffer not the little children…”

          1. I don’t deny that!! It seems like you are not trying to understand what I am saying. Stop throwing up straw men and pay attention!

          2. look I was annoyed in my last response but it because you are making silly points. How in the world could you possibly come to the conclusion that I don’t think that children are part of the paschal mystery when I just said that Christ said “suffer the little children…” Such ridicules. Don’t bother directly responding to this question. this line of thinking is a red herring and a straw man. the issue is not the children the issue is the rudeness of the parents.

        2. Matt,

          First, please note that you seem to have replied to my question as if it were another post from Pete. I had never engaged you before my question, and you had never asked me any questions. This is, hopefully, a good “wake up call” to prayerfully reflect upon whether or not you aren’t getting caught up in the passion of this discussion and failing to read others’ posts with the diligence that charity demands.

          Second, I’m glad to hear that you believe children should be at Mass. I also want you to know that I agree with you on the most fundamental level: parents need to be responsible for keeping their kids as quiet as possible, and this might mean taking the kids out sometimes if necessary. I do NOT subscribe to the idea that just because children should be at Mass it somehow means that there’s no limit on what kind of behavior of their’s is acceptable.

          That said, I want to ask how you believe that parents can keep their infants and toddlers perfectly silent? For older children, certainly parents who have fostered sound discipline in the home ought to be able to instruct their children to behave a certain way and expect that they will. However, even the most solid parent can control what their infants do only to an extremely limited degree, and for toddlers only a small bit more. Do you have any experience with infants and toddlers? If so, are/were you able to keep them perfectly quiet on command?

          As I said, I entirely support the idea that parents ought to take their kids out when the kids are getting really out of hand. However, do you think that this should apply even to the sort of soft chattering and babbling that infants and toddlers are wont to do?

          Or, to put it a different way, do you think that God would prefer a parent to go three or four years being absent for the vast majority of Mass in order to keep young children from making even the sorts of quiet noises that they tend to do constantly during these years?

          Basically, what is your proposal for parents of infants and toddlers attending Mass as the Lord commands while also keeping their children from making any noise or distraction whatsoever?

          1. Shane you are claiming or expecting me to read all of the posts and yet you obviously have not read all of my posts or you would not be asking me a part of the question you are asking. No I do not expect little children to remain perfectly silent. I said this when I said that children playing with a small toy in the pews is acceptable even if the toy is making a small amount of noise. And I repeatedly said that what I was consistently been talking about is parents of screaming children that do nothing. Also I have said that our Lord expect children to come to Him…”suffer the little children.” and again He would not be saying “suffer” if He did not expect that there would be some level of patience involved with regards to children. However this patience does not have to be super human. I do not believe he expects or requires that. Parents have responsibilities. The other does imply this when she mentions something about “hey can you help I’m trying to teach my kids to behave” but the spirit of the article does not really focus on that part of things. The spirit of the article focuses on what asses the “hissers” in the pews are. So getting back to your question…do I expect perfection? No, but I do expect them to try very hard and have a plan and especially to act when the child is getting very out of control. I am seeing and hearing (meaning the screaming) more and more that parents are doing nothing. As far as acting…if that means getting up and leaving temporally until the child settles down then so be it. Sit near the end if you know it might occur.

      1. It makes no difference who it is from. It is remarkably rude and the author of this article should thinks twice before ever writing something like that again.

  5. A few more thoughts: personally, I don’t think cry rooms and nurseries are supposed to be for the benefit of the people who demand total silence at mass. They are for the benefit of *the parents of small children themselves,* so that they can have a more relaxed and prayerful mass. Taking my small children to mass makes me hate going to mass. Its very bad for my spiritual life. I need the cry room or child care.

    I completely agree that its terrible to tell someone they *have* to use the cry room or not bring their kids. But we also shouldn’t be telling parents they *have* to bring their kids and sit up front. People act like they are doing parents a favor when they take away cry rooms and nurseries, but they are only making things harder for some of us. If someone doesn’t like the cry room or nursery, fine! Don’t use them! But don’t take them away from those of us who need them.

    It seems like these debates about bringing kids to mass always have two “sides:” those who want to take away cry rooms and nurseries, and those who demand total silence at mass and are rude to parents. My own perspective, of a parent who needs a cry room or nursery but isn’t bothered by other peoples kids at all, is almost never heard.

    1. “My own perspective, of a parent who needs a cry room or nursery but isn’t bothered by other peoples kids at all, is almost never heard.”

      From my own experience, as both a parent and someone who is often assists Father with the liturgy, yours is the position of most Catholics. The reason it is seldom heard is because most people already share it.

      1. Maybe, but it sure doesnt seem that way. And if my position is what the majority of parents want, then WHY are so mamy people trying to take away cry rooms and nurseries?!

        I mean, first we don’t use birth control on pain of mortal sin, and then we come to mass every week on pain of mortal sin, and now we’re going to be forced to bring or kids to the main church no matter how stressful it is, during the time we need spiritual sustenence the most? WHAT?!

        1. “Maybe, but it sure doesnt seem that way. And if my position is what the majority of parents want, then WHY are so mamy people trying to take away cry rooms and nurseries?!”

          I think it is because many pastors and laity today don’t understand the need of today’s parents. Where explained, however, I find the parish is usually supportive. Those that are not deserve to die off.

    2. I thought cry rooms were for teenagers who are trying to find the furthest away corner to hide from God and their parents. It is a wonderful place for teens until the most psychologically damaging and scaring event of their life takes place: the sign of peace. If you want to keep the majority of teens out of the “teen room” then position 2 “uncool” boys inside. All the other teens, especially girls, will avoid it. However,If you want to corral the “hope of tomorrow”, position 2 cute girls in there, then you can trap all the boys and direct the homily to them as the speakers are really loud in there.

