Your Screaming Kids Are Distracting Me

Crying Cecilia 2I was at a holy hour the other night, totally focused and immersed in my thoughts, when from the back of the church came the sound of a wailing toddler.  Just like that, I lost it.  I was completely distracted by some kid who was far too young to be stuck sitting in a church.

And thank God for that.

See, I was totally focused on planning the rest of my night.  I was coming up with a packing list and deciding which posts I could update before I headed out in the morning.  I was thinking about the songs I have on my new smartphone and wondering if the USPS would forward the package I had shipped to the house I was staying at in time for me to get it at the house I was staying at next.  Yeah, I was focused, all right.  Focused on me.

Then that kid started screaming, and I snapped out of it.  I heard the dulcet tones of a toddler tantrum and couldn’t help but thank God for the luxury of silent prayer.  I heard footsteps and a door opening and offered a prayer for the patience of that poor parent.  I prayed for those who were really angry about the disturbance.  I prayed in thanksgiving for the gift of life.

Parents, I know all too well the frustration of taking little ones to Mass.  I calculated this evening (when I should have been praying) that I’ve taken little ones 4 and under to Mass by myself at least 200 times.  So while I’m not a parent, I know the frustration and awkwardness and even shame of that experience.

Case in point: John Paul isn’t so great at first person pronouns.  He refers to himself as “you.”  This was great when he was potty training and announced at the top of his lungs during the Eucharistic prayer, “You awe weawing undewweaw!!”  There were definitely panty line checks all around the sanctuary.

I’ve gotten plenty of dirty looks.  But more often, by God’s grace, I’ve gotten affirmation.  People thank me for bringing “my” kids and compliment me on their behavior.  Once after John Paul threw a particularly loud fit at Mass, an elderly man came up to me and told me it was the holiest sound he’d heard all day.  “He reminded me that I’m alive,” he said with a smile.

But more often than not you don’t notice the smiles.  You notice the rolled eyes and raised eyebrows and dirty looks and you think that at best you’re not making anyone angry.  But that’s not true–at best, you’re making the people around you saints.  You’re pulling them out of their self-obsession and reminding them that being at Church is about emptying ourselves for God and each other.

Prayer is so often just a veil for narcissism.  We talk and talk and talk about ourselves and then slap an “Amen” on the end and consider ourselves holy.  When your kids start screaming, it distracts us from ourselves.  We start praying for you.  Or for them.  We pray for single parents.  We pray in thanksgiving for our grown children or we beg for screaming children of our own.

I was visiting with my grandmother the other day and mentioned that Cecilia shouted stream-of-consciousness for the entire Mass today.  She said, “Oh, do they let children in the church?”  Needless to say, she’s not Catholic.  But it’s an attitude I’ve found from some Catholics.  “Until they’re old enough to sit quietly,” they say, “leave them at home.”  Or maybe “You know there’s a cry room, right?”  As if the Mass is their personal property and they get to decide who stays and who goes.

Jesus embraced children, folks, and so does our Church.  If you don’t want to hear them cry, the solution is not to remove the holy little ones from the church.  The solution is for you to go to the 7am quickie Mass or the solemn high Mass that takes 3 hours.  Find a Mass kids aren’t going to and shut yourself up in that one.

Or maybe offer up your distractions and frustrations for their parents, who are so much more distracted and frustrated than you.  Take this as a sign that God is calling you out of yourself.

Ooh look at her shoes! I wonder how many states have more vowels than consonants. How far is it from here to Maine? I should make a pie this afternoon. 3.14159. What would I even do with a giant mouse suit?

Because if the normal noises of normal children are going to distract me, I was going to be distracted anyway.  By cute clothes or cute men or split ends or whatever1.  And nobody’s suggesting that we wear burqas to Mass or segregate our congregations or require frequent trims.  Unlike most of the thoughts that grab my easily-distracted mind, the screams of your children are a distraction that draw me to deeper prayer.

So take them to the cry room if you want–or stay in the pew.  Lord knows that at many churches if you’re in the cry room you’re practically not at Mass, it’s such a circus in there.  Keep them as quiet as you can however you want to–I won’t judge.  They’re going to be ridiculous and you’re gong to be embarrassed, but taking them to Mass gives them grace, earns you years off of purgatory, and breaks my hardened heart just a little bit.

On behalf of those of us who don’t understand the sacrifices you make to bring your kids to the wedding feast, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for judging you and being annoyed at you and rolling my eyes and everything else that focuses on me instead of on us.  Your kids are a very important part of us, even–especially–when they won’t stop yelling.

Because yes, your kids are distracting me.  They’re distracting me from my narcissism.  They’re distracting me from the idol I’ve made of worship, making me encounter God as he really is, not as I want him to be.  They’re distracting me from the endless series of irrelevant thoughts that occupy my “praying” mind.

Your screaming kids are distracting me.  Thank you for that.

  1. I’m not kidding.  I seriously examine my hair for split ends during the penitential rite.  Really, your toddler is the least of my spiritual worries []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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272 Responses to Your Screaming Kids Are Distracting Me

  1. Marilynne says:

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post. We had some rowdy kids in church today at the “late service” – the one all the older people go to. I didn’t see any rolled eyes or dirty looks. However the mother was totally embarrassed and didn’t know what to do with them. Thankfully our “cry room” is just where you come in and she could take them out just for a little while. Our Pastor said something like “my kids would probably be right down in front if they were here.” The mother probably didn’t hear it. She was probably taking her children out one more time.

    • marya says:

      “the mother was totally embarrassed and didn’t know what to do” with her crying baby. How about taking the crying baby out of mass? Or not bringing a baby in the first place? Its not really a good place for young children; wait until they’re older. Its a religious occasion, for many adults the only hour in the week they have for peace and reflection and to receive the sacrament. And instead they have to listen to squealing and screaming babies and children.

      • Harsha says:

        I’m sorry, did you not read the article at all?

        • Kateri says:

          “Jesus embraced children, folks, and so does our Church.”
          Have you ever looked into the Church’s Jewish roots?
          Jesus did embrace and love children and women he felt were very important and not chattle. In His time and in his religion: “In the Temple, women had access only to the Courts of the Gentiles and of Women, and during periods of uncleanness (for example, the monthly purification and for 40 days after the birth of a boy and 80 days after the birth of a girl) they were not even allowed there.” Mostly the children were kept with the women until a certain age with the children could be with their fathers in the main part of the temple. Her ineligibility to perform in public religious life is reflected in the ancient synagogue prayer: ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord God, king of the universe, who hast not made me a woman.’
          She was to observe the Sabbath, to keep herself ritually clean and to perform significant domestic rituals, for religion affected not only public life but that of the home as well.” In these modern times it has been the women who controled the religious outcomes of their offspring and it’s also their place to pracetic pious acts even at home.

      • Mary Beth says:

        My son once exclaimed, loudly, during Mass, “”penis!!”.

      • Tara S says:

        The Pope said I could! And should! So I will! Let us not be more Catholic than the Pope.

        • Tara S says:

          Also, if it helps, I almost always offer my own frustrations and weariness managing my four kids for the anger and frustrations of the grown ups who think kids don’t belong there. So you have LOTS of earnest prayers coming your way. 🙂

      • Kathy Duffy Thomas says:

        I disagree. Jesus welcomed the little children. We must become as children to be with God. It actually gives me physical pain to read “it’s not really a good place for children.” Worship, to me, is not the cheap grace of a quiet meditative hour, but the act of living and loving in a community that makes annoying noises, asks loud questions (like a lovely half-deaf 90 year old in my church does), and says really irritating things. Really. Irritating. Things.

  2. Chris says:

    Awesome! This blog needs an RSS feed so I can put it in my Google Reader…

    • Meg says:

      It used to have one…I think it does again. Let me know if it works for you–and thanks 🙂

    • Emily says:

      You can just copy the URL, click the red “subscribe” button in the top left corner of reader, and paste the URL into the box that comes up.
      Great blog post, thank you.

  3. Marci Abels says:

    Thanks, Meg, you give us some really great thoughts on faith, prayer, sharing, and charity. I have also been on both ends of that situation, and always try to remember the needs of the people around us, the needs of my own soul, and the needs of the small charges I bring to the Lord’s house. We can only teach them love of our God by showing them what it means to us.

  4. Chrissy says:

    Doesn’t everyone constantly calculate how far it is from their location to Maine? Loved this post, Meg!

