QUAERITUR: Babies at Mass revisited. “What should we do?”

From a readerette:

When my husband asked me what I would like for Christmas this year, I said, “I would like for our family to attend a Latin Mass.” (I think that will be my response when he asks what I want for my birthday next year.) [Good thinking.  Ladies, I'll bet birthdays and anniversaries would work too.] So we’re going to ___. Their website provides guidelines on how to properly conduct ourselves during mass, but I need further guidance.

We have an eight-month old who might get fussy during mass. If this happens, what should we do?

Should we soothe him in our seats? Should we take him to the vestibule? What about during communion? Can we take him to the communion rail with us (we won’t be able to fold our hands in prayer).

“Fold hands in prayer”… I like that.  I sometimes wonder if people aren’t thinking, “OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD AM I DOING THIS RIGHT?!?” or “Can’t he go FASTER?” or even “How does he say that long Latin thing so….. [whoops! (tongue out)]…. fast?”

So, you have asked me not only to step on the third rail, but “moon walk” on it.

Fussy babies during Mass.

Okayyyy.

We all love babies, don’t we?  I want to be on record that I love babies.

And many of you will with great fervor chime in to say, “Babies don’t bother me at Mass! I am always really happy to hear babies singing during Mass!”, with perhaps with the suggestion that anyone who doesn’t want to hear your little stupor mundi shatter the windows is a baby-hating … I dunno… liberal, or something.

Indeed, some people really don’t hear the snuffly bundles of joy when they mewl.  Mirabile (non) auditu! How they do that, I don’t know.  I have no reference point.

A priest stopped at my quarters the other day. I moved to turn of the TV.

He quipped, “I grew up with 7 brothers and sisters.  Noise doesn’t bother me.”

“I didn’t”, quoth I.  

Noise bothers me.  No.  Really.  It does.  (Except when I have the news on and I am also playing through recorded talk radio programs at 2x speed; I can do that… but I digress).

In church? That’s a different matter.  NOISE doesn’t belong in church.  Remember Screwtape on silence and noise?

Do baby yowlings constitute “noise”?  I’ll let you decide.  I refuse to take a position or responsibility for any assumption you make about my position! (There.  I’m teflon!)

That said, I was amused on Sunday when a wriggling cutie pie somewhere in church decided to respond to the ringing of the bells rung at the consecration: “EyYeyaaahOYYAbibÁyou!”, or something along those lines… right on cue.

Since I have zero experience in calming the infant, except in those occasions in which they become suddenly big-eye fascinated by my low resonant voice, I will turn this over to the general public.

In the meantime, I suggest that you not choose to sit in the very front row or even in the middle of rows.  Perhaps a place near the back or near a convenient door is a good idea.

As for coming to Communion with folded hands, don’t worry about that.  Babe in arms?  Kneel (if practical).  Lock down junior’s little searchy grabby arm if necessary.  Tilt head back slightly.  Open jaw.  Extend tongue about an inch.  Wait.  No “Amen” needed.  Father does the rest.

Bottom line: Common sense, respect for others, and let us all be human, whatever age we are.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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77 Responses to QUAERITUR: Babies at Mass revisited. “What should we do?”

  1. polycarped says:

    We have an eight month old and have just recently started attending the TLM regularly. It’s certainly a bit more ‘challenging’ than at the average NO simply because, to put it mildly, there is a lot more silence and prayerfulness in general (which is fantastic!) and therefore you are that much more conscious of any noise and disturbance. Fr’s advice is perfect. We also tend to stay reasonably close to the back and I often spend a fair amount of time standing with little one in the entrance area distracting her with as many statues and pictures as I can find. Every now and again I step outside if the volume level gets too high. But so far this hasn’t happened much at all – our little one has been very quiet and calm – I would suggest this may partly be because she can sense that she’s in a special place at a special time. One thing we tried last week was to feed her right before Mass – this seemed to help. As children grow into toddlerhood, I personally believe it’s very important to make sure you’re near the front so that they can really see what is going on – but at this young age, I’d agree that being close to the nearest escape hatches is best! In terms of communion time, we don’t actually take her to the rail – one of us goes first, the other follows on a few minutes later and we pass the baby over in the aisle! Good luck and don’t give up – it will undoubtedly be stressful at times!

  2. Supertradmum says:

    I do not mind babies crying at all. What I do mind are toddlers running around the church even going up to the sanctuary during Mass and people thinking this is cute.

    The children at the TLM where I have gone recently are all extremely well behaved. There were about 25 under 10s at Mass on Sunday.

    The priest laughed at the coffee time and said, “And the chancery thinks that only old people come to the TLM”.

    These children are the future saints of a church which will be under tribulation. We all cherish them and the community should rejoice in their presence.

    Parents, relax.

  3. jhayes says:

    For years, I went to Mass at a Franciscan shrine where any woman who tried to walk out with a baby who started to cry during the sermon would hear the homilist stop in mid-sentence to say STOP! – bring that baby back!” -and explain that the baby was God’s child and we wanted it to be with us during Mass. [Right… yah… riiiiight.]

  4. meippoliti says:

    With number 5 on the way and all the kiddos under age 8, my husband and I have gone through it all (at least if feel that way).
    I personally think it is easier to deal with the baby.
    I nurse during Mass. I wear a baby carrier (ergo) and a head scarf, which both cover most of Baby. Baby usually falls into a peaceful slumber after nursing and sleeps in the carrier on me. Then my hands are free to help the other little ones.
    Scope out the church and the nearest exit for bathroom run to change diaper or a place if Baby becomes extremely upset.

  5. Elizabeth M says:

    First, I’d like to tell the reader this from one mom to another: The first time you’re there you will probably feel like you did not pray at all. Here is the beauty. God knows you are there and the graces are there. Every moment you are soothing your child is a prayer. Make a good offering at before Mass begins and let everything else just happen. We can do no more greater service to God than fulfilling our vocation.

    On the practical side, if there is a crying room you might want to find out the quickest path from the back pew to that room. I’ve been at 2 parishes with 2 very different priests. One will not tolerate (meaning he will give you “the eye”, or even remind people before he starts his sermon that children should be in the crying room) and the other says Mass with the entire church filled with children.
    A little fussy is okay. When they start talking or screaming take them out, try and soothe them, then bring them back in. 8 months is difficult because they are starting to learn to really move!
    If you are in the back no one will mind if little one eats a few Cheerios during the sermon. Be sure to hand them out one at a time – you don’t want a pew full of Cheerios! I make sure the kids are well fed before we go in. We bring holy cards tied together on a ring or little saint books. Juniper Plum on etsy has a few ideas.
    Bring the baby up to the communion rail, but hold those hands down. As has been discussed here several times, some priests may bless the child, some will not. That is the priest’s choice.

    No one will mind if you whisper to him what he sees. Sometimes I would ask my son “Where is Jesus, where is Mary?” and he would start looking around and be quiet.

    Dive in and do not pay attention to anyone else. I applaud you!

  6. andersonbd1 says:

    My wife and I go to separate masses because taking babies/infants/toddlers is just… not… prayerful for us and I think it’s disrespectful to others to have my kids bothering them. Thank you, FrZ, for being one of the few priests for not scolding us for this decision. I have yet to find the Catholic teaching which says that babies get magical graces from being at mass even though everyone seems to think this is the case. On the contrary, there is very strong teaching saying that attentiveness at mass is extremely important.

  7. Michael_Thoma says:

    We take our 6 month old to Syro-Malankara Holy Qurbono most Sundays – so far she’s mostly quiet, with one diaper change and a feeding. We took her to the nearby Ukrainian Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy, we sat up front to the side of center, and she was fascinated with all the icons and bells. Granted, it was their “quicker” earlier Liturgy, but not more than a peep.. and a great big grin after receiving His Most Holy Blood!