  6. I’m surprised not to see any comments about the few parents who don’t even attempt to control their children. We don’t have any problem whatsoever with Moms and Dads who actually pay attention to their children during Mass. But we are too often seated in the vicinity of a Mom who is facing toward the altar while her children (usually two) are running up and down ON the pew behind her, often with toys a-flying, usually facing the occupants of the pew behind. Mom makes no attempt to discipline the kids, and, oh, how sorry for them I feel.

    The other pet peeve is the parent who takes the child to the restroom every.single.Mass at usually the same point in the Mass.

    The folks who come to Mass with their brood and are engaged with them and are obviously trying to keep them engaged are not a problem … quite the contrary. But the parents who are not connecting with the children or who are allowing themselves to be controlled are the issue.

      1. ^This^

        Especially with seven children. Especially when one has to travel some distance to attend Divine Liturgy. Especially when our liturgies in the East can average an-hour-and-a-half to two hours.

        1. In my weaker moments, I kind of feel that people who complain about kids in church shouldn’t be welcome at Mass, not the other way around.

          I have four kids (1 to 10 yrs), two of whom beg to go to the bathroom during Mass on a very regular basis. My first question to each of them is whether they can hold it. And of course, the reply is “No, it’s an emergency.” And I ask why they didn’t go when I asked them to before, and the inevitable answer is, “I didn’t have to go then!”

          If I take them, they wind up actually using the restroom. So the question is, would you rather my four year old pee all over the pew in front of you, or would you rather I take them to the bathroom?

          1. who is complaining about a child going to the bathroom? strange example. another straw man argument. we are talking about children screaming at mass and the parents doing nothing. Screaming. not playing with cheerios. screaming. not quietly playing with toys and the toys making a small amount of noise. screaming and parents doing nothing. is that clear enough.

          2. Matt, did you not read the thread to which you are responding?

            Elsie Arsie kicked it off stating: “The other pet peeve is the parent who takes the child to the restroom every.single.Mass at usually the same point in the Mass.”

            This confirms the suspicion of others that you are a troll.

          3. what are you talking about? I read the article by the author and I have read posts replying directly to me. I haven’t read every single post. I saw no post by anyone named Elsie Arsie. if you think that makes me a troll you got that wrong.

          4. If you aren’t a troll as you claim, then go to the article page and read the chain of comments that led to the current conversation in which you replied. It begins with Elsie stating a pet peeve of hers are parents who bring their kids to the bathroom during mass.

          5. Miss Betsy get real. I’m not about to prove anything to you. Any reasonable person can see that I’m far from a troll. so engage in a logical discussion or don’t respond to me.

          6. You claimed that nobody raised an issue that was clearly raised at the origin of this sub-thread. How is one suppose to interpret this?

    1. I have always believed – before I had kids, during the several years when I was taking my God-daughter and her brother to Mass most Sundays, and now that I have children of my own – that the “kids at Mass” issue is one that cuts both ways. No parent ought ever be spoken to in the way that this “hisser” did and nobody ought to be scolding parents for having their kids at Mass, whether the kids are perfectly behaved or perfectly horrible. Kids belong at Mass, quiet, noisy, and in between. At the same time, parents should not let this fact serve as an excuse for not being considerate of others. If your kid is making an absolute ruckus, take him into the cry room, or the vestibule, or do *something* other than stubbornly sit there and say, “kids belong at Mass so I have no responsibility to worry about how my child is affecting other people.” It goes both ways.

      I say that as a preface to this: there is much that’s right with your comment, Elsie, but also much that’s an example of the very sort of unfortunate perspective that Simcha’s piece is about. If, for example, you’re talking about five or six year olds, then by all means I think it’s reasonable to expect parents to be working to keep their kids paying attention, facing the Altar, sitting (at least mostly) still, etc.

      If you’re talking about two or three year olds… well… I don’t know: perhaps you’ve never had one. I assure you that for most children – including those whose homes are places of discipline, even at this young age – trying to force your two year old to face the altar and sit in the same place without moving for a 45 minute long Mass is going to make things much, much, much more distracting to eveybody else. The next time you see a two year old being allowed to walk up and down an empty row, to turn around and look at the things and people behind her, etc., consider that there’s a good chance that the parent is letting the two year old do that because it’s by far the least distracting thing the child might do in the middle of Mass.

      I *completely* understand the desire to have a more contemplative and distraction free experience of Mass. As the parent of two kids under two, I sure as heck would like to have one! All kidding aside, though, before having kids or Godkids to take care of at Mass, I certainly wanted this, and so if something was distracting me – kids looking at me, a young lady dressed more appropriately for the beach than Mass, a couple of little league parents chattering about their kids league drama, etc. – I did what any adult can do and moved to a different pew. I also tried to avoid sitting near potential distractions when walking into Mass.

      In her autobiography, Therese of Lisieux wrote about how she was at first very frustrated with some other sister(s) being distracting during Mass but that she then realized that the right thing to do was not to worry about them or be upset with them, but simply to dedicate herself even more to focusing on Christ. If she can do that where adults are concerned, we can do it for little kids.

      1. “if something was distracting me – kids looking at me, a young lady dressed more appropriately for the beach than Mass, a couple of little league parents chattering about their kids league drama, etc. – I did what any adult can do and moved to a different pew. I also tried to avoid sitting near potential distractions when walking into Mass.”

        My suggestion for anyone wanting fewer kids as distractions at mass is to find an early mass, or one in a convent or retirement home.

    2. Whoa. Now I’m supposed to keep my toddlers quiet, be perfectly attentive to them, make sure they don’t look at the people behind them, and magically stop them from needing the bathroom? I am the mom whose kid has to go at the same time every Sunday. Actually, he goes poop at 9:50 every day, so if you know how the modify that, I’m all ears, but until then I don’t control his bowels. Should I just let him poop in his pants? Is that better?

