How My Kids Didn’t Ruin Mass

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Confession: my kids are not typically little angels at Mass. ‘Typical” Mass behavior being our 3-year-old banging the kneeler open and closed and then dropping it on his own foot. Commence siren-like wailing. Or the kids tussling over who gets to hold the Baby Jesus finger puppet. And, to no one’s surprise, the preschooler throwing the St. Joseph finger puppet at his baby sister’s head doesn’t solve the dilemma. The newborn is startled out of a deep slumber by the bells heralding the Consecration and starts screaming. The toddler yelling (and I mean yelling) “Jesus! Jesus COME OUT!” as the Consecration approaches and he knows that “Jesus is coming.” And, yes, I said “typical” behavior. Don’t even get me started on the extraordinarily humiliating days.

Have you been there? When you just want to crawl into the floor and die of shame because surely your kids are ruining Mass for everyone? Your cheeks are burning? You consider a cross-country move?

You see, I grew up Protestant in a tradition in which young children do not attend “the service” until they can sit quietly with their families. It’s quiet, it’s composed, and you can actually hear the words of the sermon. I am still getting used to “the hum” that graces the background of every Mass: squirming toddlers, whispering preschoolers, fussing babies. Children are not banished to the nursery. Our Parish doesn’t even have a cry room. You see, children are not just tolerated, they are welcome. And what my parish has shown me, is that my children are wanted.

So that moment when I thought I would surely die because my 3-year-old made a mad dash for the altar when I was about to receive the Blessed Sacrament and I had to make an awkward wrangling motion to grab hold of his Houdini body in between the “Amen” and the moment the Host touched my tongue…well, the priest’s eyes didn’t narrow. He didn’t give me a stern look that said, “I hope the grace of Our Lord helps you recover from being the worst mother ever.” Nope. His eyes sparkled. He smiled. And, dear me, was that a quiet chuckle?

It’s the moments when I think my kids are the ultimate distraction that my parish family shows me that they are gifts of God’s grace. When the baby is fussy and the toddler is grumpy and loud and I think that surely the homily is going to be a desperate plea for our family to high tail it out of the church so everyone else can enjoy Mass in peace, the priest says, “Look around you. Look at all the babies and children in Mass today. As I’ve been hearing the sounds of infants and children this morning, it reminds me of the amazing gift of new life. What a blessing. I am so glad they are all here.” Gift? Blessing? My kids could have passed themselves off as small dragons this morning, and you heard their whispers and shrieks as echoes of God’s grace?

Or when the baby is insistent on nursing, even though I nursed her right before Mass and the only way to avoid a screaming fit is to nurse right there in the pew. I can feel my cheeks get warm and pink. Is my scarf covering us up? Am I flashing anyone? Is this ok? Is everyone looking at us? That lady in the back certainly is. Is she glaring at us? After Mass, there she is again. She’s probably coming to tell me off… But to my surprise she touched my shoulder and said, “I just wanted to tell you what a good job you did nursing that baby. You are such a good mom. It was so special to see a mother nursing in Mass. I remember having small kids in Mass and how hard it is. Your kids are always excellent.” Well…that last part was surely a kind-hearted fib, but could our family have blessed her by being there? By not sending our kids to the nursery? By trying to make it through Mass without causing a fire or anyone needing stitches? By choosing to nurse my baby, did that image of love between a mother and child actually make Mass more meaningful to her?

Because I think that’s part of what it means to be pro-life. To see children always as gifts of grace, not inconveniences. As always welcome as part of God’s family, not as distractions to be avoided. To encourage and love them and show them that they are wanted. That we want them there because Jesus wants them there. 

There’s one sweet couple and their adult daughter who have adopted our family during Mass. They make it a point to always sit near us. The mother is a bonafide baby whisperer and when Lucy gets fussy she will say in my ear, “You pass me that baby!” and she will snuggle a shockingly calm Baby Lucy sometimes for the entirety of Mass. Benjamin adores their daughter and on one occasion, we weren’t sitting close enough to “Miss Kerri” for his satisfaction. So he snuck out of our pew, tip-toed across the aisle, and plopped down right on her lap. As I prepared to stand up, bring him back, and reprimand him for leaving his spot, this dear soul gave me a look that said, “Don’t you dare! He’s FINE.” He sat like an angel with them for the rest of Mass. He even knelt quietly during the whole Consecration (usually our wrestling-match time). And as I knelt and peeked at him out of the corner of my eye, I started to feel tears roll down my cheeks. Because he looked so wanted, beloved, and cherished. Because this family’s love for my children communicates a vital message: Jesus loves them. Jesus wants them. They are not inconveniences and distractions. They are blessed outpourings of God’s grace.

I pray that during Mass, and every day, I can remember to see my children the way Jesus sees them. The way my parish sees them. I am so thankful for the love my children receive, even at their worst. And thankful for the reminder that Jesus wants all of us, even at our worst, to come and love and be loved.