  8. Sword40 says:

    The wife and I raised 7 “normal” kids and rarely missed Mass. Yes, there were times when I thought I was going to loose my religion and even wondered why I continued to try to attend.
    But as all things do, it passed. Now I wish that I could see them all at Mass again.

    I was tempted to say “God Bless duct tape” but I’m afraid many wouldn’t see the humor in that.
    Our kids grew to become very well mannered. We were complimented many times by other folks.

    And I have noticed that most EF raised kids are quieter at Mass than most OF raised kids.

  9. Stu says:

    Balance.

    As Catholics, we all have to endure a bit of “overhead” in allowing parents a little bit of time to calm and direct their children during Mass. And as parents, we need to know when to “cut bait” and simply egress to allow others to concentrate on the Mass.

  10. Elizabeth D says:

    Babies don’t bother me at Mass, and I am not a “baby person” or comfortable with babies or know what to do with babies. I am happy there are Catholic little babies.

    This is by far the best blog post ever about babies crying at Mass, and helped me to think about it better!
    http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2012/04/crying-children-call-to-mind-mystery-of.html

  11. Former Altar Boy says:

    1. Every crying baby is one baby who wasn’t aborted.
    2. Just as kids, even very young ones, don’t learn how to behave in restaurants without being taken to a restaurant, the same is true for church.

  12. Woody79 says:

    Baby noises do not bother me but then, like many of you, I’ve been through that and perhaps that is why. Also, it’s always nice when it’s someone else’s child! As for duct tape, it can solve any problem. So will a glass of single malt scotch….taken by the adult, not the child. Happy Thanksgiving, Father.

  13. Lucas says:

    My father had a experience like jhayes back in the 50s. He came from a large family and the priest had received complaints of fussy kids during mass. He started his homily by saying he loved fussy and crying babies because it told him that the church was young and always growing.

    I try to keep our 3 kids pretty chill during Mass but sometimes they act up. I’ve never had a complaint, knock on wood.

  14. churchlady says:

    It’s not a crying baby that bothers me, it’s the crying that doesn’t stop and the parent doesn’t move to the “cry room” or step outside for a moment to help the baby/child calm down.
    Lots of great advice here, but I do disagree with Cheerios in church. Food and snacks have no place in the church, the only exception would be a baby’s bottle.

    A pacifier was what saved us. Then the last one comes along and she doesn’t take one. Refused it completely. Talk about a quandary! I always made sure they were nursed before Mass. We sat up front in the chapel. If there was any misbehavior, out we went. As they grew up, they were always well behaved and we received so many compliments. I do agree with Sword40, it goes fast and I would love to have them all in the pew with us again.

  15. mamajen says:

    People are always telling me how much they enjoy hearing crying babies. I’ve also received dirty looks or admonishment for being the mean old witch who marches her misbehaving child out. However, I know that I find it very difficult to focus on the mass when there are out-of-control children screeching, and so I try to be courteous to the people who feel the same…not to mention the priest, who I imagine might struggle if there is too much noise. If done correctly, removing the child also can be a good lesson. When my oldest was a toddler, he considered it quite the punishment to be removed from mass–he learned he needed to behave, or else.

    I take my youngest (6 months) out as soon as he starts getting squirmy/vocalizing. If I wait a minute longer, he’ll be screaming at the top of his lungs. At this age, he often just wants a change of scenery due to his short attention span, and bringing him to a different location often does the trick. I usually also take him out if he needs a bottle, so he doesn’t belch at some particularly quiet time. I try to be in close proximity to the Crying Room, but if not we will sometimes end up pacing the vestibule. I also try to sneak out during a time when I will be the least disruptive, but that doesn’t always work. There is a sign in our Crying Room that says it is for infants in arms only, and older kids should be taught to behave during mass (I totally agree!). If the kid is really screaming, we are to bring them into the church basement (been there, done that), or even outside. Our church is tiny, and the Crying Room is right off the sanctuary.

    I (or my husband) always bring the baby up to communion. We also bring our 5-year-old son. Our priest knows that he isn’t old enough for communion yet, though he looks it. If we have a visiting priest we have him stay in the pew so we can avoid the awkwardness of trying to communicate that he’s too young.

    Of course, despite my best efforts, my kids sometimes manage to make an impression. This from last weekend:

    Our priest: “and gave it to his disciples, saying…
    Our baby (loudly): “Plblbblblblblblttttttttttttttt

  16. mamajen says:

    Guess I should mention (if it’s not clear from the last bit of my previous comment) that I attend the Novus Ordo, not EF. We do kneel at communion, though. I think I’d feel a little extra stressed about attending the EF with young kids since it’s so much quieter, but I’d handle them the same way.

  17. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I think babies and young children at Mass are great. It’s not their fault that they are much too young to have learned to sit, kneel, or stand quietly, and not to talk or sing except with the rest of the congregation.

    It’s also not their fault if they have clueless, inconsiderate, or ditzy parents who are slow to respond to prolonged and / or high-decibel emissions from their offspring, or to a sudden penchant to run, kick, squirm, or somersault in the pew. The parental response the rest of us are hoping for is a swift retreat out of the sanctuary and into the vestibule, porch, garden, parking lot, or family car until the moment passes, and the little one is ready to return.

    Most parents do this, but some seem to believe that a pew is a suitable place to practice tackle football moves (instead of going outside) with Junior, or that Junior’s prolonged vocalizing is somehow a charming addition to the liturgy for those around them. (And by vocalizing, I don’t mean the soft coos of a 2-month-old, or the occasional short squawks of an 18-month-old. I mean self-expression loud enough for others to hear that goes on for 30 seconds or so.)

    If little ones are becoming annoying in church, it’s not because they don’t know how to behave; it’s because their parents don’t know how to behave.

  18. Priam1184 says:

    I am childless so I cannot give advice on what to do, however, as a regular attendee of the Ordinary Form of the Liturgy I can definitely say that babies crying bother me a whole lot less than the constant stream of cell phones going off…

  19. I have several thoughts, which may not be well connected:

    1. I decided a long time ago that, based on a complex algorithm, my unwavering position would be: bring the babies! Bring the children! This is because I have seen that many parents have used the excuse of their children’s “problems” at church as an excuse not to bring them, up to about the year they make their first communion. In fact, I really think many of these parents somehow extend this excuse forward, justifying their children not attending Mass for many years after their first communion.

    So: I decided that since messages can be misheard, I would be as plain as I could be: bring the babies! Bring the babies! BRING THE BABIES! No one would be able to use anything I said as an excuse.

    2. Somewhat related to this. I have learned as a priest that the wrong people always seem to hear what you’re saying. Example: some people really need to hear that going to Mass is a grave obligation–with lots of exclamation points! But then, you have other folks–who are listening in (say, at the same Mass), who I wish wouldn’t listen to that. These are the saintly folks who–if they have pneumonia, and there’s a severe snowstorm–still ponder if they are committing a mortal sin staying home from Mass, because (a) they figure they could probably drag themselves to Mass, and besides, (b) while the weather’s bad, it’s not a blizzard yet. Oh yes; and they’re over 90. These folks absolutely don’t need to hear me pound the obligation. That’s for other people.

    3. So maybe you see where I’m going here. The people who need to hear, “bring the babies!” may be the people who need to hear something else–and vice-versa.

    4. Meanwhile, let us turn our gaze from the oblivious parents who don’t do anything about misbehaving children, to those who can do with their eyes what our government cannot do with billions of dollars and the best scientists: create a death-beam that destroys all in its path. I do understand that the noise and misbehavior of children is a distraction. But it’s not the crisis some deliberately unpleasant people make it out to be. In my opinion, their main problem isn’t the child, or the parent, but themselves. The real distraction isn’t the child, but their own interior dialogue that begins immediately after the child squawls.