  7. Sigh, mu comments keep being eaten. Trying this for the third time…

    Are there any other parents who NEED a cry room or nursery?! I dont know what I would do without our cry room. I really resent people trying to take it away. As a parent of small children, I feel much *less* welcome without a cry room. I am not bothered at all by other peoples kids at mass. I just wish more people stood up for us parents who WANT a cry room. Dont take away my cry room!!!!!

  8. We must be tolerant of each other’s sins, right?

    There are Catholics who would “affirm” a 13 year old’s “gayness”, so really, should’t we affirm the Hisser as well? Perhaps have a Hisser pride parade? 😉

    Personally, I like to hear crying children. Even when they are sitting right next to me, kicking my leg. The alternative is so frightening that I rejoice at their presence.

    Hey, that’s what a missal is for, after all. Other than the homily, you can follow along, yes? I mean, after all, the deaf can go to Mass, too.

    1. I guess you didn’t get the memo that it’s not a sin to be gay, eh John? Feelings and actions are two different things.

      I often ponder how many surprises will await us at our final judgement.

      It’s not a sin to be attracted to others. It is however a sin to look down upon others. Original sin must have deprived us of the attraction for all human beings, that we originally were intended to have.

      Can you imagine how many Church ladies and Manly men would face plant if God ushered in the “gays” before anybody else? They’d consider it such a insultingly filthy proposition. Eventually it would dawn on them in purgatory that they generally hated people too much to draw near to the grand affirmation that each and every one of us is passionately loved by God.

      That sweet, kind boy that thinks he is “bi” might be closer to a truth about humans than most self respecting Catholics. It’s possible. The problem with the holy rollers is that they automatically presume dirty thoughts and intentions.

      “We shall become like God.”
      -St. Paul

      1. If it is not a sin to be gay, it should be. We all have attractions for one another. And at a level most of us don’t recognize, that attraction is love of neighbor. To be “gay” is to pervert that love by attaching sex to it. Whether that “sex” is an act or a thought.

        1. You are woefully wrong.

          If you were stoned for every innocent attraction you had you wouldn’t have made it past 13 either. The problem with adults is they are cynical. Lots of 13-y.o.s aren’t there yet, and don’t sexualize everything like the guys that are in the media headlines (–and are very heterosexual, but clearly don’t love women).

        2. Technically, being gay itself is not considered a sin. Sex outside of marriage is, and considering the definition of marriage… but there’s a big difference between driving down the street and saying “I want ice cream” and actually going into the market and buying some.

          1. Melissa, the document you link to is exactly consistent with what CJ said. It says “homosexual inclination is not itself a sin. ” That’s also what the official catechism has said for at least 25 years. One of my pet peeves is folks who bash the Church by saying the Church teaches “gay people are going to Hell,” or that there’s no room in the Church for our gay sons and daughters. That’s not what the Church says at all and we all need to do a better job of ministering to them.

  9. I was down right nasty with one of the many hissers at my parish. My child was very well behaved in my opinion, but because he giggled for a minute during the homily this old bat came and cornered me; she got right in my face and yelled at me about my child’s behavior being “sacrilegious and disrespectful”.
    I got right back in her face and said “How dare you call yourself a member of the Body of Christ”. I also talked to our priest about the problem, and my poor manner of handling it.
    I understand that people want to have that time with Christ during the Mass and in the Eucharist, I understand that children are learning to behave, but there is no need to be abusive to parents. We attend a dying parish, there are less than 20 children in our CCD program, the rest are 50 and over.

  10. To every parent who brings their children to mass — can I say a massive Thank You.
    My husband and I aren’t young and we sadly didn’t have children, but I love seeing families come in together (in the pews, not a cry room) and I love seeing them growing and gradually learning how to behave. On the rare occasions where there’s a serious melt down, I just remind myself that in twenty five years that might be the priest who hears my last confession or the Catholic who helps to pray my soul out of purgatory.

  11. Two time honored tactics from the Souhern Belle handbook. (1) Say,”I beg your pardon. What did you say?” At that point the person either takes the hint that what she said was unacceptable or actually does repeat herself. At which point you respond thoughtfully “That’s what I thought you said,” and walk away. (2) With great relief throw your arms around her neck saying with great enthusiasm,”You understand! You really know how restless children are and why it is so important for them to be here even when they are!!! Jesus said so after all, right? And I really do appreciate your offer of help. You’d be surprised how many people are just critical and never think what a work of mercy it is to help rather than complain!!!”

    Works every time. 😉

  12. Just ask the hissers to read Matthew 18:6 and get back to you on how you should proceed. That should take care of it.

    Missing mass is a mortal sin. It’s a parent’s job to make sure their kids understand that.

  13. I heard a priest recently say that a parish with no crying is a parish that is dying. That about sums it up, doesn’t it?! 🙂 We only have two kids, now teenagers, but I remember well that constant struggle to try not to annoy anyone else. I try to be extra friendly to families with children. That being said, our parish sadly doesn’t have a lot of small children.

  14. I love your suggestion of having a ready made reply for “Hisser” . One of the most frustrating parts of a situation is the assumption that we parents are supposed to just smile and “offer up a prayer”, when actually, it may be more charitable to correct “Hisser”‘s poor behavior. I just can’t think that fast, especially after putting in a tough Mass with a loud 3 year old. I’m usually exhausted! Having my reply ready definitely takes the pressure off. It’s also good for all children to hear themselves defended against such errors. Thanks for that suggestion.

