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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.
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.
- 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.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” -Matt19:14
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