It finally happened. After years of encountering only lovely folks in Mass we finally got a negative comment about our kids. And it wasn’t even about our kids behavior, just that they were THERE.
We sat down in the pew and the woman behind us immediately said (loudly) “Ugh. Why don’t people leave their kids in the nursery!”
Boy, nothing gives a great start to Mass like knowing the person behind you is hating that your family is merely existing in your pew. (And it’s not like I was carrying in a fussy newborn or a shrieking two-year-old. Our kids are 4, 5.5, and 8!)
The processional hymn was beginning so I didn’t have a chance to enlighten this woman with an answer to her question, but I did turn around to give her a BIG SMILE to which she gave a nervous smile in return.
I admit to sending up some desperate prayers, “Please don’t let this be the Sunday that the four-year-old has a meltdown, Lord. I’m not sure how much humiliation I can handle today.” Heaven took pity on me and everyone did great–even the wiggly, chatty four-year-old.
Our critical friend in the pew behind us hightailed it out of there before the recessional hymn so I didn’t get a chance to answer her question after Mass. Allow me to do so here:
“Why don’t we leave our kids in the nursery?
Because they are baptized Christians with as much right to be there as anyone else on the planet.
Why don’t we leave our kids in the nursery?
Because our children are part of the Body of Christ and we worship as a FAMILY, not in age-segregated rooms.
Why don’t we leave our kids in the nursery?
Because we think being in Mass is the most important thing we do every week. Why wouldn’t we want our kids to be a part of that?
Why don’t we leave our kids in the nursery?
Because we want them to understand how to behave in Mass and going to Mass is the best way to practice that.
Why don’t we leave our kids in the nursery?
Because Mass is the only hour of their week that they will encounter EVERYONE together. Newborns all the way up to grandfathers. At our church in central Texas sitting in the pew next to my white family are black families, Mexican families, and Vietnamese families. Rich people, poor people, people with special needs. We are all together. Even the crying babies and the bad singers and the gentleman whose hearing aid makes that high pitched sound.
Why don’t we leave our kids in the nursery?
Because the altar isn’t in the nursery. We go to Mass to encounter JESUS in the Blessed Sacrament. And the Holy Scriptures tell us that He wants the little children to come to him.
The reason you see our kids in the pew in front of you is because Jesus told us to bring them. A reason that trumps your unfortunate preference for a child-free Mass. I hope that answers your question, ma’am. Happy Sunday!”
Remember to encourage families with young children when you see them at Mass. You will never know how much that means to them. During the craziest season of our Mass days–newborn, a 19mo, and a 4yo–when just getting to Mass was a Herculean effort and surviving Mass felt almost impossible, I was brought to TEARS by parishioners who made a point to come up to me and say, “You are doing a great job! I love seeing your beautiful family here.”
And when priests encourage families to bring their children to Mass and advocate for them? It means the world. The priest that baptized our daughters would even give a shout out to families with crying babies during his homily, “Isn’t it great to hear babies in here?! What a gift to have a church filled with life!” Another priest told me that whenever a parishioner complains to him about the sound of babies in Mass he reminds them that they are going to die and those babies are the future of the Church.
P.S. If you’re in an insane season of life or a difficult situation (I’m thinking of you, single parents, military wives, moms of multiples, fill-in-the-blank with your crazy circumstance) and you NEED to use that nursery, that is ok. Jesus knows exactly what is going on in your life. Do your best and use that nursery if you need to, guilt-free!
P.P.S. “But I’ve seen some kids that aren’t well-behaved” is not a good argument for making families feel unwelcome and unwanted at Mass. As is clear from our experience at Mass this week, polite behavior can’t always be exhibited by grown ups, either.
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Our current church does not have a nursery. We actually did attend a church with one (they also broadcast the Mass on a screen in the social hall). We left the church after they published a “Ten Commandments of Attending Mass with Children” article in the bulletin which was basically “leave them in the nursery or sit with them in the social hall far, far away from the sanctuary and Communion if they aren’t perfectly behaved…and even if they are perfectly behaved, maybe just leave them in the nursery.” I have found our current church and priest so much more welcoming of children without the nursery option. It was so important for me for us to be together in Mass as a family. And my daughter is not really well-behaved, even at six she has a condition that makes it difficult to get through Mass (or any similar activities). But it’s important for me to feel that welcome and support because some Sundays it’s all I can do to muster up the strength to fight her through the Mass one more time because I NEED her to know this is important.
I just want to say I’ve been where you are. Some Sundays, we are still there. I pray strength for you to keep going and that your church family will support you.
The best thing I ever heard on the subject was from the priest who said there are two reasons that a baby and a child cry one is because they need something and one is because they want to get our attention often in a negative fashion ……..if this is annoying to you remember how you my sound to God as you cry out for what you need and often in a very negative fashion…….he reminded us that when we come to mass our prayers should be a cry of praise to a mighty God and not always filled with get me get me get me……never forgot that sermon!
