Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kids at Mass

I've held off on writing about this for the past two weekends (a major act of self control, because I was totally ready to write about it and name the parish it occurred at when it happened...) but, having cooled off a bit, thought I might bring up the subject this morning. Here it is: the reception of small children at Mass.

And here's what got me thinking about it.

The morning Paul left in the Uhaul we all got up very early. We'd been planning on going to Mass the night before, but with the triple digit heat, all of us disgusting and sweaty and the truck still not completely packed we'd agreed to rise early, drive the hour and a half to Mass at the parish we've been attending, and go together. After that the girls and I would meet Nani and Grumpa to go to a park and Paul would continue the drive south for another fourteen hours.

We got up at six a.m. for the nine o'clock Mass and all got ready quickly, but with the stop for gas and picking up a dolly we hadn't been able to fit in the car the night before, we ended up getting to the church just as Mass began. I quickly took Sadie to the restroom to avoid disaster and then switched with Paul and took Mae, since she had been acting a little needier than usual that morning (she ended up having a tooth cut through). We opted to stand in the back, because the front was already pretty packed on the sides, and I was a bit relieved, because I new I could stand and hold Mae and that she would likely be pretty quiet.

Paul usually holds Mae, and he had commented in the past on the looks he would get, just for standing in the back of the Church with her. I'd noticed the week before that there was a particular group of people, three couples who were probably in their sixties who always sit in the back row, who had turned to glare at them (and the four or so other families who had to take little ones out) every time she so much as breathed a giggle. When we first arrived and stood at the back, before I had switched to hold Mae, I saw one of them turn, spot us in the back, say something to her husband, and then search for Mae and Paul with a sour, angry look. Mae hadn't made a peep. This may have contributed to me holding Mae that day.

Mae was having a rough day, but was still doing passably well. She fussed a couple times and I immediately took her back into the bathroom lobby, where there's a small room with a rocking chair. She wanted to nurse, which was unusual, because she hadn't tried to nurse at Mass since she was two weeks old.

There's no sound pipped into the room we were sitting in, but if the two doors are left over, the moms who've taken refuge in the room can hear almost everything. Mae was quiet. A line of women trooped by, to use the bathroom which is well out of sight of the door, even open, and behind a third solid door, and I would ask those of them who closed the far outer door to leave it open so we might hear the Mass. Each person would smile and say "oh I'm sorry! Of course!" or something along those lines.

Then in came a brightly smiling woman, who closed the first door and then the second door and looked at me as she stood in line. "Do you think you could leave the doors open so we might hear the Mass in here?" I asked. "No I don't think I can." she said with the same bright, fake smile as she leaned forward and tried to touch Mae (major act of self control to not bat her hand away). If I'd realized, right away, who she was, or had been less surprised by the response I might have said something back. Instead I got up and opened the door, finally commenting about how some people are rather rude (I don't think she heard me). I stood by the door so she couldn't close it again and watched as she returned to her seat, with the glaring group.

Mae had a rough time during the rest of Mass. She could tell that I was upset by the incident and that made her upset and far more fussy than she usually was. I took her out around four times (most Masses she makes it through without having to be taken out once). The group kept glaring, except the woman, who seemed afraid to turn around. I was particularly disappointed, when we were waiting in the communion line and I realized that the man who had turned to glare at us throughout Mass was one of my dad's colleagues, a community leader and Catholic educator who's constantly on TV in the north state, who I'd known most of my life life (who I'm certain didn't recognize me).

Most of the glaring group left immediately after taking communion (trying not to comment on how not shocked I am by that...).

I can't help but wonder how many people they've chased away from the Church. I can imagine a lot of young families being chased away from the Church by that group, with their constant glaring (particularly since two of them are supposed to be "pillars of the community"). Having been the object of their scrutiny I can say that it's stressful. Mae's pretty good at Mass. She giggles occasionally. She would sometimes try to sing along to the very loud music. And when she fussed we took her outside and held her until she calmed down. If I was a mom, looking for just looking a place to go to Church, without really knowing what I wanted, these people would have convinced me not to enter the door of the Catholic Church a second time... and the idea that this sort of welcome could chase people who are considering converting away is very disturbing...