  15. for you, if somebody labels himself or herself as bisexual, I think we need to take that person’s word for it. Directing that person to Jesus and His commandments might sound like a cop-out to him or her, plus it might sound as if we think the person is bad. We have to meet people where they are and *then* see what we can do to help them learn, right?

  16. I attend a Melkite Catholic parish, where the children are brought to Communion from the time of their Baptisms.

    As a whole, they are well behaved during Sunday School and Divine Liturgy. They get noisy, along with everyone else, during the coffee and fellowship hour, but considering they’ve been quiet for the better part of three hours, I’m not complaining too much.

    1. One thing I appreciate about our Byzantine tradition is that children learn and are encouraged to chant the responses from a young age. As well as participate in the sacraments. However, more than once I have distracted a bored child by asking them to count the number of angels written into the iconostasis.

  17. Just wanted to add that it might be well worth sharing with the parish priest(s) the mom’s experience with the “hisser.” In our parish, I have heard them mention (from the pulpit) how much they welcome and encourage children to attend Mass (sometimes it’s in the form of a jokey comment when a kid is particularly loud). A gentle reminder from the pulpit wouldn’t hurt (and who knows, maybe the hisser might do some personal reflection if they happen to hear it. Miracles happen!)

    And I LOVE that Fulton Sheen comment.

  18. I don’t know this for a fact (not having been there), but from some remarks elderly Catholics have dropped in this context, I suspect it was pretty normal in the 50s not to bring kids to Mass. Both hissers have implied this (“We didn’t bring our kids to disturb others in our day”) and sweet old ladies (“It’s so lovely to see your little ones; we never used to bring ours and I wish we did”). So I always suspect that’s part of where their reactions are coming from.

    One thing, though: I know it’s tough and we can’t always control our kids, and I never get mad at noisy or wiggly kids near me. . . but please please PLEASE don’t bring Cheerios to distract your kid. Probably you shouldn’t bring any food, for that matter, but the Cheerios are just plain awful: they’re so loud people can hear them crunching from four pews away, and the smell is equally penetrating. Plus, I guarantee you’re leaving a trail of crumbs behind, whether you think you are or not.

    1. In the past it was quite common to invoke the precept that children before the age of consent are not required to attend Mass. I have a friend who during that period talks about how his younger sister got to stay home until she was six while he and his brother, both older had to attend Mass. Their parents split the duty of staying at home with the younger children and went to the early Mass. They never went to Mass as a family until the last child hit six.
      By the time they were seven and receiving Communion it was expected that they remain quiet during the appropriate times at Mass. Since most were in parochial school the sisters made short shift of seven and eight year olds that were not disciplined enough to behave during Mass.
      I personally don’t have a problem with parents who are struggling with toddlers. Glad to see them and feel their pain.
      I do have problems with parents who don’t seemed to be able to get a grade school age child to behave. They would never behave that way in their school, but think its alright in Mass. If they can behave at school for 6 hours, they should certainly be able to behave at Mass for an hour.

      1. Apologies for my almost 9 year old son who is pretty bad at mass. No disability other than an inborn rebellious and creative nature. I am praying dearly that being an alter boy next year curbs his mass mishaps. Painful!

      2. I would suspect that at, least generally speaking, bringing kids to Mass at earlier ages would make their learning to behave appropriately once they are developmentally able to do so much easier.

        That said, I believe that the more important reason to do so is that there is very much a truth to the idea that beliefs and practices which are ingrained in a child in the early formative years stick much more strongly than those taught later. If your child is used to the idea of going to Mass and worshiping Christ as an everyday part of life from the earliest age her or she can remember, the child is going to hold on to that stuff much more strongly as he or she grows older.

        I wonder how much if at all this all has had to do with the decline of religious practice in the Church, the kinds of attitudes that lay behind some of the upheaval in the Church in the 1960s, etc. I am very much a supporter of more traditional and formal worship disciplines, but I also recognize that the particular style of formality that was to be found in Catholic culture in the first half of the 20th century was much more rigorous than in times past. It certainly would not have been true long ago that people didn’t bring their kids to Mass, so if this did indeed develop as a common practice in the 1930s and/or 40s and/or 50s as a part of the generally more… stringent Catholic culture of that period, I wonder if it was responsible in part for a generation coming to age in the 1960s which just had that little bit less solidity to their faith.

      3. I used to think this until I became a special needs parent. You would be amazed how many kids look “normal” but have atypical neurology. There are so many things going in so many families, like autism, adhd, mental disorders that lie under the surface.

      4. But what if that grade school age child has autism or other special needs? He “looks” like other grade school kids, but struggles to stay still and silent for reasons that others wouldn’t know. Just don’t judge. Luckily, people at my parish are very understanding.of my son with Asperger’s. I do sometimes sit in the vestibule area when I sense he’s going to struggle. I still feel bad though because I know people could easily look at my child’s age and think I just don’t discipline him properly. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

    2. “I don’t know this for a fact (not having been there), but from some remarks elderly Catholics have dropped in this context, I suspect it was pretty normal in the 50s not to bring kids to Mass.”

      This is true.

      Another custom from that period, at least among French-speaking parishes, is that all the men would leave during the priest’s homily and gather outside on the steps for a smoke break.

      There are some practices that are better left in the past.

  19. Jesus says in Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
    I’m sure the “little children” did not all go to Jesus like little soldiers. And if you can’t find it in your heart to at least allow the little children and forbid them not in Church (and you should do so in Love and enjoy them even as Jesus did) maybe you will also not enjoy Heaven so much or be finding your way to the Kingdom of Heaven… for Jesus says of these little ones “for such is the Kingdom of Heaven”!!

  20. We’re pretty blessed. Our two local Byzantine Catholic parishes are pastored by married priests with children (although one of the priest’s children are now grown adults), while our local TLM priest is a convert from Anglicanism and so he too is married with children and grandchildren. Therefore our local parishes are very children friendly.