  20. govmatt says:

    As a single twenty-something male, I’m eminently qualified to weigh in on this… … …

    Anyhow… Look, I totally realize that babies are awesome. I want lots of them. I am really happy that families are going to Mass. From an intellectual perspective, it’s good.

    However, babies are really annoying. (There. I said it.) I’m definitely a noise guy. If junior is munching on something or playing with something or just being generally fussy, I can’t help but think uncharitable (and, yeah, probably unreasonable) thoughts during Mass. Is this my problem? Should I just lighten up? Should I just wait until I have kids then realize that I’m being too prickly? Absolutely. Still, it bugs me.

    On the flip side, though… there is absolutely nothing cooler than seeing a well-behaved little kid at Mass. You know, one of the kids who gets it (probably not an eight month old, but I’ve seen some pretty young kids grasp the concept of reverence better than a lot of adults).

    So, my utterly unqualified advice (read: stuffy conservative preference) is that if the kid is old enough to get it, bring them, but if the kid is going to prevent Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Fr.X, and all the stuffy conservative twenty-somethings from concentrating, maybe hold off?

  21. NickD says:

    Sword40 was tempted to say, “God bless duct tape.”

    A related anecdote…when I was younger, my mother attended a daily Mass at our parish. Apparently, I was being unruly (imagine that :-P), so after Mass, our parochial vicar suggested “duct tape, Mrs. D!” Of course, my mother was horrified that a man of the cloth would suggest such treatment for the child! The good Father proceeded to explain that it was meant to tape my feet to the floor so that I would JUST.STAND.STILL, rather than shut me up!!!! :-)

  22. tperegrinus says:

    At our TLM parish in Sydney I notice that the only ‘jerks’ (by that I mean those who jerk their heads around at the slightest noise) are single men past the usual marriage age or elderly ladies with no smile muscles in or out of Church. It amazes me that people with knowledge of Catholic moral teaching about the age of reason suddenly think, during Mass, that an 8 month old can use reason and will to stop his own noise. I approached an extremely well educated ‘jerk’ recently who was complaining about noise from children who had been already taken out of the Church but who could still be heard because of the particular architectural design, or lack of, of the outside area. Jerks don’t realise that most mothers and fathers do try their best and are not maliciously trying to inflict noise on others. My practice is to take jerks to task if I have the opportunity. I have 2 under 4 and another on the way…we adapt and leave for anything beyond a few squeals. Yes it means for example that postpartum mothers breastfeed outdoors in winter. But that is part if the effort which the jerks don’t see.

  23. ConstantlyConverting says:

    You know, as a mother whose Protestant husband really thinks kid’s church is a fantastic idea, I do not see the difference between slapping the kids off to kid’s church and forcing mom and baby into the hall with dirty looks and disapproving head nods. I mean, aren’t we the Church that encourages life?

    When did the sacraments become seven or was it always that way in the latin rite? In the Oriental rites the kids are chrismated (Baptism, Communion, anointing with oil) so they take part in the entire Liturgy. I can’t really stand the dropping of the filioqque, it really bothers me; but I would take chrismation over the (unintended effective excommunication of children) split sacraments any day. Off topic, sorry.

  24. Jerry says:

    For people with certain types of hearing loss, extraneous noises that might be a minor nuisance for most people can make it impossible for us to understand what is being said, especially when the speaker is some distance away, as at Mass. For those of us who don’t have children and who did not grow up in loud, noisy households, the noise itself can be very distracting, to the point where it is difficult to concentrate on a following a missal or even reciting a prayer silently.

    During most parts of the Mass, I can cope with the distractions or not being able to hear. However, the homily is the one part where either we hear it when it’s spoken or it’s lost forever (more power to those of you whose priests publish them; many do not.) The fussy children gain nothing by being present in the pew during the homily — most of them are far too young to understand it even if they were focused on the priest; some of us have much to lose. Often week after week due to the same parents not responding to their children’s behavior.

  25. Michael_Thoma says:

    Constantly Converting – I can’t really stand the dropping of the filioqque

    “Dropping of the filioque”? The Eastern Churches didn’t drop the filioque, the Latin Church added it for their own particular reasons. We Easterners in union with Rome don’t mind the addition to the particular Latin Church, why should you mind the original usage that the Eastern Churches kept intact?

  26. JacobWall says:

    My wife and I have gone to Mass with 3 children under 2. It takes balance. These are our guidelines:

    1) Take the babies to Mass as much as possible.

    2) If there is a bit of fussing, baby-talk, laughing, etc. quiet them down, but we don’t worry about it. A soother, picking them up, rocking, etc. usually does the trick.

    3) If really loud crying seems to be on the way (or has already started) get up and leave with the baby until they’re calmed. Lot’s of people will say they’re not bothered by babies’ crying. However, usually when a baby cries it means they need something. I know plenty of people who are “bothered” by a baby’s crying just for that reason – they are worried about what the baby might need. That’s a distraction. That’s a distraction for parents. Best just take care of whatever it is, calm them down and then go back. This is where father’s suggestion of sitting at the back comes in handy.

    4) If it is an appropriate part of the Mass, I will get up with a fussing baby, and walk back and forth at the back or other appropriate part of the church without leaving Mass. This often calms babies. A beautiful church with plenty to look at (stained glass, nice lights, icons, beautiful architecture, etc.) usually also catches their attention and distracts them, helping to calm them down. If the time for kneeling comes, I’ve found it’s pretty easy to kneel wherever you are with the baby, and they are usually calmer like this; there is more space to move around (for them) and they can still be entertained by the new “scenery.” This means you don’t get a kneeler, but I’ve always survived.

    5) As #4 suggests, allow yourself flexibility and some creativity. Be reverent, follow the rules, show respect, but don’t beat yourself up because you had to spend the sermon pacing the back of the church with the baby. It took me a while to learn this. My wife and I also have had to make some creative arrangements. Sitting at the back is better for babies, but sitting at the front is better for slightly older children (I would say 3 and onwards, depending on each child.) They can see the priest and what he’s doing, and are usually fascinated by it, making it easier for them to get through the Mass (not to mention inspire boys to aspire to priesthood!) So, we take turns; one of us sits front row centre with the older 2, the other sits on a chair at the back with the twin babies. Sitting together as a whole family is wonderful (and ideal if possible,) but again, flexibility in finding the best solution is important.

  27. JacobWall says:

    I don’t know if I’m just imagining this, but I felt it was actually easier to deal with young children smoothly at the TLM. (please take note: I’ve only been once.) Since participation is far more flexible in the TLM, I found it less awkward to deal with the kids and return to praying and listening – or even just continue listening. In the NO, the form of participation makes the little breaks needed for babies seem more disruptive, as though I’ve missed something important – at times almost frustrating. Of course, every part of the TLM is very important, but I just feel there’s less pressure.

    The other side of the coin is that there is a greater emphasis on silence in the TLM than in most NO Masses. Yet, the tips I gave above work just as well to respect in the TLM to respect the silence yet minimize the amount of time you would actually have to leave.

    My wife was anxious that having the babies with us for our first TLM would distract us and kind “sour” our first experience. But I don’t think that happens at all. Many families show up with children and babies to the TLM – often lots of them. Most of those families also have their children is fairly good discipline. Yet, I saw mothers walking out with their babies, etc. – basically doing the kind of things I said above.

    Again, I’ll qualify what I’m saying here by repeating that I’ve only been to one TLM. But I think if you have some action plans on what to do when the baby cries, and you go to the TLM ready to appreciate the broad flexibility it offers in how you worship, you shouldn’t find it harder – and perhaps even easier – than having babies in a NO Mass.

