QUAERITUR: Communion if I missed the Gospel because of 3 yr old

From a reader:

Hi Father, here is my question:  my wife and I regularly attend the TLM.  During Mass we share looking after our rather energetic 3-year old. This often leads one of us to be outside of the church (in the entrance way for example) with our little boy during the Mass, and it is not unusual for one of us to miss the proclamation of the Gospel either in Latin or English or both. 

So, if I do not hear the Gospel can I go to Communion

Is privately reading the Gospel enough if I’ve missed the proclamation?  Are the rules different at the NO as opposed to the TLM?   I have asked two priests about this and have received two different answers.  Thank you.

Thank you for being interested and desiring to do the correct thing.

I cannot imagine why the "rules", if there were hard and fast rules, should be different for the TLM or the Novus Ordo.  I suppose the clearly great rigor, the more demanding nature of the TLM suggests a greater or deeper response of participation from the faithful.

But there are no hard and fast rules about this matter.  There has been discussion forever about "how much of Mass is enough".  Let’s not get too far into that.

The fact is, in your case as you describe it, you are present there at Mass at least in your moral intention.  You are trying to be there. You are indeed there but for that little necessary interlude. 

If you step out with your squeaker for a few minutes, for the love of God, your neighbor and liturgical decorum, then you are not "leaving Mass".   You would still be morally present, unless I suppose you decided to head across the street to the local pub for a pint and a cigarette, junior being an excuse to leave Mass… if you get my drift.

Another point: it is possible to be physically present at Mass and have your mind a thousand miles away.  People can even be seen to be going through the motions or even singing and yet internally they are hardly participating at Holy Mass.  Rather, they are thinking about getting their car washed or wondering about the baseball game …. which … come to think of it might itself be holy and liturgical.  But I digress.

Taking the howler out will help others participate at Holy Mass.

I note that you also mention going back and reading the Gospel on your own.  Good.

So… my answer is YES…  in the circumstances you offered here you may go to Communion if you took the little darling out to the vestibule and missed the Gospel.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Good advice. You’ll probably make a great pastor someday, Father, if not a bishop.

  2. Shin says:

    I am thankful for a properly trained family that knows to take the little darlings out of mass when they scream. :)

  3. Luigi says:

    “…the more demanding nature of the TLM suggests a greater or deeper response of participation from the faithful.”

    This must be a typo. The TLM doesn’t require any participation on the part of the faithful. Just ask Cardinal Mahoney.

  4. Creagh says:

    great pic!

  5. Chris says:

    If he was really actively participating he wouldn’t be able to pay attention to the Gospel because he’d be too busy dancing on the altar. :)

  6. Paul Quist says:

    Love the photo!

    Paul, Edmonton

  7. Ken says:

    Fr. Z: “I cannot imagine why the ‘rules’, if there were hard and fast rules, should be different for the TLM or the Novus Ordo.”

    There are such rules, at least to fulfill one’s Sunday obligation. At the traditional Latin Mass, that includes being present from the first word of the Offertory to the last word of the communion. [This is speculation. Authors are divided on the issue. And it is a rabbit hole… now closed. I said I didn’t want to get into this in the top entry. It is not strictly relevant.]

    At the novus ordo, who knows.

    But there is indeed catechesis on this for the traditional Latin Mass.

  8. Edward Martin says:

    As a parent of a three year-old this is a load of my mind. Although attentive (in a three year old way) at Mass most days there are times….

    We usually sit near the front so if this happens I would leave Mass and my wife can go to Communion right away and then tag-team, so I don’t miss out.

    My question, which is related, is what about when one is late for Mass because junior had a tantrum as while trying to get to Mass?

  9. John Enright says:

    Edward Martin:

    You and your wife are very considerate of the other members of your Church, and for that I applaud you. You’ve developed a workable system so that both of you can enjoy Mass without distressing other parishioners! Brave!

  10. ckdexterhaven says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for this information. I, myself have been a cowboy at the baby rodeo outside Mass for quite a few years now…

  11. Chris says:

    You should all get your pastors to run a speaker out to the vestibule.

    When our little one acts up and we’re forced out there, we can still hear the sermon.

