“…the parish is planning to institute a mid-Mass picnic…”

Summer time brings out the tasteless in some church goers.  It is hard to fathom why they think the way they dress is appropriate for Mass.  Weddings can be the worst for this.

So, I tip my biretta to Happy Catholic for a very amusing link to fabulous bulletin announcements from The Deacon’s Bench.  o{]:¬)

Here are some bulletin annoucements I think we would all like to see.  My emphases.

BRITNEY SPEARS CONCERT CANCELLED! Unfortunately, our efforts to get pop sensation Britney Spears to perform a benefit fundraiser for the parish have proven unsuccessful. Her calendar is full. Therefore, those who have been arriving at Mass every Sunday dressed for a Britney Spears concert should know that they don’t have to do that anymore. Modest church-going attire will do nicely. We will notify you if the situation changes.

PLANS FOR PARISH SWIMMING POOL SCRAPPED! After much study, our finance committee has determined it would not be feasible to construct an indoor swimming pool in our church. Among other things, they report, it would interfere with the valuable work now being performed each Sunday by our ushers, who have enough difficulty navigating the aisles without doing it in flippers and a life vest. As a result, we can now announce with certainty that those who have been arriving for Mass as if dressed for the pool need not do so. Also, we hope to keep the air conditioning cranking all summer long. So you do not need to wear shorts, halter tops or bikinis to Mass.

FAULTY ALARM CLOCKS POSE DANGER! An exclusive parish investigation has uncovered a new danger facing our parishioners: people who enter the church 15 minutes after Mass has started, and attempt to find a seat by climbing over the rope strung across the aisle. This can result in falls or — in some cases — embarassing displays of underwear. Experts recommend that all Catholics check their alarm clocks every night to make sure they are working, so that they can arrive at Mass on time.

CELL PHONES CAUSE HEAD INJURIES! New research indicates that people who bring cell phones to church are more likely to suffer serious head trauma, usually caused by the priest throwing the lectionary at them. Such people are also more likely to be wounded by hurled umbrellas and rolled up missals. We care about our parishioners. As a public service, then, we are advising all to leave cell phones at home or, failing that, to flick the switch to "vibrate." Medical experts say it will lead to a longer, healtheir life. There is also anecdotal evidence that such precautions will keep your neighbors in the pews from digging their nails into your hand during the "sign of peace."

MUCHIES AT MASS? Rampant rumors persist that the parish is planning to institute a mid-Mass picnic every Sunday. This has led some parishioners to arrive at church with water bottles, yogurt, animal crackers, sandwiches and the occasional box of candy. Rest assured: the only food we will be serving will be of the spiritual kind, at the usual time, at the usual place — by the altar rail during communion. Don’t worry about bringing anything else. We have all you’ll need right here. Just BYOS. Bring Your Own Soul.

I can just see it now.   Some of you will say, with little flecks of spittle forming at the corners of your mouths, "But Father!  But Father!  God doesn’t care how we dress!  At least we are going to Mass!  And isn’t it better that junior has cheerios to keep him quiet rather than disturb people??"

Don’t even think of going there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Cody says:

    I thought this was serious when I read the title of the post. It reminded me of an Easter Vigil Mass a friend of mine went to in a tent by a river. He said that after the first half-probably the liturgy of the word, the pony-tailed priest said to everyone “OK, Now it’s time for a potty break!”

  2. Cody says:

    I thought this was serious when I read the title of the post. It reminded me of an Easter Vigil Mass a friend of mine went to in a tent by a river. He said that after the first half-probably the liturgy of the word, the pony-tailed priest said to everyone “OK, Now it’s time for a potty break!”

  3. Swimming pool plans – hilarious!

  4. Father: I’ll be curious to see/hear if you get any flame mail from this post.

    If you don’t, then that leads me to wonder why more priests
    won’t step up and say something about the appalling attire at Mass.

    I’ve had a few posts on this issue and I was criticized, by more people then
    I would have expected, for my opinion. A multitude of excuses were given and
    I was criticized some more for not accepting them.

    Of course, your readers would probably be more likely to dress well OR perhaps
    fear you too much to even mention what they really think. LOL!