This is a great way to look at it and very humbling.
Melissa H-K says
AMEN. Except, well, we don’t even take the two-year-old to Mass. I should back up and explain.
I live in a house in my daughter’s backyard. She has six kids, the oldest of whom is about to turn eight. Her husband has a church job on Sunday in a church about an hour and a half away. So here’s what we do—I go to the 8:30 with one grandchild, usually one of the four-year-old twins. (They do much better at Mass when they are separated.) She takes the other kids (aged almost eight, six, four, and six months) to the 12:30. But she leaves the two-year-old at her house with me and the twin I took to Mass.
The two-year-old desperately wants to go to Mass—and everywhere else that somebody goes. I have tried taking him alone, and it does NOT work. We’ll try it again in a year or so. Circumstances vary. I’m so glad that you and Daniel take all three of yours to Mass!
Melissa, I’m so glad you and your daughter have this option. I’m sure she is super grateful for your help. I am almost always alone with our kids (Hubby is jewish) and I have only just started taking my 3 year old on a regular basis. I figure God knows what is best for my family too so I don’t worry about it! Peace!
Melissa H-K says
Jennifer, God bless you for taking any children at all. God knows your situation and loves your whole family. Yes, of course I’m including your husband. 😀
I hear you! The four year old twins at our house do much better separted as well. Of we all go together, ar very least we separate them in the row!
I have three boys with severe special needs, like big-time autism. We go to Mass every day. And we do mostly because it is our greatest therapy of the day. Besides asking our Dear God for a cure if it is His Will, we are also teaching them how to behave, how to be around others, how to be quiet. . . ish. And mostly, how so very important it is, like eating vegetables every day because it’s good for you . . . only this is much better. Anyhow, my big argument is that, if the children were sitting in perfectly quiet rows in front of our Lord, the Apostles would not have even noticed them! And when they got irritated, Christ Our Lord said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” And in another place He says, “Unless you change and become like a little child you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” So, like you said, I think He wants the little children there with Him. Because they’re pure, they’re innocent! They are actually a good example to us! Our parish is so good, allows us to be there every day, carrying on with all our noises and actions. Of course, I make sure to not be too distracting while teaching my boys how to behave. And I have lots of help without which I would not be able to be there in the first place! And we avoid the nursery as much as we can! Thank you Haley, for writing about this topic! ! God Bless you 🙂
Jane it is always an INSPIRATION to see you and your boys at Mass!! A true witness to the beauty of God’s creation and what it means to love!
Once had a lady who always meddles with my kids at Mass (taking off their jackets, piling up their books, etc., despite our whispered “we’ve got it covered, thanks”) ask me the Sunday after she met my brother who was visiting of he had any kids or if being around my children had turned him off of parenthood forever.
Now, my kids are little and squirmy and if they get louder than library voice we hold them in the back. Our priest and deacon regularly say how happy they are to hear young families in church. We sit with many people who love our family and support us.
But I still cried all the way home.
Barb Smith says
Our parish recently built a new church. The then-pastor specifically had it designed without a “cry room/nursery” for the reasons you stated. I enjoy seeing children in Mass and think that most people use common sense when a little one becomes totally unruly and head to the back of the church. When I see them, I often think about your “Praying with Your Feet” post. I know I spent many Sundays out there with my “strong-willed” child, but hey, it counts!
My family is totally in the season of kids being cray cray at mass. It is so discouraging to be reminded by other parishioners about our church’s cry room and nursery. Your post helps me have some talking points ready that are more appropriate than what I really want to say to those people. THANK YOU!
Holy cow! Can’t believe the nerve of her!
Buuut, this might be a good time to share my story of being on the other side of this situation (because confession is good for the soul, right?)
During Holy Thursday Mass, we were seated behind a dad who was alone with a baby and a toddler. The toddler, who had Down Syndrome, was well-occupied during the first half of Mass, but it was a long homily and then he started getting fidgety. Eventually, he was trying to crawl over the pews, under the pews, throwing his toys, etc. Dad was doing the absolute best he could, and I was thinking to myself that it was just nice that he was here with his kids on a non-day of obligation.
We get back to our van after Mass, and I made a comment about how the Dad in front of us had his hands full. My 16-year old said, “yeah, I told him: ‘you know the cry room is right over there, right?'” I just about died. I was so mortified. My son thought he was being helpful, but I told him that is not the right response. Now, whenever I see this Dad at church, I just want to sink into the ground and disappear.
Oh that is mortifying. But you know what, I think you should just approach that dad and say, I know my kid said something that might have hurt your feelings, but I was so happy to see you bringing your babies to mass. It would make him feel GREAT. And, aren’t you in the same boat – you are both embarrassed about your child’s behavior!