    It’s a pretty easy fix.

  12. MargaretMN says:

    “At the novus ordo, who knows.”

    I think this commentator’s question is relevant for either Novus Ordo or TLM. He wants to be reassured that he’s doing the right thing and Fr. Z did that. And he got to the heart of the matter which is intention. It’s not the only thing but here it’s probably the most relevant. If you’ve been to Mass for many years like many of us on this blog, you probably only need the first few lines of the Gospel to recall it completely from memory as proclaimed. Unless you spend the entire Mass outside, you can follow and participate to maintain your part in the communal act. I have no children but I often feel the people with them are making a bigger sacrifice than I am by having to participate while managing the little ones. God bless them. It’s not laxity, it’s going above and beyond in order to teach and accustom their children to the Mass. Some people seem to have artificially high standards for observance and miss the point.

  13. Anita says:

    Thank you so much for this!! My husband and I have also had to do this when one of our younger children erupt into tantrum mid-Mass. We’ve often been confused by well-meaning parishioners who suggest that one of us simply stay home with the children while the other attends Mass to avoid this. Uhm… But wouldn’t that mean one of us is missing Mass altogether? :)

    It’s next to impossible for a young couple trying to practice their faith… Encouraged to be open to life – have a large family as a result – and then be told that the Mass “is no place for children” by various individuals (who unfortunately seem to be part of a consensus).

    We visited a neighboring parish this past Sunday where we were greeted at the door by someone who cautiously asked, “Is that infant going to disturb the other churchgoers?” Already painfully familiar with the liturgical abuses in said parish I answered: “Don’t worry.. if he does cry I’m sure the bongos will drown him out.”

  14. KK says:

    Great photo! Obviously taken right after being told that Fr. Z. had misplaced his Chinese Opera CDs.

  15. Bill says:

    I am a father and a grandfather, just so readers know my biases. Not only that, I love kids. Even screaming, yelling ones. Even the ones that aren’t mine.

    Children are a gift from God. Lately when a small Catholic raises its voice during Mass, I think about the tiny feet on the ACE pin I am working on earning as a member of the Texas Knights of Columbus. Every child is precious. Every child in Mass is a witness to the teaching of the Church about the sanctity of life, and in some ways is also a survivor. I am pretty sure God never held it against me, and neither did the Church, when I took a crying child or grandchild out of earshot during Mass to calm things down, to change a diaper, or to do whatever needed to be done. A child learns about Mass by being there. Good for the parents who teach their children well, and who endure the hard looks, angry comments, and inappropriate suggestions from others while they, the parents, deal with the “situation.”

    And bravo to Father Z for his answer, if I may say so.

  16. Ed Francis says:

    “Suffer the little ‘squeaker’?”
    “Suffer the little ‘howler’?”
    “Suffer the ‘little darling’?”

    Ah! “Suffer the little ‘children’ to come unto Me.”

    From the “HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II Ash Wednesday, 5 March 2003

    “However, penitential acts should be lived together with the members of our community.
    Especially, at difficult moments, after a misfortune or when danger threatened, the Word of God on the lips of the prophets used to call believers to a penitential mobilization. All were called, no one was left out, from the elderly to infants; all were as one in imploring from God compassion and pardon (cf. Jl 2,16-18).”

    Perhaps a penance of acknowledging Christ’s admonition, and a bit less concern about our right to unseemly decorum in Christ’s call?

    If it’s a concern, stay for the Gospel, let the child be, pray for a miracle. Might work.

  17. John says:

    Here’s a similar question:

    My parish offers confession during both high and low Mass (and it’s not a big deal for high Mass because of the length) but sometimes at low Mass I’ll go into the confessional right before Mass begins and come out during the Canon!! I’ve always assumed that I shouldn’t receive Communion since, even thought I’ve been physically present for the whole Mass, I haven’t heard a word of it, etc. Any thoughts on how this would work?

  18. Andrew says:

    What I want to know is how Fr. Z obtained a photo of my own 2-year old daughter at yesterday’s mass and got it on this post.

  19. supertradmom says:

    Thank you for being so considerate as to take the child outside. It is wonderful to see families with little children at Mass. It is important for the parents to go together, with the family.

