The more things change…

When I visited the offices of The Catholic Herald yesterday, I had a chance to see bound and archived editions of the paper from yesteryear.  I took a look at the paper that went to press closest to the date of my birth.  It was amazing how little has changed in some respects.

For example,…

I noted that in this week’s edition there is a debate about the behavior… sorry… behaviour of children in church.

In that issue from back in October 1959 there was this.

Of course in 1959 there really weren’t children’s liturgies in the same sense as we understand them today.  There were Masses where lots of children were present, of course.   But there weren’t childish… er… children’s liturgies.

Of course it makes perfect sense that the subject of children in church should be discussed in ever age.  It is a huge concern for parents and fellow Mass goers alike… not to mention the priest.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Ha ha. That’s really funny! Nice to know that some issues are always with us.

  2. ray from mn says:

    When I was a little tyke, before Fr. Z was born, there were three Mass in our parish: 7:00 a.m., 8:15, for children who could go to Mass by themselves and for those who didn’t want to attend the 10:00 Mass which was a High Mass with Benediction.

    The length and subject matter of the sermon was probably the only difference, liturgically, between the three Masses. No gathering around the altar, needless to say.

    There were earlier and later Masses in the city, all by 12:00 noon, if that was needed on occasion. One hospital had a Sunday afternoon Mass that catered to hospital workers who had to work Sunday mornings.

  3. Stvsmith2009 says:

    Speaking of how things never change, I was struck by this quotation from Saint Angela Merici (1474 – 1540) foundress of the Ursulines :“Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family”, and then this quote from Blessed Bartholomew Longo (1841 – 1926) who had established a trade school for boys whose fathers were in prison: “You, what have you done by taking Christ out of the schools? You have produced enemies of social order, subversives. On the contrary, what have we gained by putting Christ into the schools of the children of criminals? We have transformed these misfortunate ones into honest and virtuous young people that you wanted to abandon to their sad fate or toss into insane asylums!”

  4. Fr. Z – by the looks of that paper, I was wondering if it was from 1859. Not that you look that old or anything – ROFL

  5. PostCatholic says:

    I’d be curious about your thoughts on the Novus Ordo options for liturgy with children, e.g. the Swiss Synod prayers. I believe there are three? If you’ve already blogged about this, point me to the “back issues” if you would. Thanks.

  6. joecct77 says:

    Back in the day Mom went to the 7 AM Mass, while Dad and us kids went to the 8 AM Mass. When we got home breakfast would be waiting. Plus we could not go to Mass until we could behave. Mom & Dad set that age at 5.

  7. PostCatholic: Having read here for a while, can you guess what my opinion is of children’s liturgies?

  8. Fr. Basil says:

    The Holy Liturgy should be the very thing that draws “all sorts and conditions of men” together into unity, regardless of age, education, or socio-economic group. While James Joyce didn’t mean this as a compliment towards the church, “Here comes everybody!” is exactly what the Church at worship should be.

    At our Eastern church, there is one Sunday liturgy and a large number of small children under 3. (Maybe the priest’s wife is putting something into the refreshments!) There’s a constant undercurrent of gurgling, cooing, and babbling that accompanies the singing (though quiet for the readings and sermon), and a stream of mothers with small children that need attention. Some of the little ones skip up to Communion.

    But you know, it doesn’t bother me. It’s their church, too.

  9. PostCatholic says:

    Okay–yes, I can guess “what” you think, but it’s your (always well-articulated) “why” that interests me. Being a kid in the 1970’s meant experiencing a vastly different Church. I personally miss it but I see clearly it was a blip on the radar that won’t be back.

  10. “Traddie parents quickly whip the little blighter outside and calm him/her down”

    Maybe it’s the language barrier, but that’s a peculiar choice of words. ;)

  11. JARay says:

    I see that PostCatholic is a prophet:-
    “Being a kid in the 1970?s meant experiencing a vastly different Church. I personally miss it but I see clearly it was a blip on the radar that won’t be back.”
    Prove it!

  12. bookworm says:

    I used to work for a diocesan newspaper. One of my regular tasks was to compile a history column reprinting news items from 10, 25, and 50 years earlier. I really enjoyed doing that and often I was struck at how “timely” some of the old articles from 25 and even 50 years earlier were.

    One example that stands out in my mind: in 1948 or ’49, a Catholic lay group in the area hosted a guest speaker who talked about trends in society that threatened the family, including increased divorce rates (the divorce rate did spike immediately after World War II, in large part due to the difficulty some families had in readjusting to the husband’s presence) .

    The speaker also specifically mentioned abortion and claimed that more than 1 MILLION abortions were being performed each year. You read that right — in the late 1940s, when abortion was still illegal in EVERY state, this guy (speaking to a Catholic audience) cited abortion statistics that sounded just like today’s! I don’t know where or how he got his figures, but that is exactly what he had said, and that’s why I remember it.

    I guess it’s just another example of “the more things change…” and the fact that there will always be a need for a pro-life movement, regardless of whether Roe stands or falls.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    We went to Mass as very little children and were expected to behave. We had little books on the Mass. I believe in taking little children to Mass and not waiting, as minds and souls are formed before the age of five. Remember the old Jesuit saying, “Give us a child before the age of five, and we have formed him for life.”

