QUAERITUR: Fr. Z steps on the 3rd rail – noisy children at Mass

I haven’t stepped on the third rail for a little while, so… why not today, with a burst of fireworks.

This question about children at Mass comes via e-mail:

I enjoy your blog immensely. Thank you for your hard work. And Happy year of the priest :) I have a question about children in mass. Our priest told us it would be better to leave our children at home and have my husband and I go to separate masses so we can get more out of mass.

I love going to morning mass with my little ones and now feel as if he thinks I should not be there at all with them.

Is it better to go separately?

My feeling has always been that seeing and participating as a family unit was beneficial and that waiting until they have received first communion to bring them to mass was a loss of years of worshiping (at their own level) the holy sacrifice of the mass

Here goes!  (I can smell the burning and hear the buzzing ZZZZZAP already!)

You don’t specify how old your children are, but I am guessing that none of this would have come up if they weren’t of the wiggly or difficult age.

I note that the priest said one thing and you are now feeling that he thinks something else.  Take him at his word.  He thinks one way would be "better".  He didn’t say that your coming to Mass with children is bad.

I am sure you love going to Mass with your children.  I am sure that the other daily Mass participants also love going to Mass… with your children.  

Once upon a time it was not unusual for parents to go to Mass in shifts.  That was certainly easier in the age before urban sprawl in ethnic neighborhoods where it was not impossible to walk to the local parish.  These days, people tend to travel farther for Mass and, simply put, everyone has to go at once.

Surely we can agree that there are some places and occasions where the presence of very small children is not appropriate – no matter how great we think kids are, blah blah blah.  For example, I think we will agree that two year olds are not good candidates for a recital of Schubert Lieder at the concert hall.  They are not good candidates for the university lecture hall.  They are not good candidates for Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.

But, though there are some overlapping characteristics, church is not quite like any of those three situations.

Next, I am not quite sure how participating as a family at Mass has its own special benefits if … if …a great deal of attention must be paid to the small children who are pretty much oblivious to what is going on anyway. 

I imagine parents of children will want to chime in on that point and help us out.

Children learn – at their own level as you say – from the example of their parents and pick up subtle social cues which become part of the deep warp and weft of their worldview. 

There is always an "on the other hand" in these discussions, isn’t there?

But back to an important point.  The priest also suggested that you and your husband would get more out of Mass were you not to have to cope with your busy little darlings.  Get that?  You and your husband were the focus of Father’s concern.  That is a legitimate thing to suggest, you know.  And the priest was not saying that it is bad for you to be in church with your kids.  He is saying that you might be able to participate better, be more actively receptive to what is going on at Mass, if your attention wasn’t so divided. 

And yes, I know that perhaps Father was being subtle and was really suggesting that the kids were too noisy.  But let’s stick to the story as written.

Some at this point are on the verge of saying "But Father! But Father!", with furrowed brow.  "Priests are supposed to be pro-life!  How can you even suggest that we shouldn’t have all our children all the time in every church!  You hate kids!"

"Tisk", I reply. 

I think having children at Mass is fine.  It is especially nice when they are not throwing fits. "On the other hand"… just because Catholics are pro-life that doesn’t mean that everyone should always have to share the agony and ecstasy of you handling your children during Mass.

Digression: I imagine most parents are truly concerned, anxious even, that their children not bother other people in church.  That must be – as I imagine – a real strain on one’s ability to focus on anything else.   And, even though we know that a parent still, in a way, participates at Mass when at a certain decibel level he or she takes the little darling outside, that is hardly the best way to participate.

While I am rambling… some people who don’t have children, or haven’t had little ones for many years, might be overly touchy about their personal zones of silence.  It is possible to get used to quiet to the point where noise really irritates.  These folks have to get themselves into a mental place where they can be a bit more tolerant.   One the other hand, it might not be the best choice not to leave when junior is turning purple from the screaming.  Some couples may have a really high tolerance level to noisy children, so that they barely take notice of them… when everyone else in a two block radius are noticing little else.  These people need to get themselves into a mental place where, when they go into church, they remember that they are not at home in their back yard. 

Consider also this story.

A baby was howling in the front pew during the sermon and the mother started out of the church with her treasure, passing right in front of the pulpit as she headed for the door.

The priest wanted to demonstrate how open he was to noisy children at Mass, no matter how distracting they might be.  Father stopped his sermon and said "Please don’t think you have to leave.  The baby doesn’t bother me."

Over her shoulder the mother shot back, "You’re bothering the baby!"

Yes, it is possible that, at times, parents are not entirely aware of the effect of their little bundles of love on others in the church.  I have met people who were pretty self-absorbed with their children. Therefore, it might not be the very best choice to sit in the front pew, far from the door

A little kid noise in church isn’t going to disturb people very much – including the parents of the squeaker.  But there are limits, right?

In sum, your priest is probably right.  You could get more out of Mass by not having to deal with your children all the time.  Still, this may not be a practical solution.  If you think Father was really hinting at something else, perhaps you should ask the priest if someone complained or if he himself had a concern.  Don’t wonder or imagine why he made the comment.  If it wasn’t clear to you what he was saying, ask him nicely. 

I will now drag my cripsy fried body to the edge of the tracks to wait for the next train to run me over with a resounding crunch.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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167 Responses to QUAERITUR: Fr. Z steps on the 3rd rail – noisy children at Mass

  1. As a mom of 10 I think kids should be quiet in Church. When we had babies/toddlers we sat towards the back & any child making noise was immediately taken out & explained as best we could why. If you ask me some parents don’t move fast enough..I mean we did have 6 under 6 at one point! I don’t think the park them right at the front & let them roam round the church approach is best either. We do have a side chapel for fretful kids..but parents must supervise. now my youngest is 8 we have no problems..althought we have 6 teenagers in a row..that brings different difficulties but we do now sit at the front. Parents need to know that other people invariably aren’t that enthralled with other people’s kids! Mind you I’m so noise intolerant i was giving the guy behind me looks this morning coz he mutterred his prayers all through Mass..you know the type! But that’s another story!

  2. Ray from MN says:

    I don’t know if this is true everyplace, but on the occasions when I attend the EF Mass I have noticed that those parents who dress themselves and their children to the nines, knowing that they are going someplace special, seem to have very little problems with their young children. A stern glance and nod is all that is needed to keep many of them in line.

    In general, I haven’t been bothered too much by noisy children in Masses in our archdiocese, but if I was going to make a second rule, it would be that those parents who provide toys and coloring books for their children at Mass have the most difficulty in restraining their behavior.

    The most disconcerting children are teenagers who obviously don’t want to be at Mass and are present only because Mom wants them to be there.

    They’re not noisy, but their body language indicates nothing but rebellion. I really feel sorry for those Moms who probably have already lost the war.

  3. Gloria says:

    A good observation is the fact that people do not live within a comfortable distance to come separately, leaving the smallest tads at home. We have people coming from 17 counties at St. Stephen’s, Sacramento. Early on I directed the choir and played the organ in our ’50s parish. Most of the time I was pregnant besides (9 children). My husband and I did come in shifts, the oldest ones, able to sit still, came with one or the other of us. When we were able to come as a family, any offending toddler/baby was taken out at the first peep. That’s my gripe today. It is a lack of consideration for others. At one point I spoke to our pastor, who, good priest that he is, said that when he is saying Mass he is oblivious to any outside noise. During the homily, however, — And that’s one of the times it’s most annoying. One can’t hear what Father is saying, so more than the parents are missing the lesson of the day. During the Consecration it is absolutely unacceptable; yet some parents still will not remove a happily cooing-out-loud, banging on the pew, etc., child. It isn’t just the crying, screaming babes. Happy ones are just as guilty. And most of these families DO sit toward the back of the Church. Another result of a baby tuning up is that others then follow suit. It’s catching! I feel sorry for these parents, trying to fulfill their obligation to hear Mass. But one or the other should remove themselves with the noisy one, so at least one of them – and the rest of us – can participate in and hear Mass.

  4. dcs says:

    I do agree that noisy children as well as those who can’t sit still ought to be taken out of Mass, at least temporarily. On the other hand, I also think that the older/childless crowd should stop giving them “the look”. [I am sure we all agree on that. However, part of what is being asked here concerns the parents own participation at Mass.]

  5. Ben says:

    Fussy kids can be a distraction at church, but I’m personally more concerned about who’s being distracted. I’m quite a bit more concerned about overly-doting grandmothers who spend the whole Mass focused and fussing after the child than I am with a noisy or distracted kid distracting me. In that sense, I think the priest is spot-on. If all you’re going to do is babysit for an hour, then do it at home and take shifts so one adult can be with the child at all times while the other can focus on Mass.

    If you bring the child to Mass, but he or she goes ballistic and you have to take him out, then that’s unavoidable.

  6. Larry says:

    Father Z,

    I did not read all of this post. But I did read enough to see that you do have a heart which at times I have thought was rather cold. Forgive me. I have heard priests go both ways on this issue. One priest even encouraged parent to bring their little ones to the very front rows because he wanted them to see and learn what was happening. We have a lot of little ones in our parish! I have also seen priests who were visibly upset at noise during their sermons. I have had priests merely get EVEN LOUDER.
    The issue is that parents need to provide some guidlines for children and when they are unruly remove them from the main body of the church. Don’t get angry and DONT JUST IGNORE THEM. There are limits and parents should recognize them. Children should not be allowed to roam about the church during Mass. Coloring books and picture books of saints or Jesus can help children realize the difference that church is from a playground or movie.
    OLder members of the parish can help by gently reminding parents after Mass of the need to control misbehavior. Be forewarned you may get an angry response from some parents who believe little Johnny or Jane are perfect angels! I believe in one of older translations of the Bible the quotation goes: “Suffer the little children to come to Me.” Perhaps theat is what Jesus really said and it can be a little suffering. I remeber when our 4 little ones caused me a bit of suffering—But they all still go to Mass and with their children with them. ONe of my grandaughters is a favorite with our Archbishop. Not too bad for a three year old!

  7. Timbot says:

    In my personal experience, as well as observing many large families at both local EF and Byzantine communities, there seems to be a pretty even back/front break. Personally, I prefer the front because it allows a sort of “defense in depth” whe I get a chance to engage my young ones in the visual, aural, and olfactory experience of the liturgy, and then, failing that, I could “retreat to the rear” or to even more safe environs, and then gradually re-acclimate the child back into the liturgy. Inside out to outside in! It really worked well!

  8. annamae says:

    Thank you for addressing this issue. Screaming children meed to be removed from the church until they are settled down. Also, I agree that parents who bring books, toys, food, or worse yet, electronic games to Mass need to get a clue as to why they are at Mass in the first place.

  9. LCB says:

    I’m not a parent, but I’ve never understood why so many toys, books, candies, cheerios, etc need to be brought to mass.

    When books start being thrown, stories read, and toys played with, I find myself more distracted than I am by a crying baby because I think to myself, “Why are cheerios hitting me in the eye? Why must there be PSPs and transformer toys at mass? Why is there coloring taking place?”

    To this end, I feel that perhaps a distinction is to be made between controllable distractions (“MOM I JUST GOT A HIGH SCORE ON THE VIDEO GAME”) and uncontrollable distractions (baby crying because diaper needs changing).

  10. Curtis says:

    My toddler is quite a handful and impossible to deal with at Mass usually. But I started taking her to Mass alone, just me and her, instead of my wife and other children, giving her ample amounts of positive attention preemptively, getting her to notice a bit of what was happening (“Do you see the big book?”) and she was surprisingly well-behaved. So a suggestion for parents of multiple young children might be to take them alone, 1-on-1.

  11. Patrick says:

    My wife and I were truly blessed since our children are very well behaved, I think in large part because of the subtle clues that Mass is an important thing to our family. However, at our family Mass, I ought to know what I am getting into. So when my nerves start to fray, I remember that I had 5 Masses to choose from, and, I remember that these kids are as much of the Church as I. How loud must it have been to listen to the Lord in Gallilee? And I take the long view because I have had the benefit of seeing many of those children become great kids and active members in the parish. Our behavior towards these children and their families influence the future of the Church. They are worth our tolerance. We adults should be able to focus on the Mass.

  12. Simon Platt says:

    I’m a father. My wife and I always have always taken our children to mass, as soon as they came home from hospital. They have only ever missed mass because of illness, and that hardly ever. And we have hardly ever done shifts – and never for the sake of avoiding the children.

    I’m stunned that anyone would think it wise to do otherwise (or at least I was stunned when the idea was first brought to my attention – by this blog, I think). I am strongly of the opinion that children should go to mass with their parents, and that they should be quiet – as quiet as possible – and if they’re not quiet then … they should still go to mass with their parents.

    There is one thing I’m dead against – “children’s liturgy”, also known in some places as “little church”. Do you have these abominations in the States, too?

  13. eve bergez says:

    I remember those days. We have 6 kids. For so many years we sat by the back ready if need be to take them out , too happy or too loud. We called it the “holy sacrifice” of being there together. We were not at all beyond bribery, a reminder was almost always sufficient, “remember donuts”. It was a sad child that had to learn we were serious.A reward for them is what they understand at that age. We had them draw a picture of what jesus did in the gospel (with cues from us ). We’ve all gotten through. God bless you Fr. Z

  14. Evelyn says:

    My two are old enough now not to be much trouble. In the toddlers years, though, we found sitting in the front was a great strategy, because they could really see what was going on. I often take/took my kids with me when I am doing something in the sacristy, so they have had a chance to see things up close and ask questions. It helps that we know the priest and deacon personally.

    But if they are ever squirrelly and I miss the homily, you can bet I turn them over to their dad and go back for the next Mass! The funny thing is, I almost miss them at the daily Masses where they don’t join me, because it is easier for my mind to wander.

  15. momoften says:

    Father, I agree she should step back and ask the priest if he has a particular problem with her little ones in church. I know a mom who could not control her young ones in church. HUGE DISTRACTION! She would bring loads of food,toys books, and notebooks to keep them quiet.IT DOESN’T WORK!!! She would also let them run everywhere Her youngest is 3…they are still unpredictable.Whenever I talk to younger parents these are some of the tips I give them– Lesson one: Little ones should be in Mom or Dad’s arms or within reach at all times(preferably younger ones in arms at ALL times until they can behave). Lesson two: they should be taught church is not to be entertained with toys books or other things. Lesson three: some Mass times are better than others for young ones. Lesson four: deal with the limitations (and know the limitations of your children)young kids may place on your time in church (in other words you may not always have the prayerful Mass you wish for or even be able to go to the different services available because of the time or length of service..but teaching them to be good in church is as important offer it up and find prayer time without them even if it is at night the payoff will come in time.. I had one (total of 13 children) of the babies that as soon as we sat down he basically screamed. I ended up in the back of church every Sunday for about a year. Meanwhile, I found an early morning Mass that I attended alone to find prayer for myself. It made me sane. ) But really as a parent it is persistence and having the good sense NOT to allow the little one to take over the pew and taking them out if necessary!

  16. Edward says:

    Well Fr. Z you asked for it and you got the first irrational and emotional response from Larry above.

    This is the danger a priest runs into when you broach this topic. Everything you wrote was sensible and right on the mark. For anyone to accuse you of being somewhat “cold hearted” is way off the mark.

    I have a two year old who is absolutely terrible in Mass. I mean terrible!! I spend the entire 1 to 2 hours chasing her (most of which is outdoors because she is so disruptive inside the church). My wife is eight months pregnant and the little two year old is way too much for her to control right now, so the entire job is left to me. It is so obvious that it is this type of scenario your entire post (and that above referenced anonymous priest) was referencing that it really irritates me when I see people conclude such silly nonsense like you are cold hearted for saying what you wrote.

    Believe me, if I did not have to drive over an hour to get to my parish every Sunday then my family would most certainly go in shifts. However, there are no other traditional Mass options in the vicinity and the Novus Ordo is something to be avoided at all costs in my area of the diocese. My family’s faith is much better off by me enduring five hours of temporal misery every Sunday by going to Mass together as a family than it would be if either my wife or I had to endure the forty five minutes of spiritual misery that is involved with going to Mass at one of the four or five parishes within a ten mile radius of our home.

  17. priest up north says:

    As a relatively young priest (in my 30s) and one who certainly sees the fallout that has resulted from disregard of Church teaching on marriage and family and the resulting “contraceptive mentality,” I wonder how the attitude toward children at Mass was 40 years ago and more, when the Church likely had many more children? I know Father Z. refers to the “going in shifts” that parents would employ. However, were the elderly of those years as prone to giving “the look” as those elderly of today seem at times to be?

    Admittedly, my approach is a little different from what Fr. Z. advocates regarding participation, which causes me to evaluate my counsel to young parents. Typically, I encourage them to bring their children, aware that they may have to take their child out if they begin screaming, or that the people who are less tolerant my give them a dirty look. I have said to parents that the grace received in the Eucharist by one who participates in the Mass fully versus that grace received by a Mom or Dad dealing with a fussy child all through Mass may be different, but that the Mom and Dad are likely receiving the graces they seek and more, simply because they are seeking to participate faithfully in the midst of their task of living out their vocation. Even though they may outwardly appear to receive nothing from the Mass, the graces of the Eucharist, when received in a state of grace, even by the parent who hears nothing of the readings or homily, or anything else for that matter, are real and beneficial – and perhaps more beneficial than the intolerant who justifies their downward look upon a fussy child as a pious act…

    I am open to correction on this one.