Bravo!!! If we are trying to raise our Children in accordance to what the Church asks us to do after they are baptized, they should be welcomed by all parishioners. I have a daughter with neaurological disabilities. To the untrained eye she appears neurotypical. It has been an incredible struggle to get her into the main area of the church. But we did it!! Baby steps, patience and ignoring the glaring stares of parishioners who expect a “normal” looking child to behave to their standards. She doesn’t have the skill set to appease uptight parishioners so we bring her in and hold our heads up high. Our family has become accustomed to unkind strangers making rash judgements about her behavior. But we no longer take offense and recognize their unkindness is ignorance. We forgive them, move forward and continue bringing our beautiful girl into mass with us.
M Hanks says
This! My son has high functioning autism and looks three years older than he is. He’s still working on behaving, and his younger siblings follow suit. We do our best, but he receives communion, so he has to go, and we do our best every week. It’s a toss up on how it will go, and hard because no one realizes unless they know us. I’ve had my crying moments. Prayers for you all! Just wanted to say I hear ya.
This! This is why I can’t stand when people comment that “parents these days don’t discipline their children.” People have NO idea all the nuances of your life. Or even how old your child is. So someone might assume that “this mom doesn’t have control” but that’s simply not true! I love seeing children at mass and try extra extra extra hard to give people grace when kids are loud or things don’t go as planned. I hope you encounter sweet parishoners who pray for your family! The best response to a loud child at mass is to pray God grants that child the gift of faith.
Many years ago, when my elder daughter was a few months old, I brought her to church. Almost all of the practitioners were quite elderly, and the church did not have a nursery. My child began to cry softly. I held her and rubbed her back, and she stopped. A few minutes later she started howling. I was mortified; I scooped her up and ran from the church. Later that day the pastor called me and said that Jesus always welcomed the cries of little children. I will not forget his kindness.
We attended mass at my mom’s parish and the visiting priest made a comment that parents give children too much attention in mass and that children should learn to sit quietly and behave. Half of the parishioners walked out (with their children in tow). Even though my kids are older and it didn’t pertain to me, it was offensive and I have not been back to that particular church since that incident. I’m sure the Archdiocese of Santa Fe got plenty of complaints because that priest is no longer around. They probably sent in to the smallest town in New Mexico.
Well said. I have a 2 and a half year old and year old. We’ve been fortunate that they are usually pretty quiet to all but those immediately surrounding us. The 1 year old is definitely in a wiggly phase that I’m sure is pretty entertaining to watch us juggle. We have been really blessed by the community from the older couple who sits behind us and takes turns holding our littlest to the woman who came up to me and said, “I’m so distracted watching your beautiful children during Mass that I think I need to go to Confession now. God will forgive me though, he loves children too!” And after the oldest screamed through her entire baptism that was held during Mass, I received SO many words of solidarity from other moms. It’s hard enough WITH the encouragement – I can’t imagine being made to feel guilty for bringing your children to Mass.
Diana Metz says
Love this…you said it so well!! If we harm one of the least of these, His little children, woe unto us. Our little ones are precious in His sight!
I did not even know “the nursery” (as in, “drop kids off here”) was a thing in Catholic Churches (I thought it was a purely Protestant thing) until the following incident: I was attending a super early Mass alone with my three month old, while visiting someone out of state. It was one of those weird round churches, and while I am comfortable nursing in the pew, this set up where everyone was facing the rest of the congregation (instead of the altar) just felt too weird and exposed to do that. So I headed out to the vestibule, looking for a more secluded spot, and saw a sign down the hall that said “Nursery.” I was so excited! I completely expected to see some rocking chairs and a changing table, but opened the door to find a preschool room. With tiny tables and chairs and one woman and one little girl. Very strange, but I sat down to nurse in one of the tiny chairs anyway. [After we finished, we headed back to the main Church, and once in the hall, I heard the little girl ask, “What was that lady doing?” “Feeding her baby,” the woman answered. “Oh, NO, she wasn’t! That’s not how you feed a baby!” replied the little girl.]
Anyway, I have not seen or heard of that in another church since, so I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is? Our parish does offer preschool/K “Sunday School” which is intended as babysitting during one of the Masses, but that seems so strange to me, because by 4 or 5, children are usually pretty well behaved at Mass — it’s the 18 months to 3 years crowd that is so difficult!