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  1. Rachel says

    Been there, done that. You are very blessed with your priest and other parishioners. We have seven children who are now past the age of being difficult at Mass but there were some memorable moments!!! But the people around us could see that we were trying to make our children behave and I think this is what makes the difference. The family who smiles benignly at their little ones making a nuisance don’t endear themselves to those around them.
    My favourite quote is from a friend who once told me that after a particularly trying time with his children at Mass, someone told him with great good humour that Holy Mass is first and foremost a sacrifice!

    • Haley says

      We are indeed fortunate to have priests and parishioners who are on “our team.” And I absolutely agree, when others can tell that you are doing your utmost to help your children learn appropriate behavior for Mass, they are so much more understanding! I love your friend’s quote and I will have to remember it when have a really rough time getting through Mass 🙂

  2. Kathy says

    This is truly your best column yet. I think that priest is cherishing the only children he will ever have. And the older woman is remembering her own children as little ones.
    Really, really well done.

  3. says

    I loved this; and such a timely post for me as I was just feeling church nursery guilt. Our daughter has only been home from Ethiopia for six months, and is not ready to be left with total strangers. But I always feel eyes on us whenever she starts babbling during worship, so I leave with her during the sermon and get the evil eye from the volunteers for staying with her in the nursery. I haven’t heard a live sermon since we brought her home! I grew up in a church where kids stayed with their families during service, but there is an entirely different attitude these days (I even went to a church once- and only once- that wouldn’t let you back in if you had to take your child out of the sanctuary. Or if you had to use the bathroom. Seriously.) You and some other of my adoptive-mom friends have encouraged me to try to keep her with me next time, thank you!

    • Haley says

      I think you’re absolutely right to want to worship as a family, especially with your situation (and my goodness, your daughter is soooo cute. I wouldn’t ever want to put her down!). The homily/sermon is often the time that I will take Lucy out if she is being loud and then we’ll come back inside for the rest of Mass.

    • Grace says

      This may have been (& I hope it was) a misunderstanding – no one is to be seated during the Scripture readings. At our parish, if you leave to go to the bathroom or to quiet a noisy child, etc, you are supposed to wait for the period between or at the end of the readings before re-entering out of respect for the Scripture.

      A lot of parishes don’t follow this, and I did not learn it even as a cradle Catholic. It was not until we moved that we learned it is a part of “Catholic etiquette”. Unfortunately, some parishes, or just some ushers, either fail to articulate this or fail to do it well.

  4. Eva says

    Completely identify with this. We have toddler twins who have no concept of volume modulation.’ Quiet… what’s that?’ Lots of shushing during mass. I feel like we never hear the sermon anymore or that we consistently miss Holy Communion as the screaming is audible in another hemisphere.

    Great blog entry, lovely to know we’re not alone … Sometimes it feels like everyone else’s children are angels and only ours are making all the noise.

    • Haley says

      You’re not alone! I have particular affection for my friend’s kids who are as squirmy and loud as Benjamin (the child just CANNOT sit still). It makes me feel so much better knowing we’re not the only ones that struggle!

  5. says

    You are right–they didn’t ruin it all. Just remember that when you are struggling in your hardest moments, there is someone who is desiring with all of their heart to have just one little one to struggle with. They would give up every single peaceful and quiet Mass they have had to be you.

  6. says

    So encouraging – thanks for yet another fantastic post! My son, who has been rather amazing the majority of his life, has just now decided in the past few months, that mass is a time for his babbling to turn into complaining/whining and mini-fights with his baby brother. Ugh, how tired a mama this makes of me. I plug on though knowing it’s more important for us to all be there completely worn out over giving up and going the “easy” route. Thanks again for your encouraging words. Thank God for his gifts of grace.

    • Haley says

      We go through phases where both kids do great and then suddenly, one or both are horrible for weeks on end. But then it gets better again. Hang in there!

  7. Michele says

    Both the parishes we’ve belonged to since having our first child have been like this…and it makes such a difference!

  8. says

    I really enjoyed this post! I just wish the parish I just started attending felt the same way. Unfortunately – someone stood up before Mass this week and said that the cry room was now complete and to please take crying, disruptive children to worship in the “children’s worship area” since they only have that one hour for mass every week…I felt very unwelcome. I was the only one sitting there with children who were of the “crying, disruptive” age group. I miss my old parish which was much like what you described above. I only get to go there once a month as it is an hour and a half away.

    • Haley says

      Oh, Cassidy, that is so hard. It’s difficult enough making it through Mass with a supportive parish, can’t imagine the stress of not having your fellow parishioners on your team. Jesus wants those little ones there even if some grumpy parishioners don’t. I hope the attitude towards children in Mass changes at your parish and you get more support.