  18. Patrick says:

    My rules:

    1. Sit somewhere in the front 3 rows. Young children who can see what’s going on are far less likely to get distracted.

    2. Kids face front. It’s not nice for the people behind you to have your 5 year old staring at them from a foot away. Exception: 2 or so and younger.

    3. Kids may not stand on the pew or lie down on the floor.

    4. Kids who are loud and fussy or decide to speak loudly are immediately removed to the back of church.

    5. In the back of church, removed children are held by the parent. They don’t get to run all over the narthex.

    6. No toys and no food. Just books like the little paperbacks on various saints and the Mass.

    7. Nursing babies get to nurse in church. Discretely of course.

    8. Always try to attend Mass as a family.

  19. Matt says:

    I remember reading the autobiography of the life of St. Therese of Lisieux titled “The Story of a Soul”. When talking of her early childhood, she mentions not being taken to Mass until she was old enough. A parent or relative would stay home with her while the family went to Mass. This made her yearn deeply for attending her first Mass when she was old enough to attend.

    I’m not sure what the current Church opinion on this is, but it obviously worked well for St. Therese, Doctor of the Church

  20. LCB says:

    I’ve always wondered if noisy/bored children are watching too much TV and/or ever encounter silence at home.

    If a child always hears the radio in the car, always hears the TV at home, etc, then being at Church will be a startling change.

  21. Mitch_WA says:

    During one sermon at a parish I occasionally visit the priest made a comment when one baby began crying and then a snowball effect took place. Several babies were crying, the priest stoped his sermon and said something to the effect of: “I have never been bothered by crying babies in Church, a parish without an occasional crying baby is a parish without a future. But if your child is making a bunch of noise it would be great if you could take them outside and calm them down.” Ever since when I hear a crying baby in Church (I am a noise intolerent person) I smile first before I think to myself that someone needs to take that baby to the vestibule.

  22. Subvet says:

    The wife and I take our three little ones every Sunday. The two year old girl goes into the nursery provided by the parish, the four & five year old boys are too old for that. They go with us.

    Both boys are autistic, sitting in the front minimizes the fidgeting and restlessness because they’re entertained by the actions of all on the altar and in the choir. Anyone who indignantly proclaims Mass isn’t for entertainment should spend some time with autistic kids and then they’ll know what they’re talking about. The boys have “quiet” toys such as books and the wife’s calculator to keep them distracted. If a meltdown occurs, I’m outta there with the culprit in my arms so fast I’ve almost run over the ushers at the door. Normally I can’t return because the meltdown doesn’t end quickly enough, that occasions a trip to the confessional about missing my Sunday obligation.

    Our pastor encourages bringing children to Mass, the crying room is strictly for meltdowns and nothing else. Unfortunately my kids are too loud even for the crying room.

    As for going in shifts, my wife works nights as an RN and I’m the stay at home parent, we are a single car family and it’s a fourteen mile trip one way to the church. When we start getting volunteers to pay the gas and a monetary offset so she can skip work when too tired, we’ll consider the idea of shifts.

    And we’re lucky. There’s another “special needs” family we occasionally see who have a boy with MS. “Mom” has at times spent the entire Mass spinning a globe for him so he’ll stay quiet. From their dress I’d say they’re not up for the necessary expenditures of going in shifts either.

    So in summary I’ll state our general attitude; “If, despite our efforts, you’re affronted by the presence of our kids then move to another part of the church. If that doesn’t work go to another Mass. We can only do so much with what God has given. Have a nice day unless you’ve made other plans.\”

  23. stike says:

    I think there is an important distinction that needs to be made between babies and toddlers/children < 5.

    Now, I’ve got two, ages 3 years and 11 months. The 3 year old does fine. He has his “Saints Bag” with holy cards, a rosary, a couple of Catholic books, etc. that he looks at. No toys allowed, no coloring books, etc. One day, we were at dinner and he randomly starts reciting the Creed at the table. One of the happier memories of my life. He also joins in with the Our Father and the Sanctus.

    The interesting thing is that his behavior is way better at the NO than the EF. I think this has to do with what Fr. Z has written concerning the NO being suitable for those requiring spiritual milk and making less demands. Neither boy can handle the EF as of yet, and the amount of work required to get them through it means the NO, despite its flaws, is a better choice for us right now.

    The 11 month old is a bit more…active/rebellious/troublesome/ornery…He gets a soft toy (stuffed monkey) and yes, he’s been known to throw a book. The first throw is forgiven, the second causes the book to be removed. Now just what are we supposed to do at the consecration when Jr. decides to start screaming? It’s a rock and a hard place! Get up and get out, or stay put through the storm? We sit at the front b/c the 3 year old does best where he can see the action. It’s a no-win.

    I’m with the others–I’ve seen family Masses where Father invites all the kids forward to sit in front of the altar and delivers a homily just for them. I find it appalling. Frankly, I wish we had some Sunday Mass option similar to mid-week Mass. 30 minutes tops, without sacrificing the core. Short homily. Now that’d be a kid-friendly Mass. This is an area ripe for using media: Father could put up his regular “longer” homily on the parish web site.

    I’d prefer the 3 year old to go with me and then the wife to go by herself (so she gets a little time alone). But she’s a big fan of us all going together. So that’s what we do right now.

  24. o.h. says:

    These threads are the most depressing, because of the number of people tutting that parents just can’t/won’t keep their kids quiet, or remove them fast enough, or distract them in an acceptable way.

    I try my best on Sundays to (a) strike the right balance between letting my kids (and me) attend Mass, and (b) not letting my children interfere unduly with the worship of others. It’s really not helpful to read all the comments sniffing about Bad, Inconsiderate Parents who bring books for their children, or fail to remove happy cooing toddlers, or aren’t snappy enough getting those darn kids the heck out of church. How much better if I could assume that the thoughts of those around me were charitable and sympathetic, rather than criticizing and angry. How hard it is to assume that after reading this thread.

  25. Edward 2 says:

    Similar to the Edward above, I have a 2 year old boy and my wife is 7 months pregnant, so I take our boy to adoration and handle much-not all-of the Mass. Somedays he’s great, others…not so much. We have recently weened him from Cheerios during Mass, although we still allow him a drink (which he typically finishes in the car en route to Mass). He might have a book of prayers or a Bible story. We do bring a little notepad and two crayons. We sit in the front transept near the exit: near the altar so he can see, near the door for a quick exit.

    I can say this: we want him to become aware of the goings on but not if it means distracting others. Our deacon tells us, too, that our boy is far from the loudest, so I figure we’re doing okay. Oh, and when we do leave Mass with him, it becomes an exercise in sitting still and being quiet. No “rewards” for interrupting Mass.

  26. Ellie says:

    Fr. – LIke your blog. I never mind hearing the children in church. I live in the South where the Church is growing. In our parish, a large percentage of the baptisms are of children with Spanish surnames. It is very loud when I attend the Spanish Mass because there are so many young Catholics there. If the parents can’t bring their children to the Mass, I think we’ll lose even more to other churches. It is a joy to see the families with all the children. After the Spanish Mass, Fr. blesses the babies and young children when their parents bring them forward to him as the choir sings.

    Why don’t Catholic parishes don’t seem to have nurseries. Most of the local Protestant churches that I know anything about have nice nurseries where the parents may leave their children. Parents are given pagers to take to the church service in case they need to be contacted for some reason. They are also very careful in identifying just who may pick up a child from the nursery. I’ve wondered this since becoming Catholic.

  27. Mary Ann says:

    When my sister and I were very young attending Mass in the 1950′s our parents would take us to high Mass and we’d sit in the front row. Our assistant pastor, dear Father Collins, slowly walked the the aisles leading all the sacred prayers, hymns and responses. Father C was a disabled veteran, in constant pain, who had survived the Bataan Death March. My little sis would ‘accidentally’ drop her hymnal booklet over the front of the pew just before Father C was making his way by so he could hand it back to her with a smile and a wink. Father Collins and Monsignor O’Reilly are truly among the saints I have known!

  28. Ukok says:

    Since no one (except God) is able to measure by any means, the graces which each child receives during their regular attendance at Mass I find it unfathomable that children should be discouraged from going to Mass with their parents.

    How many babies scream and cry when they are baptised? How many hundreds, thousands of babies get baptised each week?

    Is it okay for them to receive the Sacrament of Baptism and then have them shushed away until they can zip it?

    I don’t think so.

    It is good for children to know that they are welcome at Church. They can be bought up in the Faith, learning about the Feast days, the Seasons of the Liturgical Year, leave flowers for Mary, learn about reverence and respect. Their are so, so many benefits to the child, and also to the parents, when a family is made to feel like they belong. An angry look, a tut tut here and there, can make the difference to a whole family feeling unwelcome at Mass or feeling that they are accepted. I know too many people who have stopped going to Mass because they felt unwelcome or hurt by the behaviour or cruel words of an annoyed parishioner or priest. It really is such a shame.

    Every cradle Catholic was once a child. The majority of whom i imagine grew up in the faith, attending Mass with their parents. How many Catholics leave the faith as young adults….but come back to the faith later on because of their Catholicity being so rooted in the foundations of who they are, so grounded in to their very being since childhood? Hundreds of thousands, I imagine.

    Luke 18:16 reads “Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”.

    Of course there has to be a level of responsibility and consideration towards other worshippers….but there are adults who talk through the Mass, chew gum through the Mass…talk about their lottery numbers during the Mass, flirt with one another during the Mass….so surely it would be far more sensible to do as my parish priest does and put a notice on the door of the Church for everyone to refrain from talking/noise making until they are outside when the Mass has ended.

    With reference to the specific case mentioned in the post, perhaps it would be possible (and perhaps it would have been wiser for the priest to have mentioned this) that while it is appreciated that the family attend Mass together, the parents may benefit from finding the time to attend a weekday Mass without the children present, or that they might like to worship at Holy Hour/Adoration.

    Final thought…some children, sadly, do not live very long lives,….what a dreadful shame it would be if parents felt discouraged from bringing their children to Mass, by fellow parishioners or their parish priest. I have seen the angry stares, the chuntering and mubling (and worse) of members of the congregation towards small children and their parents and I think it is at least as, if not more annoying, than any noise emitted from a small child/baby. I also think it is they who need to examine their own consciences.

    It’s up to all of us to strive to be more tolerant of those we call brothers and sisters, and for us all to examine our actions and consider whether the way we behave is befitting or distracting to others who are worshipping along side us. Whatever our age.

  29. Dino says:

    And I thought I was the only one who noticed that children of all ages seem to be better-behaved at EF Masses.

    In my regular parish, there is a glassed-in cry room in the transcept, but usually two or three large, extended families–from babes in arms to grandparents–take “squatters rights” leaving others with screaming, chattering, running small children to shift for themselves where ever they happen to be in the church. This makes Sunday Mass seem more like a kindergarten playground.

    In my former parish I was an usher; our ushers devoted most of our time to chasing down small children and their toys in the aisles or heading them off at the door, with parents displaying either relief for the assistance or expressing dislike for the “interference” in their children’s playtime.

    There’s gotta be a middle ground in all of this.

  30. Margaret says:

    As a mother of 6, I can tell you that we brought all of our children to Mass from the time they came home
    from the hospital. I feel that it is much harder to introduce a child to the Mass when we wait until
    they have spent years in the nursery–plus, they don’t get the graces from the Mass that way. With that
    being said, I stayed in the back for quick escapes when necessary.

    Most of the time we didn’t have a problem because we did not let them sit and cry in church and because
    we gave out loving discipline. When they were small I did bring a bottle of juice or even
    parent-controlled Cheerios and maybe a small stuffed animal, but we drew the line at noisy and
    distracting toys, food at too old an age(I can’t stand seeing them chewing gum in church), and poor
    behavior.. We did feel that once they were old enough, it was important for them to see the Mass.
    We also explained the Mass to them by quietly whispering, “There’s Jesus”, and other appropriate comments.
    I feel that if we take the time to work with them, they can surprise us with relatively wonderful
    behavior.

  31. Sara says:

    I was raised in a hard-core Protestant church where children were seen but not heard. No food, no books, no bags of toys…you could bring in like ONE small dolly or small car but it stayed on the lap..it dance across the pews.. We dressed up for church too so kids learned from day zero that church was not a playground. There was an optional nursery for little babies if so desired. We were also in Southern California with no a/c in our church.. the slightest little peep and the child was instantly whisked away..I hardly recall any problems with children in the church…perhaps the parents did plenty of instruction at home. I know my folks did..

    That was one thing that was more than a little put-offish during my investigation of the Catholic Church was that church seemed to be more of a picnic or playground than church..kids running around instead of sitting quietly, food, drink, games everywhere…really hard to get into the Mass when the kids next to you are jumping up and down in the pews and the kid in the pew in front of you is giving you the staredown…

    And just an observation for parents with babies in diapers…if your baby needs changing please do it BEFORE Mass. Very hard for me to focus on Mass when there is a obnoxiously soiled diaper next to me, no matter how quiet the baby is…

  32. Anne Scanlon says:

    Hard to give a pat answer to this….I raised six kids and now have the privilege of watching my adult children raise their own….also work as a DRE….so lots of experience and still no perfect answer.

    So many variables….quiet baby or noisy baby; large echoing church or small carpeted church, cry room or not…etc.

    However two things I have witnessed seem to be most effective with children even as early as age two:

    1.Explain to the child(ren) in an age appropriate manner where you are going, why and how this is the most important thing we ever do. Then set the rules and the consequences for misbehaviour beforehand. Parents be consistent in your expectations and response.
    2.Take little ones to daily Mass whenever possible…it is less crowded…Mass is shorter..and you will have better opportunities to catechize.

  33. KBW says:

    As to “the look:” A crying baby will pull everyone’s attention. When I sat in the choir with all the older ladies we looked over at the screaming baby. But then each one of those ladies had a story of their horrible child’s embarrassing behavior back in the day. Yeah, there are some cranky folk, but sometimes the ladies are just staring and reminiscing.

  34. Ann says:

    No zaps from me.

    I enjoy children sounds at Mass provided they are not being monsters. A little voice asking a question makes me smile, a child kicking the pew and whining needs to leave.

    My main irritation are people who take their toddlers up into the choir loft when it is not in use, thinking that they will not bother anyone up there–we may not be able to SEE what your child is doing to cause all that noise but there are reasons why the Choir sings from the choir loft and it isn’t because it makes them more difficult to hear.

    But I think what you say is quite on the nose. It is nice if each parent gets a chance to go to mass now and again without distractions.

    Luckily, the front pews in our parish church are ideal for small children because of the side doors situated pretty nearly at the ends of the first pews–allowing for a fast exit.

  35. Ceile De says:

    I think the question, for children beyond the baby stage, is not so much whether they should attend as how their parents attend to their behaviour.
    It is just my unscientific observation but children we have seen attend the EF do seem to behave better than those at the NO.
    They and their parents also do tend to be dressed up rather than in ‘just woke up’ tee shirts; their parents and they genuflect upon entering the pew.
    I find the EF appeals to all the senses, not just that of hearing. I wonder if there is more to engage the you ng child or if it notices that nobody else is making a fuss.
    Or could it be that parents who attend the EF raise their children differently from those who prefer the NO.
    I would be interested to hear from child psychologists on this matter and from those who attend the EF and NO. Perhaps others do not share my perceptions.

  36. Bill in Texas says:

    Speaking only for myself:

    I am old.

    I love kids.

    When we were young and our children and grandchildren were small, their behavior was really only occasionally a problem, easily and quickly dealt with. Would I rather not have had the distraction? Yes. Would I rather not have had the kids with us? No.

    Do I dislike “the look”? Yes. Intensely. Even now.

    Personally, I am FAR more annoyed by adults who DO NOT TURN OFF THEIR CELL PHONES AND LET THEM RING AND RING DURING MASS OR ANSWER THEM WITH A “CELL YELL.” (Happened yesterday during a funeral!) Really, people, kids are still learning how to behave. Once a person is old enough to own a cell phone, there’s no excuse.

  37. ckdexterhaven says:

    Well Father, you tried!

    I have 4 kids right now the youngest is the world’s worst almost 2 year old. He won’t sit still in church, but he’s that way at home too. My older 3 are quite a bit older, and they were also challenging. My husband and I take turns every Sunday. Tomorrow is my turn. :( I have to sit outside in the Narthex and try to keep things to a minimum. It would be nice if there were neighborhood churches, if we didn’t have to drive so far, we would probably trade off also.

    Now one of my teenage sons, is seriously contemplating a vocation to the priesthood. When HE was the toddler being rotten in church, I thought to myself “maybe he’ll be a priest.” So, you never know. Maybe that incorrigible little darling screaming tomorrow might be a Bishop or Cardinal in 50 years!

  38. David Deavel says:

    Sara,

    I\’m also a former Protestant and I recall the same thing about Church. But Protestant Church is different from the Mass. In the Mass something inconceivably important is happening; in Protestant services (at least my Calvinist/Evangelical ones) there was some singing, music, a short reading of Scripture, and then a long sermon. Church was conceived of as a sort of extended lecture/educational session. In many Evangelical Churches it is now conceived of as a lecture plus entertainment. In either case, children were not welcome.