  5. Judi C says:

    Thank you for this post. I have a 1.5yo and 2.5yo. Our Church does not have a cry room. For the first time, since the younger one was a tiny baby, 2 weeks ago I attempted to take both of them to Mass. The usher ended up asking me to leave during the Homily. By “leave” he meant stand in the vestibule and let my children run wild while I “try” to participate in Mass. Not a solution in my book. My boys were not even screaming, they were just being little boys. I was actually enjoying Mass and thought it was going quite well, with the no screaming part. Although, my 2yo kept telling me to sit down during the stand up parts.

    • CDville says:

      That usher should have his badge revoked. If we expect even single mothers to welcome children and not abort them, we must welcome them, too. The usher and folks in church only had an hour of inconvenience. The young mother has 18 years. She needs Jesus, and He has made Himself available in that church.

    • Mother of 2.5 yo. says:

      How inappropriate of the usher! I would have said, “no, thank you, we’re fine right where we are.”

  6. Carrie Setzkorn says:

    I love this. As a family of 4 children and 2 parents, we would have missed mass (or taken turns missing mass) for more than 8 years if we could not take the little ones! Now my children are ages 8-16 and and I get compliments because they behave and PARTICIPATE! My youngest sings a little “too loud” at times… and I LOVE it! I love his enthusiasm, and his un-inhibited faith.

    I also am sometimes “distracted” by teens (or young adults) who sometimes wear “innapropriate” clothing or hairstyles etc. to church. My first instinct is to think, don’t they know better… but then I remind myself it is more important that they are at Mass than that they are dressed “appropriately” and I thank God that they are there growing in his love, no matter what their personal style.

  7. Colleen says:

    Love it! Unfortunately, while Joseph’s pretty good, he still ends up distracting ME during Mass…or by having to go potty during the readings and then we’re trapped outside by an usher so we don’t disturb the Homily by going back to our pew, and we’re stuck in the cry room/lobby area with kids running around, parents talking, and the usher trying to engage me in a conversation about Joseph’s socks. Really? I at least like to try and pretend like I’m paying attention…

  8. Fr. Darryl says:

    When I hear kids making noise… that simply tells me that the church is very much alive! Yay!

    And besides, that’s why I’m wearing a microphone. 🙂

    • Pastor Lee says:

      That’s my response too, Father Darryl. I have even said the same in worship. I did it once during a Christmas Eve Service and many smiled and nodded affirmatively.

      Meg, thanks for this fantastic article. “Faith is more caught than taught,” and what more wonderful place to catch it than in worship?

      Also, with regard to Carrie’s post: We may not consider certain dress and hair styles appropriate, but at least these youths, young adults, and adults are in worship and that communicates far more enduring values than how they look. Let us give thanks and celebrate that they are at least in “the right” place. Who can possibly imagine what the Holy Spirit can bring out of that both now and into eternity?

      I’ll come back to visit again.

    • Theresa says:

      Thank you Father!

  9. Anne Diaz says:

    As the mother of 8, I wouldn’t dream of NOT taking my children to Mass. How do they understand it all and know what’s appropriate and what’s not if they are not brought into the fold? I have always said that if the people cannot hear God through the cry of a child, they aren’t listening well enough! We used to live in southern CA and on our first Mass at our new parish, the priest actually stopped the Eucharistic prayer to tell a family, whose child was crying, that that’s why they had a crying room at that church. He also referred to the Sacramentary as his prop! Needless-to-say we found a new church!

  10. Susan says:

    Amen! Thank you. As mother to two extra uterine children, pregnant again, this is encouraging. It is hard taking them to Mass sometimes, but so worth it.

  11. This is amazing. It should be required reading for every Catholic. Heck, it should be required that every church read it during the homily one Sunday. You know, like letters from the bishop, but it would be a letter from Meg.

    I am a new reader. This post just drew me in!


  12. I loved this! I’m Orthodox, and we have LOTS of little kids and babies in our parish, and they all come to the Liturgy and make plenty of joyful noise. My kids are grown now, but I love how the young families and their little ones “distract” me from myself. Thanks for this wonderful post.

  13. DM says:

    Yesterday while visiting the church in which I grew up I was told by someone “we have a cry room, you know”. I also didn’t want to put my child in the nursery, as I’m accustomed to him sitting in mass with me because it’s normal to do that back home; our priests always tell me “I like when he makes noise, it’s the sound of life!”. In fact, last summer shortly after I had my baby, the old women were disappointed that he didn’t make ENOUGH noise. Anyway, I was feeling very frustrated about the whole thing since I didn’t feel supported for bringing my child into the service with me (as though it’s somehow inappropriate?), but then this evening my friend sent me this link to your blog and you completely made my day by writing this. Thank you. 🙂

  14. Cailin says:

    How about a comment from the other side. There is a huge difference between the child being a child, and an out right screaming fit. Most people have no problem with the cry of an infant, or a mis-spoken word or phrase from a toddler. But, when a child is completely unruly and the parent continues to ignore them, and not comfort them, that is when I have an issue.

    • Amy G. says:

      Cailin, I do think something has to be said for that. There is a difference between a little outburst and toddlers’ temper tantrums or a child crawling up onto the altar (which happened at my parish this summer). Some folks need to tolerate a little bit of noise. Some parents need to tolerate less.

    • Erin M says:

      I’ve been the parent ignoring the child putting on the show. My oldest is what people might call a strong-willed child. He would scream: “TAKE ME OUT!!!” at church, and as the parents, my husband and I had to use that moment to make a point to him: that he will not get what he wants simply because he screams. Ignoring him was our only option, or it would just continue every time we went to church. We were working the same issue at home at the time, and it lasted about two weeks – three Sundays in a row. How embarrassed I was, knowing others were probably wishing we weren’t there!!!

      Please keep in mind when you see parents ignoring those kids – they really are dealing with it – in the best way they know how. God meets the little ones where they are at, tantrums and all. Please judge us a bit less harshly, we parents who are trying to be consistent in training, and who know our own kids far better than you ever will.

      • Indie says:

        Yes, I’ve been in that place where giving in to a screaming child would have temporarily have solved the problem but it would not have taught my child in the long run that this is not the way to gets someone’s attention or to make one’s needs known. I’ve seen parents who end up outside missing the entire thing because they feel they have to take the child out and the child knows they hold the power in their hands. I am not one to ignore a child who asks to go to the bathroom (for example) even though I have been chastised by church leaders for getting up frequently, but I will not give in to a tantrum. Children need the safe feeling of hitting up against boundaries.

    • MissMaryJane says:

      I agree, Cailin. I don’t have children but I am a teacher. It is one thing for a small baby to make an occasional noise and an entirely other thing for a child of any age to be allowed to wail away, bang toys on the pews, kick pews, shriek, chatter, or make noise. I understand that children are sometimes strong-willed & parents try different methods to get them to behave. Well done if you’re good, hands-on parents. The problem is that I’m there to see Jesus & if you are allowing your children to make all manner of noises then you are disrupting Mass. I’m focusing on Jesus. We’re all supposed to be focusing on Jesus. You can say that a child making noise is taking me away from thinking about myself but that’s not true for me. And even if a child making noise does do that how is that appropriate for Mass? This isn’t a grocery store or playground. This is MASS, where we should be reverent & quiet & prayerful. Yes, we can pray for the parents but that’s no excuse to allow bad behavior at Mass. If you can’t keep your children quiet for 1 hour on a Sunday morning then perhaps you should consider Mass at a different time when they are more inclined to behave. Parents don’t have the right to allow their children to go on & on & on & on. I would also say this goes for anyone who is making noise at Mass, whether it be rifling through a purse, having conversations, or singing too loudly. Just be quiet & reverent. It is never too early to teach your children to be quiet & reverent. And this is something most children have to be taught. So please do it.

      • Teresa says:

        Jesus is the one who said, “Let the children come to me.” I have 2 young girls and understand the struggles of parents to bring their kids to mass. My husband and I do bring take them out if they are getting too disruptive, but we always try to returh with them once they are settled. I have learned the importance of not judging other parents for their kids’ behavior. We have NO IDEA what another parent is going through and as parents we probably need the graces we get from attending mass more than those who are at a point in their life to be able to sit quietly and attentively at mass. Sometimes I have gone home in tears wondering why I bother trying to bring the girls to mass. As they have grown older I have seen the fruits of that “labor” when I hear my kids talking about God and Jesus. I now know that those eye daggers and rude comments about my children are best ignored and I offer smiles and understanding glances to those parents who are dealing with a difficult child during mass. (Those smiles and understanding comments are what carried me through the difficult time and helped me understand the importance of bringing my kids to mass) Yes, cry rooms can be great- but they are there for the parent’s discretion. We are a COMMUNITY of believers and should never discourage the youngest from joining.