  20. vmc says:

    I have a question. My parish offers the TLM every Sunday and that is great, but my pastor has decided not to have the Epistle or Gospel read to us in English. He prints the minimum on a little sheet, that you are “responsible for obtaining” for Mass so that you can read it yourself, but the gospel is not proclaimed. There have been more than one occasion that I have not been able to obtain my little piece of paper and was lost on the homily. I looked up the gospel later, but I know that many others, my own friends and family, do not look them up. I thought that the gospel needed to be proclaimed. Please verse me on what is correct.

  21. ah yes been there done that, standing in the vestibule or outside, many times missed communion, however the fact that you attended is the main thing, in the old rite people only received communion occasionally, so why worry if you miss once in a while, besides I believe that Jesus understands parenting too

  22. Marty says:

    I’m the father of 3 boys who are 4, 2 1/2 and 8mths and they can put on quite a show!
    My dad now laughs at seeing me carry a naughty 4yo out of Mass as I used to be a shocker and scream at the top of my lungs in the middle of Mass ‘Don’t hit me Dad’ when he would take me outside for the usual spray about being a good boy for Jesus ect ect.

    I’m guilty of this too, running out of Mass for the benefit of others.
    It’s hard because my local PP once said to me that I shouldn’t run outside and how much Christ loves seeing kids at Mass ect ect but I sometimes think people/priests might get confused between ‘running out of mass with screaming child’ and ‘discipline’.

    There is a line and parents know when it’s been crossed by their little darlings. But also for the benefit of others, especially in a small church there must be some consideration to our fellow parishioners. I would think that our duty as parents far outweighs assisting at all the elements of the Mass when duty calls. Should we be denying ourselves Communion when handsome little johnny has left a surprise in his nappy or if sweet darling Claudia continuously pulls her brothers hair? I’m quite sure the Church understands and as Fr. has pointed out, we’re morally assisting at Mass when we take the future of the Church out for a quick 5 mins of threats, potty stops, clean ups and bumped head remedies (lol happens every Sunday) ect.

    The best way to teach them to be good in Mass, I find, is to teach them to be good (not only) at prayer time. I say things like, ‘Comon now, kneel up and say your prayers like we do t Mass’. I’ve only been doing this for a short while and, although we had a doosy last Sunday, it’s work out ok so far.

  23. Fr. BJ says:

    An analogous situation is parishes that offer Confessions during Mass. A person could easily miss the gospel — or for that matter all of the readings or the homily or whatever — because he was in the box at that time. In places where Confessions during Mass are custom and everyone is used to it, I don’t think people give it a second’s thought or worry. They miss the gospel, so what? They were going to Confession, and they still attended Mass besides.

    I would probably counsel people who are worried about something like this not to take such a legalistic approach but simply to ask themselves: did I do my best to attend the whole Mass insofar as it was within my control? Obviously, then, if there was a screaming child incident that made them miss the gospel, or perhaps the child had a tantrum which made them leave the house slightly late and get to Mass a little late, these types of things were rather beyond their control and as long as they did their best they were fine.

  24. Larry says:

    I know you call it a rabbit hole and I understand there may be no hard and fast rules about it re: rubrics. None the less I am pulling rank on you Father. At age 63 and having been raised a Catholic in Catholic schools from grade school through colledge in the 1950’s and 60’s I can tell you emphatically that we were always taught by priests as well as nuns that we had to be at Mass from the beginning of the Offetory thru the Communion re: the priest’s Communion. It was only after Vat II that anyone suggested that we had to be there at Mass from the beginning through the end of Mass. There were to be sure comments from the pulpit from time to time about not leaving right after Communion but no one suggested that this was in any way “sinful”. The point is that people believe what they are taught and before Vat II no one bothered to debate a priest on the subjects he taught from books wriiten in Latin and access to which would be limited to school boys serving at Mass. It is only now that we have access to vernacular or even Latin copies of the Missal and most of the Theological works that guide our Church. Vatican II has indeed afforded the laity far more than a vernacular Mass. It has opened the door for us to discuyss the Faith based on the actual texts that are the Magisterium without having to get a degree in theology. Further more the moral consciences of millions of peolple were directed by the priests and sisters in the schools and pulpits and whether correct or incorrect it is on those teachings that the average member of the laity will be judged.