    My introduction to the Catholic Church was one in which children are present, because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the renewal of the Paschal Mystery. Kids who are baptized are part of that. This made me attracted to the Church even if, as you point out, many parents don\’t approach it properly.

    For the record, I have four boys, 7 and under, and agree with those who say no food and no toys. We let the boys read during the homily, but they are supposed to follow along the rest of the time as best they can–standing, sitting, kneeling when we all do and saying/chanting the prayers they know.

  39. Rosie says:

    I don’t if I qualify as a child psychologist for this subject but I have for many years worked as a teacher in a private school for children with behavioral problems. Ceile De has hit on it precisely. It is the temperment and behavior of the parent that determines the temperment and behavior of the child in almost all cases not of a medical issue. I too have not been able to help notice the stark difference in the demeanor the children at the Tridentine Masses compared to the new mass. I don’t think it is necessary for me to point out the obvious reasons why but I will mention just one. The Traditional Mass lifts the mind and soul and even children can experience that at a very early age. I can myself still recall the knowing that something great and important was taking place and it demanded a particular decorum.

    Children need to know what adults around them expect of them at all times, let alone at the Mass. Children belong with their parents in the pew.

  40. ams says:

    Hence the wise adage: “Good intentions, like crying babies in Church, should be carried out at once.”
    But also, there was this: “He used to take the babies and walk the babies on his shoulders during Mass,” she said. “He said the babies were so close to heaven [that] they really were still in touch with God. He was just so special.” from http://romancatholicvocations.blogspot.com/2009/06/priest-gravely-wounded-in-iraq-in-2004.html
    Last thought: I am SO glad my ‘baby’ is 23!

  41. Rosie says:

    And YES. Absolutely no food and no toys. That seems rather obvious, doesn’t it?

  42. Cath says:

    I have seven children and I have learned each case is different and when one child is easy another may try your patience. No one ever complained, in fact, they told us how well-behaved our children were. They may have drove me crazy, but they didn’t distract others, or out they went. Seeing me frustrated after Mass the church secretary told me “at least you bring them, you cannot teach them if they don’t come”. This really changed my seeing it as a hassle and for Lent I took my three little ones to Mass daily (the others were in school). The fruits of taking them daily were amazing. My youngest is now five and she leads a decade of the rosary during Adoration before daily Mass. That said, although I see my duty to others that my children not be a distraction, I am very rarely bothered by other’s children. I think the post about silence and whether kids are ever allowed to have silence is very true. Lastly, it is rather difficult to teach your children how to remain quiet and prayerfull in church when so many adults do not show any respect to the Tabernacle. When children go into a church and it looks like social hour, how are they to learn the right way? When a child is truly being too loud and should but isn’t taken out, I see it as an opportunity to discipline myself to block out whatever distractions there are and focus on Christ, Who is the reason I am there in the first place.

  43. Stu says:

    Part of my participation at Mass is ensuring my children learn to do the same. We bring all of our children to Mass and let them know what is expected with regards to behavior and punish accordingly when such expectations aren’t met. Yes they can act up at times but that is when we, as parents, simply need to excuse ourselves with child in tow to rectify the situation and then get them “back in the game.” Further, the younger ones learn by the example of the older ones.

    My advice to new parents bringing their kids to church.

    1. Bring them and let them learn from the start.
    2. If they misbehave, take them out and “fix” them even if it requires a discrete swat on the behind. Let them regain their composure and return with you, walking on their own. The last part is important.
    3. Don’t worry about what others think when you are taking your child out in such instances. More than likely they will appreciate you being a parent.
    4. NO TOYS! That’s not for Mass. For the young ones who can’t pay attention, give them Holy Cards or religious books to look at (preferably about the Mass).
    5. Avoid the cry room (or “penalty box” as I call it). Often the behavior in there is out of hand. Not good reinforcement for what you are trying to do.
    6. Sit strategically with your spouse. Alternate so that you can have maximum presence among the children.
    7. Some noise by the kids is to be expected. They are kids and it is part of our “overhead” in raising new Catholics. Just use good judgment on when you need to pull them out.
    8. Extraordinary Form seems to calm and focus children. Don’t know why but it just does

  44. John says:

    When I read this post all I could think of is when the disciples tried to shoo the kids away from Jesus He ignored the adults and paid more attention to the kids. Looks like the founder of the Catholic Church weighed in on this issue 2,000 years ago.

  45. Jack says:

    My two cents

    Having just got back from evening Mass where I was treated to the kid in the pew behind me thumping his way through the entire service I say the St Therese option is probebly the best(at least until they’re 4), a possible add on to that would be going through the readings with the Child at home and/or a bit of Catechism class. On the feast of Corpus Christi I was exceptionally impressed by a girl who took her baby brother (who had started to cry) outside the Chapel whilst her mother stood in line to recieve Communion.

  46. Flabellum says:

    A church without children is a dying church. My experience is that bad behaviour seems to go with sloppy liturgy and popsong hymnody. Just my 2c (father of two and now grandfather of one).

  47. chris says:

    Father,

    I read your whole post, but haven’t read all of the comments. I am a mom of three fairly young ones who all go to Mass together, and I am currently in my youngest’s phase where he makes it to the homily, and we spend the rest of the time in the back where he may NOT get down. But I think your post was just right, thoughtful, charitable, and reasonable. Thank you for all your posts!

    chris

  48. David Green says:

    Fr Z,

    Sure there are parents (not children) at Mass who are inconsiderate of others when their children are making undue noise, but that’s has little relevance in discussing whether children should be present, which I believe they should. The argument that children “are pretty much oblivious to what is going on anyway” is a bit bogus given that many of the adult congregation at various times fall into this category as well. Presence at Mass is, in and of itself, a great thing. There will always be members of the community young or old who, for whatever reason (perhaps due to mental or physical disability), cannot participate in Mass in a “standard way”, but it is suely wrong to diminish the importance of them being there or to question it. I doubt there is one person reading this blog, or indeed writing it, who would claim to have a full understanding of the mysteries of the Mass which trancend the human intellect.

    David

  49. mother undercover says:

    I am a mother who takes small children to Mass. I am imperfect, but I am doing my best. If you see me struggling, please pray for me.

  50. Greg Keuter says:

    I have children (16 yo girl and 14 yo boy) and went through the disruptive stage with them both. Unfortunately, I made a bad decision and just stopped going to Mass and avoided the whole issue. I try to be very patient with parents who have children at Mass who are disruptive. They are, at least, still going to Mass. The one thing that gets under my skin is the parent who gives the

    SSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH!

    That is the most annoying noise and is rarely effective in quieting the situation. It only adds more noise and disruption, in my opinion. I will now get off the soapbox I had no right to get on in the first place.

    Peace to you all.

    Greg Keuter

  51. I don’t wish to ignore the possibility of grace obtained ex operato but at our church we have a nursery where the children are well cared for.

    Back in 50′s I remember our church had a nursery and Father was not all that averse to interupting his sermon and mentioning that fact when a child made too much noise. If the “offending” family was not already the centre of attention for the entire congregation they certainly were then.

    I might add that those were the days before the invention of “the pill”. As a result there was a greater chance of there being more than one baby scattered around the congregation. Has anyone ever noticed how if one baby starts to cry they all start to cry? They seem to have it organized. One can imagine their having a strategy meeting before Mass.

    The 1950′s also brought us the “crying room”. This was a chamber at the back of the church or off to one side with a large enough pew for five or six mommies. It was partitioned off with thick glass so that Mommie could, in theory, follow the Mass without her offspring disturbing everyone else.

    And it was great for “everyone else” but for the three or four mothers with their babies all crying together (remember, the babies have it organized) it must have been like being in the large bathing room in the psychiatric hospital in “The Nun’s Story”.

    I don’t think crying rooms are the answer and I also don’t think people today would put up with Father’s less than subtle comments from the pulpit but believe me, a properly looked after nursery, especially for toddlers at “that annoying stage” can be a blessing for all concerned and deter nasty comments favouring abortion up to the twelfth year.

    And no! Those looking after the children do not thereby fullfill their Sunday obligation but must assist at a separate Mass.

  52. a catechist says:

    Well, I spent almost all Easter Sunday Mass sitting on a cold stone foyer step with a furious pre-schooler, pregnant. No cry room, no chairs, and much too cold to take the kid outside. I think some parents might be conscientious about taking out a loud kid if the parish had better options.

    Of course, at a previous parish with lots of elderly folks, there were a few people who’d sit in the cry room when they were sick, saying it was better to expose the kids than the elderly….hello?

    I think one of the hardest parts of being a parent is trying to balance good Mass behavior with age-appropriate expectations and a positive attitude. My parents were super-strict in an angry way & I often dreaded going to Mass, since it was the place where the standards were highest and the associated anger the sharpest. The last thing in the world I want is for my kids to dread going to Mass because that’s where Mom & Dad are always grumpy if they’re not perfect and ignore them when they are.

    Still, at the parish where I’m a catechist, about half the public school kids who are there on Wed. night don’t go to Mass on Sunday. Obviously, there are a lot of factors involved, but I can’t help but wonder at what age that started….

  53. George says:

    just my view as a father of small children: small children do not belong at mass, period.

    one of the things that struck me reading the autobiography of st. therese of lisieux is that in her time, within her diocese, small children were not allowed at mass until closer to their time of first holy communion.

    it was considered a rite of passage preceding first communion, to be allowed to attend holy mass.

    children of 2, 3, 4, and 5 years of age have plenty of opportunities at catholic home to learn about the faith.

    now, in our age, of course entire families, newborns and all, go to mass. within novus ordo parishes things are even worse, of course: mass is for and about catering to children now.

  54. shadowlands says:

    Our Priest,Father Louis,who is 94,told us to reflect,that when hearing a baby or toddler cry,that they are the Church of tomorrow.There has been a fair amount of common sense advice given,so I would just like to add a huge big Hello to any parents struggling to get to Mass.Your sleepless night and hectic morning are the concern of some of the Body of Christ,(those who can remember and identify)and we welcome you,in His Name.Not everyone has a two parent household in which to work in organised shifts. If you have a desire to be at Mass,God will honour your decision. As for comments about different types of Masses producing different behaviours,I believe it’s the same Jesus being worshiped in all rites and forms,or have we split Christ into parts? No one has mentioned that Jesus reflection is in your child,let us look for that too when we judge behaviours. I want Jesus to look at me with Mercy on Judgment day,and this thought tends to help me calm any temptations to tut tut at others.Unless we become as little children…..

  55. P.S. I suppose it’s inevitable Father that in our day and age you will have to share your thoughts on mothers nursing their babies at Mass.

    Don’t think it couldn’t happen. These days, of course it could happen!

    And a gentle word offered on the subject by Father after Mass would arouse such indignation as to cause him to nostalgically remember the good old days when all he had to cope with were three or four babies crying all through his sermon.

  56. Simon Platt says:

    Actually, another thing I dislike (sorry Fr. Louis) is “the children are the church of tomorrow”. I say they’re the church of today, just as much as I am.

  57. Stu says:

    David O\’Rourke said: \”P.S. I suppose it’s inevitable Father that in our day and age you will have to share your thoughts on mothers nursing their babies at Mass.

    Don’t think it couldn’t happen. These days, of course it could happen!\”

    I don\’t see an issue with a mother feeding a child during Mass. In fact, I would submit it happens all the time in public without people even noticing it.

  58. Steven says:

    In the past I attended a parish where the priest made a special point of not allowing a cry room. What he said roughly was all of the parishioners from babies to the aged were children of God and should be at Mass. It seemed the older parishioners were generally the ones chuckling at this. I suppose from having gone through this long ago. It was more of the younger people experiencing the joys of crabby toddlers who were the most worried about it.

  59. Dear Fr Zuhlsdorf,

    First and foremost, God Bless the United States of America, on this 4th of July, in the Year of our Lord the two thousand ninth, and of the Independence of the United States, two hundred thirty-third.

    Kids make noise at Mass sometimes, and sometimes they make too much noise. When they do, it were best to take them outside. That’s it, and that’s… all of it.

    Best,
    C.

    PS
    will you open Z-chat tonight?

  60. Carol says:

    This is interesting though I can’t read all of the comments but the comment from Cath is spot on! And Larry was not irrational, he had a good point. Fr. your post was helpful to me. I’m a mom of a very little one (6 months). This is a topic I have been thinking about and wondering how I’m going to deal with as we multiply. We have timed our trips to Mass so baby is napping pretty much the whole time, I’ve had one or two masses she was not having it. Every child is different and with the growing numbers of children with ADD or Autism there is more disruption. Mercy, mercy! I have to say having a child has made me way more compassionate and understanding of people’s quirks. I try to remember St. Therese when it seems a dozen people are have a coughing fit during the homily and in our funky 60s horrible acoustics church where everything is louder than the priest’s mic you hear every cough drop wrapper and purse rummaging.
    I’m thinking we will have to split mass attendance eventually but I want to make sure that some Sundays they (hopefully there will be more) will go with Dad and some with Mom and some all together in the back. But let me tell you all the local churches have horrible little cramped crying rooms filled with adults or children who should be home where there nasal drip can be attended to. Once, I went to the crying room because my baby decided she wanted to compete with the speakers. In the crying room the volume is thankfully high but God bless those people giving me dirty looks for my singing babfy in the crying room and forgive my thoughts! Yes, trust me I am more patient now than I used to be.
    And I know the original post is not about distracting others but the nuance is that the priest is distracted and he is an ‘other’. If you guys have orthodox or Latin masses, lucky you. Because the real distraction is seeing the twenty Eucharistic Ministers go up and noticing people be irreverent or dressed for the beach etc. It’s terrible but I keep repeating “focus, this is still the mass”.
    Sorry for the digression if anyone is actually reading this. :) I think it’s important to be conscientious of yourself, your children, and others spiritual needs so your kids don’t grow up to be lukewarm and so we don’t get vomited either. ;)

  61. Hans says:

    Surely we can agree that there are some places and occasions where the presence of very small children is not appropriate […] . For example, I think we will agree that two year olds are not good candidates for […] the university lecture hall. They are not good candidates for Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.

    I have, on occasion, had a parent (usually the mother) bring a small child into my lecture hall when the usual arrangements fell through. While I agree that it’s not an ideal situation, I’d rather have my student there slightly distracted than not at all. While they have always said that they would take them out if they became disruptive, I don’t remember it ever having come to that. Which, I suppose is an indication of just how sleep-inducing my lectures are.

    On the other hand, it seems (someone above referred to Luke 18:16-17) to me that Mass is an appropriate place for children of all ages, so long as they’re not overly disruptive.

    I can think of one example that might be helpful. There is one couple in my parish who found that their children are better-behaved and they are better-able to participate in Mass if the father takes the boys and goes to one side and the mother takes the girls to the other. Otherwise, they start poking at each other. Perhaps these parents could experiment with some similar tactic, sitting near each other (so maintaining some degree of unity) but with the parent with the baby near an exit, just in case.

    All that being said, in the 25 years I’ve lived in the Chicago area, I’ve never been a candidate for Charlie Trotter’s either. (I checked; it’s only been open since ’87.)

  62. Edward Martin says:

    As a father of a three year-old who spent Monday morning Mass sitting in the car I can relate!
    Thankfully such measures are seldomly implemented. Most weekdays we get comments on how well behaved our children are at Mass.

    We have few rules of engagement. I am a believer of sitting near the front. One, being able to see what is going on helps to keep their attention. Secondly, if it looks like we are heading for a breakdown one of us can leave the church. (I think know most parents can tell when a breakdown is imminent and can be near the exit by the time the REAL screaming starts.)It allows one of us to stay with the offender while the other can receive Communion and then tag-team so both of us can recieve Communion. (Unfortunately this did not work Monday as the small rural church we were attending had no place to quietly hide inside with the screamer.)
    I also agree with the comment that knowing the right time to go to Mass is helpful. Going to an evening Mass when Junior has not had his nap is probably heading for trouble.

    That all being said the Father in question is right I often do get more out of Mass when I am on my own. (Although there are times when Mass provides an incredible healing between my wife and me. Sometimes the readings or the homily just hits home and my wife and I look at each other and say without words “did you just hear that?” )Once and a while either my wife or I just ask the other if we can go to Mass alone.

    I must say that there have been very few times where I have been on the receving end of “tuts”. I am probably more guilty myself of “tuts” and eye rolling at the incessant full scale chatter that all too often happens in some parishes before, during, and after Mass.

  63. Carol says:

    for the comment on breastfeeding
    nothing quiets a baby better and it can be done very modestly
    i ask you to recall and contemplate the many lovely images of Our Lady breastfeeding the infant Jesus.
    careful that you don’t agree with the Church because it “agrees” with you but rather accept the truth because it is the truth and you wont fall into apostasy.

  64. Janet says:

    Briefly, I agree with the priest in question, that parents do assuredly participate more meaningfully at Mass if the leave the kids at home or in the nursery. We did that with our two, and really didn’t try to sit through Mass with either child until each was about 3 yrs old.
    After all, what can a toddler or infant possibly gain from sitting through an hour-long Mass? Conversely, how many people in addition to his parents can he distract and irritate while he is enduring this hour of meaningless tedium that is far beyond his understanding?