        • A.C. says:

          Theresa: I’m w/ MsMaryJane:

          I’m looking to become more like Jesus, but I’m not there yet.
          Some people have large families, have babysat, younger siblings, etc. I’ve not had any experience w/ kids; in my circle, when a child got loud, they were taken aside; thats’ my ‘norm’. Frankly, I don’t like the sound of upset children; it sets me on edge. That’s why I highly respect parents, and have a well-trained pet for myself instead.
          I’m in church to encounter God and there are expectations for the excercise & practice of faith, and when there -is- a children’s ministry, or cry room, etc. : it’s there for a reason. If parents/caretakers can experience God through distraction, more power to them. I’d rather not miss the one message that I came for being spoken while getting 20 of 60 minutes of a spontanous exercise in forgivness. If a church doesn’t have a separate space, then at least I know that there may be some accommodation required on my part, but be fair to the general expectation of a place and intended time & space for others. You’ll have all week minus this hour. Can’t I just have this one ?

          • Louise says:

            Go to a Mass where there are few, if any, children.

            “If you can’t keep your children quiet for 1 hour on a Sunday morning then perhaps you should consider Mass at a different time when they are more inclined to behave. ”

            I’d say, in general, that most parents take their kids to Mass when they are more likely to behave.

            “You’ll have all week minus this hour. Can’t I just have this one ?”

            What on earth do you mean here? All week for what?

          • Leah says:

            “You have all week minus this one hour.”

            You’ve already said you don’t have, and are not comfortable with kids. That being so, it’s probably best you don’t tell parents what their lives are like. YOU have all week minus this one hour, to avoid kids, to find peaceful environments, to look for a service with few or no children at it. THEY are dealing with this every day, no exceptions, no time off. There is no point for the next several years at which they can go to church and have their kids not be kids. In fact, a Sunday morning when they had time the previous night to get the kids in bed at a reasonable time, so they aren’t tired, late enough in the morning that the kids have had a chance to eat recently – that’s probably their best bet for a peaceful service. I’m sorry that you find that frustrating, but then, encountering God can be tough like that.

          • Jann says:

            While my children have been raised a while I have experienced a mental ill person who muttered through an entire Christmas Eve service…quite distracting but the call to pray for him and his family has lead me to learn they had experienced a break-in at their home where his medication had been stolen which was the direct cause of the behavior SO he was much need of finding acceptance at the church he had attended as a child. And the acceptance of my church family as Alzheimer’s caused my mother-in-law to experience severe anxiety at church was a blessing to her and me.
            Check out Matthew 25:39 for suggestions on how we are blessed by meeting the needs of others, my friend. It will be an awesome journey!

          • Tami says:

            I believe sometimes the message God wants you to hear is not the message being spoken from the pulpit, but from what is going on around you as well.

          • Angel says:

            I’m so glad I don’t go to your church. My children go to mass with me three days a week. The youngest is a very strong willed two year old. I do teach them to be quiet and respectful, however, He’s two. He’s going to make noise even if it’s turning pages in a book, it’s not super quiet. I’m glad he’s there with me, I’m even more glad we have a wonderful priest who has told me and the rest of the parishioners that my son has just as much right to be there as we do, and, in Father’s words, probably more.
            I understand you may not be used to children or like the little sounds, but THEY are the future of our church, not US. THEY need to be there.

        • Mickie says:

          I agree with Mary Jane. Certainly brief interruptions from kids are expected; prolonged banging and shrieking aren’t. I understand that everybody parents differently, and absolutely parenting is hard work.

          But there are two sides to every story. How do you know that there’s not a person on the edge of a personal breakdown who really needs this quiet time of prayer, reflection, and guidance? Sometimes it’s easy to overlook others in our own battles, especially with kids who aren’t behaving. But I believe that we should respect others as well. It’s easy to tell somebody to go to a different service, but maybe they can’t. Maybe they have to work or have other obligations and this is the only one they can go to. Everybody has problems. Just like those without kids shouldn’t expect children to be absolutely silent, parents shouldn’t expect everybody else to be tolerant of their kids while they’re acting out at length. But without compromise people won’t feel like they’re valued by the community and stop coming. Kids are the future of any church, but let’s not overlook the adults who keep the church going now. Kids need to be welcomed into worship and they’re very important, but they are only a part of the community.

          Yes, Jesus embraced children, but let’s not forget that the kids listening to Him didn’t have to sit through a formal service.

      • Gina says:

        I have a special needs child that has a difficult time with Mass (he is number 4 out of 7 children). It is rarely a problem as our parish is very open to large families and lots of little children. There was an issue once with a visitor to the parish who sat directly in front of us. I had to pull my son over and explain as quietly as I could in his ear that not everyone will allow him room for noise and moving around just because of his condition. It broke me heart that I had to reprimand him for being himself. Something that he really didn’t have a lot of control over 🙁 It did make me pray harder for the woman who was visiting though.

        We are ALL part of the Body of Christ. How can you deny a child a place at the altar? Children don’t turn 5 years old and suddenly know how to sit still and act appropriately in Mass. They belong in Mass from the time they are born! In the womb, they hear the sounds of the Mass and smell the incense. In the womb, they partake of Christ in the Eucharist as mom kneels at the altar to receive! They learn all the gestures and responses, smells and sounds, reverence for the Eucharist from watching those present once they are born.

        My son may not fully understand what is going on around him as well as other children his same age, but he understands that Mass is something that is important. It is something that we do EVERY week. It is a place where we are quiet and reverent. He still can’t speak so when he is moved emotionally, it comes out in a variety of sounds. He is a very sweet boy and a deep thinker. It is my duty to make sure that he understands the Church to his best ability. He may wait a couple extra years for his First Reconciliation and his First Communion but I will be there, holding his hand, with tears in my eyes. My duty is to bring the joy and life of the Church to his soul. That goes for ALL of my children. I will not apologize for bringing them to God. We all meet God in whatever way we can. For some this is easier than others. A child will never find God or even look for Him, if he/she is banished from the altar.

        There should be no judgement about who is worthy to be present at the altar. We are all worthy because we are all created by God. Man, woman, child, rich, poor, homeless, orphan, widow, sick, healthy all can meet God in Mass.

        • Leeann says:

          That was absolutely gorgeous. You are totally right.

        • Diann Smith says:

          Do you not have an open nursery? For many years, my Mom would tell us that the devil could work through babies and small children. Her intent was to tell us that proud parents can display and allow bad behavior and smiles to let the devil intentionally take away your worship and reverence to the Lord. My church always provides excellent care for children. The parents can worship and the pastor can present the message he has so diligently prepared and the children can be taught at their appropriate level. I love kids and rarely get distracted by them.

      • Michelle says:

        I give you so much credit for managing a classroom. In fact, since I’ve started homeschooling, I have even more respect and awe in how you do it. But….it is not the same as being responsible for the soul of another. Maybe God will humble you with your own someday. 🙂

      • Indie says:

        If you can’t meet Jesus in those children then where can you meet him? That’s always where he is, where you least expect him.

      • Zeb says:

        It’s a shame that the mentality of mass=performance and Jesus=something-to-enjoy-as-an-individual has been absorbed by American Catholics from their Protestant neighbors. There is a place for private devotion, and the mass isn’t it. For most of Catholic history the mass was something the priest did on the altar, and the public kind of stood around or kneeled and watched, maybe catching the elevation of the host and a homily sometimes, with people (and even animals) going in and out and the whole unruly public squeezed in together. It’s still like that in a lot of place outside of American suburbs! The point is, the mass is something we, as a church, the whole people of God, do. It’s a physical and communal thing, and the goal is to accomplish communion, which we do physically together and with the body and blood. It’s not a mental or spiritual experience for each person to have interiorly, conveniently surrounded by stained glass. There are 167 other hours a week for you to focus on private devotions and quiet contemplation, and you can join a praise group if good singing is your main thing or read spiritual writing if getting a good teaching is what you are after. But at mass we all come together and witness and enact a physical community miracle. Where do you find Jesus if not in the whole Church he has gathered around himself? And after all he bore for you, will you not bear some annoying kids’ chattering and crying for him? I say trust God that mass will be a place where you will be served exactly what you need most, and maybe some days that is the trial of listening through disturbance and loving possibly negligent parents and their possibly spoiled kids. Of course we parents do have an obligation to train our kids well to be reverent and respectful, no doubt about that. But you non-parents are our community, and you also have an obligation to participate in that training, even if only by suffering it with us. These are your kids too, brothers and sisters.