Laura Soo says
YES I LOVE THIS POST. I go to church without my spouse, but with some combination of kids 4.5 and 1.5. We got reprimanded by a parishioner once at stations of the cross and it was humiliating. Our church does Children’s Liturgy of the Word for preschoolers, which is a blessing for some (our) family. Kids can still be present for the Eucharist, but not the readings or homily. Another great trick I learned was to train my son at daily mass. Daily mass is nice and short, and ends before he has a chance to get bad. For a while, my son much preferred daily mass to Sunday mass, so we went most Mondays in lieu of Sunday (during the year when he was 2.5-3.5). We had mostly stopped going once he started preschool, but then he wanted to go every day as his promise for Lent. It was such a blessing! And we were greeted with SUCH kindness, wherever we went.
Short masses for wiggly kids are a must. We pick the 7:30 am mass. The older folks love to see kids there since there aren’t many. It lasts about 40 minutes and 17 month old loves the attention from the elderly.
I am an elderly woman who has never married or had children. I often sit in the cry room at church due to a chronological condition. I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy spending Mass with the children who come in there. They are a gift to the church as a whole and to each of us individually. Sometimes their playful pats and gentle slaps and hugs are the only physical contact I have for the week. Sometimes God uses them to offer me an opportunity to work on increasing a particular virtue such as love or patience. How sad that some of our brothers and sisters throw their own opportunities back in His face instead of accepting them with gratitude. My thanks to each and every one of you for bringing your little ones to Mass; for their sakes and for ours.
Che, your comment just went straight to my heart. Bless you.
You have some very good points, and, certainly, young children can learn the Mass by being there with their parents. However, this point I would argue:
“Because the altar isn’t in the nursery. We go to Mass to encounter JESUS in the Blessed Sacrament. And the Holy Scriptures tell us that He wants the little children to come to him.”
What did Jesus mean when He said, “Let the little children come to me”? This is so much more than bringing them to Mass and that, I would argue, is not the best or most important way to bring them to Jesus. First, they are brought to Jesus in Holy Baptism, then through your love and teaching at home. Going to Mass, if they are able to keep from distracting others, is very good but the younger they are, the less important that is in their formation.
What bothers me about many of the remarks above is that it seems parents feel they have the right to keep their children at Mass no matter what. If children are a distraction, they should be taken out, immediately. If they really are incapable of behaving well for much of Mass, a parent should stay home with them (as Saint Therese’s parents did with her–not because she couldn’t behave well, but it was customary at the time to keep children to the age of 4 or 5 at home until they were able to appreciate something of the Mass and behave respectfully).
What is the purpose of Mass? To pray! It is the RIGHT of every parishioner to pray the Mass and if children are keeping anyone from focusing on Jesus, they need to be taken out..
Dear moms, you can ignore the comments of others regarding your children. Just do your best, respect the others present. Try to get past caring about what others think–keep your and your family’s eyes fixed on Jesus. That’s what He wants.
Respectfully, I am not sure I agree that the purpose of Mass is “to pray” in that sense … I’d love to hear some other thoights on this, though …. The Mass is a sacrifice, and while it is important that we be there, The Mass itself is what it is regardless of whether we are there, or what we “contribute.” And it is a communal form of worship which is different from private prayer (for example, a holy hour made during Adoration). So I don’t think that we are entitled or have a right to, for example, the silence of a monastery.
I definitely agree that parents need to remove misbehaving children, and make an effort to keep the, quiet and focused, but it is a learning process and takes time (and by the time it happens, there is often another little one!) And I’ve never really seen people who *don’t* do that. (Although I’m sure they exist.) Generally parents are *more* aware of (and embarrassed by) the noise levels of their children than others are.
I really do struggle with the idea of keeping littles home, though, because I feel so much of their habit formation is done by age 5 or so. My 3 year old knows Sunday is for Church, and he wants to “go see Jesus” and genuflectes and says “I love you Jesus” when we get there. And then … often sometime in the next hour he loses it and we redirect, shush, and sometimes have to step outside. But I can’t help feel that it’s still better than being left home to sleep in or have all the toys to himself on a Sunday morning. I’m not sure how one would suddenly make the switch at 5 (especially because going to Mass is not reinforced by our general culture, and there isn’t a cultural custom of suddenly beginning to bring children to church at 5.)
I do take my children out if they’re being poorly behaved, but I think a standard of not having them there if they’re a distraction at all is high. Lots and lots of things can be distracting at Mass, for lots and lots of people. For example, I find the following things more distracting than even a crying baby or wiggly toddler: perfume, very loud singing, coughing, sniffling, sighing. For other people, certain clothing might be a distraction. Or any manner of other things. It is important for us to be cognizant of our potential impact on fellow parishioners and to attempt to minimize distractions. So people shouldn’t douse themselves in a bottle of strong perfume, should dress appropriately, and should try to shush noisy children as much as they can out of care for the other people attending. But we do not have a right to a distraction-free Mass. Why? Because what distracts a person is individual, and is often more to do with the distracted person. I don’t get to ban perfume wearers and people with seasonal allergies (who may cough and sniffle) at the door, and I wouldn’t want to. It’s my issue that those things distract me, and I need to work on my focus. Pretty much all parents try really hard to make sure their kids aren’t noisy and distracting. But sometimes they will be. As this post highlights, some people will be distracted by their mere presence- either because they’re so fixated on the thought that the children might act up that they can’t stop watching for it or because they think the kids are so cute that they keep looking over. But telling people to keep their kids home isn’t the solution. Charity toward our fellow parishioners (from babies up to adults) and working on our own discipline and ability to focus are the answers.