  5. Jennifer says:

    OK, so I’m one who now gives cheerios to her son. I was told by so many people, including priests and nuns that that was the appropriate thing to do, that I finally gave in. I switched parishes so that I could take my son to the children’s room where he won’t disturb peopleand I give him a bag of cheerios. Mea culpa.

    But seriously folks, what ought I do with a two year old in church? I am not asking out of a pity party, but out of an honest desire to raise my son correctly while not offending everybody around me.

    He is a very good two year old, but he has trouble sitting still for the entire hour of mass. And, he has trouble staying quiet, although usually his comments are “on-task” in so much as he is (loudly) talking about “That’s God up there!” “Let’s go say hi to God.” and various other statements about the crucifix, the statues, the priest, etc. I have a hard time telling him to be quiet about these things.

    In the past I have asked people for advice, and was told repeatedly to give him snacks and milk, toys and books, to keep him in the “cry room” etc. What are some more orthodox suggestions for raising children in mass?

  6. Elizabeth V says:

    My parents actually had a pastor once who kept the A/C up very high so at least those people who were dressed inappropriately would be cold.

    My 1 yo son tries to eat all the filthy food on the floor. So, to those of you you bring cheerios, one mom to another, I ask you to stop it, to save my own son from being poisoned from eating all the detritus you leave behind. Grr.

  7. Elizabeth V says:


    Do you ever visit the forum? If not, this might be a good place to start.


  8. Thanks for the link, Fr. Z!

    I can report that when this was published in our bulletin a few years ago, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I’m glad I could share it with a wider audience.

    Deacon Greg

  9. Elizabeth V says:

    P.S. Jennifer,

    I’m sorry for the Grr. I didn’t see your post until after I did mine. But it wasn’t directed at you since I’m sure you and your family clean up after yourselves after Mass. :)

  10. mark says:


    Some will probably vigorously disagree, but honestly – can you leave him home? If you talk to older folks who raised children before Vatican II, I think you will find that there was no huge expectation to take little, little children younger than say, 4, to Mass. If there was no other option, sure. But for a child who has such difficulty, there is nothing wrong with splitting Mass attendance between spouses, at least once in a while, if it’s something you don’t want to do every week.

    I was born in 1957, and was not taken to Mass by my very pious mother until I was five years old.

  11. danphunter1 says:

    There was altar boy that I used to serve Mass with 20 some odd years back.
    He had a condition where he had to eat every 2 hours or he would swoon.
    We where serving 40 hours devotion one summer and the mass was about 2 hours in length.
    Right before the Litany of the Saints Jimmy passed out from hunger.BOOOOM head slammed against the pew.
    Luckily he had a White Castle in his pocket and after taking him outside and feeding it to him he was back at his post.Of course he did not receive the Blessed Sacrament.
    God bless you

  12. M Kr says:

    I think people are far too touchy about kids’ behaviour in church. We should let kids be kids to some extent.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Jennifer, I feel for you, and I’m going to be honest here.

    The attitude I get from most orthodox, traditional priests is: don’t bring your kids to Mass when they are babies/toddlers.

    My kids are older now. But when they were little I encountered a lot of negativity for bringing them to Mass, and NO support for doing so, even from good priests.

    They seem to hint that as the care of young children is a legitimate excuse for missing Mass on Sunday then us moms with infants and toddlers should just do everyone a favor and not show up.

    We used to drive over an hour each way to Sunday Mass with small children, and I didn’t let them have cheerios/snacks in church, but I got so many glares from the other parishioners (and this was an orthodox parish!) if they made a peep or took a sip from a cup of water that I would give up and sit with my kids in the crying room (and I might as well have stayed home, for all of the Mass I was able to assist at that way).

    God has yet to bless me with another child, but if/when He does, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better for me to take the “care of young children exemption” and just not attend Mass until the baby was old enough to act like a miniature adult in church. It would save me a lot of heartache.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Mark, above, ends up illustrating my point.

    See, Mark, for a nursing mom leaving the baby with a sitter, or even Dad, isn’t an option. So we’re talking six months to a year for each child where Mom just stays home.