  9. Mary says

    There have been many Masses with my 4 children where I have responded whole heartily, “Thanks Be to God!” to our deacon’s “The Mass has ended…” I’m exhausted, sweaty, and tired of shushing, cajoling, bouncing, glaring, and wrestling with the younger ones, and I feel like I have taught nothing to my oldest, who is a new communicant. I wonder if the behavior of my children is making others think, “Really? She’s pregnant AGAIN? She can’t even handle the 4 she has!” I then realize that that little old lady I thought was glaring at me was actually enjoying all the “action” in our pew, and reminiscing about her own children. After Mass, she tells me to enjoy it, because it goes too fast. Then a member of my husband’s choir, who is a new empty nester, takes the 2 year old up to communion with her, and quietly whispers to him about the miracle that just occurred on the altar. He is not squirming for the first time in 45 minutes. After Mass, the older ones rush over to give the priest a high five, and get a sucker out of his basket. Yes, I may be exhausted and sweating, but I just received Jesus, and I see my children bringing others joy. I am truly blessed.

    • Haley says

      Haha! I always have the same thought when I start showing. Is everyone thinking, “Dear, me, she already has her hands full, poor woman. Her kids are OUT OF CONTROL. What is she THINKING?” But then, some sweet lady we’ve seen at Mass will come up to us and congratulate us after Mass tell us how excited she is about there being a new little person on our pew and I realize that I was being paranoid, haha.

      How wonderful it is to see your children loved and bringing joy to others!

  10. Megan says

    I love how you point out this is what being pro-life really is. My dad was my pastor growing up (smaller church) and I always loved when a child made a distraction worthy fuss and he’d say from the pulpit, “They are fine, it is all good, we are just so happy to have them!”
    I have always scolded people who say things about babysitting and childcare being the best birth control. What a dispicable thought for a believer. Maybe that’s harsh, but I believe it’s true!
    Thanks for sharing such an important truth 🙂

  11. Cinnamon says

    Hi! I just started following you…The first post I read was your list of books to read to your daughter. EXACTLY how I feel about Twilight by-the-way AND then you listed pretty much every book I read and loved as a pre-teen/teen. Now I’m going and reading from the beginning because as Anne says “I feel we are kindred spirits”.

    So nothing to do with Mass or children…but wanted to let you know you inspired me today! 🙂

  12. Kim says

    This is great! When I grew up this was the norm at my church and it set a great example for me. Now, there are many at my church who see having a nursery as a necessary thing. Because kids are “distracting” and it’s the only way the parents can “really” worship. It makes me so sad. We’ve actually had a number of families leave because they want to go places where their babies and toddlers (and elementary kids) can be entertained instead of being “bored” in the service. We also had some families that protested the lack of nursery and one was started as a last stitch effort. I am new serving in ministry at the church and I wonder if by having a nursery we are conveying that kids aren’t welcome in the service. Not everyone uses it, but it makes me feel like we’re talking out both sides of our mouth. I also know that some parents now feel like the nursery is what they are supposed to do with their kids. I get the struggles of parents. I have been in church with noisy, embarrassing toddlers trying to seem like I’ve got it all under control and simultaneously wondering whose judging. But I’ve also been in church with a toddler who sees me worshipping and joins in, in his own way. And while that attention span lasted for about a minute, it was a beautiful outpouring of God’s grace. And so worth all the other times. It makes me sad that people who’s kids are in the nursery have to miss those moments. Any suggestions on how to approach the subject at my church, would be appreciated.

    • Haley says

      Kim, I think that it really comes down to the question of what happens in worship. In a protestant service (like the ones I grew up with), the sermon is often the central focus of the service. So if children aren’t old enough to understand it and are distracting others, then it’s not as important for children to be in the service. But if the central focus is the Eucharist and everyone there is receiving the grace of Christ’s presence whether you have a complete understanding of all that entails or not (and, who really COMPLETELY understands it? That’s why it’s a mystery, right?), then it’s far more important for infants and children to get to participate. Whether I’m wrangling kids during the Consecration or if I’m able to really take in what’s about to happen, Jesus is still there! It’s not dependent on my personal experience. So, we have to answer the question, what does it mean to worship?

      Our parish does have a nursery available (for at least one of Mass times). I can certainly understand wanting to use it (and I am not judging families who do, having kids in Mass is hard and I don’t know everyone’s situation!), but I’m grateful that kids are always welcome in Mass. I would talk to your priest or minister to see if they can say something to the parish and then there’s nothing that encourages kids being in Mass more than a quick word of encouragement to the tired, sweaty parents. I think it’s really up to the parishioners to show that the children are welcome. I know I would not have continued to bring my oldest wiggle worm into Mass if others made it clear they considered him a distraction. It would have been just too hard.

  13. Sarah K. says

    We have been very blessed, our Parrish is on post, and they are very excepting of children. We frequently have new priests who can all do things and see things differently but one thing that never changes is the fact that they say the same thing about hearing the children. In the beginning we did not even have a cry room because letting the children be children was very welcome. We do have child watch for the really little ones, but that is of the parents choosing, it is not at all required, and they just installed a video feed so if one we get too full and two parents feel more comfortable sitting in the other room they can. At least once a month I hear “let the children come to me”. Now that we have our own child it does make it easier if he decides to fuss and know we don’t have to jump up and miss mass.

