Babies crying at Mass...

Blogged by James Preece on 5th April 2012

Ours is a culture that despises childhood, we want our children to be like adults in every possible way as early as they can. Including at Mass, where we expect three year olds to sit respectfully like thirty year olds.

Some people think that kids who make any noise at Mass need to be in a sound-proof room (i.e. a “cry room”) so they don’t bother anybody.

Here’s the deal: The average “cry room” holds like 5 families. Multiply that times about 3 Masses and that means the average parish is set up to accomodate 15 young families for Sunday Mass each week.

The average parish has about 1200 families. About half of those (~600) have kids under the age of 18. Of those, there are probably (I’m guessing now) 200 or so with kids under the age of 3. Pretty much every kid under three years old I know is loud and rowdy and has trouble understanding how to be reverent at Mass.

So the average parish needs to accomodate 200 families with at least one kid who is rowdy and loud. And it has space for 15 in the cry room (and we wonder why we only have 15 show up to Mass).

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Indeed.

When you hear a child crying during Mass, let the sound of those tears call to mind the mystery of the Cross. The Holy Mass is, of course, one with the true sacrifice offered by Christ once for all upon the Cross at Golgotha. The Mass is a sacrifice, it is the Cross.

Consider: Who was weeping at the Cross? And who was insensitive to those sounds of weeping?

When St. Thomas Aquinas chronicles the torments which our Savior suffered in his ignominious Passion, the Angelic Doctor ends with the following pain, which was most grievous of all:

“Christ suffered in all his bodily senses: […] in sight, by beholding the tears of his Mother and of the disciple whom he loved.” [ST III, q.46, a.5 (here)]

Let the sound of toddlers and infants weeping (and even wailing) call to mind for you the tears shed by the Sorrowful Mother of our Savior, and by St. John the Beloved. Can you hear the wailing of St. Mary Magdalene, she who was overcome with grief? Consider also the other devout women, who wept strait through from Friday till early Sunday morning.

Think even of poor St. Peter, far away now, weeping alone – having betrayed the Lord whom he loved, more even than all the others.

And who was it that did not weep? The soldiers … ignorant, and brutal. The crowd … fickle and unloving. The priests, scribes and Pharisees … filled with hate.

Of these, it was the Jewish authorities more than the others who took offense at the noise of those who wailed and wept. These ones, righteous in their own estimation, had not even the charity to be touched by the tears of the Blessed Mother.

And how can I, or any, cast a spiteful glance in the direction of a crying child (or his parents)? How can I, or any, wish these children to be exiled from my presence? Am I, or you, so holy as to be above charity?

For the love of our Savior, let the sounds of these crying children call these thoughts to mind. From the lips of babes, our Lord has found praise – and we will have been instructed in the sublime mystery of the Cross.

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Any young families coming to Mass for the first time should know this - your children crying is not the problem. The grumpy grouch head with the stern stare is the problem. Jesus wants you to come to Mass and he wants to hear your children.

Anyway, my number one piece of advice that I give everybody is this: sit close to the front where the kids can see! It might upset the grumpy people, but it means they might associate the Mass with something other than the back of somebody's head. The very front pew even has some space on the floor in front for your kids to run around and... er... that last part was a joke... kind of.

Thanks to Fr Tim Finigan whose blog entry I have stolen. I hope I've managed to spell his name right this time!

Update: Joseph Shaw has a good post on this here.