    And for the generous Catholic family with many kids, Mom may stay home for years on end. But hey, so long as she makes her Easter duty, that’s fine, right?

  15. Jason in San Antonio says:

    I wear a suit and tie to work. I wear a suit and tie to job interviews. (I.e., when I want to appear at my “best.”)

    To wear anything less to mass–arguably more important that either two situations above–would be odd. Right?

    The argument ‘I don’t have/can’t afford a suit’ is not a reply. One who disagrees must make the argument that they are not obligated to appear at their “best” at mass. So if your best is ‘My fancy Dale Jr. shirt, not the old one,’ then wear the fancy one to mass.

  16. Jason in San Antonio says:

    Would any of you polo-shirt-and-jeans crowd wear a polo shirt and jeans to a parent or loved one’s funeral?

    I’m not being picky, I’m just asking.

  17. Timothy James says:

    Not only does summer time bring out the worst in some parishiners, a Priest here has the tradition that during the summer the 2nd reading is skipped on Sunday so that Mass is shorter and people can get out to their camps earlier.

  18. danphunter1 says:

    Jason ,
    Mass is not,”arguably” more important than work or job interviews.
    It is without a doubt and without an argument infinitely more important.
    God bless you

  19. Elizabeth V says:


    “I wear a suit and tie to work. I wear a suit and tie to job interviews. (I.e., when I want to appear at my “best.”)

    To wear anything less to mass—arguably more important that either two situations above—would be odd. Right?”

    I think that’s right.

    Fr. Z mock-quoted: “God doesn’t care how we dress!” I’ve always thought that it isn’t a measure of how much God cares; it’s a measure of how much we care.

    We even dress up our kids…although, to be completely honest, that’s only mostly because we think we should, and partly because they look really cute all dressed up.

  20. Romulus says:

    Mark, I am one who disagrees. The family is the domestic church, after all. It seems to me an important sign (and promoter) of unity that the family worship as a unit, notwithstanding minor disruptions. At home of course, but a fortiori at Mass.

    Babies have been coming to Mass for a long time, and in most cultures still do. No one has died yet. Priests and faithful put up with it because there’s usually no choice, because so long as the grownups concerned stay focused on their respective responsibilities nothing really terrible is going to happen, and the because frankly, with all the inconvenience and disruption, it’s objectively better that they be present. Babies need to be at Mass, to be formed by its presence in their earliest memories. Babies need to hear and adopt Latin, the tongue of their other Mother. Conversely, grownups at Mass, including Father, need to see babies, including at Mass, to be reminded that babies are people too. In so far as those babies are baptised, it can be argued they have a canonical right to be there. Yes, babies do chatter at inopportune times, and sometimes are restless or wail uncontrollably. Father and the rest of us will live to tell the tale.

    And maybe we’ll live more fully: the Church being deeply sacramental, the presence of the entire family even with its imperfections, including those beyond anyone’s power to control, is not without significance of its own. It’s a sign of catholicity. It’s a sign of our powerlessness before God. It’s a summons to patience, forgiveness, and humility. It’s a reminder of how we may appear in the eyes of God. It’s a sign that we are infinitely more like those wailing and fidgeting babies (in all probability the only ones among us who’re completely without sin or any attachment to sin) than we are like God, who in the Person of Jesus ordered that the little ones not be kept from Him — not because our Lord is a sentimental softie, but because He intends their salvation and because the rest of us need reminding what the kingdom of heaven is like.

    Full disclosure: I have no children — but do happen to be a former child.

  21. Jennifer asks what to do with a two-year old in church. Some suggest leaving the toddler at home. The alternative seems to be feeding cheerios in church or no church at all for the adult staying home with the toddler. Both must be rejected on principle.