Oh I am so sorry, Haley. I know how terrible that feels! Two summers ago, we were at our new parish and a woman hit my son in the middle of Mass because she was annoyed that he was fidgeting. He really wasn’t being terrible (by my standards!) and I was so shocked that I hardly knew what to do! I pray for these people, often with gritted teeth. I know it’s a struggle for so many moms. Hang in there!! Your parish is blessed to have your family there!
Melissa H-K says
She did WHAT? During MASS? Unbelievable!
Patti Youngblood says
First off, I was raised Methodist and there was always nursery and Sunday school , first time I ever met my husband’s family was for his younger sister’s First Communion and his family filed into the pew Mom first then younger, younger, older, younger, older, younger, older, younger, older, younger, Dad. We sat on the pew behind as the family filled an entire pew. We now go to the “older people” 7:30 mass and when my husband talks about no young families, I tell him we need to go to 9:30 or 11:30 where children’s Liturgy of the Word is offered and there are many more families. I love to see families in church, God created all of us and loves all of us whether a 50 year old single man or a family like my nephew with 3 boys under the age of 5.
I should have said, “The purpose of our Mass attendance is to pray.” Of course, the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ and that happens with or without us.
But, please don’t miss the point. Charity requires us to think of others before ourselves, their rights before mine. You give a better example to your children by teaching them to be respectful of those around them than by insisting on their and your right to be at Mass above all else.
I have raised four children and have been where you young moms are now. Be patient. Your children will grow and soon enough be able to participate in Mass quietly and prayerfully. In a few years, they will be receiving their first Holy Communion. You don’t have to push them now. Let them be as they are able, and where they’re not able, give them help. But teach them charity toward others above all.
Alan J. Reynolds says
I didn’t read all the comments but I’ve wondered for some time if the exclusion of our kids from worship has contributed to the devastating drop in Church attendance.
Laurel S. says
I agree. I went to a church on vacation last month. There were probably close to 700-800 people there. Huge. There were maybe ten other children other than ours. It was shocking. How is that parish going to function in thirty years?
I can’t even start with this. So I will just say YES! Amen! One thousand amens! Take your babies to Mass. Please!
Your congregation doesn’t know how fortunate it is to have young families. We spent a year in France and families with young children were so rare we received near royal treatment when attending mass. The children were cooed over by everyone and nursery, what is that, no such thing in the centuries old churches.
We don’t have a nursery or “crying room”. Our priest told the parish that if the kids were loud he’d just talk louder. I love him.
Jill Wise says
I have a handicapped daughter, and she spontaneously giggled loudly one Sunday during the gospel. Fr. Ken Schaefer was our priest at that time, and he stopped talking, cupped his hand to his ear and said, “Hark, I hear an angel singing!” After the laughter, he continued. He was a well-loved priest!
Franklin P. Uroda says
Agree, and furthermore, IMO, there should be a permanent petition in the Prayer Of The Faithful for Children-innocent, vulnerable, fragile-along with all those other intentions.
Mary Charbonneau says
I am now 71 and my children have their own children. However, I was very fortunate to have known a catholic priest since I was 12 in Ottawa. He baptized our 3 children. We did not have a Sunday school or a nursery when my kids were young. Fr John Ruth accepted and welcomed all the children at church and spoke of God welcoming the little children. He also accepted the group from L’Arche Ottawa…homes for people who were mentally challenged…and they were part of the community. Both our children and our friends might have been a slight distraction at times but, they were accepted. God’s people come in all shapes, sizes, emotional, physical and mental capacities and that is why this life on earth is so interesting and will also be in the here-after. There is room for each of us! Thank God!
Mary Jo says
I Love this, whenever I sit by a family with children, I try and make a real effort before they leave to tell them how well behaved their children were, I for one, took my children to Mass whenever I could when they were little, when 2 were in school, I took the other 2 to Mass, and guess what, one of them became a priest., and Oh by the way , he is the one that shared this post with me .