  28. ConstantlyConverting says:

    Michael, only because it is such a bone of contention (between CC and Orthodox), I think it should be in there. It seems to me to be a food offered to idols scenario.

    This is my opinion. I don’t mean anything disparaging by it.

  29. Here’s my thoughts, as the father of a boy who is bursting with energy and just turned 3:

    1. The biggest problem today is church design. All of the modern churches, and, even more sadly, many of the older ones, have removed all of the statues, windows, adornment, etc. in the church. My wife and I are lucky and attend mass at a church that is 100 years old and, save for the removal of the altar rail and addition of a 2nd altar, the church looks exactly the same today as it did when it was built. This makes it very easy to distract/entertain a toddler without toys, books, etc., and at the same time teach them something about the faith. At a neighboring parish, with a church built in the last 10 years, I feel like I’m in an auditorium, and there is simply nothing to distract/entertain my son, and we always find ourselves walking around the lobby during mass here.

    2. I’m all in favor of always bringing the children. A parish without children is a parish that won’t grow. I guarantee you that the young children that are very reverent at mass and actually appear to “get it” are the ones who have been there week in and week out. You don’t learn reverence for the mass by being placated at home without ever experiencing it. Except for the day he was born, my son has never missed a Sunday mass. He frequently gets compliments from others in our parish about how good he is. It is only because he has been there time and time again that he has learned this.

    3. Despite what I said in number 2, it is equally important for parents to know their kids’ limits. My son is 3, he’s not going to be perfect every time, and some weeks mass can be longer, or the church can be hotter, or any other myriad of things that will make it hard for my son to sit still and/or be quiet. When those things start to happen, we go for a short walk to the vestibule (or outside in rare cases) to give him a break from mass. Five minutes later we are back and everything is fine again. That said, we never ever go to a cry room. Those rooms should be relabeled as play rooms. The kids might as well be at home, and usually the parents are so distracted in there, they might as well be at home also.

    4. Finally, and most importantly, parents really need to respect those around them. Sit in the back so you can make a quick exit. Try to sit as far from others as possible. If everyone sits in the back like they do at my parish, sit in a corner in the front near a side door. Watch your child so they don’t keep turning around. Pay attention to your fellow parishioners – we found some parishioners who have twin grandchildren about my son’s age and absolutely adore my son. We try to sit in front of them every Sunday because we know they do not mind the small distractions caused by our son. It works out well for everyone.

    Handling young children at mass is one of the most difficult things to do as a parent. At home, you can let your kid scream it out, or you can send him to timeout, or you can raise your voice. At church, though, its just the opposite. You can’t let him scream, you can’t raise your voice, and you certainly cannot truly punish your child at church. And the whole time, you’re also trying to pay attention to the priest and mass and your prayers. After becoming a parent, I found new respect for every parent that ever brings a child under 5 to mass. I am convinced that God must have a special place in heaven for these parents.

  30. JacobWall says:

    Well said, youngcatholicstl.

  31. mamajen says:

    Jerry,

    For people with certain types of hearing loss, extraneous noises that might be a minor nuisance for most people can make it impossible for us to understand what is being said, especially when the speaker is some distance away, as at Mass.

    I can certainly attest to that! It takes so much energy and effort to hear under normal circumstances, and ambient noise makes it that much more of a challenge.

  32. Jerry says:

    re: tperegrinus – “It amazes me that people with knowledge of Catholic moral teaching about the age of reason suddenly think, during Mass, that an 8 month old can use reason and will to stop his own noise.”

    Have any of these people told you they believe the child should have control of their behavior? Could it just possibly be that they expect the parent to take the child to the cry room or vestibule when the crying persists?

  33. Cristero says:

    It would seem to me that these little ones are innocent and have not offended the Lord, where as I, as we say in the Ruthenian Rite, have sinned without number. So who deserves to be Holy Mass more?

    The fussy child does not bother me personally, but when we had our young ones, if the behaviour became too disruptive, we would go outside to calm down.

  34. JacobWall says:

    Of course, it’s always a 2-way road and discretion and sensitivity have to be shown by all. I met a woman once who had stopped going to Mass as an adult. She got married (to a non-Catholic) and had a baby. When she decided to give Mass another shot and go alone with her baby, the only notice that anyone took of her was the priest approaching her after Mass to tell her that she should have been in the crying room with her baby. She felt confused and offended and gave up on the idea of going to Mass. In her case, never having had a baby in church before, showing up “out of the blue” after so much time away, and not having any clue on what to do, it was certainly insensitive for someone to complain to her before getting to know her situation. It’s good to watch for new faces and take it easy on them.

    In my case, I certainly can’t complain; my parish is mostly people of older age, and we’ve never had one complaint, even in our “rookie” parenting years when I’m sure that our second baby’s screaming could’ve woken the dead. We did get compliments, though, when we started finding solutions to make things work better – “You guys are learning, good for you!” Compliments are a good motivation to parents of young children!

    I think that if young parents are showing up that have no other connection to a parish, it’s probably best if they are approached by other parents of young children if tips or advice are needed. It makes people less defensive. And whoever approaches a family about their baby, first find out who they are and what their background is before complaining about the crying. That may mean that you don’t say anything about the crying for the first couple of weeks.

    The other side of the coin; those of us who are parents of young children need to see it as our task to keep our children from distracting others, and help out other parents when we have the chance. If I ever become hard of hearing or more easily distracted as an elderly person, I hope that young parents will show respect for my situation. So, even though I fail more often then I like, I really do try.

  35. tperegrinus says:

    Re Jerry. Short answer: yes, some people do think it is possible for a child of that age to be ‘made’ to be quiet. I have had such comments. No amount of strong fatherhood or what not can overcome a wet nappy, hunger etc. Which brings me to the main point: Most ‘jerks’ who look around will find that the parent and child are already in the vestibule changing that nappy or, in fact, outside feeding the bub. We have no cry room at our parish which, in principle, is a good thing. More to the point: the number of parents who do not try to manage noise is small to the point of rarity. Don’t get me wrong: I like a quiet Church. I wish I could actually go to Mass without standing outside for subatantial chunks of it watching mynah birds fight over breadcrumbs. But I prefer a fecund one that struggles to be quiet, to a twitchy, frowning one which is perfectly quiet but demographically abnormal. And how do you go with your kids Jerry? Tips from the experienced are welcome, such as some of the excellent posts in this thread.

  36. bookworm says:

    A few thoughts that might be helpful:

    1. The problem of baby/toddler noise in church is more of a collective problem than an individual problem, particularly in parishes with many young families. An individual parent may do their very best to keep their children quiet and take them out promptly when they get too noisy — then as soon as they do, another child starts fussing, and as soon as that one is quieted down, another may start crying. The result: despite the best efforts of each parent to control his/her own children, the non-parents may still complain of having been constantly distracted by crying babies.

    2. The acoustics, size and layout of the church have an effect on how distracting baby/toddler noise is. A few crying babies spread out in an 800-seat cathedral with high vaulted ceilings and an excellent sound system will probably cause a lot less distraction than they would in a 200-seat “church in the round” built in the ’60s or early ’70s with low ceilings and a poor sound system.

    3. Children are not strictly obligated to attend Mass until they reach the age of reason (traditionally, around age 7). Up to that point, Mass attendance is optional for the child, and a parent is free to decide, week by week if necessary, whether or not to bring the child along if leaving the child at home can be done without neglecting his/her own Mass obligation or that of older children.

    4. A child who is going through the “terrible twos” or having a particularly rough patch due to illness, some kind of recent stress or change in their life, etc. and becomes particularly difficult to handle during Mass could, perhaps, be allowed to stay home for a week or two or more with the other parent, or a relative or sitter, until they settle down or mature a bit and can be brought back. If your child is, like mine, on the autism spectrum they may be greatly bothered by some aspect of the environment — it could be a particular song or musical instrument, the lighting, something that someone else in the congregation does or says — that is unnoticeable to you, but which drives them absolutely nuts. Until it goes away or you find out what is bothering them, perhaps they can be allowed to take a break.