    • Haley says

      I’m so glad to hear that. It is so much easier to know that normal baby noises are fine and that we only have to remove our kids if there is actual wailing happening 🙂

  14. LMM says

    And think of all the graces we parents receive by wrestling with children during Mass! I literally break a sweat most Sundays, since I go to Mass on my own with my VERY active almost-2-year-old and only slightly better 3-year-old boys. My old parish was much like you describe – after one particularly harrowing Mass, during which the baby somehow managed to throw my open wallet into the aisle, scattering its contents under all the surrounding pews and causing audible laughter around us, an elderly man came up to us after Mass had ended. I expected a talking-to, but he smiled and said “your children are angels.” (They are NOT.) I teared up, that encouragement was exactly what I needed just then. And at every Mass, every single one, the priest said “thank you for bringing your children to Mass.” Sometimes that was all I needed to hear.

    My new parish – well, we’ll see. The priest has gotten on a roll during the announcements, listing all of the children’s behaviors he doesn’t approve of (rightly so – who lets their kids carve words into the pews or play with toys that make noise during Mass? But those ribbons in the missalettes are SO tempting, hard to keep those away from little hands). Even though I agreed with everything he was saying, the tone made me wonder. But judging by the number of 12-passenger vans in the parking lot and families taking up 2 or more pews, I have a feeling children are more than welcome, even if the priest is a little on the grumpy side.

    • Haley says

      Hats off to you for the wrangling! Daniel and I both get sweaty some Sundays and we’re still a 1:1 ratio parent to child! I’m sure it’s hard to strike a balance between clarifying unacceptable behavior and making sure children still feel welcome. I hope you get all the encouragement you need at your new parish!

  15. says

    This made me cry. It was so very much what I needed to hear. My husband is a pastor, so I’m a single mom in the pew. I only have one (she’s two) at the moment, but she’s a handful. She’s a screamer, so I do end up taking her out most services for a little while. It’s been particularly bad since Christmas. I’ve realized, though, that it’s so much easier if I don’t worry about what others are thinking. Usually, they’re not actually thinking what I think they’re thinking, so not only am I just making things more difficult for myself and putting all kinds of “pastor’s kid” pressure on my daughter, but I’m not being charitable toward whoever I’m thinking is thinking bad things about my daughter or my parenting.

    My husband has two congregations, so my daughter and I alternate between services. One congregation has one other family of small children, but they’re really well-behaved. (Their mom doesn’t think so, but compared to mine…) There are some other children who come with their grandma sometimes, but she just lets the two-year-old play with the toys in the preschool classrooms during the service. I get it, but it makes it so much more difficult for me to get mine back into church without screaming if she knows that someone’s getting to play with the toys!

    My daughter is usually the only little one at the other congregation, but they’ve been really, really supportive and helpful.

    • Haley says

      That is so insightful, Jen. You are absolutely right. When I am paranoid and imagining all the horrible things people are probably thinking about me and my ability to mother my kids in the pew, I’m not being charitable to them. And time and time again, they’ve shown me that they are not spiteful people but encouraging, loving, and kind. What a good thought.

      And I agree about the toys thing. I try to never let my kids see into the nursery by the parish hall because I don’t want all the shiny toys to become an issue. So glad your church community is supporting you 🙂

  16. says

    I love this post! I wish more people had this attitude towards children in church and other public places where children are expected to be miraculously still and silent for that matter! I don’t have any children of my own so it isn’t something I’ve had to deal with personally, but I always feel so bad for the mothers I see struggling to quiet their children while those around them keep giving them looks. When a little kid is kicking my chair or talking near me or I see a mother looking mortified I always try to give her a smile if I can catch her eye to encourage her that not everyone is annoyed by her children’s antics.

    This is very appropriate as we approach sanctity of life Sunday this week. Our church doesn’t exactly discourage you from bringing children into the service, but they strongly expound on the benefits of the children’s ministry and it’s just assumed that your children will be sent there. Very few kids attend service and there’s a separate service for the older youths as well so ‘big church’ is really almost completely college aged and up. It really bothers me when jokes are made from the pulpit about how the parents must be so glad that their kids are back in school after summer break or in general about kids driving their parents crazy. There are a handful of children there, how must they hear those types of things? How does that show them how valued they are as blessings? We talk about being pro-life and call children gifts from God, but even the church sometimes implies by action or jest that children are a nuisance and a distraction to their parents. It breaks my heart to think about how this will trickle down to the next generation.

    • Haley says

      Oh Carolyn, you have no idea how much your smiles and encouragement mean to every mother you sit next to! Every one is a much-needed gift of Christ’s love. I really disagree with age-segregated church services. I think it really breaks up the community that the church should be. We all have so much to learn from each other. And yes, those sorts of comments don’t go unnoticed by the kids.