    (yeah I know, I’m about to get “zapped”, as Fr. Z so aptly put it.)

  65. Palestrina says:

    All the feedback thus far seems to be an eloquent argument in favour of crying rooms in churches, does it not? The question is: how and where do we install such a room in an existing church? Installing in the back does not exactly encourage children to watch what is going on. Installing at the front raises the question of where is appropriate.

    We have one lovely church in my diocese that has a former nuns’ tribune to one side of the sanctuary (with external access). Glassed in (with a speaker inside), this strikes me as the perfect place to put a crying room: little ones can see everything that is going on, they’re not heard through the rest of the church when things go downhill, and a tribune is completely inconspicuous from the main body of the church. It would seem to me as if this solution would benefit parents too, because they would be able to focus more on the Mass and less on worrying about whether their children were distracting everybody else.

  66. Simon Platt says:

    “All the feedback thus far seems to be an eloquent argument in favour of crying rooms in churches, does it not?”

    I don’t think so.

  67. WWBE&ZD? (What Would Blessed Emile and Zelie Do?)

    With all due respect to the zapper parents, I think Matt’s comment about the formation of St. Therese – a Saint and Doctor of the Church – should hold primacy of place in any inductive reasoning regarding this topic. Hard to argue with a saint and two blesseds!

    And besides the obvious sanctity of Therese and her parents, which many would agree is worthy of imitation in most respects, there’s also the matter of our current turbulence at worship. Given the past generation of liturgical disembowelment, I think it is quite easy to hold a misconception – however honest it may be – of what should and should not happen at Mass as an objective norm. These are “interesting times”, as the Chinese curse says.

    I think of the anecdote from “Story of a Soul”, when Emile exasperatedly rebukes Therese for her passionate fervor when opening presents on Christmas morn. In the tears she shed over this harsh statement, she came to realize that she desired to please her father and her family more than herself — and this became a major turning point in her commitment to holiness. When a saint is scolded by her beatified father, and this in turn leads to a greater love for God and neighbor in said saint, we would do well to pay attention. Let us not forget that

    He who loves his son chastises him often, that he may be his joy when he grows up.
    He who disciplines his son will benefit from him, and boast of him among his intimates.
    He who educates his son makes his enemy jealous, and shows delight in him among his friends.

    (Sir 30:1-3)

    The “tolerant” model of parenting at Mass would perhaps be well-tempered by the thought of what fruit this “tolerance” will yield when the child grows up and worships as an adult.

  68. tzard says:

    We’ve done all these thing – shifts, timing the feedings so mass happens to be sleepy time. I even found certain positions or rubbing an infant’s back helps.

    One of ours was colicky – and screamed all the time. We had to go in shifts (but that “only” lasted 18 months straight, lol).

    The ironic thing, is that children who go to Mass *learn* and can at an early age (2 or 3?) behave. You just need to get them to that point.

    Parents of toddlers are already at a disadvantage putting full attention at Mass – they have been doing the work of God – and are probably sleep deprived at all hours anyway. You can’t expect them to break apart St. Thomas, can participate in their own way, according to their state in life.

    p.s. Third rail? No, this was a very good and balanced analysis of the situation. Good job Fr. Z.

  69. Stu says:

    Simon Platt said: ‘“All the feedback thus far seems to be an eloquent argument in favour of crying rooms in churches, does it not?”

    I don’t think so.’

    I don’t think so either. I believe cry rooms reinforce bad behavior.

  70. Nan says:

    Some parents train their children to sit still during Mass and others don’t. The problem is not the cooing of babies or vocalizing of toddlers but the failure of parents to remove children who are being disruptive, either because they’re not taught that Mass isn’t time to chatter loudly, or because the parents don’t think they need to remove a child experiencing a meltdown.

    I don’t know anyone who objects to children at Mass, per se, just those who object to parents who don’t remove disruptive children during Mass and don’t teach their children to be quiet and sit still during Mass; I know that quiet and still are relative terms by age, but really, should a five year old be eating milk and cereal during Mass? We knew we couldn’t eat before Mass.

  71. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    Every baby and child is different. No one answer suffices.
    “Parents, sit strategically.” Hear, hear. I’ve seen parents who are really trying, and having difficulty with their elementary aged children, because the mom and dad were sitting together instead of between the kinder–who were trying to get each other in trouble the way siblings do at that age. When you outnumber your darlings, it’s pretty easy to control things. When they outnumber you, matters require more forethought.
    Babies: are just fine until they can walk. Then they want to get down and run all over, which of course is not appropriate in church, and many other places as well. This is when your parenting skills will be developed–keep him in place without a tantrum if possible, or take him out and explain that no, we don’t run all over in church.
    Even the best baby will let out an occasional happy grito (shriek); unless he then decides to keep on doing it, it’s not a big deal. A quiet maternal “sh” with fingers on lips will get the idea across over time, especially if he gets that when he coos in between hymns as well. If he gives the grito again and again, because it sounds so cool when it echoes off the ceiling, that’s a problem.
    Going outside: cannot be a pleasant interlude for the child, or he will conclude that the dirty looks from Mom and Dad and the scolding are just the “rent” on the playground time. (Voice of experience.)
    If baby is fussy and unhappily loud, perhaps he’s coming down with something. He doesn’t know any better and he doesn’t know what his problem is, either. Take him to the cry room, and deal with his trouble if you can. (I once sat in a cry room with my nursing baby, because I was pretty sure she’d get hungry in the middle. She did. I couldn’t nurse her, though, not comfortably, because there was some old man sitting in there. He had no baby or small child with him, so I don’t know what he thought he was doing, but it really cramped my style–the cry room is for babies and toddlers, not sightseeing old people. Baby and I went outside and sat on a bench in the garden for a while, deploying the strategic blankie. Since she was one of those stubborn ones who refuses all bottles.)
    Letting children run all over is never good, nor is bringing snacks and toys. They need to learn how to sit (mostly) still for an hour, it takes a while for the lesson to really take, and they will profit immensely by having learned it, not only by the grace that will come to them in the Mass. I used to point out where we were in the Missalette when my (reading-age) child squirmed. And tap the page significantly. If the child goes to the nursery all the time for “junior Bible class” like some parishes offer, one fine day you will have a family event and you will discover that he’s never learned how to go to Mass and sit quietly for that small time required. (Again, voice of experience)
    Avoid assisting at long Masses with young children in tow. (Voice of experience here.) Even if that is the Mass with the showy choir that sings/chants the most marvelous music this side of Heaven. Part of the generous sacrifice of motherhood/fatherhood is putting your child’s needs ahead of your own stylistic preferences from time to time. Likewise, try to avoid the Mass with the celebrant that always gives a lo-o-ng sermon. The kids do the best they can, but there’s only so much they can do.
    I always found that it was much easier to roll out of bed early(ish) on Sunday morning, dress everybody up as quickly as possible, and run right over to Mass. Breakfast afterwards. (Infants, of course, the exception here.) That way their little dresses and shirts and pants aren’t messy with food, and you’re not late because of an emergency clothing change on the way out the door.
    If baby is a nursing baby and gets hungry, ladies, the cry room is good. Deploy the strategic blankie. That way you don’t feel exposed when he lets go to give a good, loud belch. :-) And if your parish has a pastor who thinks that having a working speaker in the cry room is a priority, give thanks to God for him, and thank him, too.

  72. Henry Peyrebrune says:

    I think
    Patrick’s rules
    are pretty much right on. I would just add 2 principles:

    1. Small children wiggle – it doesn’t mean that they’re not paying attention or learning. They’re still listening when they’re looking at the stained glass windows or the choir loft.

    2. Screamers and runners should be taken to the back until they settle down. (Some kids go through impossible phases and can’t be taken anywhere public for months. In this case, going in shifts makes sense.)

    When we had several toddlers who needed to be contained, I would go to Mass and just pray, “Lord, it’s up to you. Today will have to be all grace because I have my hands full.”

  73. Kimberly says:

    I thought \”priest up north\” and Patrick were right on. Babies crying does not bother me in the least compared to the adults that ACT like children. Children should be brought to church- after all the family is the \”Domestic Church\” There is a stunning difference between attending the NO and EF. I hear crying babies at the EF (there are many), but the NO is noisy, noisy, noisy, and it ain\’t the babies making the noise. And I can assure you that the children at the EF know exactly why they should be quiet. Excuse me, but some of the so called Teen Mass music get the kids all worked up and actually encourges them to get jiving in the pews. Seriously, what do you think that is teaching them?

  74. Nicholas says:

    “Eos [i.e., filios], ab eorum tenerrima infantia, vitae sociabunt Ecclesiae.” Catechismus 2225.

    Seems counterintuitive, at the least, to say one can associate children with the life of the Church without taking them to Mass.

  75. Hidden One says:

    The comment has earlier been made that young children who cannot pay attention to Mass get nothing out of it. Alas! Most of my own Mass attendance has apparently been nigh useless. Same with that of many of the mentally disabled.

    *sigh*

    It’s a really good thing that the grace of the Mass doesn’t work that way.

  76. Liz F. says:

    We all 10 go to mass together. It is not possible to split as our EF is 20 minutes away and there is usually only 20 minutes between masses if that. I have found that children CAN (I’m not shouting, Father, I just don’t know how to do italics here) behave. Our youngest is 3 right now, but our 3, 5, and 6 year olds can and do sit through an entire mass. I don’t even allow them to go potty unless it’s an emergency. They don’t eat and are expected to face forward. By the way, our masses are sometimes 1 hour and 45 minutes long so it is possible. Granted it’s taken me several children to figure out that they can, in fact, behave. We do sit in the back. One of the wonderful aspects of a Catholic mass is that you kneel, sit and strand so it’s definitely active even in the EF. I do get distracted by the really naughty children and I don’t know what you do about that. I get so frustrated when I’m trying to get my brood to behave and other kids are gawking at mine and trying to get them to “play” with them. Argh!

  77. joy says:

    Our church has a fairly large cry room, with speaker to hear the Mass, as well as speakers installed outside in the piazza. (all the ‘walls’ are glass doors, so the view from outside anywhere is not a problem) There are also 2 vestibules on either side, plenty of space for the little ones to get over their issues while Mom or Dad can still hear what’s going on.
    It seems to me that larger families do not have the advantage of grands/extended family to help with ‘kid control’ nowadays. Strategically placed adults between each couple of kids is enormously helpful, from my observations. Perhaps some of us could help out once in a while? A variety of options would help out those who are actually living out the Church’s teaching on family life.

  78. joy says:

    Oh, and BTW, I nagged my mother to make my First Communion early. We went to speak to the pastor and he gave her the prep book to read to me, since I was too young to read. I made First Communion at age 5. If she had left me at home prior to that age, would I have had the interest to ask?

  79. Hans referred us to Luke 18:16-17.

    Hans, be careful with text proofing. Our Lord is not telling us not to act our age nor is he telling us to scream and cry and irritate others.

    Rather, He is gelling us that we should be innocent and without guile.

    Before some of you more indignant parents get too self-righteous please keep in mind that a baby\’s cry is one of the most irritating sounds known to mankind. Nature provides a baby with this because the baby is otherwise helpless. Crying is the only way he or she can make it\’s needs known. Were the cry not so irrigtating the child could be easily ignored.

    So it is, in that sense, a blessing but please keep in mind that it really is the most irritating sound known to man and it is meant to get YOUR attention, not everyone else\’s.

    I have great sympathy for the parent struggling to do his or her best but please do not expect other people to not be annoyed. They have every reason to be annoyed.

  80. Timbot says:

    “So it is, in that sense, a blessing but please keep in mind that it really is the most irritating sound known to man”
    No David, the most irritating sound to man the whine of an adult scandalized by a mother feeding her child. Your comment reminds me of the famous anecdote of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who after publication of his dictionary was approached by a woman of respectable birth who congratulated him and praised him for not including any “vulgar words” in his dictionary. To which the good doctor replied “so you’ve been looking for them haven’t you?” Or more pointedly something related to me from a priest. “Father! Did you see what that girl was wearing at Mass!” “No. I was busy praying!”.

  81. Richard Cox says:

    I agree 100% with with Fr. Z; my wife and I have ten children and there were times when it was a struggle but we persisted in taking them all to Mass. When I discovered the traditional Mass in 1989 (I am a 1977 convert who married a Catholic) I noticed a marked change in their behavior; they were quiet; everyone around them was quiet.

  82. shadowlands says:

    Perhaps if the serenity we seek cannot be found, we need to alter our attitude. Next time a child draws our irritation.
    Remember what Jesus says.
    “See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven”.Matt 18;10. Sounds like we are close to Holy Ground here.
    Try it for one Mass,acknowledge the child’s angel,knowing how close to they are to the Father.Wow!

  83. fxavier says:

    I once served as the thurifer at an important and well attended Mass at the Cathedral in Chicago.

    Just at the Gospel, a little boy started running around the nave and even into the sanctuary. He took an interest in my swinging (and red-hot) thurible as the Gospel was being read and I wasn’t supposed to be moving.

    His parent was either too petrified to collect the child, or was experimenting with an uber-liberal parenting approach.

  84. Peony Moss says:

    As for the actual question, which was “do parents get more out of mass when they don’t bring their little kids”?

    Not necessarily. Sometimes the answer might be no. It depends on the child, and it depends on the parent. If a parent’s at Mass but the little one’s at home, what if the parent is distracted by constant thoughts of what’s going on at home? If a particular parent has mastered the knack of keeping an eye on a squirmy child while keeping his ear turned to Mass, then why not?

    With the stresses of commuting and work, some young families want to spend as much time as possible together on the weekends, especially for Mass.

    But if a parent is seething with resentment about having to correct a small child, maybe it would be better if that parent went to Mass solo. I knew a young dad who would bring his high-octane toddler son to a crowded, late morning Mass, expect the child to sit angelically while both parents paid strict attention, end up having to take the lad to the back, and then complain peevishly at him: “Whyyyy do you do this to Daddy?”

    Going to Mass in shifts can also be a huge benefit for older children. I know one family where Mom takes the two older daughters to one Mass and Dad goes to another Mass with their son (restless toddler stays at home.) The kids love the extra time and attention from Mom or Dad; the parents can give better catechesis and aren’t distracted from the baby and with the sisters picking on the brother; everybody’s happy.

    I hate cry rooms. I’ve found that many adults treat it as a skybox and talk all the way through Mass while their kids run wild in the cry room. Meanwhile, there’s no incentive for the kids to learn how to behave.

  85. laurazim says:

    I heartily recommend Father Antoine Thomas’ video “The Mass Unveiled” for little ones. Amazing.

    When we bring our children to Mass and teach them to look and listen carefully for Our Lord, we are showing them our faith in action. To just expect them to sit is unrealistic. Many adults cannot even sit through Mass without reading the bulletin or hymnal, checking their watch, fidgeting, looking around, checking the shoes of people in the Communion line, leaving for a trip to the loo, etc., etc., etc. Until there is perfect attendance by every adult at Mass, how can anyone expect children to be “seen and not heard”?

    We are called to assist at Mass–to participate by our singing the hymns and the Psalm, by responding, by praying aloud when called for, and by praying silently. One parent here expressed their delight in their little one spontaneously reciting the Creed; it’s the same way here. My husband has fashioned a Cross for our 3-year-old, who carries it about while singing “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed.” He regularly sings the Gloria while playing with his blocks. He is learning that the Mass is part of who he is, not just someplace we go for a while on Sundays. As was said by the parent mentioned, what an awesome blessing!–and how in the world would he have learned to WANT to “play at Mass” had he not been attending Mass with his family since he was six days old?

    Parents, consider taking your young ones to a weekday or less-well-attended Sunday Mass regularly, and sitting well away from others. Let them watch, and whisper quietly about what’s going on. Help them to truly understand the parts of the Mass, and teach them to wait for Our Lord in the Word and the Eucharist the way He waits for us in the Tabernacle.

    As a mother of 5, I have had to take little ones out, sometimes retreating to the parish hall in the undercroft to insulate the faithful from the cries of my baby. Isn’t it beautiful that my Lord would create such a desire in my heart for Him that missing part of Mass leaves a void?

    Parenting requires sacrifice. Sometimes it requires sacrificing the Mass. But I would never consider avoiding taking my children to Mass–only removing them if they become disruptive.

    Now, I really must address Sara. Please do not think that any parent would ever, ever bring a stinky-diapered baby into Mass and expect them to sit in it. Seriously. If a baby fills a diaper either before or during Mass, most any parent would immediately remove them and remedy the situation. I really cannot imagine it any other way. If you’ve experienced it any other way, I’m certain it was either a case of breaking wind–in which case there’s likely no way to tell from whence it came–or a parent so seriously in need of the Mass that they were oblivious. My vote goes to the former.

  86. Palestrina says:

    For those of you that think a crying room reinforces bad behaviour, I think that maybe I should explain my idea of a crying room a bit further…

    Not a room full of carpets, toys and other distractions…

    Just ANOTHER part of the church. Set up exactly like the rest of the church. Except that it’s soundproofed. When you’re dealing with a newborn to two years old, to what extent can you really ‘train’ them anyway? I set it as a nice way of saving everyone’s sanity: parents, congregations, priests. You don’t start your kids on a bike without training wheels – why not give them ‘training wheels’ for Mass too?