    Take the child to church. He belongs there too, along with his parents and potential adult caregivers. Don’t feed him cheerios. By this age he needs to learn to go for an hour or two with out a snack. Church is his first training in asceticism. If he missed breakfast and must be fed, take him discreetly out for a short time. Stay in the back, near the door, if necessary, so as to disturb as few worshipers as possible. At this age if he cries unnecessarily (he isn’t hungry, sick, stuck in a soiled diaper, etc.), he should be taken out for a little spanking and a very serious talk, kissed and hugged, and then taken back to church when he quiets down. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    In my family I take charge of the toddlers in church. They sit with me, but not next to their mother, who is a softie and a total pushover. (God bless her!) No munchies or toys allowed. No chatter or noisemaking is allowed, except maybe a few whispers as needed, and other unavoidable squirmy kid sounds. I do allow little distractions like prayer books and such. When the whines start approaching, I make a judgment call. Is this a case for discipline? If so, the child is told to behave, and if he doesn’t, out we go. If the child is obviously too sleepy to improve, or isn’t feeling well, then I pick him up and he goes to sleep on my shoulder. Sometimes I’ll pass him to Mommy at this point (she often asks for the kid with big sympathetic eyes).

    Parishoners should be patient with parents of toddlers. Not every mother has a husband who can do this, or wants to do this, or is available to do this. Mothers are by nature more indulgent, and that’s probably as it should be. If parents are obviously trying to keep the child from disturbing others, learn to ignore the struggle and the noise as best you can. Better yet, say a little prayer for them, and give thanks to God for the opportunity to practice a little self-denial.

  22. Mike says:

    For anyone with small children, this is a risky thing to try, so be ready to make a quick exit: I have found that my 3 and 2 year olds are better behaved when we sit up front and they can watch what the priest is doing. It keeps their attention focused on something and makes Mass seem like more than a time to sit in a pew and twiddle thumbs for an hour.

  23. I don’t own a suit (at least one that fits!), and I work in an industry where no one ever does so I haven’t to job interviews either. But that doesn’t preclude me from wearing a shirt and tie to mass. I am so sick of seeing people dress like they just don’t give a damn that it is difficult to endure mass at times. My personal favorite is the altar girl in flip-flops.

    And I have three children, ages 5, 2, 1. My wife and I have been going to mass in “shifts” for the past year or so. She takes the 5 year old to one mass while I keep the two younger ones, and she keeps all three while I go. And we have been taking the 5 year old her whole life and have NEVER taken food or drink into church.

  24. I should add that it helps A LOT if the two-year old has already been trained at home to instantly accept “no” from the parent at least 50% of the time without whining or tantrums. Many problems with toddlers in the pews have to do with the parent being unwilling to say “no” when the kid is making noise because, well, she knows that the child’s reaction will just result in more noise.

    “NO!” This is easy and even fun to train with. Place a plate of cookies on the coffee table. Put toddler next to the table. Watch toddler reach for cookies. Say “no!”. Watch toddler look at you, think about it, and grab the cookie anyway. Take cookie away, administer discipline, repeat. Works like a charm. :-)

  25. Mary Kay says:

    Kids (and parents) definitely belong at Mass. After an injury, I stayed in the back of the church during Mass, along with various parents of infants, not even toddlers, but at the crawling stage. (How do they manage to be so lightning quick before they can even stand up?) I’ve seen parents carry a young child around the walls quietly explaining the pictures that make up the Stations and many a child mesmerized by the colors in stained glass windows.

    I have no tips for those with two year olds, but have to admit that I wish our worst problem were the two year olds saying, “That’s God up there!”

  26. Gavin says:

    Dress codes for church always seem a bit extreme to me. You never know someone’s situation, I’ve forgotten to take dress clothes on vacation and gone to Mass in jeans and a t-shirt, some people may drive by, notice a Mass, and come as they are, some simply don’t own (nor are accustomed to wear) anything nicer than you see. I live in Michigan, so I simply don’t SEE anyone in “beach clothes”.

    My advice to any layman angry about how others dress: always dress YOUR best. Set the example. Maybe one or two people will follow, and that’s one or two more people dressing up for Mass. Then they set examples for others, and so on.

    For priests and others involved in ministry: enforce a dress code for your people. Altar servers should not be in flip-flops, lectors should not show off cleavage, ushers and greeters should not wear NASCAR shirts. In my case, the choir’s in the back so I don’t care so much what they wear, but when the children’s choir starts, I will be enforcing a dress code. If you do this, people will see other laymen in respectable clothing and think of it as a norm. For children, maybe the parents will start thinking “hmm, if Junior has to dress up, maybe I should too.” I’m always more of a fan of changing the culture than imposing unpopular rules on the congregation.