        • Sue says:

          Zeb has hit the nail on the head….The Mass is a communal participation, requiring all of us. It is missing something important every time someone stays away.

      • Dh and I were at mass with our two eldest children, then 2 and 3 yrs of age. We were sitting separately, he with our 2yo daughter and I, at the back, with our son. We’d discovered that the children were much quieter when not seated together.

        Through Mass I could hear our daughter chattering quietly, commenting on things, as is still her habit!

        The two people behind me started up a running commentary on the noisy little girl and wouldn’t it be far better for her to be left and home and why would a parent allow that and…

        I so wanted to turn around and say “She’s two. What’s your excuse?”

      • Bridget says:

        I love Jesus, too. And Jesus is making himself known to you in the children and parents who are annoying you. He is asking, “do you really love me?” It is easy to love the peaceful quiet Jesus. He doesn’t ruffle our feathers, or dirty our clothes.

        I now have eight rambunctious children. Their wonderful father is rambunctious, and I married him, and here we are with rambunctious children…maybe modern science offers a DNA test a pregnant woman can get to selectively choose only the docile children? Oh, but that is not pro-life, and all Catholics are pro-life, right?

        The painful truth is that Jesus loves the rambunctious children at least as much as the docile ones. He identifies with every type of personality, and loves us all.

        Some people’s expectations are misguided. Church is not a feel-good club. There are plenty of feel-good clubs you may attend. You could even organize an “adults-only” prayer group where you can all feel very holy and pious.

        The Church is the real thing…where real people with real issues come for healing. Real tired parents with real naughty children come with the hopes of touching Jesus and being healed…even if little by little. Jesus came for the sick, not the well, remember?

        I am grateful for my rambunctious husband and rambunctious children, even though I cry from humiliation sometimes. Why? Precisely because I am humbled. I can’t deceive myself, thinking I love Jesus if I can’t find it within myself to love my family members exactly the way they are. In a real Church, you don’t have to have your own husband and children to humble you; a wide variety of annoying people are there to do it for you.

        Next time your feathers get ruffled by ornery children and their dysfunctional parents, offer to help: Extra jewels for your heavenly crown!

      • Cheryle Gardiner says:

        Perhaps instead of a “crying room” for children there should be a “quiet room” for those who are annoyed/distracted/upset by the noises of children. That way, the children could participate in and learn what church is for as part of the community, and those of you who are there to have some one-on-one time with God could have your silence.

      • Diana says:

        Ah, I wish I had a nickel for every “teacher” who knew exactly how to parent every child! Please parent your own children (when you have them), and assume the rest of parents have a few brain cells, even if they don’t follow your perfect routine for raising perfect children. Children tend to teach us humility.

    • Nina says:

      Thank you for writing that!! I have 4 small children and they are definitely active (and yes, sometimes, unruly) children so I sympathize with parents when they struggle. However, I am sick of people acting like there isn’t a distiction between a child simply not understanding “indoor voices” and a child who in out of control. It also seems to be the parents of the worst offenders who are the most vocal about their right to be there. People on both sides need to remember the author’s admonition that too often we believe “mass is our personal property.” It isn’t either sides – children need to go to mass, they need to learn by observation and participation in mass, they need to feel welcomed and loved in mass; however, the church is not their personal playground, it is not their parent’s time to show everyone how “holy” they are with their big family. Their right to go to participate in mass does not trump another’s (and let’s face it when a child is climbing on pews, an infant is allowed to cry himself to sleep or the toddler is throwing a tantrum most people simply can’t focus enough to actually participate). Both sides need to remember to be respectful and self-sacrificing.

    • Chris says:

      I guess my question is…how long is it okay for a parent to ignore a screaming child during Mass? I went to Midnight Mass one year for Christmas. A young couple behind me brought a new born. The baby cried the whole Mass, a high pitched I’m unhappy cry throughout the whole service. The couple refused to move with the baby to the cry room. I couldn’t hear most of what was said during the Mass. It was very frustrating and disappointing. While I fully believe children should be present at Mass, I do believe parents should use common sense and common courtesy.

      • Melissa says:

        I would say that poor, struggling family of a screaming, colicky newborn needs mass. Maybe that screaming midnight mass where you couldn’t hear afforded the parents the grace to handle that child delicately instead of shaking him or her. We just don’t know…

    • jeanne long says:

      I am in agreement with you.. Let’s all be reasonable here…

  15. Betsy says:

    Several years ago we participated in a Mass attended by at least a hundred families. Needless to say, there was a great deal of baby/child noise. Fr. Frank Pavone, who was celebrating that Mass, in referring to the chatter, opened his homily with these words: “Ah, the choir of the domestic church!”

  16. JJ's Mom says:

    What a great piece! My husband and I currently wrangle a 3 yo and recently turned 2 yo at Mass on Sunday. Some Sundays are better than others. I personally despise the cry room at our church (location, sound, wildness that runs prevalent in there, etc) and I’ve always though “how can a child learn what’s appropriate in Mass if they aren’t right in the mix of it?”

    The best advice I got from a priest was during our baptismal preparation. Our old church didn’t have a cry room and another parent voiced concern about babies crying during Mass. He claimed that during his first-ever Mass as a priest (with his parents in attendance) a young child cried and fussed through the whole service. After Mass, the priest was bemoaning this to his parents who said, “God’s teaching you patience. It means your church is alive and growing. He’s giving you an opportunity for grace….and paying you back for all the screaming you did during Mass as a child. Talk a little louder and pray that little boy hears God’s word in his heart and decides to join the priesthood. It worked for you!”

    When we have a three-ring circus in our pew – I just pray that God’s words are getting to their hearts – even if there is no way they can get to their ears….

  17. Erin M says:

    Thank you for this post. What a confirmation for me and my husband and our conviction to keep our small children in the sanctuary. We have a 3.5 year old, a 2 year old, and a six-month-old; energetic, full-of-life-and-sound, playful boys, all of them!

    Shortly after we moved to our current city, I took the boys to the 11am Mass alone. Unbeknownst to me, my husband was held up teaching RCIA and was unable to join us. Very pregnant, and pleased with my two older boys’ not-too-loud behavior so far, I was shocked to have a woman who had sat down in front of us turn around during the second reading and ask me: “DID YOU KNOW THERE’S A CRY ROOM OVER THERE? YOU KNOW, FOR LITTLE KIDS?” Oh, she didn’t yell it, but it was loud enough for everyone around us to hear. I promptly turned red, and after painfully debating my options, retreated with my kids to the cry room…where they were promptly exposed to some horrible behavior and a man with no kids who who smelled like beer. I vowed never to go in there again. And I struggled for a while with the pain of being “evicted” from our rightful place at Mass, as well as the disappointment I had in myself for allowing myself and my kids to be evicted.

    Now, about a year later, my husband and I are still sitting in the main area of the church with our three kids, working our Mass schedule so we are both there every time, and working through those Masses when the kids get too loud to remain in the pew. We take them to the back instead of to the cry room. Would you believe our oldest is now whispering in church, and our middle boy is learning to do so? Would you believe we have had more than one Mass now when we not once had to take a child to the back? It is paying off, keeping our kids in the sanctuary!

    You are right about noticing the frowns far more than noticing the smiles. And I think, being the DRE’s wife makes my natural self-consciousness even greater. But, though the smart remarks and suggestions tend to hurt a lot, the smiles and the encouragement have a soothing affect on those wounds. And we have been blessed with many of those lately!

    Your post is one of those blessed, soothing moments. Thank you for your words – full of truth and encouragement! Reading your post has been a support to me as a Catholic mother of young kids. You’ve reminded me that they are God’s instruments used to sanctify me at Mass, too. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Zeb says:

      “a man with no kids who who smelled like beer.” Was it Jesus? Sounds kind of like him. Just as we expect others to be tolerant of our kids, we must teach our kids to be tolerant of others.