  87. Avila says:

    I am a mother of five – twins first, then three more. My children are older now (the youngest is 16) but I’ve definitely put in my time at the back of the church. My third child was the most trying. She was very talkative and took a long time to learn the difference between her “outside voice” and her “inside voice”. So we spent many years (from about age 2 until almost 5) in the back of the church nearly every Mass. So, I’ve been there and done that.

    “See that you never despise any of these little ones…” I live in a small town and know or recognize most people at Mass. I have to say that, for the most part, most parents take their children out when they become disruptive. And then there are the parents (it always seems to be the same families) who appear oblivious to the noise their children are making – they never take them out no matter what the child is doing. It’s as if they’re at their own personal holy hour. This is when “the look” is needed. It does not mean that I “despise” children. On the contrary. These parents are not doing their children any favors by letting them misbehave at Mass. If they would take them out, they would be teaching them that, when at Mass, we should be on our best behavior.

    If you have to take the child out, it may seem as if you are not “getting anything out of the Mass.” However, you are gaining many graces by performing the duties of your vocation by teaching your child manners and how to behave. This child has been entrusted to you; his welfare should be of primary concern. This will not last forever; the sooner and more diligently the child is taught, the sooner he will be able to sit through the Mass.

    When my children were little, I had one of those small “gift bags” which I filled with very small religious books and small holy cards. It was used only at Mass for when the child was between the ages of about 3 until 5. By the age of 5, the child was paying attention to and learning about the Mass in preparation for first Holy Communion in a couple years.

    Also, I find it extremely rude to the priest to ignore a child’s noisy behavior. The priest needs to focus on the Mass itself and when he is giving his sermon. He deserves our utmost respect. I’ve known a priest to say, “I can’t concentrate with that child’s noise.” We owe our priests respect and common courtesy. It’s also extremely rude to everyone else attending Mass. Take the noisy kids out.

    Last thought. We have the Traditional Mass at our parish. I usually go to that, but sometimes I need to go to the NO. I see no difference between the Masses and the noise level of the children. If anything, there are more parents at the Traditional Mass that won’t take their children out.

  88. Megan says:

    This is all great if your husband is there. However, what about those husbands who are away due to military or other jobs? What if there aren’t families members close by at all? One child is easy to handle and take out if acting up, but add more than one, then what? Is the mother not to go to Mass at all because she has children who are young? Maybe more help from the Church Community would be nice. Help with a child who is misbehaving. Yes, I know, when does someone step in and not be rude etc?
    Sigh.

  89. Timbot says: “No David, the most irritating sound to man the whine of an adult scandalized by a mother feeding her child.”

    1)I didn’t give my opinion anywhere about a woman nursing her child in Church. I merely joked to Fr. Z that the matter would arise and people on both sides of the matter can get quite sanctimonius about it as, in fact, you are doing here.

    2)As for the sound of an adult “whining about a woman nursing her child in church, the complaint may be delivered in dulcet tones. You would subjectively be annoyed by the content NOT by the sound e.g. even if I HAD complained you would not have heard my voice. There would have been no assualt to the ears.

    But a baby’s cry is not merely subjectively grating on the nerves and certainly it’s content if there is any is not what is irritating. What I am saying is that scientifically speaking, it is an objective fact of nature that a baby’s cry is the most irritating natural sound known to man. This is for the baby’s survival. Without that cry being so irritating and forcing people to pay attention the baby could die. This is one of the wonders of God’s creation and it reveals God’s love and care for the child.

    But it follows from this that the irritation felt by people other than the parents is not caused by their being crotchety or intolerant. It is the result of their ears being objectively asaulted by what is truly a sound that no one can easily abide. The parents should recognise this fact.

  90. Avila says:

    To david O’Rourke, I say, “right on”.
    Facts are facts.

  91. Megan says: “This is all great if your husband is there. However, what about those husbands who are away due to military or other jobs?” and etc.

    Megan, I think people are making general comments here. Obviously there are times when a mother is left with no choice but to bring the child to Mass.

    I believe one of the best ways other people can help out is by contibuting time and even money if needed, to staff a proper nursery where a mother can leave her child with confidence.

    This takes the strain off the congregation and gives the mother what might be a rare hour of peace.

  92. Dave N. says:

    What about the ADULTS who can’t keep their own mouths shut during Mass (usually increasing the volume so their conversation can be heard over whatever music might be playing)? This is far more irritating to me. For example, there’s an elderly couple in our church (I’d say in their 70s at least) that simply cannot go for more than a few minutes without talking–when they sit near me, I actually get up and find a different pew.

  93. Richard says:

    62 years old. EF vs OF comments are on mark. Don’t remember unruly children in my youth. Crying babies -yes. Priest from up North- Fr. Madigan always said “God wants to hear babies crying.”
    Crying babies don’t bother me. UNRULY toddlers are (IMHO) a product of OF of constant noise and activity as mentioned earlier.

  94. MaryO says:

    I am a mother of five and have been at this a while since my oldest is 23 and my youngest is 5. Since my mom died, I have had to take the little ones to Mass by myself, since my husband is not Catholic. Like so many other parents here, I have rules that help to keep the little ones quiet. And I have been fortunate enough to have been complimented many times on the behavior of my children. But since so many have already commented on their how-to rules, I will skip them.

    I would just like to encourage everyone here to say a kind word to a struggling parent. Not a well-meaning reprimand, even if well-deserved, but a genuine pleasant word.

    There have been times when I was very close to giving up on going to Mass at all – the strain seemed too great. Those kind words really helped me (especially when I was nursing an infant) and kept me going. I bless those people now and take every opportunity to imitate them. If some parent gives up and some children don\’t get to go to Mass again, it will not be because of something I said or failed to say.

  95. Joanne says:

    “simply because they are seeking to participate faithfully in the midst of their task of living out their vocation”

    Couples who go to Mass separately when they have small children are not ipso facto less conscientious than couples who go to Mass together in their vocations as Catholic parents. It was probably was not the priest-poster’s intention to imply this, but the impression that I get from reading these threads sometimes (on this blog and others) is that somehow parents who bring small children to Mass are more concerned with their children’s faith formation than those who go separately. That is not necessarily so.

    And imo nursing, which I strongly support for its irreplaceable benefits, is best done not at Mass.

  96. Adam says:

    I am 30 and have three children under 5 years of age. We attend Mass as a family. My wife and I are able to focus on the Mass, though of course not to the extent that we could if we attended on our own. We make sure to remove our children if they make noise.

    I would submit that looking after reasonably well-behaved children during Mass actually focuses the mind on what is occurring at Mass, rather than allowing the mind to wander as it often does.

  97. Bridget says:

    We have 8 children and bring them to Mass with us. They are usually pretty well behaved. But it certainly is difficult to be fully present and pray when your managing the troops. One small thing that helps me is to read through the readings ahead of time and also decide in advance what intentions I want to offer up at Mass. Sometimes, when it’s been a rough morning just getting to Mass, I pray “God we’re here, give us grace and make us holy.”

  98. Julie says:

    Thank you Father for your response to my email. I appreciate your response and thought it was very helpful. To answer some questions: we sit in back, we take any screamers out immediately until they calm down, we don’t bring obnoxious toys and we always try to be considerate of others. My five and three year old do very well most days; it is mainly the 1 year old.

    Father you are absolutely right that he was only thinking of us when he made those comments. They were not made after a mass where anyone misbehaved. I’m sure in our very large church he did not even notice us there. It was made off the cuff and in a general manner.

    What I meant about participating as a family being beneficial was that good habits are formed and having the children see there parents subject to God and obeying his commandments and translating that to the children obeying and praying. I have tried reading the mass readings before going to church and that helps a lot. Some comments mentioned St. Therese, but what about St. John Bosco. In his rules he wrote: “Frequent Confession, frequent Communion, daily Mass: these are the pillars which should sustain the whole edifice of education.”

    However, your words are food for thought because we do live very close to several churches and attending separate masses would be easy for us. Thank you again for your response and the response of others.

  99. Catherine says:

    I get to go to TLM tomorrow without my 4 year old! Other children don’t bother me at Mass, but my own small ones can be very distracting for me. My husband & I split shifts for Mass unless he is out of town. We go together on holidays and other times, maybe every 6 weeks or so.
    I love my son dearly and he can behave very well. However, he is 4 years old and some days are just…some days! Two weeks ago we had to leave TLM during the sermon. We were attending low Mass in a huge church. There were maybe 35 others in attendance. It was so quiet you could hear every whisper. We had gone out “for a talk” 3 times before the Gospel. The 4th “stern look” resulted in his scooting to the farthest end of the very long pew. He was angry with me and I knew the chance of having a small tantrum was about 50/50 at best. Begging the Blessed Mother’s help, I went to the end of the pew, took his little hand and escorted him to the car. It was one of those days!
    On other days, this same child has been praised by strangers for his good behavior at Mass. He sits quietly with his Missal and Rosary book.
    My daughter is now 8 years old. There was a time when I thought she’d never sit still. I used to get mixed messages from friends at church because I wanted to leave her in the nursery or home w/ my husband sometimes when she was under 6. They would tell me that I was getting graces and we were all doing the right thing no matter how much of Mass I spent in the vestibule. It was as if I was somehow not a good Catholic parent if I did not want to be distracted all through Mass.
    My former wiggler sits still now. She is going to TLM with me tomorrow ( she follows the Latin better than I do!) and will be making her first Holy Communion at TLM in August!

  100. Rose says:

    Very informative. There is no single strategy for us: sometimes my teenager goes alone, and we take our 3 1/2 year old with us; sometimes my husband sings in the choir and I sit with her in the pews; sometimes all four of us sit together as a family. Two things I am sure of: one, crying rooms are NOT the answer. Mixing infants, toddlers and anxious parents in a galley space behind glass has not worked for us. Two, children belong at Mass (but should be removed when they become too disruptive.) My little one complains when she cannot see Father at Consecration: Mommy, I want to see Jesus. During Lent, when the Crucifix was covered, she kept asking “Where is Jesus?” She listens to Father’s sermon and lets me know when he mentions Jesus. All this while she is sitting up, standing up, gets restrained, tries to sit on the kneeler, etc. etc. Although I have to keep a constant vigilance over her, I find that the vigilance can be made a prayer too. And I would miss not being with my husband at Mass.

  101. dcs says:

    Fr. Z writes:
    I am sure we all agree on that. However, part of what is being asked here concerns the parents own participation at Mass.

    Actually, I was going to append a personal anecdote but I thought better of it. When my son, now seven, was about two years old he had some behavior problems and Mass was the one place we could take him where he acted “normal”: he would listen to the music, stare at the ceiling (at the time we wondered if he was autistic), sometimes fall asleep. So yes, it was good for our own participation at Mass to see the effect the Mass had on him. When we take our kids on vacation we try to do what they want to do, because seeing them happy makes us happy as well. When my son with his very bad temper turned into a perfect angel during Holy Mass – well, seeing how the Mass affected him made me want to be affected too.

  102. I haven’t witnessed better behaviour at an EF Mass only the fact that we have one child present rather than the Church full of children at the OF. A very good post from Fr Z. I do remember years of coming out of Mass on Sunday thinking to myself with my 10..have I been to Mass? I go every weekday also which is very quiet & peaceful & Vespers with my sons serving. As the children grow things become more civilised again! But I re-iterate as at the beginning that even when we had 6 under 6 & 10 under 13 they were quiet but my husband & I were very pro-active in looking after them & they quickly copied the older children who were particularly pious.

  103. Agnes says:

    I confess to not reading every post here. I have seven ranging from 17 years old to 17 months, with a set of 4 yr old twins in between. Yes, it is a shuffle and I’ve spent most of my 10 years as a Catholic in the vestibule pacing with someone. But I also go to daily Mass – during the school year I bring the youngest ones with me and it is, admittedly, a long training process, but the twins are finally getting it. Twins are a weird phenomena though because they egg each other on. During the summer, I relish sneaking off for the morning Eucharist and let the teens handle any breakfast-eaters. It’s a quick hour or less, since St Agnes is so close to home and Mass is a straight OF run-though. I think the graces received during the week help us all out and Sundays just are what they are and will improve with time. Essentially being in a mixed marriage, I often don’t have the benefit of my husband’s presence, but the teens are helpful and we generally hunker down in the back pew.

    I DID NOT bring all my children to Piche’s consecration. Just me and the baby on the back steps and vestibule – it might have been 4 hours of ecclesial torture, but we made it, and she received blessings from many priests and bishops. She held her own remarkably well for such a long ordeal. With 6 kids in school this fall, daily Mass should be a piece of cake with her.

    What do you call a Catholic church with no crying babies?

    Anglican.

  104. Derald says:

    Okay, here goes. When your first child is born everything changes, your life, your spouses life, EVERYTHING. There is also a shift in priorities whether you realize it at the moment or not. Thats right, only one thing matters now and its not YOU. Its not your spouse and its not the things you can aquire for yourself, your spouse or even your child. Goal numero uno at this point and from now on is to get your children to heaven. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. The great thing is while getting your children to heaven you are going to easily get yourself there. While your friends are busy trying to move to the gated community or get that new Suburban, you have given up on that stuff and have instead invested your money in a good Bible and Cathechism to study and train with. Thats right, you are actually going to TRAIN your children what to believe, how to think and how to behave. This training can never start to early, I have eight children and they started attending mass with my wife and I as soon as she birthed them.

    When they get to the “difficult stage” you simply show them you can be as difficult as they with what I like to call the “little trip to the restroom”. With most of my children I did not have to take that trip, with the ones that chose to go “on the trip”, well, lets just say they only chose that one time. Thats right I never had to move to that level of discipline twice. And for the PC psycho types reading this post no, there were no bruises when I finished, it is a couple of swats on the bottom and a good talking to. After a couple of swats and the talk I let them know how disappointed I am and if we have to return they will be SO SORRY. Again, we never have to return. I am happy, the kiddos are happy, and most important Mr. and Mrs. Murphy (who are kneeling directly behind us) and Father Schettler (celebrating mass)are happy.

    For some families it takes time to get it down, so please, be patient with them. For those families having difficulties with the kids at mass know this, it is all about expectations. Thats right, that in a nutshell is all there is to it. Let them know what you expect, what happens if you are disappointed and then, if need be, let the fur fly.

    Remember, it takes some extra effort now but, you will actually be able to sit there with two, six, eight even twelve well behaved children at mass. This is your duty for more than one reason (to get them to heaven), because the people around you are trying to pray, please, have mercy on them.

    Please pray for me
    Derald

  105. Cath says:

    As far as getting more out of Mass, there are times when I do not have any of the seven with me (usually a daily Mass) that I have a harder time focusing. Part of that is the fact that as a parent we often have to do several things at once, so much so that it becomes a habit. Having only Mass to focus on, throws us out of our element so to speak. The other part is the fact that I am a sinner and sometimes I just do a better job at focusing than others, with or without kids, as well as with or without other distractions. Many times what I get out of Mass has more to do with my inner disposition than anything else.

  106. Sandra in SEvern says:

    Fr. Z, I am not so young that I do not remember the “old style” Mass. I was a Latin Mass baby, and with one child (me) my parents (both of them) took me to Sunday Mass. I was often in the care of my grandparents, and they took me with them to DAILY Mass, and as I got older, I could help the Altar Guild (that Grandma belonged to) with the flowers for Masses.

    Now, we often sat either in one of the first few rows of pews (contrary to Catholic tradition of sitting in the very back) or, somehow, we sat near the center aisle …WHERE LITTLE WIGGLY CHATTY SANDY COULD WATCH, and she was silent, and not wiggly. I may not have paid TOTAL attention to the Latin, but I knew this place was SPECIAL and I liked how I felt there, and to stay, I had to be quiet and not run about.

    Our Pastor was an older man, of German stock like my father’s mother’s family. Father Trapp, and he could deliver a homily warning of the Final Judgment that no Baptist Preacher could come close to. Fire and brimstone, as well as the joys of heaven. Kids FEARED him, seriously, children were afraid of him because he had that stern “Grandfather when angry” look to him.

    I barely remember my personal disruption, I was three or so, but if I forget, there are Aunts and Uncles to remind me of it… It was during a Homily, and Father Trapp said something about “Let the little children come to me.” I stood up and before anyone could catch me I run up to Father and said “you called me? Here I am.” My parents were mortified, my Grandparents in shock, and I think the church was not too silent. Someone took me back to our pew, but there was no punishment, no taking me outside. I wanted to stay there. Sometimes after Mass my parents had a hard time getting my attention to leave.

    Father Trapp after that, did have a “soft spot” in his heart for me. After his Masses he would ask me a question about what happened or about the homily and I would answer him. Of all the children in my First Communion Class, only I was brave enough to answer Father’s questions about the Mass and the sacraments we were to receive.

    He died when I was in Junior High, we had moved away to a more suburban area. He has had a lasting impression upon me of what is a Pastor. He shepherded his flock from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s, until his death. May he rest in peace.

    I KNOW in the deepest parts of my heart, I was called, my vocation in life, to be a loving mother and wife. I know I was called by our Lord, and here I am.