  17. Kate says

    As I was raised in the Lutheran church, where all of the children were kept in the sanctuary throughout the service – and we have what is known as the “crying room” at the back of the church (in case that baby gets too fussy or needs a change), I’m happy to see more and more churches encouraging children to stay in the service as much as possible. It is the way they learn to behave and be involved in the church. It is the way that they grow that extended family around them. Glad you have found a church home like this!

  18. says

    I just discovered your blog, and I can’t get enough! Thank you for writing this beautiful post about why bringing our children to Mass blesses them, ourselves, and others. You made this young mama sob this morning and finally get the courage I need to start attempting daily Mass with the kiddos solo. God bless you and your precious family!

    • Haley says

      Thank you, Catherine! Daily Mass is so hard with littles…well, ANY Mass is hard solo and our daily Mass is in the chapel instead of the larger church and the space is just so much harder with kids. One thing that helps me work up the courage to tackle it is some friends and I all agreed to start going the same morning. Then at least it isn’t JUST my kids squawking and we can help each other when one of the toddlers makes a run for the altar! We got out of our rhythm during Christmastide and now you’ve got me convicted that we need to start up again. I know it’s great practice for the kids, but it’s so hard to do without Daniel.

  19. Cath says

    My church is also very welcoming of children. Sometimes a baby will cry all through mass, and our pastor will practically shout the homily into the microphone to make sure everybody hears. Then at the end he makes a point o mentioning what a joy it is to have children at mass, and that parents don’t need to hide I back or leave them home because “I CAN SHOUT OVER IT!!!” And nobody minds.

  20. says

    Dear Haley,

    Thought you might like to know your wonderful article has found it’s way to an Antiochian Orthodox parish audience with LOT’S of little ones! I am sure they will be encouraged by your offering.

    God bless you,
    Fr. Patrick Cardine

  21. Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch STS says

    A wondeful testimony to welcoming the little ones in to ALL of life!
    I’m a Lutheran pastor…. an Anglican friend/mom par excellence shared the link on her FB … and I say thanks be to God for you and your husband, your pastor and parish, for the way you all are modeling this best of practices. In the parishes I serve, we do as you do: Welcome the little ones, that they will learn what worship means and carry this as an earliest memory.

  22. Hannah says

    Wow. Thanks for this. I think I really needed to read this today. My husband grew up catholic, one of 7, and I think this is his memory of church. We have 2 very active kids with one on the way, and the idea of bringing the kids into church with us makes me cringe. I grew up Protestant, and we had children’s services until 6th grade. So, the crying and talking and everything that comes with having a kid in church bothered me. Honestly, it still does. Our current church has a nursery available, but most families bring their kids into the sanctuary with them, and it’s not a big deal. There is space behind glass they can go if they get really disruptive.
    But, I think for my own heart, I needed this. My husband keeps trying to get me on board with bringing at least our 4 year old in with us, and I’ve been so hesitant. But, how will she learn? God is teaching me to let go of a lot of things right now, and I think this might be one of them.
    And on an unrelated topic, I’ve been perusing your site for over an hour! Thanks for all your insight and thought-provoking topics. As a liturgical Protestant, and one who has only ever practiced nfp (successfully!) and is a lover of good books, I appreciate all of it! 🙂

    • Haley says

      Thank you, Hannah! My 4 year old is still a wiggly worm in Mass so don’t be discouraged if it takes what seems like forever to get your little ones to make progress in sitting through Mass 🙂

  23. Laura says

    Thank you for this post. It was beautiful. I’m a member of a different faith, but also have a monster of a time trying to keep the kids quiet during church services. You reminded me that no one has ever said anything but compliments about how our kids behave (even though I want to die sometimes with their antics), and what matters is that they are there, feeling the love of the Savior. Thank you. I think I’m going to be a little less uptight next Sunday, and enjoy the words of worship instead.

  24. Traci says

    This is perfect! I too found you through Pinterest! I’m lucky that our parish is very understanding of families and large families, at that! Unlike most Catholic parishes, where the middle and back are filled in and leaving the front rows, there are several families, mine included, that keep trying to get into the two front pews. 1. We’re right in front of the action, so the kids can see – helps to not get the “I can’t Seeeeeeeeee!” 2. Helps to have all the extra eyes from the back of church watching everybody. 3. Shy babies like to look back at people and it might distract them enough that you ‘might’ get to hear the homily.

    As for embarrassing church moments, several years ago when our youngest was 2, I gave her one of those parent pinches during Mass – you know, the quick pinch on a hinder to get their attention and hopefully get them to be quiet. Yeah, didn’t work so well, because my cute little daughter YELLS, “Don’t Pinch Me!” Did hear some chuckles over that one, but my face was beet red!

  25. Amelia says

    Loved this post! I found you through pinterest and I have been thoroughly enjoying myself browsing through your blog. I love your take on things and feel we would get along amazingly! I have a 2-year-old and a 1-month-old and so we are now getting used to trying to keep 2 kids quiet during church. Thank you for the sweet reminder that these precious children are not just inconveniences or distractions.