  18. Diana Thomas says:

    saw this posted by a friend and loved it. I am a pastor’s wife whose (6) kids are all grown with kids of their own. My husband and I pastor an “older” congregation who is just getting rejuvenated by lots of little ones. I would like to know if I can print this post in our church bulletin or newsletter? I think it would be great for all of us! Thanks for your faith and insight. Blessings!

    • Meg says:

      Absolutely! Would you mind just putting my web address at the bottom? Let me know if you need the piece shortened at all and I’ll take care of it. God bless!

  19. gradchica says:

    Thanks for this. I have two boys–2.5 year old and 7 months old–that come with us to Mass every week. We attend either the cathedral or another very old–first Catholic church in the Lowcountry!–church, so no cry rooms should they even be wanted. Going to the older church last week, one of the ushers offered us the use of the babysitting/nursery for our older son–twice. We politely declined, only to have her sit down directly behind us! Luckily for us, it was a good week for the boys 🙂 She was treated to our son genuflecting, blessing himself at the appropriate times, saying the Act of Contrition and the Our Father, and singing the Sanctus, in Latin no less. He knows how to be quiet–within the ability of a small boy, anyway–and more or less sit still in church and knows the parts of the Mass and some of the prayers precisely bc he is there every single week with us. How else will children learn how to behave in church if they are not allowed to attend?

    Another nice couple behind us complimented us on our son’s behavior, which, if people don’t know, is absolutely the nicest, most wonderful thing ever for a young family. Please, if the kids don’t totally blow up and start throwing hymnals or kicking people, tell the parents they/their kids did a nice job! I know a few couples who have been pushed away from attending Mass bc people give them the stink eye or make snarky comments about their kids.

  20. Patricia says:

    Love the blog and the comments! At Mass one day, my 3-year-old pitched an absolute fit, screaming, “I want Jesus too!!!” after I tried to explain in a whisper why he couldn’t receive Communion,. A nice older lady with no children came up to me and asked if my son could sit next to her. (She could see my embarrassment.) She came to Mass by herself and typically sat alone in the front pew, and she said she’d appreciate the company. I thought — my kid, in the front pew, without me? Yikes! But it worked! He felt all grown up sitting apart from me, in the front pew just steps away from Father, and he behaved like an angel. And this kind, sweet, faithful woman is now my son’s “Mass buddy” on Sunday.

    • Sheila says:

      I remember when my kids were little, a friend told me to sit in the front row with our three children who were less than three years apart, rather than “hiding” in the back. The front row! no way! But she convinced me to try saying there were fewer distractions and the girls could focus on the Mass and Father. And it worked Slowly, but with an obvious, and immediate improvement. Now, all college grads, they still prefer the front of church, but have “inched back” so as to allow the families their needed space in front! Try it!

  21. I don’t usually comment on blogs, but this one is fantastic. As a priest and father of 3 kids under the age of 5 I think my new goal is to share this with everyone I can. God bless you, and god bless all the mothers and fathers who take their children to Church on good days and bad.

    I have to tell you, it was a custom in some parishes to remove ALL children for the bulk of the Divine Liturgy (our Mass), only to parade them up near the end. That’s a total diservice to the children and a severing of the body of Christ that’s supposed to gather as one on Sunday.

    You said it best, I think: ” They’re distracting me from the idol I’ve made of worship, making me encounter God as he really is, not as I want him to be. ”

    ~Fr Aleksa

    • marya says:

      The only disservice is to adults who have come to pray and celebrate mass without being surrounded by screaming, crying and running around – which happens at every mass . It is mass itself that is being downgraded. Mothers never used to bring their babies and young children – it is not fair to put them in a place where they are unable to sit for 30 minutes in quiet awareness.

  22. Laura says:

    I recently remarked to my husband, “Isn’t it ironic that while the Church tells us we shouldn’t use birth control, and everyone else says we should, the ONLY place I’ve ever been told that my kids aren’t welcome is at church?”

  23. Sid says:

    Until I become a parent myself (god-willing), I won’t fully understand the issue from both sides. But, I feel like I’ve experienced it from two different perspectives. I used to roll my eyes and get frustrated with kids being normal and making an “acceptable” amount of noise during Mass. Praise the Lord I’m part of a missionary community that has alot of families involved, because that has helped me to appreciate children and life and to have more patience. I’ve also unfortunately witnessed the flipside of that, when parents let a kid run wild (figuratively and literally). That, in my opinion, is not acceptable.

    My mission partners last year were a husband and wife with 10 kids. While I can say that they allowed a minimal amount of “acceptable child noise/activity” they didn’t allow much more than that. Now why is it that with 10 kids, they managed to have all of them behave so well? Discipline. If the kids misbehaved, they separated them. If the kid(s) misbehaved enough, they got a spanking and/or some sort of discipline.

    In the end, I think the parents of the children could probably make a greater effort to discipline their kids. And I think the rest of us could develop a little patience. 🙂

    • Mother says:

      Hitting kids for misbehaving will definitely ensure they don’t want to go to Mass.

    • Mel says:

      I agree that spanking kids for poor behavior during mass doesn’t seem to match the spirit of Christan love. My 4yo son asked if we could go to a church “where they like kids.”. The reality is that some kids are hard wired to be in constant motion, and some kids are happy to color and read books. I didn’t realize this until I was a parent…

  24. Mandy says:

    Beautiful and witty! As a mom of 4, I thank you, Meg.

  25. Meg says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I, too, have been at services where kids were running wild. At one parish, they had slanted, carpeted walls in the back of the sanctuary so that the kids could literally climb up the walls. But I think that almost all the time, parents are doing the best they can. Cap-n Crunch and comic books are certainly not how I’d go about bringing little ones to God’s house, but if that’s the only way you can get your kids to church (and I don’t know you well enough to suggest alternatives), then God bless you for what you’re doing.

    If you’re trying at all to discipline your kids, I thank you. And I’ll pray for a little more discipline for all of us.

    Finally, let me just say to those of you who have felt unwelcome in the house of God because of your children: I am so, so sorry. The Lord loves you and wants you there–please put up with his fallen followers as we stumble towards heaven! And if you ever see me at church, sit down next to me and pass me the baby. I’ll spell you a bit.

    God bless you all!

  26. J says:

    An American missionary group was spending time in a remote South American village that was accustomed to celebrating liturgy in what we might consider a ‘rustic’ manner. The village was something we might see out of the movie “The Mission,” or a National Geographic magazine, by all definitions a two-thirds world country in the jungles of South America where the nearest drinking water is a half-mile walk. One evening early in the mission, the accompanying priest presided over Eucharist for the entire village and all were in attendance, including the children. One of the women of this missionary group, a mother whose children were all grown and moved on, turned to one of the mothers of the village and commented on how well behaved all the children were during mass: “Not one of these children squirmed or burst into tears or screamed in any way! How do you do it?! What’s your secret?”
    “It’s not a secret,” she replied. “These children are malnourished and do not have the energy to expend on squirming or crying in need. They have had only one small meal today and do not know when they’ll eat next.”

    Whenever I hear a child scream or cry in mass, I’m reminded that we are so fortunate to live in a part of this beautiful world where the children have all their basic needs met, and I thank God. How beautiful it is, and how often humorous their timing and choice-phrases. They are beautiful reminders that we ought to maintain some sense of humor and that we have been so abundantly blessed!

  27. Tom says:

    This is a fantastic article. I am one of those parents who has to deal with screaming kids (or misbehaving kids). I went to church last Sunday by myself (kids and wife were out of town) and was able to watch other children and other parents. You realize your kids are not the only ones misbehaving, they are just the ones you hear. One of the traditions at the church we go to is that they have baskets at the front of the church near the alter for the gift collections. All the kids are invited to bring up the envelopes or money at the correct time. This past weekend one of the children put the money in the basket and then walked up the steps to the preist to shake his hand. The priest was great with the kid and shook his hand and sent him back to his parents. The priest then waved at all the kids bringing up the collections. We are blessed to have wonderful priests who enjoy and encourage the children of the parish!

  28. Tom & Katie says:

    Thanks for posting this Meg. My wife and I were seriously considering attending a different mass so we could put our kids in the nursery. You’ve inspired us to keep them in the pews. They are 23 months and 18 months old and full of life. God bless you.

  29. RMB says:

    Hi Meg! Thank you for a beautiful post. I was JUST talking about this today. I have an almost two year old with one on the way and had a rough time at daily Mass this morning. I always worry about my little boy’s behavior, but luckily, haven’t had any negative comments yet. I was thinking about those families who do receive these comments, especially the ones who are just coming back to the Church and trying their best. Negative comments about their kids’ behavior will only deter them from coming back! All of us in the congregation need to WELCOME young families and kids!! They are the future of the Church!!