    5. I do NOT believe that it is absolutely necessary to take children to Mass every week from birth because otherwise they will “never learn” how to behave in church. My brother and I did not start attending Mass until we were about 5 years old (mom and dad went to separate Masses when we were young). We had no behavior problems at all, and it doesn’t seem to have harmed us — we’re both still faithful Mass-attending Catholics to this day. That said…

    6. Leaving young kids at home until they are “old enough” does NOT mean leaving them at home with absolutely no preparation for attending Mass until the day you bring them. A child who has not attended Mass from birth does need to be prepared for the experience. This can be done by practicing with them at home, taking them on short visits to the church or an adoration chapel, or taking them to shorter weekday Masses first.

  37. AMTFisher says:

    As a discerning college student (God/bishop/UST willing a seminarian next year), I find babies and small children a little annoying for a different reason. I will get a similar feeling that I get when I watch the priest lift up the Host and say, “Behold the Lamb of God”. Often while praying, I will see myself in the priest’s place (I could do that. I could be created, I could have hands so I can do that.) But then I see a fussy baby, or a loud toddler, and see their father picking them up, and walking out to calm them down; and I see myself in his place. (Am I supposed to do that? Am I created to be a dad? I could have hands do pick my children up).

    It doesn’t just happen with babies, but they are definitely one of the things I notice. (Other examples: Do I have a voice to sing the Roman Canon, or to sing lullabies to my daughter? Do I have the ability to stay up stupid late and get up stupid early so I can stay up late talking with my wife and getting up to go to work, or so I can hang out with the young adults of my parish at the bar and then get up to say 6:30 Mass for them? et cetera)

    Now just to discern which one (or something else) God is calling me to. To figure out which desires are in me because that is what I was made for, which are there because I am recognizing the beauty of that vocation, and which are there because I want it my way, and don’t want to do God’s will. Simple enough… Oy vey!

    But back to original topic: maybe a solution to my dilemma is to get rid of babies at Mass… (though, when I really think of it, I suppose I need it; even if it is annoying/uncomfortable…)

  38. Incaelo says:

    Oh yes, common sense, certainly. Noisy babies don’t bother me, generally. I mean, it’s not like they should know better (unlike some…). They can babble along, that’s fine. Crying and screaming, however, is not babbling. It is, at best, distracting, and, at worst, bad for your hearing…

    Maintain an easy way out of the pew and to a place where baby can get his or her crying done and come back when he or she has calmed down. Don’t jump up at every little sound baby makes! And about sitting in the back… I don’t know. I think that, once at an age where the child starts taking in his or her surroundings, it is good to sit a bit closer to the sanctuary, so that he or she can take in what is going on. It may be the first start of a fascination with the ritual of the Mass…

  39. JacobWall says:

    bookworm, good observations. Above I said “as often as possible,” but I should have said “as often as reasonable.” It’s very rare that we go without any children, but we do leave some of our children at home now and then. For example, if one of them is sick. Or, if my wife or I is sick, it would just be too much for one of us alone with the baby twins.

    That´s part of the finding creative solutions I mentioned above, making arrangements so parents can go at different times, etc.

  40. LadyMarchmain says:

    Parents are in the trenches and most children and babies at the TLM I attend are quiet during the liturgy–it’s the homily where they get squiggly (sorry fathers!) I’m afraid I am very easily distracted by babies and children during the liturgy, but their “input” during the homily doesn’t usually bother me, unless the child is clearly distressed.

    A good point was made about the mother returning to mass alone with her baby; I’ve seen moms alone at mass with many children and babies in tow, who miraculously manage to keep them all in order, but if you’re seated near a family with small children, you could offer to hold the baby or mind the children while the mom goes up for communion. We can also carry extra holy cards or other small sacramentals, or a quarter to light a candle, and offer them to small children in the pews with a comment about how well behaved they are.

    I agree that a beautiful church and TLM can make a huge difference in children’s and baby’s behavior during mass, and before and after. And I must add, when I have attended Byzantine Rite parishes, the babies and children are all very well behaved there as well, and the babies seem to love receiving the eucharist, they always have a huge smile after receiving.

  41. JacobWall says:

    AMTFisher,

    Blessings and prayers for you as you discern God’s calling. Being a father has been a great joy for me (even when I have to get up and take my kids to the washroom during Mass,) yet it would also be a great joy if one of my sons were to become a priest. Although in a different way, then too you will be a father. Besides the shepherdly fatherhood, there will also be the babies; if you feel your hands were made to hold babies, just think of how many times those hands will get to hold a baby you just baptized. Not to try to sway your decision, but …

  42. Bea says:

    I don’t know if “readerette” also has older children. For their sake, don’t sit too far back so they can see (and attend) Mass. Not the very front so you can take a cue as to what other people are doing, (kneeling, standing, etc.).
    As to the baby, it sounds like teething time. A quick finger rub on the gums or a zwieback cookie (our choice when ours were that age) may be soothing to him. We tried to pick a Mass that was their nap time and they would sleep at that time to minimize any problem. At the first squawk-out they go.
    I also would tie my mantilla around my chin so I wouldn’t have to struggle with baby AND a pulled-off or falling mantilla.

  43. Gratias says:

    Bring on the babies, all of then. Joy of the world. A very happy Thanksgiving to all you Fr z and friends.

    Gratias

  44. lana says:

    @andersonb, you are in good company. St Therese of Lisieux (whose parents are by now blessed or canonized, I forget) didn’t get to go to church when she was little. In Story of a Soul she writes about how she would wait on Sundays for Celine to come home. I assume she must have been at least 4 to have memory of this.

  45. Mike says:

    Regarding the various comments about “jerks,” one not in charity might expand that term to include anyone who they feel makes them uncomfortable, or who doesn’t welcome them as they might want, or who doesn’t treat them just as they think they are entitled to be.

    Perhaps a prayer, or even a welcome, could be spared for the “jerks.” Without lurching into lefty-crunchy paeans to “inclusiveness,” it is possible to pray for the grace to cultivate a peaceable attitude toward the littlest members of the flock, single men past child-rearing age, launchers of death-ray gazes, et al.

    Members of the Body of Christ are charged practically from the cradle onward to bear witness to dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Our fellow members, fairly or not, will take away with them how we do on that score — which in any event will be reviewed with us, some time later on, by our Savior and our Judge.

  46. RafqasRoad says:

    tperegrinus,

    I know the congregation you are speaking of, having visited it for a handful of TLM’s over the past few months. I wonder whether the individual who I heard tisk tisk tisk as they passed me in the aisle upon one occasion (I hope not at me and my guide dog who was, may I add, behaving himself perfectly), is part of the demographic you have outlined? Hmm…Fr. Wong is a dear, and needs all the prayers we can offer – a fine priest, a gentle, perceptive confessor and excellent preacher – we have a gift in this wonderful pastor. I move in five days 2.5 hours south to the Shoal Haven and will miss the opportunity of attending a TLM (the only one for my new diocese is at the opposite end of said diocese – several hours from end to end) than my new abode…) I intend to make it to the 10:30AM Sunday Mass – earlier for confession – and readers are welcome to come up and introduce themselves – unless there are two attendees that morning with a golden Labrador guide dog, you’ll be able to easily identify me. Speaking of ‘roudy children’ if there are actually two guide dogs at mass this coming Sunday, the parishioners will be in for a show…oops…guide dogs aren’t always little angels around one another…

    Blessings,

    Aussie maronite, soon to be South Coast Catholic.
    PS: my guide dog largely sleeps through the mass and causes no disruption however the children love him and have been known to mob him after the service. he’ll even fit into the tiny ‘dog box’ confessional at this parish church; him, me and the door closed, no problems.