  26. Katie says

    LOVE this post!! I have been struggling so much in church lately, my husband is deployed so its just been me and my 14 month old. Who is wonderful but just wants to RUN! and when she can’t, she screams! Our church is very welcoming of children, but it can still be embarassing to have the screamer. Just the other week, my daughter was not in the mood to sit still, and before the priest could finish the announcements before mass, she started screaming bc i wouldnt let her run down the aisles. As much as I hate it, I knew it would have to be a cry room day. On our way out to the back door, we met the priest as he was walking back down the aisle to start the procession in and he just walked up to us, laughed, rubbed my daughters head and said “well, I think someone needs more sugar”. It was of course highly embarassing but also pretty wonderful.

  27. Kate says

    Wow. The way you look at things is so… rosy. This post inspired a serious time of God showing me just how reluctant I’ve truly been to let Him completely renew my mind and transform my spirit (however much I’ve paid lip service to that notion since my conversion to Christ!). It’s so not-of-this-world, how you live, and that is incredibly inspiring.

    At my parish the parents tend to quarantine themselves in the cold atrium outside the sanctuary. It makes me feel so unwelcome, just from peer pressure.
    When I have brought baby into mass, the priest and friends have suggested that I take her into the little chapel thing. I felt so unwelcome again and again. I did bring her there and she pooped everywhere and it was at the front of the sanctuary and I felt stuck in there!

  28. kate says

    Just cried through your post. My two year old proceeded to fall off the pew during prayers and wail. We are new in this town and church and I didn’t realize where I sat the girls in mass today was next to where communion is taken. The two year old proceeded to clap and congratulate every person on receiving their communion. “wow good job you eat dat lady, good job man, YAY!” oy oy oy.

    • Haley says

      My kids really like the “intentionally bang my head against the pew and then proceed to scream in pain” game 🙂 At least your sweet 2-year-old understand that the Eucharist is something to celebrate! I’m with you in the trenches, sister.

  29. Leigh says

    I loved this! I am a 50 something mom with grown kids. I am also a Catholic convert and very happy about it. I love to hear the sound of children and babies in church no matter what they are doing. In fact I have to stifle many laughs when they are doing things such as you are describing. We have one priest that spoke about how we were to welcome children in mass and not to give people “the look”. Then a new priest came along admonishing parents for the noise. I was extremely upset by that. I thought, ok, let me get this straight; We do not believe in practicing contraception. Guess what? That makes babies. It is a sin not to attend mass. Hmm should you leave the kids at home alone?
    I also love to see a mom nursing her baby in church, and I too make an effort to comment. I have always hoped that it didn’t make the mom feel uncomfortable. My intention was to let them know that there were people there encouraging them. This post is so funny I could not stop laughing. Guess it’s a lot funnier when they are not yours ;-). I just consider it my entertainment at mass. God Bless!

  30. says

    We actually don’t go to church because I tried to go to two different churches in my town, during the children’s mass, and when my two year old got upset because he could see a guitar and I wouldn’t let him touch it, everyone turned and gave me horrified looks. I have never felt so unwelcome in a place before. 🙁 I wish I could find a church as open to children as yours.

    Lindsey from Babies, Books, and Beyond

    • Haley says

      I’m so sorry to hear about your bad experience, Lindsey! That is so hard. Prayers that you can find a parish family that sees your children with the eyes of Jesus.

  31. Brendan Kelleher svd says

    Bit late encountering your post. Was brought to my attention, by a longstanding friend who has three still rather small daughters. As I told a congregation one Easter Sunday morning when we were also going to baptize 13 little ones, I can raise my voice as well as they can, possibly louder. My younger sister, who was autistic and had learning difficulties, often used to say the wrong things at the wrong time during Mass – and just when everyone was very quiet. She died of a brain tumour, at the age of 35, praying and singing her favourite hymns with an ever fading voice. At the Mass of the Resurrection, which I celebrated in thanks for her life, the Church was packed both with other “special” people like herself, and many others she had touched during her life. She taught me more about the theological meaning of life than most of my seminary teachers.

    • Haley says

      What a beautiful tribute to your sister! I read your comment out loud to my husband. Thank you for sharing this.

  32. says

    I just had to comment at the mention of “Miss Kerri” –I am a nanny to a 2-year-old girl, and she calls ME Miss Kerri. Spelled the same way, too, which is rare. Anyway, thank you so much for your blog. You’re a few steps ahead of my husband and I with the family life (we’re 7-month newlyweds) and I can’t wait to share this with him. This is the first mommy blog where I’ve seen almost every single one of my parenting interests integrated into one blog. Especially the book-addiction aspect. Thank you again and God bless!!