    In fact, one of our local parishes boasts an adorable girl with special needs who loves to chant the responses as loud as she can, although the tone is not always recognizable. Father, a well-respected liturgist, makes it a point to thank her after every liturgy for her enthusiasm, upholding her to the other members of our parish as a model of liturgical participation.

    So people who object to children’s participation in the liturgy likely would not feel comfortable at our local parishes. My suggestion to them is to seek out a nursing home or convent where mass is celebrated privately.

  21. The hissing woman sounds like a miserable person in general. While what she said/did was inexcusable, I feel sorry for her (and any family and friends in her orbit). I’m sure that wasn’t the first time she made someone else feel terrible (including herself).

    My kids are college-age and older now, but I well remember those years of wrangling babies and herding toddlers at Mass. I wasn’t above utlizing a bag of Cheerios and/or other distractions, although we generally packed coloring books and kid books with Catholic or Bible themes. My husband and I had a divide and conquer strategy. We avoided the cry room and sat in the back of the church, near the aisle if possible. If a baby or kid became loud or disruptive for one reason or another, one parent would hustle the kid to the cry room or vestibule until they calmed down, then later rejoined the rest of the family. Our philosophy was that kids learn to behave at Mass by participating along with everyone else, even if it was awkward and embarrassing to us, as parents, from time to time. Fortunately, our various pastors and priests have been very supportive of families at Church, and (overwhelmingly) fellow parishioners were too (the occasional stink eye from cranky elders notwithstanding).

  22. Tired of more uninformed Catholics trying to impose on others their desires for liturgical worship. Watch those kinds of people who are clearly behaving in a way because others are watching them. E.g. They make a silly obligatory curtsy in the aisle misdirected because they don’t know where or what the tabernacle is anyway, only because everyone else curtsys too.

    CHILDREN ARE WELCOME AT ALL LITURGICAL OFFERINGS! Catholic worship is family life! Families have kids. Kids act like kids, even at the Sacrificial family banquet, THE MASS.

    You wonderful families remind the pinchy-faced puritanical types that family dinners include the children! I do!

    …….single guy confirmed bachelor

  23. Simcha, a person I admire once said that Mass isn’t always the “Resurrection”, sometimes it is the “road to Calvary”. That was from Taylor Marshall. We are in this together. Hang in there. Pray for the “Hissers”. The rest of us have your back, even though you may not realize it!

  24. Simcha, you and your family are a blessing! As a father of seven, I get my weekly workout at Mass. Wrestling and chasing my children leaves me sweaty and exhausted after Mass. Although, my fellow parishoners are nice, I feel that it is mostly because we remain contained behind the glass in the cry room. Every now and then, when a kid is sick and I get to take the big kids to Mass and sit in the regular part of the church (while my wife heroically tends to the sick one at home), I am secretly grateful that I can actually pray and hear the Word of God. I think many folks take it for granted. I do wish that the cry room had a legitimate sound system and view of the altar. At this point though, I am grateful we live in a free country where my biggest problem is being comfortable at Mass. Many of our Christian brethren in other countries are risking their lives to attend Mass. I will note that when I sit in the main sanctuary during Mass, and I do hear a child’s outburst (someone else’s kid), it puts a smile on my face…not only for the family, but for myself. It is sort of a Lion King-circle of life thing. Simcha, wear it with pride!

  25. Personally, I can’t imagine anyone being so rude as to actually say something to the parents about a child in the pews. (I have heard of it happening with altar servers – including myself – but not kids in the pews.) If the parish has an ongoing issue with multiple families (and I mean kids totally out of control like running up and down the aisles), I could maybe see a note in the bulletin or something like that, perhaps… but definitely don’t single anyone out.

    My current parish, in a recent remodel, ripped out the cry rooms (the church was built in the 50’s; they formerly occupied the area under the front half of the choir loft, between the narthex and nave). We now have a larger narthex with a single sheet-glass wall facing into the nave, and the narthex is provided with a couple rows of folding chairs which are marked “reserved for families with small children”, but the doorways are usually left open so I think the signs are really just meant for when we hit standing-room-only.

    Honestly, baby noises, etc… should not bother people. Life and all that. In fact… one unseasonably cool Sunday this summer, we had all the windows open (our stained glass have crankouts) and a BIRD flew in, perched on the railing of the choir loft, and proceeded to chirp loudly at random times throughout Mass, then flew around and out during Communion. The priest mentioned it in the homily and we all laughed.

    However, I do think parents need to be a *little* considerate of others… particularly if the family situation is unusual.

    In my case… I’m rather musical (I have an aunt who is a retired pro opera singer, and I’m about the only person in the family, other than her, who can carry a tune). I would probably be in the choir, except the practices don’t align with my work schedule (I was in choir and band in high school). And we have this one family in my parish who has a special-needs teenager who makes random vocalizations. I find that particular kid’s voice very discordant, grating, and shrill. I would rather not be within sign-of-peace range of that particular family. (And this is a large church, so that’s maybe 10% of the nave?) However, they have a habit of arriving on the very verge of being late… rushing in as the procession is starting, that sort of thing… which makes it impossible to purposefully choose a place away from them. If they would just arrive a few minutes earlier, it would allow those of us who’d rather sit fifteen or twenty pews away from them, to do so, without having to get up and move after Mass has already started. (I’ve had them sit in the very next pew directly behind me three times since Easter – each time arriving *during* the opening hymn.)

    I would, however, never say any of that in person.