As I am not a Catholic, I never commented on a catholic-themed post in this blog. But today I DO have something to share to the discussion. Just a clarification: I was born in a catholic family and in a mostly catholic country, I was baptised, had my first communion etc. So I am very familiar with church “proceedings”, am just no longer a believer. So, on to my story. Yesterday we all went to mass to celebrate my goddaughter’s (she is my niece) confirmation. Although my husband and I are no longer catholics we always attend masses celebrating the life of friends (baptisms, funerals and everything in between). I make a point of being the utmost respectful by dressing appropriately, standing at the right moments, etc. And since we a had a baby, we always take him with us. He’s now 17 months and everyone likes to see him there. I’ve nursed him in during mass, I’ve feed him cookies, he has cried, giggle, everything. And no one has ever questioned or commented. Yesterday, while leaving the pews, he bumped his fist on the back of an older man and he turned around, asked how old was he, his name, said he was very handsome and asked me when we would ask God for a girl. And really, since we are not there to worship we would gladly take him outside if he was being disruptive, but no one here seems to want children to leave the church. And crying rooms? That’s a strange concept. Most of our churches are centuries old! Maybe it’s more of a cultural american thing? The scouts here are organised by the church and they go mass together in they’re uniform and sit in the front pews. Some of them help with altar service. So we could say that the church itself ARRANGES for children to be in mass, supervised by teenagers scouts. That’s how they learn to behave in mass.
I enjoyed reading your story. I have raised 3 girls and am currently helping to raise my 3 yr old granddaughter. I agree that it is important to bring your child to Mass, and people who make snide comments should really pray harder in my opinion for God to teach them compassion. That being said, the only problem i have ever had with children at Mass, is the parents who ignore when they do act up. Fidgety, accidentally being loud, whatever….. most times you can tell them shh and they are ok. But for the ones who scream, and cry and are climbing over and under pews with the parents acting like they don’t even see that….. thats what irritates me. Yes, children have every right to be at Church, but they need to act appropriate, just like the adults. If they can’t stay quiet, then they need to be taken out. Same with adults, who think they should check their phones, and have conversations during Mass. Its not fair to others who are there to not be able to hear the Homily or Readings because someones child is having a meltdown and the parents refuse to remove them. I have often helped when i see a parent struggling to keep the kids calm, pickup their toys they drop, etc. … but when the child is throwing hymnals, being obnoxious, i think that there is a big difference than just having the right to bring them to Church.
Christopher Hatcher says
A wise man once told me “the sound of children during mass is the sign of a growing church”. As a father of 4, word’s that will always stick with me. Thanks TK
Br. Isaac says
Don’t forget that kids at Mass bring an aspect of the Kingdom of God to everyone else. It is not just the kids that are being enriched by their presence, it is the rest of the congregation as well (if we are open to it).
I’m a Byzantine Catholic Monk, and it makes me so happy to see the Monastery Church filled with kids on Sunday. I love the joyful sounds they make to the Lord. I love when they are well behaved. I love when they are not well behaved. They are kids! Even a crying or screaming baby helps make the reality of the Kingdom of God more obvious.
It’s hard to go through a Liturgy when families are there without a kid making a noise that causes us monks to give glory to God for that child.
Melissa H-K says
Thank you, Brother. That is beautiful.
My grandmother tells a story about a time 45 years ago when, in her small Northeastern town, she got up to leave Mass because my dad (the baby) was fussy during the homily.
Mid homily the priest stopped and said, “Barbara, don’t you dare take that child out of this church. He needs to be here and a quiet church is a dying church.” Everyone froze. No one dared chastised my grandmother or any other parent with a wiggly little person.
Now my dad is a deacon in central Texas (crazy how life works)! And when we take our kids to church we sit up front so we don’t have to see the looks when our 8 and 3 yo get wiggly or ask questions, but this also helps them be fully engaged in the mass.
God bless you and good luck.
Patricia Bartnick says
I am a mama and a grandma and i always pray to the children’s and the parents’ guardian angels when the ‘natives are restless’ :0) This is a great post and i think more people need to understand the struggle. May i reprint it in the parish bulletin where i work? How would i obtain permission? Thank you!
Jann Elaine says
I think the “children should not be seen and not heard” mentality is a largely American thing, though is growing in any industrialized nation where birth rates are stagnant etc. I just saw stats today indicating almost half of [Americans] think there should be a separate section on airlines for families. Last time I flew trans-Atlantic I had an (American) woman loudly complain about “WHO would take a baby on an overseas flight?!” as we were waiting to board. It worked out though because my little trooper didn’t make a peep, and the woman was seated nearby…hopefully we changed a few hearts and minds. So it’s not a church thing. It’s a society thing.