  33. Janet says

    We left Mass one Sunday with our 4 children and turned to my husband and said “well there is another Mass that I have no idea what the readings or Homily were about”. Just as I said it I realized our Pastor was greeting my husband and shaking his hand. Our Pastor looked at me and said “Don’t worry Mrs. G, one day you’ll be able to hear it all again”. It made me feel so much better, that although I don’t always get much out of our Mass because I trying to corral my gang, that I will one day be more present.

    • Haley says

      My husband was on a retreat last weekend so I sat my with brother and my two kids during Mass. At the end he said, “I don’t even feel like I’ve been to Mass! Is that how you feel EVERY week?” Haha. Kind of!

  34. Karen says

    LOVE this article! How can ANYONE not expect that children (especially small ones) are gonna make noise??? It’s who they are … it’s what they do! 😉

  35. Sandy says

    What a great article! I so loved the parishioner that told you to pass the baby to her and she was able to calm the baby all of Mass! As a Mom of 3 and now grandmother of 10 I look back and just chuckle at what Mass was like for us. My husband was a family practice resident and then surgical resident (8 years) but we never missed a Sunday Mass. But we sure sometimes wondered why we went because many times we felt like we, and those around us didn’t have one moment of peace the entire Mass! I did bring healthy snacks for the kids to eat to try to “keep the peace” and they were quite while they ate, but that lasted maybe 15 minutes tops! I think the reason we kept going was that we knew that God appreciated our efforts and would reward us accordingly. But at the end of Mass when the Deacon (or priest, if no Deacon was present) says, ” Mass is ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord” and then the congregation replies, “Thanks be to God”, . . . well, we really meant that response!!! It would be particularly touching when someone would come up to us after Mass and comment about how lovely our family was and how “well behaved” our kids were! And I’d be thinking, “are you sure it was our family that you saw?” Because that’s not how I perceived it. So hang in there, God will bless you for your efforts. And you are passing on a wonderful example to your kids of what going to Mass is all about.

  36. Cristina says

    Thank you so much for this. I’m a new mom and sitting here reading your post while I nurse my 3 month old; I’m not ashamed to say that your post brought such healing tears to my eyes. Transition into motherhood hasn’t been easy for me and I find it difficult sometimes to see the blessing that is right in front of me, whether crying to be nursed during mass or getting me up for the umpteenth time in the night. In my community nursing is politicized, something that I seem to have bought into over the last few months as I hear stories of my friends being asked to nurse in bathrooms. Thank you for reminding me that nursing is the beautiful bonding that it is, not something that differentiates one from being an ‘orthodox’ or ‘liberal’ catholic.

  37. Kerri says

    I was at my sister ‘s parish where her priest told a mother not to worry about her crying baby because “that is the future of our church.”
    Our parish pastor says it a little differently when babies are crying — he says “they are our church.” Be very concerned when you don’t hear babies and little ones in the church!
    I love that our children seem to know even more people in our parish than we do. Regular participation in the mass allows them to be comfortable with all those familiar faces we see on Sundays!
    Keep up the great work and great writing!

    • Haley says

      Thank you, Kerri! This morning a sweet couple behind us who had to tolerate our 18 mo’s squirms, wriggles, shenanigans, and shouts of “neigh!” every time she looked at the stained glass of Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem told us, “Thank you for sharing this little pearl with us this morning!” I left Mass with a spring in my step because of their encouragement 🙂

  38. kathy says

    I have been following your posts and often share on our diocesan facebook page. This last entry took me back to my parenting our children at mass. Now that I no longer have 7 kiddies to corral at mass, I make sure to compliment the families I do see who are trying so hard to pay attention and manage their children. I want to encourage them to continue to come even if they have had a tough mass, and to let them know how much we enjoy having them there. Sadly, the number of families are way down. I always think of the scripture passage when Jesus tells them ” Let the children come to me!” God Bless your family.

    • Haley says

      Hi Kathy! Thanks so much for sharing my posts. Those kind words to families with young kids mean so much! Especially on the bad days. Bless you!

  39. Kristen says

    “The toddler yelling (and I mean yelling) “Jesus! Jesus COME OUT!” as the Consecration approaches and he knows that “Jesus is coming.” ”

    Hahaha! That is so sweet though. Your toddler obviously understands the Real Presence better than many Catholics.

    I also grew up Protestant with a nursery up to around age 5, and an now struggling with my own squirmy son in Mass. : )

    • Haley says

      It is amazing to discover the faith through your child’s eyes. Even when it’s manifested by outbursts in Mass, haha. Good to hear of other parents with squirmy precious boys 🙂

  40. Sherri says

    This post was SO funny! I was crying reading it. I have nine children and can relate to so much of what you wrote. I’m thankful for God’s grace! Hang in there. : )

  41. Cheri says

    THANK YOU for posting this piece. We currently have two children (2 & 3), and I feel the same frustration during mass (especially with my 2 year old). It is a blessing to read that the squirmy/fussiness of our children is welcoming to Jesus, every week. I need to remind myself of that, when I feel my face getting red from a combination of embarrassment and frustration. 🙂

  42. Ali says

    We have childcare at church and faith formation during one of the masses. I struggled with the possibility of depriving my children by putting them in childcare, and the solution that has worked for our family is to use childcare until they are 3 and then have them join us at mass. On the rare days when childcare is not available I am reminded of what a blessing it is. The biggest downside is that my youngest is unbelievably wild whenever we are visiting a parish without childcare.