    What has happened is that modern parents, including some traddie parents, as I have witnessed, I think, do not discipline their children. I hate going shopping, for example, for many reasons, but one reason is that I get smashed into by children who should be acting differently and not running around the stores. These children never say “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me”, as they have never been taught to do so.

    Parents should not let their children get up at Mass and wander out into the vestibule or “gathering areas”. Children crawl under the pews and stand on the pews. Even children as old as 10 or we are allowed to sit on the floor, or not pay attention. All these issues point to a general lack of discipline. Children can learn to sit and pay attention quietly and it takes practice.

    In addition, some families never take their children to other places where the children would have to exhibit disciplined behavior.We would be taken to concerts, plays, dinners, etc. and expected to behave so as not to disturb anyone. We learned manners as well. On Christmas and Easter, we were expected to behave at relatives, without being entertained with dvds or kid stuff.

    The vast majority of bad kid behavior is that parents simply allow bad behavior. It is not “cute”. One anecdote: when I was in England, one of the mums in my coffee group left early to take her two year old to “aggressiveness training”. I was astounded and stated that I did not think the average two year old needed such. She replied that in this world, children needed to learn aggression. Poor kid and poor mum to be so deluded. By the way, I have Montessori training and had a Montessori school in England. Children are capable of much more than we think, and manners and deportment can be taught quite easily. The Montessori environment, (not daycare,but school) is usually almost completely quiet, except for the small murmur of learning. Children learn this by example and training.

    Nice reference, Father Z.

  14. bookworm says:

    Re children in church: my brother and I were not taken to Mass until we were about 4 or 5 years old. Our parish had two Sunday Masses, my mom went to one and my dad to the other. My brother and I are now in our late 40s and have been lifelong, practicing Catholics so the wait seems not to have harmed us at all.

    I do not remember the TLM but I have a vague memory of the English translation that was in force just prior to the 1970 Novus Ordo. I distinctly remember that at the very first Masses I attended the response to “The Lord be with you” was “And with your spirit.” When the new/corrected translation takes effect next year I may discover that I’ve heard a lot of it before….

  15. gradchica says:

    Yes, we all know children should be quiet and not run around like maniacs in church…but we should also remember that they are children and are still learning! And that parents of many small children generally do try their best to keep everyone, if not behaving perfectly, at least pretty quiet. Just a reminder to be charitable when talking about children at Mass–many orthodox Catholics are quick to decry people’s lack of generosity in having children, but making sure our parishes are at least tolerant of babies that cry or one year olds that need to stand up or move around a bit will do a lot to create an atmosphere that welcomes families. Some parish’s lack of tolerance for anything other than complete silence does drive young families away. After being firmly shown to the separate cry room with video screen by the priest when we tried to enter the sanctuary with a sleeping four-month-old at one church made sure we never went back there. Exile to the video screen ghetto wasn’t going to do anything to help the children learn how to behave or to appreciate the beauty of the Mass. A little sympathy for a parent wrestling a sick, tired, or otherwise cranky baby goes a long way.

    I bring my 12-month-old son to Mass instead of dropping him off in a nursery, since I think he should begin to learn how to behave appropriately/he needs to be in the presence of our Lord as much as I. However, he is barely one–sitting still and quietly for 75 minutes is a tough go and he is still learning how to do it. Anyone’s advice for making him understand that is quite welcome.

  16. Supertradmum says:


    My criticisms were aimed at much older than one-year old children.

    Children at two or three can “play Mass” at home. In The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori based pre-school curriculum on the sacraments and sacramentals, children as young as three can take part in the learning process. I think we would all give a mom a break for a one-year old, but bringing him to Mass is the best way to learn. I applaud your efforts.

  17. irishgirl says:

    At the TLM chapel which I attend, there’s one family that has five children under the age of 10. When the two younger ones-a son and a daughter-start to act up, the father takes them out into the vestibule behind closed doors and gives them a few whacks on the behind. Of course, the kids cry—but at least they come back better-behaved!

  18. bookworm says:

    Speaking of “the more things change…”

    The conference on exorcism organized by (my) Bishop Thomas Paprocki, is underway in Baltimore and there have been several news stories on it, which for the most part have been well written and fairly balanced.

    In fact none other than (ironically) “Hell’s Bible” has a pretty good story about it here:

  19. PostCatholic says:

    JARay, sorry if that came off as prognostication. I might have said instead that I think that liturgical conservatives such as Rev. Zuhlsdorf are succeeding in their efforts to restore a more traditional worship style in the Catholic Church, and that in hindsight I now view some of my early personal history in Roman Catholicism as part of an experimental time.

  20. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Parents should not let their children get up at Mass and wander out into the vestibule or “gathering areas”. Children crawl under the pews and stand on the pews\\

    This is one advantage to a pewless Church, as is frequently found in Orthodox Churches.

    The little ones don’t have their views blocked by furniture and are not pinned to a pew, so they are better behaved.

  21. bookworm says:

    “This is one advantage to a pewless church… the little one’s don’t have their views blocked by furniture and are not pinned to a pew, so they are better behaved.”

    Fr. Basil, am I correct in assuming that “pewless” means “everyone sits, stands or kneels directly on the floor”? I have been to several Orthodox Churches in the last 10 years or so but they all had pews.

  22. Gradchica, a baby who acts up occasionally is one thing. Everybody understands that these things happen. The gripe is with persistent misbehavior and the failure to correct it.

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