  25. Sandra in Severn says:

    As a once long ago toddler (back when Mass was in Latin) my parents and grandparents actually found I was the most quiet and attentive, when sitting (actually standing on the kneeler)close up enough to “SEE” what was going on.

    What a great time to have a catechesis occasion! Once in awhile, have a family Mass where properly prepared children CAN participate (families with smaller ones sitting up front).

    Altar boys are inspired from toddlers and young school children. Vocations can start early. The Mass is a sacred event that really does fill all the senses. (Especially when incense is used).

  26. JC says:

    This is an issue where I have a simple answer:
    “Are you actually under obligation to attend Mass?”
    There was a “Straight Answers from Fr. Saunders” (I think) years ago where the question concerend whether one had to attend all of weekday Mass to receive Communion. Father replied that, since there is no obligation to attend Daily Mass at all, any attendance was fine.

    In our household, we have 4 kids 7 and under (at present, till May, they’re technically all “2 years” apart). A parent caring for a young child is exempt from Sunday obligation.
    That’s not to say parents shouldn’t come to Mass. We don’t have to sweat it.

    Also, I’m disabled. On an average day, I deal with levels of pain that send most pepole to teh ER.
    Since Sunday is the “day of rest,” it is the day I tend to let my body rest, completely,
    and that usually results in my being very worn out for Mass.

    People who are disabled or seriously ill, and those caring for such people, are not oblligated to attend Mass.

    The debate I always have with my wife is this: my perspective goes back to that Fr. Saunders answer: If we’re not obligated to attend Mass, then we should be satisfied with whatever we can get.
    If we try our best to leave for noon Mass, and we end up arriving at 5:30 when 2 kids are asleep in the car and the others are fussing and I have chest pain, and all we can do is wait to go in till right before Communion, at least we’re *trying*.

    And, as the original questioner here noted, and Fr. Z. suggested, we always try to honor Sunday as best as possible. That includes Lauds and Vespers every Sunday, reading the official Mass readings (and as many variants as possible: Saint of the Day, TLM readings, Byzantine readings, alternate years in the 3-year cycle), and praying any devotions we can manage with the kids in the background.
    Generally, dining out and shopping, and watching secular television/videos during the day on Sundays are forbidden, except special circumstances. We will eat out on Sundays, mainly in the evening, if we have made it to Mass and are just too drained to handle dinner.
    I try to keep Savior.org on the main HDTV/computer screen in the living room all da Sunday.
    Plus, we go to daily Mass at least once a week, which can be easier than Sunday because it’s shorter.

  27. Way back when, Seems like yesterday, early 60’s at St Joesph, Egypt,and all the area Churches, when you started school, you sat up front, by grade, boys in front of Joesph and the girls in front of Mary, parents in back, (anyone remember pew rent?) Gave us boys a good view of the Mass and If your Dad had to come up and discipline you, your troubles only started at Church, It really got hairy when you got in the car and home. during the week the school bus dropped us off for mass every morning, the High Schoolers boarded one bus and the rest of us stayed for Mass (the little school next to church had closed a few years ago and consolidated with a larger public school and Daily Mass was in the agreement)the bus driver would clap his hands and we would all genuflect in unison and be seated and the same when we left, 2 of us would run around back and robe to serve, black cassock and white surplus, always fought over the one with the zipper, all the rest were button up, all the way up, Dear old Fr. Stock usually gave a short sermon geared to us kids, and then on our way, I’m a little ashamed to admit that one of the things I liked about High School was no more morning Mass

  28. One thing I was told regarding receiving Communion at a partially missed Mass was “intent”.

    Were you intentionally late, slipping in around the time of the Psalm, intending to leave right after Communion? Or were you legitimately late (as I was once due to taking inventory at work, coming in during the homily) due to circumstances beyond your control? I refrained from receiving during distribution of Communion, and asked Father about the matter after Mass. He promptly took me over to the Tabernacle, prayed with me briefly, and gave me the Body of Christ.