I'm praying we can find a welcoming parish here in Florida, where the priest understands that the beauty of the Mass doesn't need to be altered or added to...


  1. You have my sympathies. My Little Tiger is almost 2 and has never been still at church. I keep trying but the kid is highly active and curious and getting the Little Tiger to sit down and stay put....

    I'm not so nice as you, I'd be tempted to sit with the glaring people and let the Tiger make their lives miserable... or at least I would wish I had the nerve to do so. At any rate, you were very restrained and polite to people who did not deserve it. IMO.

    Children should be WELCOME at Mass even if they scream the whole time. Yes, it is difficult when the babies are crying, but they are God's too and NEED to be there.

  2. It is strange they would be so concerned about being able to focus on the Mass and yet sit in the back. Maybe someone should inform them that they could see and hear better if they sat in the front.

    I lived on the East Coast of South Florida, so I'm afraid I'm no help but I hope you find a good one. There should be enough Catholics at Ave Maria to point you in a good direction I should think.

  3. Have you ever written or talked to that priest about what that group is doing? It's his responsibility to talk to them privately and ask them to be more welcoming to others at Mass.

  4. It seems like there are people like that at every parish. One lady got upset because Susi as a baby was hiccuping. Finally I couldn't take the lady's harassment and waited outside on the steps. A gallant Knight of Columbus came to my rescue and told me not to mind that lady and come back inside. This rude attitude seems most common among the older generation who either did not have kids or saw them as a possession. Either way, it is not acceptable.

  5. Some people should just be slapped.

    I'm pretty optimistic that you'll find a "young-child-friendly" church in your new home.

    I love seeing - and hearing! - little ones at Mass. I find it heartwarming. My youngest leaves for college tomorrow morning, so I'm especially nostalgic today. I hope that when I go to Mass tomorrow (my husband and son will already be on the road), the place is packed with babies and toddlers and preschoolers.

  6. I'm sorry you're still having struggles with mass even since the move! I also wanted to let you know you have my prayers and I was sorry to hear about the loss of your little saint

    Something about this group of older-middle-aged adults... I don't know, but there's a minority of them that's big enough to make me think of all of them as grumpy.

  7. Ugh. People like this make me so angry.

  8. Isn't it ridiculous. We changed parishes because of the dirty looks in church. What gets me is these are the same people that have no idea why church membership is dwindling and why children don't come!

  9. Not sure where in FL you will be, but I know of at least one where we used to attend. So, I'm sure you can find one! Last Sunday I took my oldest, the 3 yr old and baby (left the other two home) to mass myself. I can't handle all 5 by myself, so I usually switch out each Sunday. Anyway, last Sunday was beautiful. The pews were full of kids. Nothing special going on that day, but there were kids every where. And oh the noises! Giggling, talking, playing, crying, an occasional screech. And I sat and smiled. I had so much joy and happiness that day. It has been a long time since I felt that. We've been scolded a couple times by our priest for the actions of our little ones. But this last Sunday God granted peace to my heart. It was so wonderful to see AND hear all those little people all morning long.

    I know it can be stressful. It's been MONTHS actually more than a year since I can say I've heard all of the homily. However, I know I am doing my best to teach my children how to participate and be a part of mass. If other people are too worried about everyone else then that is their problem. Like I tell my kids, don't worry about what someone else is doing, just take care of yourself first.

    You are doing a great job.

  10. The "homily" at our parish last week was about appropriate noise in the church. Apparently the priest had been getting a lot of emails about adults chatting with one another before mass in the sanctuary and how inappropriate it was, and then about how noisy all the children are and if we can get them to leave. The priest was ranting and raving about how awful it is that these parishioners are intolerant of children being in church! He said "Children belong in Church... children make noise, you were noisy when you were a kid too!" and then he said that if they are screaming bloody murder then you can take them out, but usually they stop by the time you are standing in the aisle, so just stand in the aisle for a little bit then sit back down! I couldn't have been happier - I almost cried!

  11. How absolutely rude of them! In my previous parish our church had an intercom system so parents who stepped out with their babies or kids could still hear the mass going on. I don't understand what their issue was since Mae wasn't screaming and crying.

  12. As my husband says, baptized children and infants have just as much right to witness and experience the liturgy as every other baptized individual. That's what it means to be Christian.