    On a side note, I found your post on a facebook friend’s wall. She is someone totally random who I met at a conference and has no affiliation with any of my other friends. Clicked on your site, read your name, and immediately recognized you!! A friend of Chris and Mary’s! What a small world.

    Thank you for your beautiful writings! Blessings to you!

  30. Wow, what a fantastic post!! I’m pregnant with my first, and have started feeling a little nervous about taking my kids to Mass- your take makes me feel bold to brig my babies to the Lord as much as possible, no matter what their current noise level or behavioral phase. Thank you! I’m bookmarking this for what I’m sure will be a much-needed refresher later on.

  31. What a beautiful post. Thank you! The sounds of children at church (and everywhere) are an expression of the joy of the Lord and a reminder of our call to nurture and care for the weak – forsaking ourselves – and to love one another.

  32. Heather says:

    What an inspiring post! My husband and I used to take turns every Sunday taking our daughter to the cry room at the back of the church when she was a tiny infant and would get hungry (her feedings always fell during services). Luckily, our cry room looked directly into the sanctuary and had a speaker where you could hear what was going on. It was generally pretty peaceful, except a mother who had a son who had to be 8 or 9 and wouldn’t sit still in church and took him in there. I don’t mind kids screaming in church. We left her in the nursery for a while when she was older, but then we moved to a different part of town and haven’t found a church that we like yet (I’m Protestant). She’s almost 3 and I’ve hesitated visiting churches because she can be a handful and won’t sit still, like a typical toddler. She rarely has tantrums and only when she’s very tired, which won’t happen on a Sunday morning. At the same time, I’m also tired of relegating her to the nursery and want her to learn how to participate in the services and building her relationship with her Savior. Your post has inspired me to go ahead and keep her out of the nursery and in the sanctuary. Thank you!

    • Marilynne says:

      When I was young, my Mom would sit in the back in church and put her arms around us. Until I was older, I would sleep through the homily much of the time. We knew we had to behave and be an example to other children. My Mom wouldn’t have it any other way.

      • Mel says:

        The thing is, our 4yo and2yo boys have Neverfallen asleep during mass. If I were to hold my arms around my boys like that, they’d scream loudly, and surely get everyone’s attention. As a mom and a pediatrician, I know that some strategies work for some kids and other strategies work for others

        • Marilynne says:

          It’s your job as a mother to find out what works. My grandson was a very willful child. I’d put my arms around him to stop him and he would be tense with anger. But the next minute he’d relax and I’d be able to calm him.

          There is no one size fits all response to control children. You have to figure out what works between you and your own children.

      • Susan says:

        THANK YOU, Marilyn. I was beginning to think that I would read no voice of reason in these comments. The operative words in your post are “We knew we had to behave.” Your mother did you the immense favor of teaching you manners, of showing that you were expected to behave in a certain way under certain circumstances (not just church, but in a restaurant, or in a store). As did my mother with me. And as I did with my own son. And I never brought toys or games or food or reading materials, either. In church you behaved as if you were in church, not at a playground or at home. That little boy grew up to be a man with no visible damage to his psyche (having passed through the stages of altar boy and chorister), so I know it can be done. But unless you teach your children that they are expected to behave, you shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t.

        • MH says:

          Since you are all knowing and all powerful, Susan, I’d love to hear what you suggest for a child with special needs, like my son. He has always pushed the envelope at mass. He struggles to be quiet, let alone behave the way that people expect at mass. He has high-functioning autism, so for all the world, it looks like a poorly behaved child. Pray tell, what would you have me do? Spank him because he wouldn’t behave as I desired? Yell at him b/c this isn’t how we behave at mass? Mass is for him, too, even if you don’t like it, and I will not resort to belittling him because he does not fit your preconceived mold. No one would blink an eye at a child with cerebral palsy who is sitting in their wheelchair making strange noises, but because my son looks normal, they assume we are bad parents. There is no way for you to know if there are extenuating circumstances. I too, worry that the judgment of others will cause some new Catholics/parishoners to stay away. And, you can’t say, well this case is different b/c he has a disability, because up until this past October, we had no clue what the issue was. This was one month b/f he turned 5. So, for 5 years, we struggled with mass. We even did try the nursery and you know what that meant? It meant that when he aged out of using it, he had no clue how to behave, and we had to start teaching him at square one. I think the nursery is the biggest disservice for the Church than anything else. It doesn’t allow children to learn while being in the pew. So, now we have a loud two-year-old daughter. She has no understanding of voice modulation, but I will not relegate her to the nursery because I know in the long-run, it will mean much more work and disruption for the congregation. I cannot imagine that judgmental people could parent my children with as much patience and grace as I try to bring to the job. (and don’t always succeed) Why? Because, if you can barely tolerate one hour of this experience, try to imagine a daily onslaught. And, if you think, well, I’d do it better from the beginning, I’d just like to say, good luck! This has been the hardest work I have done in my life to raise my son and deal with his issues. No one has the right to judge me for it, because they haven’t lived in my shoes nor dealt with the constant battles. Our Church says that each person has merit and value in the eyes of God. Let’s start treating people like we believe it, even when it causes us discomfort or difficulty.

          • Marilynne says:

            I’ve been following theses comments for weeks. I have a bit of advice for you from a Protestant.
            – Don’t judge. That’s God’s job
            – Learn patience
            – Practice tolerance.

            We don’t want to be Stepford wives (women who just follow the rules and march in step, without thought). We want to be God’s children living in His grace. God’s grace is not meant for you to hoard, but to make you strong enough to emulate Him.

            Last bit of advice. Quit whining.

          • Meghan says:

            I am reading this late, as I just stumbled upon this today. I want you to know that your words resonate with me. My SIL just found out her 5 year old has high functioning autism/aspergers. For years she felt like a failure as a mother because of how difficult her son is. I have a son with ADHD and dreaded taking him to Sunday School (I’m Protestant) and the glaring looks I may or may not get when I picked him up.

            In the end, I can’t imagine any circumstance where Jesus would say “Hold on a minute everyone. Ma’am, could you please take your child/ren out into the hallway while I finish up here?” Jesus would go out of his way to speak to the mom/dad and offer support and speak to the children. It takes a village, and what better village is there than the body of Christ? Next time a child is acting up, offer up your help! Speak to the children, engage them. Above all have empathy!

  33. Ana says:

    Three suggestions:

    1) Start a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program in your parish. Using a Montessori method, it teaches kids starting at age three about God, faith, liturgy, and the mass itself. Once kids understand what’s going on in mass, they self-involve instead of check-out.

    2) Transform the cry room. Install a speaker so parents can still hear the mass. Make it bright and cheerful. Add a rocking chair or two. Have the ushers keep out anyone who doesn’t have kids with them (to avoid the drunk guy mentioned in a comment above).

    3) Create a cheery nursery with background-checked volunteers who can watch the toddlers and provide a place for mothers to nurse. One to two year olds (i.e. pre-Catechesis age) may not last through a homily (depending on how long your priest preaches), so give them a few minutes of play.

    • Marilynne says:

      To that I’d add
      Put an age limit on children in the nursery. In a cry room, be sure there is a parent with the children. I don’t see why the cry room needs to be a place where other children are running around screaming. Is this the result of kids being in day care or is it parents who don’t know how to parent.

      If children running around and making noise is a problem, consider having a class in parenting.

  34. This was such a sweet and inspiring post! I often remember to offer individual pains and sufferings up for other people, and it never occurs to me that those pains, sufferings and external distractions are maybe God’s way of saying, “Hey, it’s not all about you!”

    I’m a mama to an almost 5 year old, an almost 3 year old and we are due with #3 in November and, in chatting with my husband, we’ve realize that save for a handful of times that we could count on one hand, the girls have never missed a Sunday Mass. We choose not to use the cry rooms or nurseries and tend to sit WAY up front. But another factor in our girls’ behavior, besides their personalities (which is a HUGE factor) is the expectations that we have for them. It’s kind of like dining out: we expect the same behavior at our home dinner table as we do at a fast food joint as we do at a fine dining establishment. (We also do not allow snacks or drinks at Mass, save for breastmilk for a nursing infant or young toddler!)