  107. California Girl says:

    Well, I started to read, but I haven’t read all 106 comments!

    My own experience–we had four kids 7 and under at one point. We spent many “purgatorial” years in the cry-room, when we a baby too young to shush. We generally couldn’t see or hear much (cry room was in the back of the church, with speakers that didn’t really work). And many of the other parents seemed to regard it as a playground, letting their kids play with noisy toys and run all over. But it never really occurred to us to not go as a family. The only time we did “split shifts” was when a child was sick.

    When the youngest was a toddler, we moved into the main church. We sat in the side section with other families of young kids, who were more likely to be understanding of wiggles and whispers. Our kids could pack a small bag of “church books” (lives of the saint usually), but no toys or activities. The youngest had a sippy cup of water in the diaper bag, but no snacks. (Honestly–a kid that can’t go 60 minutes without a snack has problems, whether it’s Mass or not!) It still felt like we spent a good part of Mass monitoring their behavior, rather than concentrating on the Mass itself, but I figured that it was just one of the many sacrifices of parenthood.

    I did experience the “cutting remark after Mass” a couple of times. Once we were visiting a small church–got there right on time, looked for a cry room, didn’t see one, and sat in the back pew. At the end, when Father was making his announcements, one of them was a rather pointed comment that people with “noisy kids” should go sit in the cry room. I was so embarrassed! I wanted to explain, “We would have, if we knew where it was!”

    The other time was in our home parish, after Christmas (when the cry room was taken down to allow more seating for the crowd). An elderly woman stalked past our seats after Mass and said (without even glancing in my direction), “There IS a cry room.” I stared after her in shock. Again, I wanted to explain, “No, there isn’t–look, it’s gone.” I felt crushed–my husband was at home, sick; I was trying my best on my own to keep the kids in line; there was nowhere else to sit–what more could I do?

    I guess I would suggest a balance–parents: take a crying or loudly-happy baby out of the main church, and try to keep toddlers and older kids quiet and non-distracting, with no snacks or toys. Congregation: pray for us; we’re doing the best that we can.

  108. California Girl says:

    Me again–now that I think back, there was a couple of years when our parish had a “co-op nursery”. Parents would take turns (once every few weeks) watching the little ones (toddlers and preschoolers) during Mass, and providing religious-themed activities. There might be coloring, crafts, or a video. Our oldest sat with us, and I kept the baby with me, but the middle boy/s went to the nursery. At the time, it seemed to work. Looking back, I kind of wish we had kept them at Mass.

  109. Sean says:

    Maybe a happy clown mass is what the children need.

  110. Scott says:

    I like hearing a baby cry. Its a good sign for the future. But its when you get toddlers that stare at you or who run up and down the aisles and generally try to perform that annoys me.
    I can remember being at church with my Mother. If I turned around she would qucikly make me look at the front. If I talked she would certainly tell me off. Mum used to show me the burning lamp which I would look at and be entertained by. Plus hearing the ringing bells was a nice sound to hear.

  111. James Brown says:

    I’m a single father; and a convert with a graduate degree in Catholic theology, so I’ve pondered this question many many times. I have a charming little boy who is 4 years old now, and due to immense work restrictions (mine, not his), cannot attend daily mass. In days past, I would take him to mass nearly every day, and nearly every day I would face this question. It seems to me it comes down to several points:

    1.) The mass is spiritually beneficial to all involved, on any level, even if they cannot receive communion.
    2.) The child’s ‘lack of involvement’ in these questions must be limited to those children who cannot participate due to their age, not children who can participate but were badly disciplined and are incorigible in the Church. Those children, those who have reached the age of reason, are another question all together.
    3.) It is my experience, in all cases, that the parent cannot focus fully on the mass when they are attending to their child as well. This experience has been without exception.
    4.) The level of disruption the child causes to the other worshippers, who have a right to the Mass as much as the child and parent does.

    Note, I do not feel that the ‘family unit’ worshipping as a whole is a valid point to be considered. I’m sure it has its special moment, but there is nothing I am aware of that increases grace or decreases grace for participating as a whole or individually. The other points seem more valid.

    I would suggest, as a single father and someone who has given this a lot of thought, that Catholics who are not parents or clerics should refrain from the discussion due to severe lack of authority. Having a child and attempting to get to Mass is a severe challenge, on all ends. Don’t underestimate that. Perhaps I am overly severe because I’m a single father, and so struggle more, but it is a double blow to me when I see the looks of people or hear the comments telling me I should leave mass. It means both my son, and myself, are deprived and overly burdened.

    That being said, I can recall many occasions when, of my own volition, I have left mass. I always sit in the last pew, closest to the exit. I always strictly enforce discipline at Church. I have had my son sit through Easter Vigil (the long one), without a peep and follow the prompts at 3 years old, and I have had him head butt me for no reason in the middle of a Wed morning Mass. With kids, who knows? You just have to take it every day at a time, and no blanket rule can be laid down. If your child is disruptive enough that other worshippers are distracted by more than regular noise, then I would say it is time for you to take a walk or otherwise remove the distraction. That level of ‘regular noise’ would be, to my mind, an infant softly crying, a toddler moving and/or eating cheerios, a murmured child question, etc. It would not be — tantrums, throwing, banging, yelling, etc.

    All that being said, it is disappointing to see some of the comments on the blog that are so vehemently one sided. Father’s post was quite nuanced. I know emotions are flared at this level, and I myself experience genuine anger when a non-parent tries to direct me how to lead my child, so I can imagine an embattled faithful mother of 12 attempting to attend mass is like a gun ready to go off when someone who has no children tells her how to handle her kids, but these are all ‘fancy problems’. We’re talking about how we can get the MOST grace out of Mass here. Seriously folks, not something to get upset about and form battle lines over. Let the little ones come, when they can, at the parents’ best convenience, and let them be well behaved and learn to be well behaved (which implies, for those of you who don’t have children, that the kids HAVE to learn at Mass. No child learns to be well behaved at Mass without attending a few). When the child is not well behaved, let the parent take them out. And if it is habitual, well then, let the parent learn to discipline their child.

    Thanks,
    -Jim

  112. Fenton says:

    I’d rather have a chatty “child of the 00′s” behind me rather than a yammering “child of the 60′s” chattering to her friend about her constipaion…

  113. Peter says:

    Wow – so little time since posting, sooo many comments !! ;-)

    But to be serious. We are parents of a 5 year old. We attend the EF almost exclusively. He is wriggly/fidgety, but rarely noisy. We are however very conscious of the effect he could have on the rest of the congregation. We’ve been careful to select a seating position close to the door so we can bale out quickly. Attending 2 separate Masses isn’t really an option (for similar reasons to those Father enunciated).

    Godzdogz recently posted an entry on Prudence. It seems that much of how to address this in specific situations will reside in that space.

    We have been keen to have him at Mass with us as we see a great value in inculturating him in the Mass. That actually seems to be working. At 2 and half he was playing Mass, at five he can sing most of the creed.

    Parish life means there will be families, young children, crying etc from time to time. Life is a work in progress, it won’t ever be perfect but eqaully we must strive to make it the best it can be.

    I’d also make a comment on sermons – and some of this advice fits for even the adult listeners. If it’s too long the risk of ‘break outs’ by young children will increase (and the concentration of everyone else regardless). And children respond if some of the sermon is directed to them, a fact I suspect many preachers forget.

    Lastly, crying babies/children is a sign of hope – if you don’t ever hear any, then I think you need to start to worry.

  114. Jim says:

    There are kids all over the place in my Byzantine parish. The older ones take care of the younger ones. Occasionally, one of the younger ones acts up and is whisked out of church. Yes, it can be distracting at times. But the alternative is the product of 40+ years of contraception, so evident in some Latin parishes. Kids belong in church, not in some kiddie “mass” in the parish hall. They learn by being there. Children are the pride of my parish.

  115. Michelle says:

    Of course, as I’m posting this, I wonder what I’m contributing with over a hundred posts. I have a 3–almost 4 year old son. We have always taken our son to mass, sans toys, books, cars, coloring books,etc. We made exceptions with cheerios when he was too young to observer any kind of fast, but when he turned 3, we made him wait and he no longer even questions the lack of food or drink at mass. We had a rough time at 2, but now he is almost completely quiet (if he is a bit wiggly still,) and has learned through expectation, what we expect of him when we come to “see Jesus.”
    I have often wondered what it was I was “getting” out of the mass. There were times when I doubted I could recall even a shred of a moment of the homily. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I have to say that my first experience at a Latin mass caused me to re-evaluate how I approach the mass. Even if I don’t understand or hear everything, I am entering a prayer. I am joining the whole church as the priest offers up the sacrifice. It seemed to me that in the Latin mass, I was both individually praying and meditating, while collectively praying as a community. Almost as if my own, individual prayers were perfected while at mass. These thoughts caused me to re-evaluate how I see my own attitude and position at mass (that is not a latin mass). Perhaps the best attitude is to understand that we are entering into a collective prayer. We as parents must take up the cross of parenthood and realize we are being sanctified through our sacrifices.
    This being said, I am saddened by the notion that children should be either dead silent or kept at home. Children are a part of Church life. Those without children: I ask you to broaden your own conception of what mass is, while I simultaneously and respectfully keep my child as little a distraction as possible.

  116. Joe from Pittsburgh says:

    There is no one right answer for everyone.

    My wife does not have her driver’s license – yet – (she came from Colombia and at some point this summer we’ll get her the license) so as of now we go as a family. Our little John Paul is nearly 18 months old and hates to be held. If we don’t use the cry room he squirms and yells, and he has a great pair of lungs.

    What annoys me about the cry room at our parish is how the other children behave. There are a few toys there that some kids insist on throwing around and making a lot of noise. Last week I took one of the toys out and set in in a hallway.

  117. Aspen says:

    We as a church ask our people to have children,
    so we have to expect some children’s antics like that.

    We as a church ask our priests to be celibate,
    so we have to expect some advice like this.

  118. avecrux says:

    It is very rare – almost never – that I disagree with Fr. Z… but I do, albeit just a little bit – this time.
    I have six children – at this point, from pre-school to high school age. Been there, done that…
    I don’t think it is ever a good principle to establish that families split up for Mass, unless for extraordinary reasons. [I am not sure that that it was "established" that families "split up" for Mass, but... keep going...] I do believe “the family that prays together, stays together” – much wiser folk than I have said it. There is precious little time families have together. Participation at Mass is a total-self offering… that includes the frustrations and weakness I experience as a parent, including extended pacing in the vestibule.

    As a Priest who invited my family to a pro-life holy hour once said (after I expressed concern about my children coming): “Really, it’s not like you are going to be interrupting anyone’s ecstasy.” For those who look to the childhood of St. Therese – fair enough – I remember being surprised by the approach her parents took – but her family had a structure and closeness that most do not today. Her parents also sent the girls away to school, which proved unwise for St. Therese… St. Therese herself had to endure irritation and frustration from noise during common prayer… most of us do – from the sucking of cough drops, to rattling dentures, or “whisperers”. It was essential to her little way.

    My experience in cry rooms had been that they promote something similar to a safe sex mentality- safe Mass. “It is better that children behave in Mass – but they aren’t going to – so you better have protection.” Well, it doesn’t work that way. It promotes license. My experience has been that if you go into a cry room hoping to teach your child to behave in Mass, it isn’t going to happen because many others there are there so that their children can run riot without causing a public (public meaning outside the cry room – the cry room is never considered public) disturbance.

    Daily Mass attendance has been the best help for our kids – but there were times of great frustration and embarrassment – and every family who I know that was striving for holiness has had the same struggle. We face constant criticism on the outside (“Don’t you know what causes that!!! from total strangers) – there is no doubt, though, that the most hurtful comments that friends and I have experienced have been within the Church… most hurtful because you hope and pray for more support. One woman in our parish – God bless her – a grandmother, of course, made it a point to GO TO A PEW if a family was struggling with a child and WALK THE BABY for the parents. I trust her reward will be very, very great in heaven. How about setting up an apostolate like THAT in your parish????

    If anything, it would help if parishes were pro-active in promoting parenting skills – sponsor classes! It took me time to learn. I am the child of a child of WWII – in other words, my parents were raised by mothers whose husbands were off fighting a war. Same with my husband. Both our fathers were clueless on certain basics of being a head of a household (another evil of war) – and they pass that emptiness and passivity onto their sons. Promoting fatherhood would go a long way towards good behavior in Mass.

  119. Bill says:

    I too want to echo Patrick’s rules above. I could have written them myself.

  120. andrew a says:

    Cry rooms are good for mothers to nurse their babies in.
    What drives me insane is when parents let their children make noise because they obviously want attention drawn to their cute children. I have seen it when parents in the back with their children lit them wander down the aisle, go up and pick them up to bring them back. My dad has always been able to silence us with the snap of the fingers and an angry look. When we were protestants, we were expected to be perfectly silent and sit still. We never dared make noise. Another thing I do not understand is people letting their children bring toys to church. Blocks make a lot of noise. Once, our priest got so sick of the noise, he lost track of where he was in his homily. A letter was put in the parish news letter telling parents that they need to quiet their children. I am OK with babies making their small noises, they are too quiet to really bother me. But, screaming is just rude.

  121. Bridget says:

    It didn’t seem polite to clog up Fr. Z.’s combox with my additional comments, but if parents with young children are interested in a few more thoughts, I posted some here http://www.ourmagnumopus.com/2009/07/small-children-at-mass.html

  122. Chris says:

    We bring our children and participate just fine at Mass. And, let’s face it — the priest is the one that has to have all of his attention on Mass, not us.

    For the NO Mass crowd who can find a Mass anywhere this could be done. For us traditionals who have to travel and hour or more one way to find a TLM, it ain’t gonna happen.

    I’m glad this priest is concerned with these folks. But at the end of the day, they’re adults and can make up their own minds.

    Brings your kids to Mass and go as a family! Christ called us to do this in the Gospels. So do it.

  123. GB says:

    Dear “Priest Up North”
    You ask what parents did in the old days at Mass. In the old days Churches were not constructed with cry rooms or nurseries because the whole Church was a nursery. Families routinely took up whole pews. Children were not the exception, they were the rule. Part of life, even likfe in the Church. Because the Church has contracepted and aborted one third of them now, that is not the case, so threads like this are necessary. In the old days, the question of what to do with children in Church would make about as much sense as what to do with oxygen in Church. It never came up.

  124. Sid says:

    A wise priest told me “children worship God in their own way”.

  125. Dan Soderlund says:

    GB, well stated! If one is to be pro-life, one must be patient with the children that are the fruit of being pro-life.

    I have one horror story…

    A young mother came to Mass with two young children. Within a few minutes, the kids were squirming and doing what kids do. Two old spinster sisters (not nuns) sitting in the pew directly across the aisle made a bigger fuss about the kids than the kids were making. The young mother, obviously sensitive to the biting comments, got up, left church, and never returned…

    Jesus said, “let the children come unto me” – I think that means bring them to Mass and embrace these families with charity, not scorn.

  126. chryseus says:

    Maybe I’m being overly simplistic, but I don’t think there would be much disagreement if the question were whether we should bring to Mass our regard for worshipping in communion with others.

    Whether it’s a mother with one baby, a family with ten children, or 5 noisy senior citizens (who cannot seem to shut down their conversations until the priest is actually processing down the aisle, sometimes not even during Mass itself–MUCH more of a problem here in FL than crying babies), isn’t this whole discussion all about just having the basic respect for our fellow parishioner to end as quickly as possible any behavior that distracts from the Mass?

    In that light, it’s not hard to find agreement.

    To show our reverence for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, including our love and communion with our neighbor, we resolve the distractions, have patience with others while they resolve them, and check ourselves so that we don’t become overly scrupulous….no matter who is in attendance.

  127. Girgadis says:

    I am 48 and I clearly remember spending an hour on Sunday mornings with the
    kindly neighbor next door while my parents attended Mass. My mother was of the
    belief that my sister and I lacked the attention span necessary to sit through Mass
    without becoming a disturbance to her or those around her until we reached
    kindergarten, at which point we began to attend regularly and never missed Mass
    except for illness. There are plenty of devotions a Catholic family can practice
    at home if their little ones don’t yet have the ability to sit without kicking,
    screaming or otherwise making it impossible for others to hear. With that said,
    we have a different situation with our 15-year-old autistic son who has no inner
    monitor. He is not normally disruptive but he is more sensitive to the kinds of
    noises that most of us are able to at least tolerate. We make a concerted effort not
    to sit near anyone with small children. This morning he was annoyed
    at late-comers, noisy toddler in-tow, who asked him to move over and he commented out loud how they should have shown up on time. Needless to say, I was ready to crawl under the kneeler.
    But there are benefits – recently, he chided someone for answering their cell phone
    during Mass. I gave him the obligatory elbow but secretly, I enjoyed it.

  128. Jayna says:

    I have no kids, so I’m just going to speak on my own experience. I don’t know what I was like as an infant, but for as long as I can remember I knew there was no talking in church. None, zip, unless I had to ask to go to the bathroom or something (which I never liked doing during Mass, nor to this day, because I didn’t want to miss something). I’m rather certain that was all my grandmother’s doing because my parents never really went to Mass.