    I have 5 kids (soon to be 6) all under 7. Like was mentioned by others, I find it helpful to sit up front where the children can see the priest, where they can learn what is happening at Mass. The 5 and 6 year olds are usually very attentive now, but it hasn’t always been that way. (This past Sunday the 1 and 3 year olds were crying just after the Gospel, and as my wife took them out to the narthex the Celebrant quipped “I haven’t even started my homily yet, and there’s crying already.”) Like many, I’ve been “politely informed” that we have a cry room (a travesty of a place, parental purgatory where some parents don’t care what their children do) and should make use of it (as if I needed to be told it existed…I was baptized in this parish, I watched the current church building go up.) Or that we should split going to Masses so one of us can stay home with the children.

    The oh-so-polite suggestions have always been from lay people, usually middle-aged people. Every priest I’ve met welcomes children at Mass, understands and accepts the little interruptions (sometimes they’re good ones, like when my son got a bit too loud one time and yelled out “I love you Jesus!” during the Eucharistic Prayer). Older parishioners (say 70+ in age) dote on the kids, of course, and love seeing large families attending Mass as a family. The children learn proper behavior at Mass by attending Mass, not by staying home. Attend Mass as a family, teach children the importance of Mass, what is happening, why it’s so important, and how awesome God truly is.

    I wouldn’t think that stepping out with an unruly child would invalidate participation in the Mass any more than stepping out due to…er…bladder issues…would. The intent is to be at Mass, to participate fully in the Mass to the best of your ability. That’s much more important than an attitude of “if I make it in before the Gospel I can still receive”. The latter is a minimalistic approach to Mass (“how much is ‘enough’ to count?”), whereas the former is a recognition that sometimes our obligations to ourselves and others can interfere with hearing every single word of the Mass.

  29. Benedicamus says:

    Matthew, your son’s exclamation during the Eucharistic Prayer could actually focus other parishioners on what is going on on the altar!

  30. Ed Peters says:

    I agree with Fr. Z’s answer here, but offer a very different reason: namely, because the rules on one’s eligibility for reception of Communion actually have little (indeed, virtually nothing) to do with one’s attendance at Mass.

    Click here, and scroll to 5 November 2003 for my take on it: http://www.canonlaw.info/blogarch03.htm

    Kind regards, edp.

  31. RBrown says:

    I just want to point out that if someone misses the reading of the Gospel, reading the text privately is not prohibited.

  32. Ken says:

    vmc wrote: “but the gospel is not proclaimed”

    Assuming the Gospel is read in Latin by the celebrant at the altar, it is indeed proclaimed.

    There are merits to re-reading the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular, but the bootom line is anything from the pulpit is optional.

  33. Al says:

    Indeed, Dr. Peters response seems to require the re-opening of the “rabbit hole”. I’ve been told, by a priest, that for purposes of special devotions (First Friday. . . ) being present at the entire Mass is not strictly necessary–one can be communicated without that and satify the devotion’s prescriptions. That seems to again raise the issue at what point is one’s Sunday obligation fulfilled, and at what point must one find another mass to attend.

  34. La Mamma says:

    How about anticipating any possible absences from Mass during the Liturgy of the Word by reading the readings in advance? Sure, it doesn’t answer your technical question, but
    1. You know what the readings have been even if you miss them during that Mass;
    2. You get an awful lot more out of the Mass (including, of course, the homily) having meditated on the readings during the week;
    3. If you know what the readings are going to be, you can prepare your children for each Mass much more effectively.

    I’m a mother of five and have been reading readings in advance since my first baby needed extracting from Mass and I missed most of the readings (nappy-changing took me a while in those days!) Try it.

  35. Bill says:

    If a thought from a totally unqualified lay person is ok, here’s mine, re: Mass, Communion, and private devotions (specifically, First Fridays).