  26. I sit toward the front so my little people can see, but I learned that the hard way. My parents kept us in the last pew, and it was BORRRRRRINNNNGGGG every time. I’ve had Hissers, in the form of a sacristan, multiple ushers, and tortured elders who apparently really needed to seek a quiet space and we dared offend it by simple proximity. I’ve witnessed families being chased out in the middle of Mass for happy toddler noises. I am very adamant that we will not vacate, and I’m not quiet about it. I’ve complained to the priests multiple times, and little has evolved on that front. If my kids are too disruptive, they get removed and redirected and we go back in there. I recently had to whisk the 3.8 year old out in the middle of consecration while wearing the sleeping 3 month old in a ring sling. It has taken years, but I think they’re finally learning that my children are going to be in the congregation, not ostracized off to a boisterous cry room where they’ll take liberty with their loudness. If they’ve been so bold as to chastise me when 2 of my children and I have served the parish in liturgical roles, then I’m appalled to think of what they’ve said to so many others who are in the pews.
    My refrain is “no thank you, we will be just fine in the sanctuary with the rest of the parish”. I also have been known to just say “well pray that my Baptist husband starts attending Mass with us so I’m not always flying solo”. Parents need community, not castigating.

  27. We are that friendly elderly couple. HOWEVER, there are limits. Tonight was one. We went to the All Souls Day Mass and once again were seated near the family with children who screech, scream, cry throw tantrums, throw the hymnals around, throw their toys around and Mom and Dad remain fairly oblivious. I am tempted to move when they plant themselves in the pew behind us, but I don’t want them to feel “unwelcome”. Tonight, however, was particularly awful. I know parents are tired. I know how it is, I’ve been there. But at least try. Or take the child to the back of the Church for a few minutes until the wailing stops. Finally, I realized that this was becoming a “near occasion of sin” and moved to the other end of the pew after Holy Communion so I would at least be a few feet from all the noise. I’m afraid we may have offended these parents (who are lovely folks). I don’t know what to do here. Dad brings the little ones to Saturday Adoration and the same thing occurs, except he allows them to run up and down the aisles yelling and disturbing everyone. How can we who love children and love being around them address this with parents without offending? The pastor has already had his nose swatted for suggesting the “calming room” when little ones become loudly upset. Help!

    1. I honestly don’t know, Marie! I’ve definitely come across families like that (and I’ve *been* that mom, when my husband was traveling and I was just too pregnant to deal with the crazy kids effectively). I guess where I come down is that we should err on the side of putting up with bad kids and their bad parents, because (a) Jesus specifically said to let the kids come, and (b) parents who get snubbed really may stop coming, and that’s two generations lost; whereas the rest of the congregation has to put up with a lot of aggravating nonsense, but they’re probably not going to stop coming because of one noisy family. But I do sympathize. When I know there’s a family that’s going to drive me crazy, I try to sit elsewhere as discreetly as possible. Maybe if you do it with a smile, it will offend less! Or, as others have suggested, ask if you can help out, offer crayons and paper or holy cards, etc.

      1. I wouldn’t underestimate older people losing their spiritual life, though. I am a mom of many young children (all 7 and under!), and frankly, I think we moms can be a bit . . . narcissistic. Who is to say that an obnoxiously loud family might not so disturb other people — including the elderly — and make them annoyed, grow cold in their faith, and not return to Mass. No one’s spiritual life is secure from temptation, no matter what age. I don’t think it is right to prioritize the spiritual needs of one group of people, over all the others.

        My children are very good at Church . . . except between the ages of 1-2. But the thing is, you just take them to the vestibule when they are loud or having a bad day. It’s not that big of a deal. I really don’t understand moms who can’t be bothered to simpy leave the sanctuary for awhile.

        1. Jess, the trouble is that it *can* be a big deal. My daughter has six kids, aged eight and under. Her husband has a church job on Sunday that takes him away from home from about 9 to 3. He often takes the oldest child with him. I take one or two kids to Mass at 8:30, and then my daughter goes to a later Mass with the baby and the kids who didn’t go to Mass earlier, except that the almost-three-year-old doesn’t get to go at all yet, because he just can’t do Mass unless his dad is there.

          So if the baby needs to go out, that might leave a four-year-old by herself in the pew. She might start crying that she is scared and lonely by herself. Then my daughter has a crying baby in the narthex PLUS a crying child in the nave. There is just no winning this one. And yes, it has happened.

          Sometimes there are just no easy answers to kids fussing in church!

          1. I completely relate to what you are saying. My husband often travels and I have had to leave kids in the pew t go out with the baby. I guess we have great people at my parish, because usually anyone sitting near me would keep an eye on them if necessary. I know it is tough and there are definitely know easy answers. But I think in Christian charity we simply must love our neighbor as much (and perhaps more) than ourselves — and this might mean not privileging ourselves and our difficulties over those of others.

    2. Lean over and say “shhhhh, people are praying and they need quiet so they hear God talking to them”. I’ve had people do that for me when mine are continually disruptive despite despite my attempts to stop them. My friend leans over at the consecration and whispers to the littles “Jesus is here!”

    3. I suspect (and hope, anyways) that most parents with kids in Mass – especially parents with *that many* kids and who go to adoration so who are, you’d think, probably people who take their faith more seriously than most – would say the same thing to you:

      Move – I won’t be offended. I understand how distracting and noisy they can be at times, and it’s 100% understandable, fine, okay, and maybe even *good* if you really want to have a more focused experience of Mass. I would not take it personally. There are plenty of times *I’D* like to sit a few dozen feet away from my kids.

      Especially if you feel like they’re “lovely folks,” consider talking to them when you get the chance and explaining things. Tell them how much you like seeing their kids there and that you want to keep seeing them every week, that you aren’t complaining about the noise or the things the kids do on the rougher days, and that sometimes you may move away from them if they wind up in the pew in front of you because you feel like you need to really be tuned in to the Mass that day. Or, say it some other way, in your own words, according to your personality. The point is that if I were that parent, I’d be extraordinarily understanding of somebody saying, in so many words, “If we happen to move away from you it’s truly nothing personal and we love seeing your kids we just need more ability to focus sometimes.”