  47. Liz says:

    Fr. Z, perhaps you should combine this post with the one about the length of the sermon. That’s what I have trouble with. When the priest gives a really long sermon then it makes it really hard on the small children/babies (okay and on overtired, insomniac mother and her teenagers too. Well, we might as well throw dad and the other kids into the mix!) Basically, it’s hard on families when the sermons are too long. (My eldest daughter said it was my fault when she found out that I offered up the really long sermons for the Poor Souls! Ha!) Granted, my kids have learned to sit still for long periods of time, but I think priests should consider such things when planning their sermons. Brevity seems like a really good idea when families are involved.

  48. We recently had our first child and he has so far been very well behaved at the Masses we have taken him to in the older form of the Roman Rite.

    One advantage of the old Mass is that the music (Gregorian chant) is calming and melodic and not screeching high pitched tunes that seem to be par for the course in the Novus Ordo.

  49. John of Chicago says:

    Over the years (many), it seems to me that a church’s architecture and acoustics can make a huge difference to parents with babies beyond the tiniest infant stage. For example, at a certain age, some little ones become fascinated when, at otherwise quiet moments, they hear the echo of their own or others’ voices bouncing off walls and ceiling. High ceilings interrupted by segmented vaults and some soft surfaces such as carpeted areas or tapestries dampen the sound of a baby’s cry and a well designed–as a opposed to merely loud–sound system always helps regardless of whether any babies are praying aloud. Finally, I’ve noticed that, at just a few months old, many little kids will listen attentively to a choir if they also can see the choir members as they sing. I guess most of this is useless rambling unless one is an architect.

  50. Tantum Ergo says:

    Common sense, common sense, common sense! Some noise is expected, and even welcome perhaps, but when it reaches a crescendo, take him to the vestibule. I’ve been through it with six kids, and my wife and I refer to the vestibule as “Purgatory” (now that the kids are grown, we finally got out.)

  51. pmullane says:

    My 8 month old finds the constant whittering of some members of our congregation very distracting.

  52. pmullane says:

    Can I second Tantum Ergo’s call for common sense? Be respectful of others, and try to reasonably manage noise and distraction. Get to know your child and what works and doesnt work, and dont beat yourself up if there is a bad day. Also, if someone gives you a look etc tehn cut them the slack you want them to give you, they may be having problems their own and you are an ‘easy target’. But if you do everything you can reasonably do, dont worry too much about what other people say, your baby has as much right as anyone to attend Mass.

    Also if a child is bothering you, can you find a way of dealing with it without making a difficult day for the family even worse? Can you just slip to another part of the Church? Can you just give up on hearing the sermon and say a prayer (how about one for all those babies who never get the chance to scream in Church or anywhere else?) Can you even help? Even a smile, or a reassuring word, or an offer of assistance can be so very helpful. And its a very ‘quick’ and easy to show some Christian love of neighbour, I mean, if we cant help each other in the Church Building and at Mass then when else are we going to do it?

  53. OrthodoxChick says:

    I’m still reading through all of the comments, but I just reached that of tperegrinus and had to stop to reply.

    I have 4 children. We’re now past the baby stage, but all 4 of mine were 8 month olds once. A few here have mentioned that they/their wives are nursing moms. I nursed all 4 of mine as well. Here’s my sleuth nursing tip to practically guarantee you a quiet, peaceful baby in Church.

    Adjust baby’s feeding schedule to time it so that you nurse right before Mass begins. No more than an hour before that nursing session, even if it’s a wee bit early on a Sunday morn, have an adult beverage. Whatever tickles your fancy: mimosa, Irish coffee (or coffee spiked with rum, brandy, kaluha, anything). I don’t mean go crazy and get blasted – but enjoy a little something (1 drink minimum) and by the time Mass begins, baby will be out cold! This will also help relax mom a bit if baby has some wiggly toddler siblings.

  54. OrthodoxChick says:

    Uh, that should be 1 drink maximum!!!!! Which reminds me, I think it’s time to add a little nip to the egg nog.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  55. Imrahil says:

    Dear @bookworm, helpful indeed, I guess!

    I might add that as to

    whether or not to bring the child along if leaving the child at home can be done without neglecting his/her own Mass obligation or that of older children,

    I think if a child is left home for some good reason and there is no one else to pay attention to it, that constitutes a rather good excuse for the parent’s Sunday obligation. Though not, perhaps, for the other older children around.

    It is, however, of course laudable that a parent wants to go to Church at least sometimes even if he would be excused.

  56. momoften says:

    I have brought every one of my 13 children to church every week since they were infants. RARELY
    DID I NOT UNLESS OF ILLNESS ON THEIR PART. I sat in the front row or near the front….and
    even went to a monastery where you could hear a pin drop because of the silence. I had mostly boys, and they do not sit still. They did as babies cry and fuss sometimes, and if it was ongoing I left and stood in the back vestibule behind doors until after Communion. It was a sacrifice, but well worth it to me. A little fussing is fine, but when people sit there for 5 or 10 minutes and decide its ok to stay… WRONG. It is a sacrifice, and it is part of training and letting them know it isn’t the place to be noisy. IT IS ALL PART OF PARENTING. I used to go to 2 Masses when I felt as though I wasn’t at Mass. Yes, do try to find the best time to go, but sometimes it is impossible. It is also unrealistic to take a young child to a 3 hour service (Easter) and expect them to be angels.
    Yes, do bring a bottle or feed them before you go…but also consider if you take Cheerios or food (personally I wouldn’t start that), CLEAN UP AFTER–and don’t make it a habit or taking them out to the bathroom every 10 minutes during Mass. Sigh. Use common sense–Mass is short, hang on to those babies and toddlers, and work with them, it is about training them. The payoffs are when they sit and behave during church. They don’t need you to bring distractions to church, and then expect it. (I have seen 6-10 year olds in church playing games UGH!!!!!) THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT THEY WILL BE GOOD WHEN THEY ARE LITTLE, OFFER IT UP FOR THE GRACES OF YOUR LITTLE ONE.

  57. celpar says:

    In principle and often in practice, I’m delighted to see young parents at Mass with their children. Children, total silence and total inertia just don’t go together, so over time I’ve trained myself to ignore the standard burbling and shuffling (and surely if you’re concentrating on the Mass you should be able to do that?). But, parents (I’m not one) there are some ground rules: if it screams take it out right away- not after 5 minutes of people having to turn round and glare at you. Never allow noisy toys to be brought to church and if the child can’t last half an hour without eating or drinking, again, just take it out.
    My limited experience of the EF suggests that children (though obviously not babies) do, on the whole, behave better- not sure why. I imagine that the casual attitude of many Catholics who attend the OF and regard it as just some sort of communal gathering is probably responsible for some of the bad behaviour on display there (including among altar servers): after all, if you don’t believe in the Real Presence, why bother being quiet or recollected?
    Lastly a very old-fashioned solution: my brother and I were not taken to Mass in the 1950s until we were between 2 and 3, for the eminently practical reason that there were no disposable nappies (diapers to you), or indeed toilet facilities in English churches, at that time. One parent stayed at home while the other, usually my mother, took the older child to church, and the other parent then went to a later Mass. But then there were 4 masses each Sunday, spread throughout the day..

  58. Cincinnati Priest says:

    govmatt:

    Thanks for your honesty.

    I think that is a key point in the discussion. The reality is that, even though there are many who won’t admit it because they don’t want to be perceived as anti-life, baby-hating liberals, there are many, many people (good Catholics who are pro-life) who are irritated by them.