  27. David Young says:

    Funny and true.

  28. Judy says:

    I’m a Mom of five children, ages 2 to 18. We attend Mass as a family. Period. Admittedly, I have a lot of help from my husband and two teenage boys in the area of speedy departure if our toddler is not behaving. I used to give Cheerios at Mass. One pastor encouraged it. By our third child, now 10, I realized that eating at Mass wasn’t teaching anything about how special it is to be at Mass. We said, “Church is not a restaurant.” It made perfect sense to her. It was hard when she had to look on at other children snacking away. Our solution to that was to sit in front–no one but Jesus, Father, and the altar servers to observe there. Since our family is large, we usually fill a pew and thus have two ends to escape from if someone gets noisy. We try to go down the side aisle to avoid distracting others. We walk in the back holding the child and if we are lucky enough to be in a church with statues, stained glass, etc (our current, military chapel has none), we can quietly point out who’s who and breathe little prayers. Because there is no religious art in our current chapel, we do bring books of a religious nature only. To encourage the sense that this place is different from all others, we have a special Mass bag that contains religious board books, holy cards, and a cord rosary (we had a wooden rosary for one Mass only–the noise of rosary on pew was not very prayerful). Another help has been to take the children to daily Mass when it is available. It is shorter and often there is time to take a small tour of the church after Mass, whispering about statues and windows, stations of the cross, items on and around the altar, and, especially to light candles for prayer. Our children have loved this, and it helps them on Sunday to remember the sacredness of the place. Having special church clothes also helps them remember that Mass is a place for extra special behavior. Please don’t give up taking your children to Mass. It should be a part of their earliest memories so that they will never remember not going to Mass. It should be a part of who they are.

  29. Diane says:


    It’s unfortunate that there have not been good examples to learn from, and solid advice passed on as to how to handle small children in church.

    Perhaps this may help you and others, but I conceded it must begin from infancy. I learned it by observing some families in my parish where there are many large families (6+ kids and many with 8-10+). I marveled at how still and quiet the small ones were during Mass (there are exceptions, but there is a trick I discovered).

    One day at the 9:30am Mass a young woman was holding a baby (6-8 months old) in her arms during the prayers of the faithful. She had her head down and the baby was getting a little active, touching the face of the woman. My eyes caught the action because it was in front of me. After several times of trying to get attention, the baby stopped and seemed to be content just to sit there and look around. I suddenly realized that I was witnessing something very significant: Many families at Assumption Grotto send a clear message to their children from a very young age: This is God’s time, not yours sweet one. It’s a gentle message, but one that works when used early.

    If you give a baby attention in any way during Mass, barring something very serious needing your attention, the baby will demand more and not be able to sit still.

    I then looked around the church and saw in the back several parents walking with their babies. None of them were paying attention to the babies. They were either focused on the altar, or had their heads down in prayer. I kept looking around a few more times and noticed the pattern.

    The following week, I was right behind another family of four with two children around 3.5 and 5. The little one kept standing on the kneeler and turning around at me. The father very gently turned the little girl and pointed to the altar. This was repeated 3 more times before the little girl seemed to give up. At no time did dad show anger or impatience. I think he would have done it 100 more times if need be.

    By the time these children reach 5, 6, 7, they have no problem getting through a 1.5 hour Latin Novus Ordo without cheerios, PS2’s, iPods, trucks, dolls or other such things.

    Once again, there are exceptions at Assumption Grotto. IMHO, those who do as described here were the experts. No one will convince me that a mom and dad of 10 quiet kids in a pew is wrong about not giving them attention during Mass. If the parents do so, they have taken their attention off of God who should be at the center of Mass, while enabling their kids to do the same.

    Don’t feel bad though – no one has talked about this or taught it so how could you know? Hopefully, it catches on. It’s the same principle used by the TV nannies in getting the kids to go to bed on time without hastle.