    4. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with removing yourself from a situation that has become an occasion of sin. In the future, if you feel like you couldn’t handle it and you’d like to try something different, I would suggest making friends with one of the children and asking the parents if you could help them out by having that child sit with you during Mass. A lovely grandmother did this for us with one of our four children for about a year. Miss CeCe usually sat about two pews behind or in front of us and my younger daughter Claire would be invited to sit with her. Claire behaved much better with Miss CeCe’s attention and guidance and we were better able to supervise our other three children.

    5. If the kids are that loud and misbehaved, and mom looks frazzled, I would just start playing with them. Especially if you know the family. It sends a gentle message to mom and dad, but one that is reassuring of your support.

  28. Maybe I just look scary, but nobody’s done this to me yet. If someone did, I’d find it justifiable to punch them in the throat.

  29. My wife and I sit in the back of our church during Mass with all the young families and parents holding fussy babes. After raising 9 of our own, I find the energy of the little ones SO much more refreshing then most of the churches that seem to be filled with old dying yentas!
    As Fulton Sheen told a lady who was taking her baby out of church during a sermon,”Madame! Please don’t leave! The child is not bothering me!”
    She replied, “But, you’re bothering him!” 😉

  30. I’m a single mom with two adopted kids. When they were toddlers two older ladies who always sat in the same general of church with me would routinely hold and play with them during the mass. They were the greatest help, without being asked; it was wonderful. I try to look for situations now where a friendly mom of teenagers could be of help …

  31. We were okay yesterday at mass. It was late, and we had to go to the next parish over. They sang a bit too much given the hour. My eleven-y.o. hissed “you said it’d be short!” The two little, shower-resistant ones were a bit rough around the edges and decided to have a knuckle cracking contest, which turned into a lot of poking. I separated them, and ended up being my daughter’s personal chair for the rest of the evening. The crowd was sparse. If my memory serves me, I think the parish we were at is the wealthiest in the nation. Or one of them. There were a fair amount of foreign looking people. I heard a baby in the back, but there weren’t any other kids there besides mine. Even though my kids weren’t exemplary, I was relieved we’d made it. We were sad my husband was still in the trenches and couldn’t be with us. Despite being pitch black outside, the drive there was beautiful. Even the kids were impressed. You could see the Golden Gate bridge lit up in the distance, and thousands of pinpoints of light in the hills, reflecting in the water. The priest there is REALLY YOUNG!! I was glad the kids had the opportunity to see that, and witness his joy.

    Even though it wasn’t easy, it was a trillion* times easier to be there at mass than in years past with toddlers and babies. I think I have a form of PTSD from all of the past humiliation, but I literally remind myself that I don’t have to feel that way anymore when I start to feel that tide of triggered stress welling up inside of me. My brain does this weird thing to block out past, particularly stressful incidents. It’s a big blur. I’ve gotten plenty of stink-eye from parishioners, but it was a few priests through the years that were the most egregious. Hahaha the one that was the worst was one of the founders of Priests for Life. He ended up being kicked out of the parish by an army of disgruntled parents, so I wasn’t the only one who had their toes stepped on. What was interesting about him was that he was one of those priests who had partied too hard in his former life, had been in a band, was a bartender, had been engaged a couple of times–but he let the pendulum swing a little too hard in the other direction. Anyhow, God bless him. I heard he passed away in exile. He wasn’t very old either. He meant well. His particular problem touches upon another important point:
    *Catholics are some of the meanest people I have ever met*
    I don’t think they realize it.
    I wish I could say that this is an exaggeration, –but the rejoinder is that Catholics are also some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s too bad that what is rotten seems to linger in the air and burn in people’s memories, more than the good little things that Catholics do. My husband and I laugh that the high and mighty Catholics are too exhausted from defending the moral high ground to remember to be nice.

    I was having lunch with my 13 y.o. yesterday and we were talking about his friend situation. He has never had to search for friends before. He has a big group of all kinds of friends in our old home town. The kids at his new confirmation class here aren’t being very welcoming. (All of my kids have been “late bloomers”–they grow like weeds in H.S.) So along comes my puny 13 y.o. with braces and a book in his hand at all times, but the Catholic kids won’t be bothered. A gay kid (how on EARTH do they know they are gay at that tender age???) invited him to come sit with his group of mostly gay friends. That didn’t turn out too well either, because he refused to agree with them that there is a “third sex”. The kid that invited him apologized for their bad behavior. He’s a kid with a kind heart. Lucas explained to him what Catholics believe (both of his parents are doctors and atheists, and Lucas says he admitted he’s had zero contact with Christians) because the others had pointed at Lucas’ crucifix in accusation, saying “you’re Catholic, aren’t you?” Lucas gave him the five minute pitch on Catholicism. He even threw in how Catholics founded the universities, hospitals, pioneered the scientific method… His friend listened politely, thanked him, said a couple of affirming things and then said “I not really interested in becoming Catholic.” Lucas and I laughed about that. He told me how he reassured his friend that he wasn’t trying to convert him. I told Lucas more or less what Gandhi had once said: “I’d be a Christian if I’d ever met one.” –I don’t think Ghandi’s quip was fair, but who could blame him? If I were the devil, I’d recruit as many proud, insufferable people to be Christians as I could.

    *a necessary exaggeration

    1. I heard a story somewhere about a person who converted and his mother told him, “well, if you’re going to be a Catholic, then for pity’s sake be a good one. A good Catholic is a saint, but a bad one is a devil”.