    So when I hear of parents telling me, I’m going to bring my baby and not take them out when they cry, because, well, it doesn’t bother me, and it *shouldn’t* bother anyone else, I am always a little annoyed by that.

    Some parents have to be reminded that it’s not about you, it’s about the whole community.

    So by all means bring the baby, but do position yourself strategically and be prepared to take them out the moment the crying/fussing becomes more than a rhythmic “background” noise and elevates to an ear-shattering wail (whether or not *you* are easily able to tune that out yourself). Part of being a Christian is being concerned about the common good, not just one’s own preferences.

    Having said all that, as a pastor, the crying of babies at Mass rarely ever irritates me and I love having them there, because, well, they’re cute and precious gifts from God. Most parents do have the common sense I’ve mentioned. A very few over the years, though, don’t bother when the kid is screeching loudly during the words of consecration. That *is* an irritation — to the priest celebrant and probably many others around them trying to focus on said very sacred moment.

  59. pmullane says:

    OrthodoxChick – I preferred the 1 drink minimum rule…mabye thats jsut my Scottish side coming out :)

  60. pmullane says:

    Cincinnatti Priest:

    “Some parents have to be reminded that it’s not about you, it’s about the whole community.”

    This is true, but do you agree that it cuts both ways. I sometimes feel that there is so much ‘parenting experience’ in our churches, older mums and grandma’s who could be easily helping the parents who struggle with noisy children. Its just not possible to take out a screeching baby at a moments notice if you have two or three more children and changing bags and handbags etc, and your heads all over the place from running about like a madman getting them all ready for Church and you’ve had no sleep etc etc.

    Parents of noisy children are unlikely trying to ruin your day, how about next time a baby is bothering you in Church you lean over and ask ‘is there anything I can do to help?’

  61. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    When little ones squawk and squall for a prolonged period, it means that their environment isn’t working for them. They are bored. They are restless. They are hungry or tired. They want to be somewhere else. They want to be anywhere else. They’re tired of being shushed. They’re tired of being held.

    A whole 45 minutes to an hour is an ETERNITY to one so young. It must feel like a species of torture to them. Too young to understand what is going on at Mass; they are not required to be there; and at times, they make it clear that they are really, really not in the mood to be there. It seems so unfair, and so pointless.

    Sure, if the little one has been consistently content and quiet throughout nearly every Sunday Mass, then the baby or toddler is OK with that environment for that length of time. No problem bringing that one to Mass: you’re not torturing him or her by doing so.

    Some children are four or five before they have the ability to remain in one spot quietly for an entire 45 minutes. And, yes, they can learn that at home, and when they are well on their way to having mastered that skill, can consolidate their achievement by beginning to attend Mass. We did that with a couple of my younger brothers who couldn’t tolerate being in the church well when they were babies and toddlers. They learned to sit quietly at home, and then transferred these skills to Mass. Mom and Dad had to go to Mass separately, while the other stayed home with the youngest ones until they learned, but it was only for a few years. And this arrangement gave some of us older children the “Mom-time” and “Dad-time” we craved. We loved it.

    The sight or sound of an unhappy little one, who is signalling loud and clear – “Houston, we have a problem!” for a prolonged period, is something the parent can overlook and become inured to, if they choose, through constant repetition and routine. After all, the parent is actually in charge of the situation, and if the church were to catch fire, would be able to evacuate him or her and all other offspring and self in extremely short order. However, for whatever reason, some parents feel that they want the misery of their little one to be prolonged . . . and prolonged . . . and so the misery of the surrounding congregation members, who are not inured and are not in control, is also prolonged.

    The problem seems to be getting worse. I don’t understand how inflicting misery is good for small children or for congregations. But that’s just me.

  62. Rita_mar says:

    I was glad to see this post. I have an eight-month old daughter, and I’m also two months pregnant, so soon I’ll be trying to get two babies to mass. I guess I’m an “involuntary” NO Catholic – I prefer the TLM but there aren’t any in a reasonable distance of my house.

    I was hoping to get some advice on a couple of related questions.

    In my area, churches are unheated. (I’m in southern Italy. Father Z is probably aware of this situation, as I think that it is pretty common in Italy.) From about late November/December to February, it is really, really cold at mass – it is about the same temperature indoors as it is outdoors. I can bear it, but I’ve been worrying about bringing my daughter. I would not leave her outside, or keep the heat turned off at our house in these temperatures. Sometimes I leave her with my husband, but other than that, I don’t really have anyone to leave her with. Would missing Mass due to the cold be acceptable in this case?

    My other issue is this – I don’t really drive much. (I have a licence but have mostly lived in cities or central locations up until fairly recently, so I never needed to drive.) Sometimes my husband drops our daughter and me off at Mass. Our churches don’t have cry rooms and often don’t have restrooms. Often the entrance is either directly into the sanctuary, or the entrance is not really separated from the sanctuary, and taking a craying infant in there is essentially the same as keeping them in the sanctuary, noise-wise. So I have to take my daughter outside if she makes noise. I hate to do this in the winter. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  63. tperegrinus says:

    Rafka…I make reference to a general class of people observed over 10 years at different locations im Sydney and not to any individuals.

  64. Suburbanbanshee says:

    1. Obviously it’s best to go to Mass on Sunday and be there every minute.

    2. OTOH, there’s a reason why kids don’t have to go to Mass every Sunday before they reach the age of reason, and why there are so many opportunities for parents with kids to be dispensed from Mass in order to watch their kids. There’s also a reason why there are usually so many exits from churches, and so many nooks and crannies to retreat into (should there be need).

    3. Parents should exercise their prudence, considering the needs of their beloved children as well as the needs of their parish, and being flexible when situations change. In exchange, other parishioners should be generous and forebearing in their thoughts and behavior.

    4. There is no rule 4.

  65. jjoy says:

    Take the babies to High Mass! :)

    We have had our EF every Sunday since the beginning of this year. There are lots of young families in attendance, so lots of children and babies are there every week. I hardly ever hear a peep out of them, and they are not in the cry room (I sing in the schola and can see the cry room from the choir). We only have one Low Mass a month; the rest are all High Masses, or Solemn High on the last Sunday of the month. Consequently, there is lots of Gregorian chanting (calm, soothing tones) most of the time, and lots to see up front (nice shiny thurible and incense rising).
    Smells and bells!

  66. Pearl says:

    Bring the babies to the EF. We have lots of babies here. Let them sing and laugh. If they cry, yell, or fight back, take them out. Only happy noises here!

    Hold their arms well when you are receiving Communion. They WILL try to grab the ciborium.

    Take them to daily Mass. It is quieter and quicker. They can get up closer to the front and still be behind everyone else. It WILL help to train them to behave on Sundays.

    When my babies were very little, I would take them out to the back of Church, or to the vestibule, just before the Cannon just in case they decided to act up.

    If they are babes in arms, let them touch the texture of the stone walls, wallpaper, stained glass, etc. that is in the back of the Church. It is a great distraction for them!

    If you are alone and have older children and babies, find another family that your older children can sit with while you are in the back. We have at times had so many extra kids in our pew that people were confused about how many were ours.

    I BRIBED our babies guardian angels…it went something like this: “Dear Guardian Angel of my child. I am certain that if I were an angel and had to spend 80 or so years on this earth, the place I would most want to be is near the Blessed Sacrament. If you want me to take you to Church, you are going to have to help my child behave. Otherwise, both of you will be left home. Amen.” I think the angels listened!

    :-)

  67. cl00bie says:

    Babies “speaking in tongues” don’t bother me. I like hearing some “googling” from the assorted babies around. This reminds me that God wants the world to continue.

    Full blown nuclear meltdown, on the other hand, requires an unobtrusive exit for everyone’s (including your baby’s) sake.