    The worse time of year for screaming children is the holidays. This is the time when people who never go to church show up with their kids who have never been taught how to behave at Mass. I remember one time a year or two ago, I think it was during the Triduum, but it could have been Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the woman sitting across the aisle from me had three or four kids with her, two of them running up and down the aisle pushing their stroller around and one of them literally screaming bloody murder in the middle of the homily. A few minutes in my priest looked like he was absolutely at a loss as to why the woman hadn’t yet taken her child outside. The kid was so loud and because the woman was sitting quite close to me (we have smaller aisles in between the last 15 rows or so of pews) I started getting embarrassed because everyone was looking back to see what was going on.

    Today I was actually more distracted by the adult couple (must have been in their 40s or 50s) sitting behind me having an ongoing conversation throughout the entire Mass. They were speaking what I think was Polish, so I have no idea what they were saying, but they started talking as soon as the music had stopped or when someone had stopped speaking. Now that is inexcusable.

  129. Maureen says:

    No, I don’t have children, but I was a kid. And my parents were smart enough not to try to decree one everlasting theory/method of getting to Mass — because there were three of us, all different and ever-changing in development level. Sometimes we went to Mass, sometimes we stayed home. Sometimes the family went in shifts, and sometimes us kids went to the nursery or (when we got older) pre-school religion classes. More Saturdays or Sundays than not, we kids were in the pews. If we made too much fuss, we got to stand out in the vestibule with a parent, where there was nothing to do and nothing to see. (Though there were always a fair number of other adult people in the vestibule, as our church in the seventies and eighties was often SRO.) Since they were teachers before they had kids, my parents were used to being forced to be flexible. :)

    (Btw, that no A/C Protestant church described in the beginning of the thread? Are you sure you didn’t go to St. Luke’s Catholic Church in the 70′s?) :)

    We all learned to read by about three or four (mostly by osmosis from being read to), and from that point or not long after, of course we could just follow along in the Missalette as much as we cared to. (We all loved to read, so we cared to.) At that point, sibling rivalry became the real discipline problem, and we no longer stayed at home unless we were sick. So if you can get your kids reading early, your troubles can move along to the next stage! :)

    One thing a lot of parents don’t do, but which we always enjoyed — hold the hymnbook so your kids can see the words and music, and then point out each word or musical phrase we’re singing at that moment. This also helps kids learn to read. My dad was a big one for that.

  130. Hans says:

    David O’Rourke wrote: “Hans referred us to Luke 18:16-17.

    Hans, be careful with text proofing. Our Lord is not telling us not to act our age nor is he telling us to scream and cry and irritate others.

    Rather, He is gelling us that we should be innocent and without guile.

    Strangely enough, David, I wasn’t proof-texting; I was merely pointing out the text someone else had referred to; indeed, by including Luke 18:17, I was specifically including the problem with that argument. On the other hand, I think that a case could be made using Luke 18:15-17. It would be easy enough to argue that there are two points being made: that little children shouldn’t be kept away from Jesus (and so the Mass), and that we must become innocent like children to enter heaven.

    What I said was “Mass is an appropriate place for children of all ages, so long as they’re not overly disruptive.” I’ve known a few children of middle age whose ‘participation’ was beyond the point of being ‘overly disruptive’.

    Another reason younger children belong at Mass, as many have said above, is that such children learn about the Mass, behavior, and language (especially if at a Latin Mass), just to mention a few. Children, as they say, are little sponges when it comes to learning, soaking up all around them. So they will learn both the good and the not so good that they experience. Better they experience a good Mass than anything else I can think of.

    .

    Dave N wrote: “What about the ADULTS who can’t keep their own mouths shut during Mass (usually increasing the volume so their conversation can be heard over whatever music might be playing)?

    It may not work everywhere (what does?), Dave, but it has been my experience in several parishes that if the organist plays softly before Mass, it tends to quiet people down. Maybe you could suggest it, assuming it hasn’t failed already in your parish?

  131. GB says:

    Chryseus,
    I don’t live in FL but I have to agree: Talking old people in Mass is much more of a problem here than crying kids, unfortunatley.One day at Sunday Mass, the priest went to the podium after Communion and said he did not expect to have his Communion meditation time ddisrupted by people who are old enough to be his parents and grandparents. They just sit there & talk (sometimes don’t bother to whisper).

  132. Bookworm says:

    I have a daughter, age 13, who is mildly autistic. My husband and I took her to Mass with us from the time she was an infant. As a result going to Mass is part of her routine and she has adapted to it pretty well. Her only problem is that she does occasionally talk to herself under her breath, or blurt things out that may be inappropriate, and I have to correct her. Her behavior can sometimes be distracting to me, but no one else has EVER complained about her in ANY of the half dozen or so parishes we have belonged to in her lifetime.

    However, her dad stopped attending Mass with us when she was about 4 or 5 years old because he was embarrassed by her behavior at that time. (He has always been, in my opinion, overly concerned if not obsessed with what other people think of him.) In fact he stopped attending Mass completely and has not gone regularly since then. On those rare occasions when he does go with us, it upsets our daughter because she’s not used to him being around, and I get super-duper self-conscious and nervous about what she may or may not do. You guessed it, the inevitable result is that she or I do something that ticks him off, he gets upset and embarrassed, and all the more determined that he does not want to go to church again. I do not know what if anything I can possibly do to bring him back, and I often feel like a failure as a wife and mother because of this. I have suggested he go to a separate Mass if he finds our appearance and behavior too embarrassing (DD and I are both overweight and don’t dress too fashionably as we don’t have a lot of money), but he won’t hear of it.

    My parents, on the other hand, did not take me to Mass until I was about 5 years old; they wanted to wait until I was old enough to understand what was going on. I had no problems whatever with behaving properly at Mass and have faithfully attended ever since. Maybe things would have gone better with our daughter if my husband and I had taken the “shift” approach and waited to take DD to Mass; but we’ll never know for sure.

    If I understand correctly, children do not incur an obligation to attend Sunday Mass, and their parents do not incur an obligation to take them, until they reach the age of reason. Before that, it is up to the parent to exercise his or her judgement as to whether the child should or should not go. In the case of children who are developmentally disabled due to Down syndrome, autism, etc. they may reach the age of reason later, or in more severe cases, never attain it at all. In those cases, the same rules that apply to parents of younger children apply to their parents — use your judgment based on the capacity of the child.

    For those who find themselves easily distracted at Mass, here’s another helpful thought written by a columnist for the diocesan newspaper I once worked for (she had four young children). The Mass is supposed to be a re-creation or re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, and there were probably a lot of distractions during the actual Crucifixion — people coming and going, shouting, cursing, talking amongst themselves, weeping, laughing, mocking, etc. Who knows, there may even have been crying babies or small children having meltdowns there among the crowds who came to gawk or wondered what was going on. So maybe putting up with involuntary distractions at Mass that are beyond YOUR OWN control, such as someone else’s crying baby, ringing cell phone, sloppy or inappropriate dress, etc. could be seen as a further participation in Christ’s sacrifice.

  133. avecrux says:

    I apologize for the sloppy wording above Father. Thanks for the clarification.
    How about if I say that I think attending Mass in shifts is something best to avoid without serious reason. That may be a better statement of my thought. Parents can embrace walking a baby as participation. I know it is not the same, though. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours, attending a second (Vigil, early or late) Mass alone or pondering the readings during a Holy Hour can help the parents get more out of Mass even if they retain a habit of attending Mass as a family and enduring the attendant distractions.

  134. q7swallows says:

    For what it’s worth this late in the combox, attending Mass as a family (with 7 children, from baptism forward) has been the rule of our lives. Having seen glimmers of the Liturgy come out of even very young children at the oddest moments later on in the week, we know they are affected and attracted by its mysteries in a remarkable way.

    Admittedly, doing periodic shifts was a blessed deposit in the bank account of my prayer life & that of my husband but we only felt really good about it when it was absolutely necessary (during sickness or toddler-terrorizing months) as opposed to the rule.

    There is something very deeply and inexplicably right and well-adjusted about attending Sunday Mass as a family. We tried doing shifts on a more extended basis but it seemed like we were drifting apart in our marriage somehow. Shifts work better occasionally or in spurts. It’s like being told to “come away and pray”—a mini-retreat on the fly!

    That being said, we needed a strategy that involved some advance footwork for family Mass attendance with children for maximum concentration and happiness for all:

    1. Like the wise virgins, parents fill their lamps with oil (pre-read the readings) the night or morning before Mass. Then they have a small light to dwell on instead of wailing and gnashing their teeth outside alongside the recalcitrant Junior.

    2. Target problem behaviors in advance and talk about them with the offenders. Use age-appropriate incentives or punishments (bribes for young children if necessary!). But more importantly, ask what Jesus or Mary would do and explain why is it that (s)he should behave otherwise in church. The goal is to have the child behave properly out of gratitude, love, and imitation of Jesus, not because there’s a reward or punishment involved (but we can and will provide that if necessary!).

    3. But since children can be unpredictable, strategically seat the pre-arranged “bouncer” at the end of a pew and somewhat near an exit and/or restroom.

    4. Religious picture books, junior missals, etc. are supplied from the quiet, non-rattling cloth “Mass bag.”

    4. Avoid the counterproductive cry room. Bad behavior rewarded with a b.o.r.i.n.g. place or walking circuit usually gives the Mass a sudden fresh appeal. If it doesn’t, the child is better off wherever you went. Return ASAP with Junior re-composed and under his own steam as mentioned above–at a posture-changing point in the Mass to minimize distracting others.

    5. As long as you are promptly removing the loudly distracting offenders, remember that those around you who are watching your children (who are not going to be perfectly silent or still) are not using their full strength, mind, and heart to pray the Mass. Pray for them.

    And ask blessings upon those who offer to help with #5.

  135. yiho says:

    My 2 cents:

    1. Parents should bring their children to mass.

    2. People should expect children (especially infants and very young children) to make some noise.

    3. If children make a lot of noise and become a distraction to the community, they should be taken out of the church by their parents until they can calm down.

    4. Making 3. most productive would necessitate sitting near an easily accessible exit.

  136. aussieannie says:

    I don’t know if what St Therese’s parents did is the best example for today. Once a child could not receive Holy Communion but then Pope Pius X changed that too. Once an adult could not receive Holy Communion daily.

    I believe that children should be there, parents need to work on making sure that they are as quiet as possible thinking of those in the congregation, that is important.

    I really believe that the contraceptive mentality has permeated everyone, EVERYONE, practising Catholics included. Children do not hold the same value today due to it this has shown it’s effects in many people’s attitudes towards the presence of children in church. That’s my belief. The intolerance displayed by many older or single people is often not balanced, there is often no tolerance at all.

    The saintliest people I know have a loving attitude towards children and families in church, that does not mean that they believe children should scream their little heads off but their tolerance for what is reasonable is high. Those I have witnessed to be totally intolerant are people who come across as most uncharitable across the board. That is my personal experience.

    Now let’s refer to St Therese again. I would say that her spirituality supports the presence of mothers and fathers who obviously cannot concentrate as they could if they had no children in tow. She says that there is merit even in our sleeping when we give that to God with love. She relished what could be done with a distraction (you know the incessant clack of the nun’s rosary beads!!) the grace that could be earned from that, more so than if there had been perfect silence.

    I think that the writings of this great Doctor of the Church favours the less than perfect atmosphere in a Church rather than say, families split and separate and children NOT BE PRESENT at an age when they are the only true innocents present before the face of God in the Church.

  137. Mike M says:

    I think it would be helpful if the priest helped the parish develop some reasonable guidelines for how to deal with your kids if you choose to bring them to church. While people might resent it at first, I think most parents would be happier in the long run knowing what is and is not reasonable, and I think having those guidelines would help to preempt some of the grouchier parishioners from judging parents according to their own standards.

  138. Andy says:

    I have five children thus far, all boys ranging from 8 to 8 months. That said, loud children at Mass drive me up the wall. My policy is that the noisy child is swiftly removed from the church. And when we go out, the last thing the child thinks is that it is playtime. I will never understand the parents who take their misbehaving children out of church only to let them get down and play. The poor child is being taught that the quickest way to play time is to misbehave. Why reinforce or reward bad behavior?

    Please folks, teach the kids how to act. Mass is actually pleasant with well behaved children.

  139. ssoldie says:

    I would invite you Fr.Z and anyone else to the Mass “Gregorian Rite” at Flensburg, Mn. on Sundays 10:00, and see how wonderful the children are, and boy do we have children.

  140. Larry says:

    As a father of six children, all under the age of 10, my primary responsibility is to provide the best formation my children can receive. I don’t think there is any more important role for a father than to instill in his children the primacy that faith should have in their lives. The children need to know, as deeply as possible, the tenets of their faith – especially the Mass. I do not see how instilling this belief in them is possible without regular, repeated exposure to that most awesome Sacrament.

    There are not many like us as blessed with graces as St. Therese of Lisieux. That late exposure to Mass inculcated in her a great desire for that Sacrament is a wonderful, miraculous thing, but I am concerned that many children would not feel similarly. I have seen many children “shielded” from Mass through cry rooms, staying home, or being sent to a nursery. In the large preponderence of cases, these children have not grown up with a strong faith life. I can speak from my personal experience that attendance at Mass has definitely INCREASED, not decreased, the strength of faith my children possess. Yes, sometimes they are difficult, and sometimes they have to be removed from Mass. But to deny children this august Presence, even if they are at times not getting much out of it, is to deny them exposure to the re-presentation of the most awesome Sacrifice in the history of the universe. To me, behavior would have to be extreme to deny this blessing to children.

    Do we not receive great Graces from our attending Mass? All of us……priests, parents, children…..do we not all receive these Graces? I think it is a very poor idea to contemplate denying these to children. None of us know the hour or the day when we will be called home by The Lord. I know that I would feel much better that, if the Lord were to call one of my children, they had been to Mass regularly in their tragically short lives and know God.

    One last point not made, is that in previous times, the older generation helped the younger with their children; I think this would be the appropriate response instead of the look. When my twins were young (3-9 months) I was traveling; my wife was helped several times by an older woman who was ushering at our church. This woman helped her to find a good seat and then stood nearby to assist her during mass. Several older people still offer us a hand periodically during daily or Sunday mass, I believe this is the way it is meant to be.

    I agree with GB – I think this “confusion,” to be charitable, on handling children in Mass, is due largely to the presence of so fewer a number of children in our Catholic families.

    Dominus vobiscum,

  141. aussieannie says:

    Well said Larry, thank you.

  142. Ryan says:

    I’m a father of young children who has experience with taking them to Mass, but I have come to hold the minority view that Sunday Mass isn’t age-appropriate for most (not necessarily all) toddlers. So we go in shifts if child care isn’t available.

    What strikes me is how narrow and insistent the majority tend to be on this issue. If you think small children should come to Mass, that’s fine; but please consider that it’s your opinion, not dogma.

    For those who point to Jesus’ saying “let the children come to me” — why aren’t you stunned, shocked, baffled, etc. by the fact that we don’t allow young children to receive Communion?

  143. aussieannie says:

    Quote: What strikes me is how narrow and insistent the majority tend to be on this issue. If you think small children should come to Mass, that’s fine; but please consider that it’s your opinion, not dogma.

    I don’t know if that is the case here Ryan, at the end of the day you do with your children as you think fit and I’m sure people writing here don’t have a problem with it. People are just trying to express why they believe children should be there if the parents think it best.

    Certainly if others were to say that their young children shouldn’t be at Mass which I have heard said IRL than that is out of line and it is they who cannot respect another person’s opinion to insist on it. Personally I’ve never heard anyone have a go at a family that chose not to have their small ones present at Church.

    Quote: For those who point to Jesus’ saying “let the children come to me”—why aren’t you stunned, shocked, baffled, etc. by the fact that we don’t allow young children to receive Communion?

    The Byzantine section of the Catholic Church allow their babies to receive three sacraments all at once, baptism, Holy Communion, confirmation, so you cannot say it is not done at all.

  144. TMA says:

    An old Irish priest used to tell us that the little ones’ place in church was to be like the vigil lamp telling us that God is present. We all need to know mass etiquette, but we also need to be charitable. Our children at times used to make mass with them a real workout for us. But now they are now able to help moms with many small children at mass especially when the dad is away. They keep those little ones focused on the liturgy and help take stress away from the parent. I’ve noticed older women in the parish who become a grandma for families who live far from their own extended families, and I see them helping in this capacity at mass and parish activities. Charity can conquer annoyances.

  145. Alex says:

    an off topic remark by a cranky 27 year old. Of Course children belong at Mass, they know much more than we give them credit for. I am 13 years older than my youngest sister, I took them to Mass with me if my parents couldn’t. Of Course they fuss, but common courtsey is the only instruction you need in dealing with it. If it is your kid do what you must to not cause a distraction, if it is not your kid stop staring and start praying. A child should soon be used to going to Church, it hopefully will be a habit which wll be hard to kill. I remember a story of a co-worker, she was about 5 and her family was going to Mass. A pair of her mother’s underclothes got mixed up in the load of diapers. When she arrived at Church, she reached into the bag spotted the ahem unmentionables and promptly placed them on her head thinking it was her chapel veil. Why do i share this story? Because at 5 she knew that she needed a chapel veil, she was used to it, and anticiapted it.