    2. As to how the gay kid would know he was gay at 13 — I knew I was straight at 13, because I was romantically attracted to the opposite sex. Why wouldn’t that kid know he was gay?

      1. He told my son he is attracted to both sexes.

        I think that still means he’s, gay, right? I’m not an expert, but I often wonder how much social conditioning can also go into the mix. When I was a little girl, I remember seeing a drop dead gorgeous woman and telling my Mom that I would marry a beautiful woman when I grew up. I can’t remember what she said back. I wish I could remember.

        I’m 100% attracted to my husband. I can’t even imagine giving any oxygen to any other stirring in the bosom, but I think women are just as gorgeous as men, and I don’t consider myself bisexual in the least.

          1. I didn’t say I don’t believe him. I think he’s a sweet, honest, and sincere guy. If one of my sons came to me at 13, I’d affirm him no matter what. But I’d tell him that maybe things aren’t set in stone yet. I think 13 y.o.s have many conflicting emotions, and need time to mentally sort things out.

            BTW, my 18 y.o. has met other teens that identify as another “species”. I’m not joking. They are 100% serious.

          2. Sadly some carelessly spout out labels like “bisexual” that affix themselves mentally and socially, like some sort of tattoo. It is careless and reckless to do so to a child or youth, especially from someone in authority. You say: “Why not believe him” (the Priest)… how about why not direct a child to Jesus Christ and His commandments?

  32. Not my story, but still worth repeating.

    My mom once went to a mass with her toddlers after a Catholic school retreat my high school aged brother had been on. It happened to coincide with a special needs mass at the same time (they had a long standing arrangement to use the chapel, so they just doubled up the masses). The priest made some comment after the mass about how maybe next time he wouldn’t have to compete to say the homily. My mom held up the baby and yelled ‘let him have it father!!’

    He found her after the recessional and apologized.

    1. Speaking of kids and mass, with the bishop’s consent I was once asked to preach semi-regularly at the local French mass because the priest was an Anglophone who had not yet reached the point in French studies where he was comfortable preaching. During the middle of one sermon my then 18-month-year-old tore away from my wife and his older siblings, ripped off his diaper and onesie, and ran up to the pulpit in his birthday suit while shouting “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”

  33. Amen! Thanks for this (and for babyland, too- that was a great reflection.) It has me wondering, now that my kids are bigger, how we can come alongside other families, especially those with kids with special needs who may not outgrow the baby phase so quickly.

  34. Our pastor is new (just to the parish–he’s been a priest for decades) and he believes so strongly that children belong at mass that he wants to do away with nursery for Sunday masses! Not sure what I think about doing away with it altogether, but as my “baby” is seven the matter is purely academic for me now. I’ve never had any run-ins with Hissers, thanks be to God, but I do go out of my way to show other families that their small children are welcome–even when not perfectly silent!–because I know people can be remarkably unpleasant.

    I knew a priest who, in those inevitable times when some howling toddler is being hustled out by a frantic parent and Father simply has to pause for a few seconds, would tell the faithful “Just think of it as the sound of the human soul crying out for God!” People would chuckle, but it’s actually not a bad subject for meditation.

  35. When we were new parents with only one child, we were told by an cranky, old gentleman that we shouldn’t bring our 6 month old to mass. My husband and I should go to separate masses so someone could stay at home with the baby. My husband told him off and we continued to go as a family. When #1 was a year old and I was expecting #2, an old priest at a daily mass stopped the Gospel and told me from the pulpit to control my child (I had put him down and he had taken off running down the pew in, of course, heavy boots). I picked him up, left the church, and sat crying in the car for awhile (hormones). I never returned to that parish. Those were the only other-people-problems we’ve ever had, so maybe it was just that first kid. I’m sure there are parishioners who have withheld their criticisms over the years, but we’ve also received compliments on how well-behaved our kids are. Unless someone was sick, we always went to mass as a family. Maybe people were intimidated by my husband’s presence? Even with looking for missing shoes and last minute diaper changes, we usually managed to get our big gang to church early and select a good pew. We tried to sit near the front of the church so the kids could see what was going on at the altar. Nothing makes a child more bored and restless than only seeing a sea of adult bodies in front of him. Yes, it’s a long walk down the aisle with a crying kid, but it’s worth it. Before I married I taught 30 seven-year-olds in a Catholic school and learned by trial and error that strategic seating arrangements make all the difference in maintaining control and peace. I want to be able to pray at least a little, as well as make church-going a non-painful childhood memory.

  36. I’ve gotten all sorts of stares and comments over the years and it’s exhausting. Just a few weeks ago a fellow parishioner honked her horn and yelled at me because my special-needs son was crossing the street too slowly. I’m normally politely dismissive when I face this (even if I’m crying/raging/dying on the inside), but I lost it (it had been a tough Mass with him and the rambunctious toddler and the sweet middle child who tries hard to help but can make things worse) and I started yelling at her. Not sure if she heard me, though, since she was in her car. 😛

    I get compliments and supportive comments, too, which I love and appreciate, but somehow they can’t outweigh the negativity. I read once it takes 10 compliments to equal an insult, so maybe that’s why.

  37. The noon Mass yesterday had a lot of crying babies. And I was glad of it. The place was packed! People brought their kids! They took the holy day of obligation seriously! Hurray!

    After Communion, the guy between me and a mother with three kids left. I saw that two of her kids were having trouble behaving, so I gave them one of the many holy cards that I keep in my purse for my grandchildren to look at during Mass. (Unfortunately, the kid who wasn’t having trouble monopolized it. Oh, well.) After Mass, I told the mom she was doing a great job. That’s what I wanted people to do when my kids were young and misbehaving, and now I get to return the favor. As you have said before, Simcha, this period with lots of young kids does not last forever. Those of us who have been through it need to help those who are still in it.

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