    It makes me wonder what they'd do with my friend's 20-something son who has some mental disabilities that manifest similar to Touretts.

  13. GAH!I feel ya pain. Our parish has been losing young families to the one out of town because they're moving there for the Catholic school attached. Us on the other hand still go to the parish which is now 90% oldies and it's been hard as when we get to mass, the people are sitting either all in the back pews or spread out and we dont want to sit in the middle of two old people because we'll be constantly going in and out with noisey kids!
    Some oldies have turned and looked but thankfully have never said anything to us. Instead of sitting together as our two girls chat and play and carry on, hubby and I take a girl each and we sit separately or I'm inside with the 3 yr old whose FINALLY learnt how to sit quietly while he's outside with the 17 month old in the porch. (There is no soundproof room at our parish).
    It's just a shame that some ppl forget that these children are the ones who will continue the Catholic faith when they're dead so foster a friendly positive imagine of church, not scare them off with rudeness!
    I hope you find a good parish soon!

  14. You are so much nicer than I would have been! I probably would have glared right back or stuck my tongue out at them...Not very mature, I know.

    There's a parish here in NJ where the adults are worse than the children; whispering and talking all through mass. A couple of times even my six year old has commented on how rude those people were!

  15. Cam, when they look at you, a smile, even through gritted teeth, is your best witness. (And it is not that I am deliberately mean, but I know it would drive them crazy) I think many of these same people are upset with the singing or any other "noise" which interferes with their personal prayers --- but that is not what the mass is for. They just don't understand.

    (Pretend they have senility, like my mom, and be charitable. Perhaps they do!!)

  16. I have two friends at Ave Maria. We grew up together at the same ICKSP oratory in NE Wisconsin. One is a music professor, the other the wife of a (third year I think) law student with two boys under 3. They've both said the campus Mass is good, and there is a Fraternity Mass in driving distance (I think under an hour drive).
    LOL there are cranks in every parish. And there are some very inconsiderate parents out there too, to be fair. Crawling under the pews and taking off the people ahead of you's shoes and hollering about "potty" just doesn't come under the heading of even tolerable behavior!
    Babies shouldn't be a problem ever. I know one kind old man who would just turn down his hearing aids when it got a bit much: )

  17. I've seldom been bothered by infants and toddlers at Mass because most parents are pretty good about taking them out before they scream. However we had two Masses in a row where the adults behind us were carrying on a steady dialog throughout most of the Mass, and not in whispers. Now that was distracting and I will admit to giving them a couple of glances (didn't do one bit of good, however).

  18. *Grumble grumble grumble* Having just come from a Mass today that had me in the same position, I understand the anger, frustration, and absolute disbelief.

    "Let the little children come to me." I guess that one flew right over these folks.

    *Grumble grumble grumble*

    I hope you find a welcoming, wonderful parish as well. They'd be lucky to have you (AND the children!)

  19. Oh how sad to think they could be driving people away from the Faith! Our ex-pastor was like that too. He would chew us out for daring to bring our baby and toddler to Mass... from the pulpit. It is a heart wrenching to be attacked like that. I cried my eyes out leaving Mass more times than I can remember. But now we go to a Trappist Monastery for Mass seven days a week which was impossible at the other parish due to scheduling. :) We are the only regulazrs with children and the monks are always so welcoming and friendly (and our kids are far from perfectly behaved). So glad you have found a new parish with its collective head screwed on properly! What a joy it is, after being treated as a second class Catholic for being open to life and wanting to share the Mass with the little ones.

  20. I am sorry that they were rude. You should have smiled and waved to them each time they glared at you. Maybe when they were young parents, the church was different. We have a cry room in the back of the church for young kids. I am workign with Jeanne on how to sit during Mass, but of course how long can she be still at 16 months. You have as much right to have your child make noise in there as people who constantly cough or sneeze. Noise is noise. If they can't focus on the Mass because of a peep from a baby, they should sit up front.

  21. I am so sorry you have had such bad experiences with people at that church.

    I like to think that isn't the norm. I attend mass at a very large parish with lots of young families. I have never noticed people behaving that way. Hopefully your new parish will have a demographic that is more understanding about families. The kids ARE our future adult Catholics after all!


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