Q – I have little children who are sometimes loud during Mass. Sometimes they just babble a bit or talk a little too loud, but other times they are downright wailing and fussing. I want to participate in the Mass, and I want them to get the graces from being present in the Mass (even if they are wiggly and fussy), but I’m not sure what I should do. I see other families just wait out the crying with their children, but I feel that it might be distracting to other Mass-goers. What do you think? Should I take my fussy child out of Mass, or stay in the pew and hope it doesn’t last long and doesn’t disturb those around me. Thank you!
A – Thanks for the question. Archbishop Sheen once said that a woman got up during Mass and started to take her crying baby to the back of the church during the homily. Archbishop Sheen said, “My dear lady, that is ok, your baby isn’t bothering me.” The woman turned and replied, “Maybe not, but you are bothering him!”
For the answers to this issue, we have to look at this from several different perspectives. Both have the same answer – we are called to love others and act with charity.
**From the perspective of others at Mass**
My family is at the stage where my kids are quiet. They might squirm and not pay attention, but they are quiet. So, when I go to Mass, I don’t have to go to the back (i.e. take The Walk of Humility), sit in a cry room, deal with noisy kids, etc. But, I do have to listen to the babies and toddlers of others who make a lot of noise. Sometimes I am annoyed, other times I am not. It depends on how well I am handling it exterior distractions that day.
In other words, from my current perspective of someone without small noisy kids, the problem is my own. How I choose to handle it is on me. Distractions in Mass will happen, so the question is how will I handle them?
I am not in control of other parents’ crying kids. I am in control of my own interior peace. What might help others in my same situation is remembering where we are and why we are there.
In Mass, we are at the foot of the cross once again. Vatican II says:
“As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about.” -LG 3
So, all of us who participate in Mass are part of one Mystical Body of Christ – the Church – who come together to partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which is most profoundly offered to us, once again, in The Eucharist.
Therefore – these crying babies can be seen as the wailing women of Jerusalem who are crying because the Christ has been re-presented as a living sacrifice for us in the bloodless sacrifice of The Mass!
These children have just as much of a need for grace as we do and as much right to be there as we do. So, if anyone is sinning, it is the person having terrible thoughts about a child or parent who have the right to be in the same place we are. It is most likely you cried in Mass too as a baby, if you were raised Catholic. Children in Mass = hope for the future.
It is an act of charity to not cast judgment on others, but to look interiorly for the answer to your distractions. Remember, these are the only truly sinless saints in the entire building!
Now, having said that, let us look at the other side of the coin.
**From the perspective of a parent of loud kids at Mass** I know of no parents who want to have their kid wailing loudly in Mass. It isn’t as if we go to Mass looking to have everyone give us “the look” or get attention for our kids’ behavior. Yet, some parents seem to be oblivious to the fact that their kid(s) might be a distraction to others, when they get too loud. If you are a parent, then the simple answer is to take your kids to the back (or cry room) when they start making loud noises. Most people understand that kids are going to get loud and the vast majority don’t have a problem with a crying baby or a toddler throwing a fit, if it doesn’t go on but for a very short time. The problem most people have is with parents who seem to wait forever to take their kids to the back of church (or cry room) where they will be less of a distraction. Remember – the kid is doing nothing wrong by being loud. They don’t know any better. But, as a parent, you can help others. So, parents of loud children need to react fairly quickly to get them out of the situation. Disciplining your children from a young age is a good thing for them. But, it starts by being disciplined yourself in how you parent. No child should be allowed to cry or yell with no foreseeable end to it, while you sit in the pew. Nor should they be allowed to play in the aisle (or back), get food all over, etc. Because I do not like the cry room and always like to have my kids sit up front (which holds a child’s attention better), my suggestions are below. They are based on getting 5 kids through the infant and toddler years, without anyone dying (yet!).
- If the baby is under 1 year-old, then take them to the back when they start to cry after a short period of seeing if you can quiet them and they still make noise. Once they are quiet, return to your seat.
- If the child is over 1, then take them to the back after a short time of crying / throwing a fit, but do not allow them to get on the floor or play. If you give them what they want, they will learn that throwing a fit / crying gets them playtime in the back of church.
- I like the general guideline of about 15 seconds to try and quiet a child. Some believe this is too long and some believe it is too short. Regardless, try and be prudent about when to take your child to the back.
It is an act of charity towards those who don’t handle distractions well, to quiet your child quickly or take them out of the pew quickly. Also, some parents are even louder than their kids when they try to quiet them. Please try and use whispers and a quiet voice when instructing your children in Mass.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” -Matt19:14
One final thought – a church without crying babies is a church with no future.