    At any rate, I love the sounds of kids at Mass. I love the chatter, the questions, and I am sure to make eye-contact with the parents of an “unruly” child to offer a reassuring smile, because, as any parent knows… you never know when that will be you.

  35. Mandy P says:

    Thank you for this post! I am actually printing it out to send to two of our local parishes because we have been made to feel unwelcome there are by the pastors because of our small children. One priest even told me that they have a cry room during his homily! We don’t go to that church anymore but I am will not be “chased” out of my Church by a lack of compassion from any priest. Peace to you and to all the parents who are brave enough and love their church enough to keep coming back to mass!

  36. Shannon says:

    Thank you for this! We have 5 children now and I can remember when my son was born (child #3) having such a hard time. My husband was deployed, I had a new baby and two little girls that did not want to sit still (try chasing a toddler while nursing an infant-not fun! Lol). I got stares. I was embsmarrased. I got an occassional smile. I did have one priest who said that the cries of chilsren are the only way they know to oraise the Lord. That helped!

    But some of the best advice I ever got was not taking my children out, but moving them to the FRONT! I was a loyal middle/ back of the church sitter (just in case, ya know). The thought of moving my unruly kiddos to thefront?!? Gasp! But you know what? It helped! The children could SEE what was going on and tey to paeticipate! Did they still get loud? Sure sometimes. But more often then not it was “what is THAT? ” or “Whats happening now?” Instead of “I wanna leave!!!” What a bleasing!

    • Shannon says:

      Sorry for the typos.
      Another suggestion that helped was to try to go to daily mass more often. I was scared cause thats where the really serious people go. But it benefitted us in many ways. First, mass was only 30 minutes, so it was like having them practice for the longer mass on Sunday. Second, fewer people! So this neant less people to distract and more opportunity to really learn what was going on. And finally, those “serious” people? Well they actually loved seeing my children at daily mass and I think were truly happy we were there. Sometimes they would even hold the baby so I could deal with a toddler or bring the kiddos treats and reward them after mass.
      So dont give up! 🙂

  37. TJ says:

    Great article — I would only add that this sort of attitude against children occurs not only during Mass, but also at church social events & functions as well. Our parish recently had an “adults only” event where no child care was provided (even though we have a nursery and an attendant on Sunday mornings) — as the father of two kids, it was a big slap in the face to both myself and my wife to be told that our children aren’t welcome in our parish family. I spoke to several members of our vestry, and while I was assure it wasn’t intentional, there was no effort made to rectify the situation. I found out that this prohibition was because of two children who attend the parish who are not always disciplined by their parents. I was also given the excuse that it was because alcohol was being served, even though wine is served at parties after Christmas Eve and Holy Saturday services.

    In my denomination, while there is a strong focus at times on youth/teenagers, little thought is given to the “thirtyshomethings” and their young children; ironically those 30 year olds are literally the next generation to take over in the church. It’s no wonder young families are leaving the church.

  38. Amy says:

    As a mother of six, I want to thank you for this article! I’ll add my experience with cry rooms. I don’t like them in general, but there are times when I’m glad they exist and think they are necessary. While recently attending mass at a church that we don’t usually go to, I headed to the back when my 10 month old started getting fussy right before the consecration. I knew if I could find a relatively private spot to nurse him, he’d be asleep in minutes and I could bring him back to the pew. Well, the cry room was occupied by 3 adults and no children whatsoever. They were chatting. It was really weird. I decided to just stand in the back instead. I thought that this church needed a sign on the door to the cry room to let people know what it was there for, as obvious as that might seem. I also like the suggestion of ushers taking responsibility for this, like usher/bouncers!

    Sitting near the front is one of the best ways we have found to help our kids in church when they are old enough to start noticing what is going on. And my older kids who were taken to bugging each other during mass quickly realized that not only could they see the priest, but that the priest could see them. Aha! Granted we go to a very family-friendly mass. It does have its risks though; it’s a gamble when you have big kids who can benefit from it and unpredictable little ones as well. We arrived early enough one Sunday to sit in the very front row and this happened to be the one time the current 1 year old started to scream loud enough for the priest to comment on the strength of his lungs which made the congregation chuckle as I carried him all the way from the front to the back with him still screaming, insult having been added to injury. If I know the other parents at that mass, they were probably smiling and thinking that maybe their kids weren’t so bad after all! Oh sweet humility!! But this has been the exception, not the rule to sitting up close.

    I also want to totally encourage people to compliment families when their children are trying to be well-behaved. And if they are only so-so behaved, you can still tell them they have a beautiful family! It means a lot to us when we get those comments. We started an incentive program for the kids based on this when we were dealing with different behavior issues. It goes like this, if kids are so good in church that some stranger feels compelled to comment on it, we all have some special extra treat that day, above and beyond our normal Sunday feasting. One time we stopped by our favorite bakery on the way home, one time we had ice cream after lunch, etc. Just anything that you don’t usually do. And when you thank the kind stranger tell them that they just earned your kids an extra Sunday treat! Maybe they’ll seek out other families and spread the love. That reminds me, we once encountered a beautiful older couple visiting our church who (not knowing about our incentive) actually handed us $20 and told us to buy the kids ice cream after sitting behind us during mass. And our kids were far from perfect. Just a lovely couple who had raised their kids in church as well and recognized that we were doing our best and wanted to encourage us. I’ll never forget that.

  39. Sheila says:

    Meg, your article was wonderful. After raising three girls who were less than three years apart, I believed that I was fairly tolerant, but your article gave me a new perspective, and I appreciate that. I would like to offer one additional suggestion, that my mother told me recently. When I complained about being distracted, she said I should pray that MY Guardian Angel go and assist the Guardian Angel of the child who was distracted. The visual image that created was a joyous one and I find that prayer helps me to re-focus as well. And as she mentioned….even Angels might need help sometimes!

  40. Tania G. says:

    I am Eastern Orthodox, and when I first started reading your post, I thought you were too! I had my youngest child, who is a high fundtioning autistic, dragged out of church by an elderly member because he was stimming and twirling his hand and the man was too distracted by him! I was so shocked that someone grabbed my child and dragged him out that I couldn’t re-act. I took my other two children and left. It has been very difficult to return to that parish because of the memory of that. Even though a few others contacted me, including the priest, apologizing for the man’s actions, trying to comfort me and encouraging me to return. I just can’t shake the memory of the attack or rejection. God Bless You for posting such a beautiful, common sense commentary.

    • Indie says:

      I am so frustrated by the church’s failure to walk beside families dealing with autism. A young single mom of an autistic child was recently made to feel unwelcome in our church and I’ve talked to several families who have a child with autism who do not attend because the church doesn’t know how to accept their children. Its so antithetical to the Gospel of Christ.

  41. Tammy says:

    No one is a perfect parent, and I’ve certainly had my moments. We now attend a wonderful, beautiful Episcopal Church that allows us to attend “as we are” and includes the children.

    I remember when we were church shopping though after moving the the area. We attended one local church with our newborn and almost 2-year old and were asked to not sit within the ministers site-line when our newborn “coo’d” (not cried/screamed). We were often told to take the kids to the nursery but we wanted our 2yo to attend church with us, and weren’t yet sold on that congregation, so we sat in the very back row and would remove the kids as needed – Which wasn’t often.

    One day the minister had asked the children to come to the front to see, so when we attended the day after Christmas a week later, our 2 yo stood in the aisle, in the back row, watching the minister. He didn’t speak, cry-out or misbehave, he was simply watching her. She stopped the service in the middle and told him sternly to “SIT DOWN”.

    On the way out that morning, I made a beeline for the door with my infant wrapped in my arms. I was immensely embarrassed. My son was with my husband. The minister stopped my husband and said, “I don’t know who is more pissed off, you or me”. Yes she said those words, and no, we never went back. Two of our neighbors continued to attend church there and they have never acted the same way towards us since BUT it made us look toward a church where our children were welcome.

    Parents shouldn’t have to be treated like dirt because we have children. They are after all, the future of the church.