  68. PA mom says:

    Wonderful advice here and good common sense!
    I am particularly touched by the person who suggested an offer to help. Someone once did this for me at an Easter Mass, and I am ashamed to say that I turned them down. It was so unexpected, and I didn’t know who they were, but it was so very thoughtful, I have thought to myself that if it happened again I should say yes!
    Me and my littlest (2 yrs) spend time most Sundays at the statues and stained glass by homily time, out to the vestibule after that. I have had older ones keep busy during the sermon practicing their new skill of writing by copying words out of the hymnal or readings. I have a special holy card collection with their favorite saints, at least 30 of them, to busy hands and eyes.
    The most helpful thing I believe has been that of bringing them to church during the week, not during Mass. Go in, light a candle, kneel for a little prayer, sit quietly for a couple minutes, and go. There are no other people to disturb with our presence, it is so calm and still that they intuitively respond by being quiet and still, and they love it. Really, they ask to come back, and that is what I want most of all. For them to process Church as somewhere they want to be.

  69. KateD says:

    In my experience people at the TLM are very kind, welcoming and tolerant. Our family has just started regularly attending the TLM. It might be comforting to remember that those who attend the TLM are loyal to the church teaching on contraception and life issues. It logically follows that they would therefore be supportive of large families. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say 80% of the people that attend the TLM here are large families with children of all ages….so you will fit right in. The parents of vocal infants at the TLM do the same things that the parents at the NO do: they try to plan ahead, utilize the cry room, walk or stand in the back of the church, or take the child outside until they settle down. I have only ever gotten flak about my children at the NO Mass.

    Lastly, it’s Christmas. A great time for the community of the faithful to give praise and thanks to God the Father for sending His Son into the world…..as a little baby. Children are part of the church and belong in it at any time, but especially on Christmas.

  70. Random Friar says:

    I’ll take 100 crying babies over one cellphone at Mass any day of the week, including Sunday.

  71. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “The most helpful thing I believe has been that of bringing them to church during the week, not during Mass. Go in, light a candle, kneel for a little prayer, sit quietly for a couple minutes, and go. There are no other people to disturb with our presence, it is so calm and still that they intuitively respond by being quiet and still, and they love it. Really, they ask to come back, and that is what I want most of all. For them to process Church as somewhere they want to be.”

    Beautiful! True!

    When I was a toddler, Mom used to bring me into the church to light a candle every day on our walk. Once, Dad took me for a walk, and we passed the church. Dad didn’t understand that I wanted to go in – I wasn’t talking yet. I sat down on the sidewalk and cried until he at last figured out that I needed to go in to the church and make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. So we did.

    Another time, Mom brought my youngest brother and sister in to our parish church on a weekday afternoon for a visit. The twins were about 4 or 5 at the time. Mom wanted to make the Stations of the Cross, and to keep the children occupied, she suggested that they go into the front pew and sing, Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam to the Blessed Sacrament. But before she had them do that, Mom was careful to walk through the church to make sure that there were no other visitors whose devotions their singing might disturb. (Mom was that considerate of others. Very old School!) When she ascertained that the church was 100% deserted, she gave the twins the go-ahead and proceeded with her Stations.

    And that was that. They went home, and my Mother later started to prepare supper while the twins colored at the kitchen table. While they were doing so, Mom overheard my sister ask my brother, “Who was that man in the church?” My brother said he didn’t know; he had never seen him before. Mom interrupted, “Honey, there was no man in the church. I looked carefully, remember?” “But, Mommy, we saw him, up on the altar, didn’t we, Robert?” Robert replied, “He was up on the altar, and he had on white clothes and he smiled at us. We saw him, Mom, both of us, while we were singing Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam.”

    Mom left the subject where it was, coming away from their conversation certain that the twins were relating a truthful account of someone they had seen; for mothers have a way of knowing when their children are making up a story versus telling what they have actually experienced.

    Children do love visits to the church even outside of Mass.

  72. dcs says:

    Our youngest (~ 1 year old) is moderately deaf and so is very loud in church (because he likes to hear himself). It wouldn’t be fair to others to insist that he stay in the nave.

  73. Cincinnati Priest says:

    pmullane:

    Yes, you have a good point. If a mother of a screaming child has no choice but to “stick it out,” no reason to get upset with her for staying (e.g. the father doesn’t go to Mass with her and has very young children can’t leave alone). But I have (very occasionally) witnessed situations where there was a father present, and other children were old enough to be left alone, with seemingly no excuse not to take them out.

    Your suggestion of others helping is a good one, but sadly in many OF communities at least, I’ve heard parishioners tell me that many young families have a “mind your own business” attitude and might resent a stranger offering to “help” unsolicited. So is a sticky situation.

    Again, not something I lose sleep over as a priest. As other post-ers mentioned, other far greater distractions exist in a typical suburban parish like mine: cell phones, gum chewers and smackers, inappropriately addressed people, etc!

  74. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I wouldn’t ask a parent with a screaming child in church or anywhere else, “can I help you?” unless I knew them well.

    My experience has been, even without more than a curt, “no”, Moms can be very effective at conveying in such situations, “how dare you imply I need help with my children?”

    I’ve come away from such encounters feeling as if I’d held a can of hairspray and a lighter to my hair, and lit it.

    No, thanks.

  75. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Many people on this thread seem to report that the sound of very young children suffering in prolonged distress, and not receiving relief, doesn’t bother them.

    (That’s what crying, screaming, shreiking is – the sound of a young child suffering in prolonging distress, and not receiving relief.)

    On the other hand, the effect those sounds have on other people is pretty profound. I think some people – some women, especially – are wired to not be able to address any other task or situation only that child in their vicinity is calmed. We’ve got to help . . . yet, we cannot!

    For those of you – men, especially – who don’t comprehend why the sound of a child in distress, and yet being unable to help, may be so distressing to others, please play the following Youtube clip, and crank up the volume after second 43. Now imagine trying to pray through that. Thank you.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmxK_pBaG4E

  76. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    P.S. the sound I’m referring to in the clip is the Klaxon emergency siren. This is a sound I think guys can relate to.

    For many women, a crying baby has that adrenaline activating – I gotta do something – Go! Go! Go! effect on us. Not conducive to prayer.

  77. Address the child’s Guardian Angel. Being easily distracted by loud noise, I frequently ask the Guardian Angel of children at Mass to quiet them. I can tell you that it works every single time. This is very helpful for infants too young to understand discipline.

    Having had a son who had the cry of a drill sergeant and was never, ever still [except ONE time when he had a high fever - oh what blessed peace that was for me] – I had no recourse, no husband to help me and was always exhausted, longed to pray and listen, and had no idea how to control my kid. I often sense the quiet exasperation and embarrassment of a parent struggling with an obstreperous child. I silently beseech the Guardian Angel of that child, and sometimes the Angel of the clueless parent [who might suddenly get up and take the child out, or suddenly understand what is grieving the child]. This is astonishingly effective.

    One day, after having sat in front of a crazed child that was a terrible distraction for me, after Mass as the confused and tired mother left the pew, I turned and sweetly said to her “Talk to your child’s Guardian Angel. As the parent, you have authority over that angel and you will be helped in the most amazing ways”. The woman looked at me gratefully and told me she had never thought of such a thing, and what a comfort such advise was.

    I wonder if some parents will not take a child out of church because the parent doesn’t want to ‘miss Mass’. To that I say, as a parent doing one’s duty, you have the grace that suffices for such things. Don’t worry – you are there doing the best you can, take the distracting child out, you will still get the graces from that Mass, and probably more for your patience, duty, and endurance, as well as for the charity you do for others trying to attend Mass.

    Been there, did it badly, and would have been grateful for help at the time. :-)