  30. I remember something that some friends did: they had an hour of quiet “church practice” time at home, where the kids had to sit on the couch quietly, while the mom went and did other stuff, but she still had her ear out to shush them. It was kind of a game to the kids. It worked quite well. Once they got used to just sitting there quietly with nothing going on, once they sat in church with everything in the liturgy happening around, they were much more well-behaved, since there was so much filling their attention. Continual talk about what the liturgy is all about does make an impression, too. No Cheerios, games, coloring books, etc, necessary. Of course, not all kids respond to the same input. If that doesn’t work, like Diane mentions, talk to the parents with the quiet kids, and whatever they do, do it. Two-year olds can be quiet, and fifty year olds can be noisy. It takes all kinds….

  31. Rick Lugari says:


    I don’t know how helpful this will be now that the genie is out of the bottle so to speak, but after the usual issues with my first, my wife and I held our children the entire Mass until they were “ready” to sit by themselves. I think it worked for many reasons. From the time they were an infant they were held, so that’s what Mass was to them even as they became toddlers. They can’t get into much trouble being held. While holding them you are attending to them without realizing it. It’s still a little distracting, but it’s not as distracting as having to grab them from the end of the pew, etc.

    As they get well into their toddlerdom they make more motions to be “independent” and sit by themselves. Give it to them in short test spurts. Sit them down next to you and at the first sign of mischief, pick them back up. Eventually, they’ll be on their own with only an occasional need for reprimand, which is more times than not “the look”. But the holding thing works in another way as well, my 8 year old has special needs and has difficulty standing still and focusing himself. He sits with me at Mass, and I pull him in close to me when we’re standing, it makes his presence less disruptive to others and it has the benefit of helping him physically and keeping him out of trouble. But by all means….take your kids to Mass. Jesus is truly present there, He has a right to see them and they have a right to see Him. If they’re not taught how to behave at Mass when they’re very little, they’ll be no better when they’re 8 or 9. Besides, if we get graces for coming to Mass, why wouldn’t the little innocent ones? Best wishes.

  32. Rick Lugari says:

    Sorry about the double post…connection issues.

  33. Andrew says:

    Appropriate dress has always been a problem and here’s the response some parishioners get when they tried to raise the matter with their pastor. It’s really inappropriate, especially in an Asian culture where propriety is esteemed, to display yourself like that, especially in God’s house. But when our pastor thinks like that, waht can we do?

  34. Bruce T. says:

    If the baby’s baptized, it’s the baby’s “re”-birth right to come to Mass! Don’t hesitate to bring your baby to Mass. They need God’s graces too! If he or she cries, so what? It’s not malicious and it gives us a chance to exercise Christian charity.

  35. Peter says:

    In some places in the East, the Mass takes 3-4 hours.
    Moreover, there could be tens of families with babies within a parish.

    Ok, it’s funny, but the problem does not involve strictly very small infants and
    their vocal representations. Even for a 4 year old, the experience can be really
    unpleasant (important: there is nothing wrong with the child) and can generate repulsion to the church. On the contrary, some smaller children may really enjoy it.

    But who knows a child better than his mother ?

    All the ideas above about “all the family in the church” are beautiful, I have
    really enjoyed reading them, but are not justified, nor practically nor theologically: there is nothing wrong keeping the child home.

    You have to talk to the priest about the kid’s communion.

    Unfortunately, my above lines miss the target, as the real problem is keeping the child
    However, although you have a “valid reason” to stay home, this is rarely needed on a regular
    basis, as you can “take turns” with your husband, friends, your older kids, etc.

    As you see, all above is common sense.
    Now, the most common sense thing is to talk to your priest.
    Each situation is different. Only he can give you the best advice and help.

  36. michigancatholic says:

    People shouldn’t be so picky about kids in mass. They belong there for several very good reasons:
    a) if they’re not there, we forget we’re the “people of life.” We’re not supposed to consider our kids optional things to be avoided or evaded in the pursuit of a comfortable time. This attitude extends from the abortion clinic to the church pew.
    b) baptised kids belong in church because they’re members of the Body of Christ just like we are.
    c) adults shouldn’t be staying home for weeks on end to “babysit” their own kids. I wonder if this is how many men ended up non-attending Catholics as young fathers? I wonder how many people just drop out because it’s so hard to bring kids and they’re discouraged about it?
    Churches need to set up rooms in the back with a speaker so the parent can both be with the noisy or small child AND hear mass.