    The Mass is part of the public prayer of the Church. We are required to attend Mass on Sunday. All of Mass. When we get into parsing out “how much can I miss and still have it count” it seems to me that we are missing the point. Without being overly scrupulous, and understanding that things beyond our control may delay our arrival, it is simply rude to others and disrespectful to Our Lord to stroll into Mass during the Gospel or during the homily, let alone after the homily. It is also rude to others and disrespectful to Our Lord to receive The Body of Christ in Communion and then head for the exit. There probably is some definition buried in “the law” about how late is too late and how early is too early, but — and this is my point — if you really understand what the Mass is and Who is present there, why wouldn’t you want to be in your seat, properly recollected, before Father enters to begin Mass, and why wouldn’t you want to be there for the final blessing and the dismissal? Splitting hairs is a useless exercise.

    Similarly, you may receive The Blessed Sacrament as long as you are properly disposed. Even if you aren’t there for the whole Mass (and of course, see my comment above — why wouldn’t you be?). There are rules covering this, and covering how many times and under what circumstances you may receive in a day (yes, I know some readers don’t like that, but likes and dislikes don’t determine what is allowed). But it seems to me that some folks confuse fulfilling their Mass obligation with properly receiving The Blessed Sacrament. The two are related, but they are different.

    As to private devotions, such as First Friday, each one has its own set of rules. In the case of First Friday, Our Lord himself made the rules. BUT — this is a private devotion. The fact that you can receive Our Lord on First Friday outside of Mass has nothing to do with whatever rules there are for fulfilling the Sunday Mass obligation or for receiving the Sacrament at Mass.

    So it seems to me that these are three different, although related, matters. It would do us well not to spend a lot of time debating the fine points. Show up for Mass on time and stay until after the priest processes out. If the kids raise a fuss, take them outside and deal with whatever the problem is. If you think you’ve been away too long, come back for the next Mass (if there is one). It seems simple enough to me, although my understanding may be woefully inadequate.

  36. Al, the First Friday devotion requires one to receive Communion on nine consecutive first Fridays, not assist at Mass. Receiving Communion is NOT contingent upon assisting at Mass.

    We have come to equate Mass and receiving Communion. However, neither is dependant on the other insofar as assisting at Mass and receiving Communion are concerned. Communion can be distributed outside of Mass. It is no longer frequently done other than to the sick, but once was common, especially when Mass could not be celebrated after 1:00 p.m. and priests observed the laws concerning the number of Masses they could celebrate in one day. In a nearby parish Communion is distributed (outside Mass) following Stations of the Cross during Lent. Those who cannot be present at the morning Mass are thus able to receive Communion.

    As to the initial comment and other similar questions: remember, if you are in the vestibule, confessional, or even standing outside if the church is full, you are morally present if it is your intention to be at Mass and you are doing your best to be present. If you don’t hear any particular part, or if you are occupied in the confessional or distracted by taking care of a child or collecting the offering, you are still morally present and have not missed Mass. Since you have not missed Mass, you have not committed a mortal sin and can receive Communion, at the Mass or apart from the Mass.

    If you are late for Mass, through no fault of your own, even if you are very late and miss the offertory which some say is missing Mass, you can receive communion. (The reason being that this is a disputed point among theologians and thus there is moral doubt, no matter what some commenters say or have been taught or told.) You are obliged to go to another Mass if you can. If you cannot go to another Mass, don’t worry about it, as long as you were late through no fault of your own. If you are very late for Mass because you were watching tv or didn’t get up promptly then you have missed Mass through your own fault and must either go to a later Mass or, if you cannot go to another Mass, to Confession before receiving Communion.

  37. Oh c’mon! Doncha know that parents get all kinds of extra graces that cover them while at Mass, tending to their parental duties! LOL!

    My parents always sat the family up front where we could see the Mass and where there was the least distraction. My mother would frequently whisper to me “watch the priest” when my attention wandered. Not that this precluded the emergency ‘child-removal-process’ at times…

    Before the 60s, I also remember being told that to make the obligation, one had to get to Mass before the priest removed the veil off the chalice. I never knew this was a controversial discussion point, thanks Fr Z. Maybe for another discussion, but I have wondered if this correlates to the Mass of the Catechumens vs. Mass of the Faithful.

    As an individual who struggles daily with time issues [the invisible dimension for me], this thread brings up a lot of good considerations. Thanks to all.

    Darn it! Is it dinnertime already?? It was 9 AM just FIVE minutes ago…

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