But I do agree with another commenter that part of the problem is that parents today have lost authority and simply don’t parent, and that includes disciplining bad behavior. And they assume that society/the parish should just deal with their (rude, distracting) children. A whole host of problems happen when people stop having big families, and stop learning how to handle them…your baby is screaming? Step outside earshot, return when he’s done. Your toddler is whining? Spank his naughty bottom and return when he’s calm and collected. Your 6 year old does NOT need to be banging around her 74 pack of colored markers on the pew next to me. She needs to sit up, and be quiet. I’m SUPPOSE I’m glad there’s lots of priests that encourage (loud) babies at mass, but the truth is that children under the age of reason (7ish) technically don’t even need to go to mass. Yeah it’s a lot easier if they learn habits early, and if you don’t have childcare, AND it’s good for them to be in the presense of Our Lord etc. But the church doesn’t demand wee ones be present, neither should we.
My problem (now that I’m in Europe) taking my nearly 2 year old to mass (Daily and Sundays) is that people tend to distract HER: usually sweet old ladies talking to her, showing her things out of their purses, etc. It kind of annoys me because I’m trying to get her to focus (or at least learn she doesn’t always need to be entertained), but I’m very aware that it’s a good problem to have; I would much rather have that than dirty looks. I appreciate so much that I can take my child to mass to worship Our Lord. She is blessed to be there, but she (and I or Daddy) need(s) to act with respect and charity while there, and also need to accept the fact that some people may be nasty to her existence for whatever the reason (bad experiences? No patience? Raised in an culture of death?) and they DON’T need to be given a snarky/prepared retort unless they are HONESTLY and sincerely asking why she’s there. Actions speak louder than words…as do well behaved children.
Anyhow, who’s to blame? Everyone who isn’t always on their best behavior. That includes loud toddlers, uncharitable priests, complaining parishoners, lazy parents who think “oh, they are being quiet enough,” grandparents who never witnessed to their own children by having big families. We’re all sinners, looks like. Oh well. Good thing His mercy is free and abundant.
Among the Eastern Orthodox (at least the more traditional congregations) there has
never been a “nursery”. The younger parishioners are fully integrated into the congregation from the hour of baptism. If the person is still an infant and one of its godparents is present, the child is passed to the godparent to be held at communion time while the Holy Gifts are placed in its mouth. For some feasts the children are there for hours on end, through vespers, matins, the lesser hours and then liturgy in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes one will act up and be taken outside for a while, but that is rare. If they get tired, they are allowed to take a nap on the benches while their parents stand. I knew one 4-year-old who would serve at the altar through the whole thing without the slightest breach of discipline. Nobody thought anything of it.
We’re Lutheran, but have similar beliefs about children in the service. Also, for those complaining about children wiggling and not getting anything out of it, research shows that young children actually learn more when allowed to wiggle and make a certain amount of noise–if they have to focus all their energy on being still and quiet, there’s no focus left over for what’s going on around them.
You’d be amazed at what they pick up even when they don’t seem to be paying attention. My four-year-old can identify songs that we sing at church from other songs (I have a Christian Spotify playlist that’s a mix of arrangements of hymns, praise songs, etc. and he knows the hymns that we have sung at church even when in a different arrangement, and knows which ones we haven’t sung, even when in traditional hymn style). He can’t wait to be old enough to “eat Jesus” and loves to go up to Communion, even though he wants to partake and not just receive his blessing. So remember that even the kids you see wiggling and being “too distracting” are still learning!
I have never been one to be bothered by children at Mass. Even before I had my own.
My 2 oldest now serve in the children’s choir while my youngest sits with us. One Sunday in particular, the youngest had been restless through the entire Mass and had gone back and forth between my husband and I. The choir was singing a song after communion and that was when my son decided he was going to lose ALL of the religion he’d gained in his short 2.5 years. He was just starting to scream as I threw him at my husband and whisper-yelled “GET HIM OUT OF HERE!” We sit pretty close to the front, right next to the choir and I was, of course, mortified.
I was still flustered after Mass when an older woman walked up to me. I braced myself as I could feel the scolding coming. She touched me on the shoulder and said, “Your little one was fine. A church without children is dead.” Tears immediately filled my eyes and they still do every time I think of her. As my children get older, I always go out of my way to sit near families with little ones and always offer up a reassuring smile.
I do love the nursery and agree: no judgment for parents who use it or the cry room.
Catholic moms need to start being more vocal about kids at mass. (In the most humble way possible) my answer to “why don’t you take your kids to the nursery?” is a very clear “you’re welcome.”
I brought my kids. You’re welcome. We’re in a bit of a crisis of people leaving the church, but I’m raising the next generation of children ON FIRE for Jesus. You’re welcome.
Y’all told me I couldn’t use birth control. So here are my kids. And y’all told me I have to be at mass on Sunday. Again, here are my kids.
*prays for humility, but also a bit more sass*
I am the mother of five children who no longer choose to attend Mass every week with me so I would give ANYTHING to have them sit in Mass with me at any age. I purposely sit behind young families because I enjoy children and applaud any parents wiling to take the time to bring their children.
This makes me think of the lovely lady commenting on my 3 year old last year at the school Stations of the Cross. “Next time, leave him at home.”