    On the subject of attire, I think St. Peter’s Basilica rules ought to be plenty strict enough. In other words, think MODESTY. Cover up backs, legs, tummies, behinds, upper arms with SOMETHING. It’s not the denim that bothers me at all. It’s the cleavage, tight pants, short clothing, etc. In fact, some *very dressy* clothing (for both genders) is downright embarrassing and ought to be avoided in church.
    We don’t see too many flipflops or anything like that around here. It would be a problem if we did.
    However, we have way way too many people who chew GUM. Arrrgh.

  37. Marcus says:

    Yes, small children can be a bit of a struggle during Mass, but one I’m happy to endure. Given in a homily by a priest who was also a great-grandfather: A priest is giving his homily, and a woman with a crying infant begins to exit her pew. The priest says kindly, “No need to leave – the baby isn’t disturbing me.” The lady says, “But Father – you’re disturbing the baby!”

    My adolescent kid pulls the “God doesn’t care what we wear to church” all the time (I did too with my parents). God cares about everything we do, especially our motivations. I stand firm, my wife caves. In the Old Testament, the warriors of Israel are instructed to bathe and wash their garments before rejoining the people to appear before God. I liken this to coming in from our battles out in the world. Also, Scripture says (somewhere): “Worship the Lord in holy attire.” It does not say, “Worship the Lord like you’re on your way to a luau.”

    HOWEVER, I would say (Man, am I going to get slammed for saying this!) that most of what has been said about wearing suits and looking one’s best applies mostly to the more middle-class-and-above Anglo parishes. Our parish is about a third Latino, and the great number of these people just do not, and probably cannot, dress up to “our” standards. I suspect that the expectation of dress is just different where they’re from, and they’ve brought that with them. I can’t really hold that against them. As a side note, their kids (literally) run wild during Mass!

  38. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for all the replies. It’s amazing how vastly divergent everybody’s opinions can be! I think it is *very* important that I take my two boys with me to mass (2 1/2 and 10 months) especially because their father is not religious. I would not want to have to “take away” fun time with Dad later on in life. Besides, where will they learn to sit and be quiet if they never have to? As it is, my two year old LOVES going to church. Every night he gets in his toy car and “drives to church.” He asks me every morning if we are going to church. (I have never taken him to daily mass, I haven’t been that brave. Nor have I been brave enough to sit in the front pew!) Most of his distractions come from actually trying to understand what is going on.

    The problem with having a cry room, for me, is that it seems to encourage bad behavior. I am often surrounded by families who set up camp with many, loud toys etc. Then I have to explain to my son why we don’t play in church and I and the other families feel uncomfortable for our choices.

    I won’t sit in the main church either because too often people seem to feel it necessary to talk to my children, and to everybody around them, and then after mass tell me how my children need to learn how not to talk during mass!

    But again, thanks to everybody for your thoughtful responses (and for the link!)


  39. Larry says:

    It takes a bit of practice, but we all can be better parents. Now I know some of the overly sensitive people might get all whiney. But there are plenty of us with active children who have had to teach their kids to be able to go more than an hour without snacks and having a tantrum.
    It just takes a little discipline, (not of the child but of the parent) Discipline yourselves to be parents who can say no to a child and be kind doing it.

    It was very difficult with my second child who is a handful, especially since we only came back to the Church when she was about 2 years old and not used to it at all.

    I had to walk out with her many times, give her a talking to and come back in.
    No cheerios, no water, no toys. We did bring a couple Catholic picture books but that was only for about 6 months.

    I know society teaches us to give everything to the child, pamper them and give them instant gratification. It is our job to teach children to be able to be emotionally stable, patient and able to be quiet for about an hour without going nuts.

    It might take some work and if you have a setback take a quick break with your little tantrum-maker and teach them to be obedient.