  43. says

    Your article made me laugh. We have all been there and people are understanding, most of the time. I will never forget the time that my toddler son, in the midst of a wild tantrum, bit me on the arm. After that, I was the one yelling. EVERYONE in the church turned to look at me. I was so embarrassed, but came back the next week anyway.

  44. Mandy says

    Thank you so much for sharing with us! We have just recently started attending a catholic church. We are not catholic but feel led to learn more. Anyways.. we have 2 boys. My oldest is 4 and my youngest is 2. Keeping them quiet in mass has proven to be very difficult! I bring snacks. eek. It helps. I make sure the snack bags have the same things in them so the kids don’t fight over them. I bring books but they usually have no interest. They would rather try and pull down the kneeler. Or go through the hymn books so fast that they rip a page. Or just mess with each other!!

    I don’t know if the church has a cry room. As I said, we’re pretty new. The priest is VERY friendly though to the kids. He gives them high fives as he walks into the room and again on the way out. That definitely helps us feel like they are doing OK.

    There is another local parish that we have been debating trying out because they do have a nursery and a preschool. But we really like the parish we are visiting now.

    I just don’t want to ruin mass for everyone else!! Thankfully.. it’s only 45-50 minutes. I can keep my kids busy for that short time. Right?! 😉

  45. says

    I grew up going to Mass but we weren’t Christians really. It was just tradition. Today as Jesus followers, we go to an evangelical church and I insist in keeping our children with us during service because growing up we stayed in Mass with our parents. I liked that. Really enjoyed being together as family during Mass. People at our church, for many years, tried to get us to leave our babies in the nursery and send our children to children’s church. I kept them with us. Nursed them through worship. The kids sat in church and we talked about what was preached afterwards. They are a blessing to me. They have thought me patience, sacrificial love and trust in God through our “wrestling matches”. I applaud you. 🙂

  46. Jenny says

    I’ll never forget one of the first times my son starting singing spontaneously with everyone “Holy, Holy, Holy…”. I loving touched his head, made eye-contact and smiled at him before he carried on with, “…holy, holy, holy, POOPY PAAANTS!” I was mortified. I burst out laughing too. I’m right there with you on small children at Mass. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

  47. says

    OH MY. I love this. It fed my soul. I am in the achey space of needing this kind of community and option. So very weary of churches expecting and demanding the separation of children from their families. It is so full of subtly anti-child sentiments and it carries that tone deeper and deeper without even meaning to sometimes. This is just lovely.

  48. Jj says

    I wish it was the same with our parish. I have three toddlers, a two year old and twin 3 year olds. We were at mass earlier. We were early and seated ourselves at the back just in case one of them acts out or become fidgety we could easily bring them out without disturbing people. As expected they could not sit still so my husband and I brought them in the hallway beyond the inner church doors where We could still hear the mass. Anyway, near communion a lady approached me and told me that my children were undisciplined and that they were disturbing the mass. She went on berating me on how UNDISCIPLINED my children were. I was honestly shocked.this was a first for me. I always go to church with my whole family. That is how my parents and their parents did it. I was terribly terribly hurt. She was short of saying my kids were not welcome to church. We were not able to take communion becaused i was so traumatized. Now I am even afraid to go to church at all. My husband And I may end up attending separate masses and just leave the kids at home. In my previous parish children were always welcome. We are new here and i dont know if it is the norm that children must be super well behaved in church. Honestly, i do not know how to stop my toddlers from fidgeting or from interacting with each other or if I want to, they ar kids after all.

    • Haley says

      Jj, I am just SO SORRY that happened to you. Is there another parish nearby that you can try out while you recover from that experience? If not, you can remind yourself that your children have every right to be there just like any other baptized Christian. And if you continue to feel unwelcome then you should bring the situation to the attention of the pastor. He may have no idea that this woman is taking it upon herself to traumatize mothers of twins. I mean seriously, YOU HAVE TWINS AND ANOTHER TODDLER. The fact that you made it to Mass means you’re making a Herculean effort. I just hate that this happened to you!

      • Jj says

        Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. i did realize after some reflection that I do not go to church because of other people but because i want to thank God. And maybe, just maybe kids are there to test the adults’ patience and compassion! 🙂 So I will go back unless she has me arrested for undisciplined children.

    • Karen says

      I LOVE when I’m at Mass and I hear baby babbling or toddlers…being toddlers!
      Please keep bringing your children to Mass and continue to come as a FAMILY. I’m sure you’re doing your best not to be disruptive.
      Remember when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 God Bless!!!❤️


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