I smiled and said to a friend in the pew “Don’t you just love the verse in the Bible where Jesus says ‘let the children come to me, BECAUSE JESUS LOVES CHILDREN.'” And then smiled a big smile so I wouldn’t lose it….
Amen! It’s such a blessing to have priests live on the families with Little’s. We have 3 , oldest is almost 6. and the twins are almost 4. I remember the early days when I was still largely pregnant with the twins and the ,then 18 month old, was fascinated by the beautiful windows and echoes of the cathedral. We were new to the parish and my hubby liked it because it reminded him of his home parish in Chile. But after getting many “um seriously, there’s a nursery” looks we decided to try another parish. I really put this in God’s hands and visited a different one based on a friend’s recommendation. I was willing to go to whichever parish my hubby proffered. We ended up at the different parish recommended to us. People openly welcomed our family and we had made many meaning connections because of that. We have struggled with leaving the kids in the nursery or in the pews. Once the twins turned 2 it was CHAOS. My children are all very active and are big daddy’s girls. I was the hard-nosed mom who wanted them in the pews. My hubby wanted to be actually able to hear the Mass (he’s a non-native speakers). The girls all wanted to be on his arms. I tormented myself over all this, argued with my hubby (almost every Sunday) and finally decided to give up and let them all go to the nursery. Since they’ve grown up and have been attending preschool we’re transitioning them back to the pews. It involves:
-potty runs before we leave and when we arrive at church. The potty it the power trip they try to pull when they are bored with sitting still
-quiet activities for them to do
-DAILY MASS!!! That has been a great help. It’s shorter and helps to train them to stay.
I have a question. I am single so cannot speak from experience and really will never truly know all the trials that parents go through. I do try and pray for the parents and child if the child is having a melt down. I think children should be brought to church as this article says, how can we wonder why young people no longer come to church now if their whole experience has not been one of welcome and inclusion? I do, however, get irritated when I see parents with children take their seats and the parents immediately pull out containers of snacks and toys for the kids to eat and play. I guess I don’t understand how this will lead to them appreciating that church is a place of worship and mass is the offering of a sacrifice. To me it seems like we are teaching them that church is just another place where they can eat and play. I will never be in the situation of having to bring a child to mass and be responsible for their behavior and I don’t mean to offend but to understand the reasoning behind this. Is bringing snacks and toys so the child can eat and play their way through mass a good way of ensuring good behavior? The kids I’ve seen have been any where from toddlers to 5 and 6 year olds.
I think that’s a good question, Ezzy! The thing is that it just completely depends on the child. For my kids, snacks were super distracting to them (and to me). So we would load them up with a snack just before Mass and then give them one in the car after Mass instead. But depending on a child’s needs, sometimes snacks are actually really helpful in keeping things calm and quiet in the pew. As for toys, we prefer books because the worst thing they can do is drop them loudly. Toys like cars sometimes merit sound effects and can be setting your kids up to be distracted or distracting. But I’ve learned that parents generally know what options are going to work best with their children and sometimes there are special needs at play that are impossible to know about unless you know the child personally.
Thank you that makes a lot of sense. I think that it is great for parents to bring kids to mass especially on a week day. God bless all parents and their children.
Great article! We always sat by the choir in hopes to keep the kids entertained while drowning out their noisiness. I begged my husband to go to separate masses when the girls were small. But he wouldnt budge. Now half of them are Confirmed and active members in our church!
A wise priest once told us ” If the church isn’t crying, then the church is dying.” Words I share with other parents! I hope I remember all of this as I age and am patient with young families.
Janet K. says
We are catholic and our parish has a fairly good size nursery and it is staffed during mass my volunteer moms and teen girls.Last October,it was me and my 17 year old daughters turn to cover the nursery for mass the one sunday morning.About 20 minutes before mass,a mom and her 14 year old daughter came in to the nursery,and the mom told us that her daughter is newly adopted and not used to mass yet and that she wanted to leave her in the nursery.She told us that her daughter is in diapers due to her wetting accidents and she had a diaper bag that she left for us.The girl was wearing a blouse and short skirt and both me and the daughter saw she had cloth diapers and rubberpants on under the skirt! The mom left and the girl went over and sat down on the floor and started playing with the stuffed animals.About a half hour later,the girl told us she was wet,so she got up on the changing table and took a pacifier off the shelf and put it in her mouth,the daughter and i took off her rubberpants and unpinned the wet diapers and put them in a plastic bag.We cleaned her up,then took the fresh diapers out of her diaper bag and pinned them on her.The only pair of rubberpants in her diaper bag had babyprints on them which we thought was weird,and we put them on her,then she went back to playing on the floor.It was quite unusual having a 14 year old girl in the nursery in diapers!