    God Bless

  40. Maria says:

    The best way to “train” children to behave at Mass is to take them to daily Mass. Some daily Masses don’t have a homily, and the ones that do, the homily is 3 minutes long at the most. So is not that long for children and little by little they get used to it.
    I personally never take any toys/books/snacks/anything for my kids to Mass. I always thought it would be very difficult to take it away when the time came. Also, where do you draw the line? What kind of toys? I was completely horrified one day when the 8 or 9 year old boy two pews in front of us was playing a video game during the consacration.
    Children are very receptive and if you explain them what happens at Mass in a way they can undertand it, they learn that “something really special is happening”. Just as they way we dress, our behavior, our reverence conveys a message about how we feel about the Mass, what we let or kids do or not do at Mass also sends a clear message.

  41. Maureen says:

    I don’t think my brothers and I were ever particularly quiet kids at home, but we were pretty much always quiet at church. It’s what we did.

    And yes, my mother nursed us. But she knew our “schedules”. We didn’t have to nurse every hour on the hour. I asked her about it, and she said there were only a couple of times she remembered us getting hungry during Mass. Why should we? When nursing, she arranged it so we’d eaten just before we left.

    Bathroom breaks happened before we left. Food, too — although I don’t remember ever eating less than an hour before Mass started. Usually we either went to Mass well after breakfast and before lunch, or (on Saturday night) after lunch and before dinner. We didn’t get snacks except one in the afternoon, so we didn’t expect snacks at Mass. And we were used to that.

    If we got rambunctious and had to be taken out of Mass, we were in disgrace and didn’t get to play with anything. Sitting out in the car or standing out in the vestibule was boring, so we strove to stay.

    Mom and Dad would help us “read along” with the Missalette and the hymns. Since the Mass repeats the same words again and again, you’ll find that the kids pick up a lot.

  42. Ma Beck says:

    I am strict with regard to children’s behavior at Mass.
    My mother didn’t put up with it, nor will I, when Mary gets to the age where she’s misbehaving.
    I don’t believe in snacks at Mass, and agree with Diane about not giving attention during Mass.

    However, I once got a nasty look from an old lady in front of me when Mary, who had been sleeping, awoke and cooed for about 3 seconds.
    To those sorts, of for the people who suggest I stay away from Jesus until she’s 6 years old, I say that if you don’t like kids at church, you might find the local childless Episcopal Church quieter.
    It is NOT easy to raise the next generation of faithful Catholics.
    Next time, if you see a mom struggling with her children, ask if you can help instead of rolling your eyes.
    (To all those mothers at whom I rolled my eyes when I was childless and sanctimonious, I make a formal, public apology. Mea maxima culpa.)

  43. Tony says:

    But Father, I know the 17 year old boy in front of me is wearing ripped jeans and a black t-shirt with Satanic symbols (heavy metal band), but at least he’s at church!!!

  44. RBrown says:

    1. I enjoy seeing the 1 and 2 year olds at mass. Most of the time they’re not disruptive–I don’t see how a 2 year old eating Cheerios disturbs anyone else. If one them begins to have a problem, usually one of the parents take the kid into the vestibule.

    NB: Christ was once a toddler.

    2. I think it’s possible to be well dressed without wearing a coat and tie. A sweater and slacks in cool weather seems to me adequate.

  45. Richard says:

    I found Child Number One would be perfectly quiet throughout an “extraordinary form” Mass, except for saying “that’s Jesus hidden in the bread” at the elevation. However he was a complete hooligan at a Novus Ordo, especially one with modern music. I attributed that to my having played so much Gregorian Chant to him while he was a baby. Number Two is not yet old enough for the experiment.

    By the way, what on earth are “Cheerios”? Since the word is slightly dated slang for “good-bye”, I had always thought that they were a brand of poison for getting rid of rodents or other pests – in which case it seems highly inappropriate to feed them to even the noisiest child during Mass.

  46. Richard says:

    RBrown said:
    “2. I think it’s possible to be well dressed without wearing a coat and tie. A sweater and slacks in cool weather seems to me adequate.”

    No. It doesn’t matter what individuals think; being respectfully dressed is a matter of culture, not personal preference.

    Assuming you’re American, when your President gives White House conferences wearing “a sweater and slacks” – and no-one comments on it – THEN your culture will have accepted that it constitutes respectful clothing and it will be adequate for Mass. Until then, your culture says that a jacket and tie are proper dress for formal occasions, so you should wear them for Mass.

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