  146. California Girl says:

    Prudence–YES!!! That’s exactly the virtue that needs to be invoked here.

    I actually went to bed last night pondering this question, wondering if there really is a “best” thing that parents “should” do. Both options (small children come to Mass; or parents come alone and concentrate on Mass) have benefits, but which one is better?

    Thanks to Peter for posting about prudence. That virtue, exercised by all (parents, parishioner, priests), will see us through each individual situation.

    Just in case anybody missed it:

    PRUDENCE!!!!

  147. KJW says:

    We have only our first child; having her has changed my mind and heart about children at Mass. They should be there. Parents should be attentive to their behavior. People who are there to “get something out of it” should not glare at them; would Jesus glare at them? My daughter usually gets fidgety, but loves to go to the little Padre Pio chapel and see the statues of Jesus and Mary and St. Pio. An interesting thing: no matter how fidgety or cranky she is, she is always perfectly calm and attentive when she goes with me to receive Holy Communion. Always.
    I should mention, we go to the Padre Pio chapel because the cry room at our church is not very comfortable. Cold metal folding chairs, too cold in the winter,etc.; for awhile there were a bunch of paint cans on the floor. Note to building caretakers: please make an effort to have a decent cry room.

  148. Ryan says:

    Aussieannie — my wife and I have, in fact, been questioned (criticized, really) about not bringing our one-year-old to Mass. We do bring our four-year-old, and he does fine.

    To your point, I would just say that most people here (and IRL) say that “parents should bring their children to Mass.” It’s a normative statement, not a family-specific or situational one. That’s what bothers me, because I think there’s room for different perspectives on this issue.

  149. Charivari Rob says:

    “I haven’t stepped on the third rail for a little while, so… why not today, with a burst of fireworks.”

    So you’re the reason the 1 Train wasn’t running Saturday! I had to go back up to the street and take the #104 bus!

    In general, I’d say bring little ones to Mass. If they’re becoming disruptive, take them out of the space. Position one’s self so as to be able to remove child with a minimum of disruption. If they’re of a temperment such that a significant disruption is practically guaranteed on a weekly basis, then it might be best to not bring them. All of this is subject to individual circumstances, of course – distance to church, etc… as many have said above.

    There was too much left unknown to really comment on the specific case. As you said, Father, the writer left out how her kids actually behave. What is also left unknown is whether the priest was challenging all of his parishioners to ‘get more out of Mass’ – and taking steps towards that end, encouraging a prayerful atmosphere, or seeing if there was a need for a nursery program – or just singling out some people with kids.

  150. Agnes says:

    Priests (and men in general) are very focused individuals. They are made to do one thing and some do it well – The Mass. Tunnel vision for dispensing Sacramental grace. Let nothing get in his way. Thank you, God, for these men.

    Mothers, in contrast, are multi-taskers. I can nurse a baby, bounce a toddler, pass a book to a grade school child, and shoot the teenager a dirty look while remaining in the presence of God. Certainly it’s easier when I go it alone, or with fewer, but is easier right?

    I may outwardly appear distracted, but still, my focus is on Christ, even while struggling to bring the children’s focus there (or at least to a level of quiet). And I stay in the back pew as close to the door as humanly possible. One false move and we’re out to sit on the steps, but my heart remains in the chapel.

    I think for all of us, just remaining mindful of Christ’s Real Presence goes a long way. I’ve long since quit caring about the dirty looks from fellow parishioners and in time, the looks have softened, the noise has quieted, and we’re being led into the Sacrifice by very patient and holy priests.

    Kids grow. It’s really no big deal.

  151. Henry Edwards says:

    It’s been several years since I last browsed one of these “third rail threads”. The 150 posts so far in this one seem to duplicate pretty closely the first 150 posts in that one, so apparently not much has changed recently. [LOL!]

    But there’s evidently been a lot of change since our first one was born almost a half century ago. Eight or ten years later, my wife and I certainly were glad to start attending Mass together again.

  152. Cel says:

    Wow, 150 responses. I haven’t the time to read them but I imagine you were right father. BZZZZZAP!!!!

    I must say, and only from my perspective, that I don’t mind the sounds, fussing or even crying of a newborn in Church. It is even very encouraging. But the sound of a toddler throwing a spoiled fit is beyond irritating. I remember being just a little guy in a Lutheran church and getting popped on the ear with snap of my mother’s fingers if I even thought about getting saying something out loud. I realized only decades later that my mom had Jedi reflexes. Perceptive she was, mmmmmh.

    Unfortunately we don’t live in a society that is willing to discipline its children in even that mild fashion any more and we also no longer understand the value of respecting others by way of disciplining our own or our children’s actions in public or otherwise shared places. Simply, we are not a very polite society anymore. We too often try to excuse our lack of effort toward training our children by shaming others for expecting a certain level of courtesy.

  153. Courtney says:

    I have slogged though all 150ish comments and was surprised that this wasn’t mentioned: young children need to be conditioned to sit quietly and fidgetless. If they are only expected to do this one hour out of the 168 hours in the week, then of course it will take longer for the habit to sink in. This is one very practical reason why the devotional life of the family the rest of the week is so important. I realize it is difficult in this day and age with all of the distractions of modern life, but truly sitting quietly as a family for evening prayer or the rosary or whatever religious practice is not only wonderful for the devotional life of the family, but it helps instill the qualities of good behavior during prayer-time on a daily basis, and without the stress of glaring pew-mates.

  154. Memphis Aggie says:

    My 21 month old is too wild for Mass right now so my wife and go in shifts. We split up exactly because, as the priest noted, we can better focus on the Mass. As Father Z noted, it is easier when you live just a couple of blocks away from Church as we do.
    That said I have seen some well behaved children in Mass; it can be done. I am always impressed by those families that manage it.

  155. Michael J says:

    Sometimes I need a break. Yes, I feel guilty about depriving my youngest and worry that he, who learns more by example, is getting the wrong idea, but it is beyond my current capability.

    So Father’s advice is spot-on, at least for me.

  156. Kevin says:

    My problem with our three year old is volume control. He sings all of the prayers with gusto and we have tried working on volume control. He is especially fond of singing the Our Father with gusto and I’ve gotten some harsh looks from some around us about this. I’ve also taught him Sanctus, Kyrie and Agnus Dei which unfortunately he sometimes substitutes during the English version. He is extremely well behaved otherwise, but I know I have more work to get him to the correct volume(and correct language) in his prayers and singing

  157. Peg says:

    When we were raising our family there was only one EF Mass at the monastery we attended. So all the children went. You could hear a pin drop most of the time. If a child had to be taken out, it was done swiftly and as quietly as possible.
    After all my children were in school, we had one young mother who wanted to attend daily Mass. She would assign two of her children to the “older ladies” and keep one by her side. It worked very well and I felt I had a reason for being distracted.
    The first time I took my oldest son to the movie theater I told him he had to be quiet just like in Church. So he genuflected before going into the row where we sat.

  158. irishgirl says:

    At the TLM chapel I go to now, there’s one family that has all the kids. I always know when they arrive by the sounds the younger ones make. The newest addition will turn one later this month, and everyone hears her!

    The youngest boy sometimes is a handful, so the father has taken him out in the vestibule and gives him a couple sharp swats on the behind. Yes, he cries-but it’s behind closed doors!

    I am absolutely amazed how the priests stay focused on the Mass when little kids get noisy, especially at the sermon. I told one of them this past Easter [I think], ‘You had quite the competition in there!’ He smiled at that!

    Peg-that’s funny about your little one ‘genuflecting in the movie theater’!

  159. Donna Marie says:

    We have 8 children from 15 down to 8 months. We ALL go to church together and worship God as a family. We dress up in our “Sunday best” and teach them from the time they are very young that this is a very quiet time. If the child becomes disruptive, one of us will take the child to the back or outside (depending on if said child quiets down or not) The children learn from the very beginning that Holy Mass is very important and is the most important thing we do on Sundays (or any day, for that matter). It is not an option, it is the most wonderful thing that we could possibly do TOGETHER even if some of the circumstances are less than ideal.

    There are things you can do to minimize the disruption many of the days..they eat and drink wholesome food and visit the bathroom BEFORE we leave the house. We go over the readings before hand and teach the children about all the different parts of the Mass and the Church itself. We bring no toys or food. The children don’t need to be constantly entertained, they need to learn to be quiet to hear God in the quiet of their hearts. Even when my dd was 3, she “got it” better than most of the loud ADULTS around us…

    I have made it through Holy Mass with wiggly twins and I still survived. I really feel that God blesses the effort and the sacrifice parents make while we are bringing the children to Him. I really feel that a family should not be separated AT ALL unless someone is sick. The family has too much dividing it and this is a unifying time for us through the Eucharist. I feel like we are being commissioned as a familial unit to live a fully Catholic life in word and deed. As Father Peyton once said, “The family that prays together, stays together.”…what higher form of prayer can there be??

    My sister-in-law used to go to a different Mass than her husband so that THEY could get more out of the Mass. One day I got this comment from her…”I had better take N to Mass so that he knows what is going on as he will be receiving Holy Communion soon.” Ick.

  160. aussieannie says:

    Quote: Father Peyton once said, “The family that prays together, stays together.”…what higher form of prayer can there be??

    Oh, that’s beautiful Donna Marie, thank you for sharing it, that is really something to reflect upon.

    BTW I love the anti spam words Fr Z, I just got ‘PRAY 4 BISHOPS’ so I’ll do that today in particular!

  161. Cathy says:

    Ten years ago, I could have written Donna Marie’s post just about word for word. Now, I have a much different perspective. I have found that I really need to pray the Mass. Not just by offering the time I tend my younger children in union with the Holy Sacrifice, but by attentively praying the prayers of the Mass. A few years ago I stopped taking my children to Mass with me because I was sick and exhausted and just didn’t have the stamina to deal with a particularly hyperactive younger one. Something amazing happened. I found that at each Mass I was changed. Struggles with faith and temptations disappeared. I began to have a deeper orientation towards God that translates into everything I think and do becoming a prayer. It’s almost like God takes over. I become a kind of wife and mother that I’m not capable of being without this grace. It is a grace that grows with each Mass.

    I have found though that I lose this grace when I go to a Mass that is celebrated with a focus off of God or if I go to Mass and get absorbed by my own distractions. I am completely stunned by this. I had always thought that God would give me the same grace so long as I put my 100% in. I was bringing my children to Him and so was surely doing a good thing. I was making big sacrifices to show God that I loved Him. And yet, in my case at least, I know now that I was wrong. I can’t speak to what other people should do or whether young children benefit from being at Mass. I do know that for me it has been better not to bring my youngest. I find other ways for her to learn about and experience God. She has a deep faith and love for God and I’m know that when she starts going to Mass it will be with great devotion. Right now, she would only learn to hate Mass if I forced her to sit still for an hour. My older children have told me that this was the effect it had on them. They are completely behind my decision to have her stay home. And it’s not that my children don’t understand the Mass. Something has to happen in their hearts that brings them to want to truly participate in the Mass. I think that “something” is a unique grace and I have found that in a mysterious way, my own transformation is an important means of them attaining that grace.

  162. michigancatholic says:

    Your heart, Fr. Z, is not cold, as someone above said. You make good sense. Whooping children should be taken out until they can be quiet. It’s not like they’re getting anything out of the mass anyway–they’re yelling! And there’s nothing wrong with going to mass in shifts to spare other peoples’ ears, nothing at all.

    In addition, people who insist on narrating, lecturing their kids or yapping during mass need to step out until they can behave too. Some people just cannot shut up. It’s really amazing that they’re so clueless about the feelings of others.

  163. Charlotte says:

    Late to the conversation.

    SARA – when you can control when a child poops in his diaper at church, TENS OF MILLIONS of parents from around the world will pay you for this elusive power and you will be rich.

    To tell parents that they need to PRE-change a diaper before a child soils it is INSANE.

    As a parent of a toddler, many of the comments here reflect a true lack of knowledge and a true lack of charity. Next time you give me \”the look,\” I will gladly shove my kid into your arms and YOU can deal with the child. Too many smarty pants here in this commbox.

  164. jennifer eva says:

    I find that the sacrifice of the mass is most present on the days my kids do act up! It is not be quiet I can’t pray but Oh my God and my Lord, I beg your presence. Does wonders when receiving His Holinesss. Of course I’m trying to do my best to help keep the reverent atmosphere of the Mass. It is just human nature that it may not be exactly as an other would have it. Thankfully the parishioners are always expressing how happy they are to see the children at Mass.

    Now, I DO NEED TO GO ALONE every once and a while but daily mass is out of the question. Thankfully the parish is close but only 2 services on Sunday.

    In the end, I need Christ before I can be a mommy, wife, friend, daughter, etc. So I suggest if anything, go to Mass alone when you can spare it.

  165. Natalie says:

    I have an 18 month old. We sit at the front and he is allowed juice and adult controlled cheerio’s. When we see a fuss coming, one of us takes him out. We avoid the cryroom because he knows he can run around and play there which is something we don’t want him to associate with going to Church. I think setting high expectations from the beginning is working well for now. We may have to change strategy as he gets older and more babies come along.

    As for the parents who let their kids run amuck (5+) in Church, I have on occassion corrected their children myself if they are within my range. All I’ve said was, “You stop that right now.” While I’ve sometimes got an ugly look from the parents, the kids have been so surprised that they end up behaving the rest of Mass. One time the mother mouthed the word “thankyou” to me so maybe she was just at her wits end and needed the support. Maybe the child just needed to realize that while pushing his mom’s buttons, he was also pushing others’ unintentionally. I’m certain we’ve all met a child at one point or another who just pushes the line with everybody through no fault of the parents, just the persoanlity of the child.

    Also, I can’t stand the adults and teenagers that treat Mass like a social hour and only come to gossip. Cell phones need to be left at home or in the car. And gum! In Church???? Really people???

  166. Valerie says:

    Jesus, mercy…
    I’ve got three under five, and it took me awhile to learn that a bag of goodies (cheerios, quiet trinkets, books) was not the best way to “keep’em quiet.” Also, it seemed to me that they would surely whine and cry more if I tried to hold them against their will, rather than giving them some room to move. I’ve learned the folly of those presumptions, but most parents, regardless of the efficacy of their approach have the sincere intention to respect the mass and those around them. I have always been deeply appreciative of encouraging remarks from people after mass. Also, I imagine those parents who have the hardest time controlling their children might be especially in need of the graces of the mass and the loving mercy of their church family. May God have mercy on us all.

  167. Julie says:

    I’m a mother of 10 ages 13 down to due-in-2-months. I think I’ve experienced it all (til the next baby brings on a new set of surprises). 10 of these baby years we spent traveling a very long ways to Mass. I left Mass more than once crying because my children are all born with fire ants in their pants. And I am still waiting for that angelic child I have heard some families have! But the Mass isn’t all about me and what I think I (might) get out of it. First and foremost the Mass is about Him. I may *feel* like I have adored him more when I’m alone but that doesn’t make my feeling a reality. There is no way for us to know what all we get out of the Mass. I would, however, venture to say we likely get more out of the Mass when we carry our cross… particularly with joy (which can be highly challenged with children in *those* moments) When we finally got the TLM back in our diocese (only took 10 years of praying!) we not only had a Sunday Mass but daily Mass. I can tell you, adjusting the children to daily Mass was a challenge. So much so I asked my priest … in complete despair… whether I should continue to bring my children to daily Mass. He said yes and that they will learn. And indeed they did…. though there are moments……… They definitely behave better at the TLM than the NO and I am not sure if that has to do with the particular Mass itself or the setting (our TLM parish is a beautiful old church and the other church is bare and modernish (but the same priests so it isn’t the priest in our case!) Do I get anything out of the Mass when I have my children with me? All I can say is “I sure hope so!” But let me add, I do thoroughly enjoy the days I get to go to Mass alone… though that does bring on a whole ‘nother set of distractions! :)

    I have to disagree with whomever said that children don’t get anything out of the Mass (no offense of course and perhaps he/she was joking). Even my little ones (and we are by no means exceptional in any sense of the word) notice differences on the rare occasions we go to the NOM. They play act the Mass from a very young age. Children are like sponges. And I believe they take it all in…. even in the back of church which is where we generally park ourselves. We simply take out any naughty children and make it something they really don’t find worth the effort. It’s a little more interesting to at least sit in the pew than to face the wall in the corner of the back of the Church in mom or dad’s arms. No toys or food and religious books only if they are old enough to not play fetch ‘n whine for something else. Another thing that has been helpful in our size family is to use 2 pews rather than one. When we are all in one row it’s a loooong ways from one end to the other.

    I am with those who think families should go to Mass together. I think there may be practical reasons why littles weren’t brought to Mass long ago. Imagine walking 2 miles with your 2 year old to Mass in his/her Sunday best on a hot summer day… or any type of day. I’d take the 95 miles in our car over trying to carry a 2 year old 2 miles! I somehow can’t imagine that St. Therese the Little Flower became a saint by staying home from Mass when she was little. It is fairly well known she was a brat in her younger days! (ah… something I can relate to :)

    This topic has brought back some funny memories, which at the time were either humiliating or awful but are humorous now!

    Just my penny’s worth….