  42. says:

    Lovely post! I’m the mother of a four year old, very active, strong willed little girl with another little girl on the way. My family has received our share of dirty looks, stern lectures and parochial policies that are blatantly anti-children. I think that the majority of families going to mass every Sunday try very hard to keep their kids under control. If we expect certain good behaviors and insist on them during the week, it’s easier to wrangle the kiddos. Some noise, some shushing, some whining is par for the course. Real naughtiness, disobedience, tantrum throwing, etc., always gets our daughter a timeout in the vestibule. Since she’s a bigger girl now we also take her out for treating pews like jungle gyms. Common sense has to dictate-they have to learn how to behave in public, but some days are just worse than others and charity has to prevail even in the face of toddlers. In many cases, it’s a case of damned if you do take them out, damned if you don’t. I’m sure all the parents here have experienced the nasty looks of people who see the timeouts in the hallway during mass, complete with unearthly wailing and gnashing of baby teeth. They’re the same people who tend not to like children at mass in the first place. If you’re in the presence of a seemingly clueless family, err on the side of generosity. Rather than giving into temper, try to find a kind way to offer some kind of help. Maybe stop them after mass, and beginning with a compliment or a “It’s such a tough job” and finishing with a “let me know what I can do to help you manage the kids.” A little patience from non-parents on the bad days, and a lot of praise on the good days can make such a huge difference!

  43. Guggie says:

    This was an excellent article and a good reminder that if we want to promote peace and respect for ALL people, then we have to accept even the littlest ones.

    We are very blessed to have a family-focused parish. They installed a sign on the cry room door that says, “For crying children only. Children are welcome in church.”

    I have also received a warm smile and nod of encouragement from the parish priest while nursing.

    Parenting children can be so hard some days, especially when it comes to a long, quiet Mass. Nothing is more treasured than receiving a nod of understanding, a warm smile or welcoming words. My children want to be a part of the Mass, too, even if they are still working on the quiet part.

  44. Natalia says:

    As someone with small children who has thought long and hard about this issue (see my blog post, it’s so nice to see that there are those on the other side who are not only willing to put up with a little noise from our children, but see it as a blessing. I know an abbess who says, “If the children don’t distract me, my own mind will do it, so they may as well!” Amen!

    • Meg says:

      “…if we decide to accept that that’s just the way it is going to be, it can no longer distract us.” Exactly! Thanks 🙂

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  46. Annie Zirkel says:

    I think the hard thing is to have compassion for both parents of young kids with all the stress it takes to be part of a church community AND those who really want and need to be able to to hear the words of the sermon. Especially older folks with poor hearing and those with attention issues. It’s a tough balance to pull off.

    Though I am a big fan of creating parent/child friendly communities. Our children and their parents need that village behind them. Thanks for a valuable post.

  47. Cathy says:

    Wheew!! Hot topic.

    When my now 15yr old was 2 and toilet training, we got a new parish priest. He was our second son and everyone told us BOYS need to sit near the front to watch the priest. During the announcements our son announced, “Mom, I have to go PEE! ” (pause… me whispering…”ok we are going soon”) “No, Mom, I think it is POO!!” (me…very quitely…”ok, ok, let’s go.”) “No, No, MOM, I JUST FARTED!!!” (We don’t really talk like that in our family so where that came from, I have no clue…)

    I know a lady who told me that kids make noise in church because that is how they give Glory to God. He made them like that. She pointed out that it usually peaks during he Consecration.

    When all is right with the world, only the parents notice the noise. By their modeling reverent behaviour, and explaining as the kids get older that we want to respect God and the people in prayer, our children can and do figure things out. My 15yr old never makes noise in Mass now.

    There is a lady in our parish who adopted a special needs child – God Bless her family! She frequently takes her son out of church for bad behaviour. We usually sit right in front of them and quite honestly, I have never noticed what he did to deserve being removed but I do notice the removal.

    Young people and children need to know that they are welcome at Mass. It should be the place where they are most accepted, wanted ,needed.

    In Jesus’s name, we can and should be able to do that for Him!

  48. Shannon says:

    Our parish has a growing population of children, as well as a community of adults who are developmentally-disabled, and a fair number of folks who wander in from the streets because this place has a food bank and a hot meal kitchen. Members of the parish make a point of getting to know each other. When Bobby with his Tourette’s-like squeal punctuates the Eucharistic prayer, no one frowns. When the kids come forward with food for the food bank and the two with Down Syndrome get a little lost, other kids make sure they are delivered back to Mom and Dad.

    The Sign of Peace is extended to anyone within range, even the tiniest babies. And while only one person suggested it in all these comments, it never hurts to be a pew buddy for a family. I’ve taken a fussy baby out to our hospitality area for a good walk when needed, leaving a parent free to deal with the other child in the pew–or just to have a few minutes of stress-free time. (I’d never do that to parents who don’t know me.)

    Our faith communities are full of folks who make all sorts of noise. What a raggedy band we are. And all of us practicing for the Great Feast.

  49. Becky says:

    Someone posted that this should be required reading for all Catholics. I would like to say that it should be required reading for anyone attending any church and wanting to grow closer to Jesus. How often are we wrapped up in our own little world and miss the struggles that other face even as they seek to know Christ better. Thank you for a wonderful perspective on this. May God bless you as you encourage others!

  50. Jamie says:

    Thank you. Just thank you. I have 5 little ones, one that lives with Jesus and 4 I take to Mass, often alone b/c my husband is in law enforcement and works odd shifts. My oldest is 5. What hurts the most is when people joke “don’t you wish you had one more?!” Mine are very well behaved, but the 15 month old likes to squeal when he is happy! Our Priests are wonderful role models, but I take the little one out sometimes because I worry about bothering people. This helps. God Bless. Thank you.

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  52. Deborah says:

    Hi, Meg.
    I don’t usually read your blog, but my cousin “liked” it on fb and I followed the link here. I enjoyed the post, particularly your short bio at the bottom. Your words about yourself and your inclinations sound SO like a young gal I know who became a Dominican sister 2 or 3 years ago! (Just sayin’. . . .) I wish you clear discernment.

  53. Ellie says:

    Thank you so much.

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  55. linda says:

    I agree that children should be brought to Mass. All of the lessons they learn as children will translate as they are adults. Fortunately where I attend Mass now most parents are quite responsible. A cry, screach or other shout out is expected and tolerated but when they become very distruptive they take them out until the children settle down. However one of my former parishes was a free for all until one of the unruly children knocked over and broke the Easter candle and it’s stand costing the Parish considerable money. The new rule was anybody’s child was everybody’s child and unruly children needed to be removed. It was an over reacton probably but it also was an extemely poor parish and the candle and stand couldn’t be replaced for almost a year because of the cost. we couldn’t afford more stuff to be broken.

  56. Indie says:

    Thank you so much for this post. Some friends and I with children have had a very unfortunate experience recently in our church related to this issue and it was so refreshing to read this.

  57. Analisa says:

    As a mother who had four babies in four years, and always found the cry room way too wild, thank you.

  58. Michelle says:

    I want to add that as a mother of 7, ranging from 22 to 2 yr. old twins, and one on the way, that it is a lot to ask of a small child to sit still and/or quietly for an hour or more. The cry room in my old parish was set up like the big part with glass for full view of what was taking place on the altar. It was perfect.

    It is worthwhile to begin teaching quiet time at home, with small bouts of challenging your smaller children to sit still and be quiet. I’m afraid to say that even we as adults need this practice in order to hear God speaking to us. It certainly has been a struggle for me. I have been in and out of the cry room for many years! This discourse has been very helpful. Thanks. 🙂

  59. Joni says:

    Thank you for this post! As the mother of a teen and an almost-teen, it’s sometimes easy to forget those years of “battles”. Before we became Catholic (5 yrs. ago), the churches (we were in) stressed the need for the little ones to be in the nursery so they wouldn’t “disturb” the worship. We decided early on that our children needed to be in church so they could be part of the church family. I am so thankful the Catholic Church is so open to having the little ones at Mass.

  60. I just have to say, the picture you chose for this post sent shivers down my spine. That is like something out of a nightmare about rabid zombies chasing me down and ripping me apart.
    Hats off to the parents who patiently work with their kids week in and week out, day and night (and who make it to confession every once in a while when circumstances get the better of them!).

  61. robin says:

    Loved the heart of this post!

    Here is a great article from that gives practical advice in how to help your young children enter into worship with you while at church.

  62. LOL about John Paul! My first daughter…for some reason unknown to me…would announce her need to use the potty by saying “poopy yucky, you farted!” Which she announced with great gusto just as my husband and I were about to sit down in the 3rd pew from the front of a long narrow church just after having our 2nd daughter dedicated. I wanted to disappear into the floor. But what could I do? When a newly potty trained child asks to go potty…you take her NOW rather than risk an accident! So up the middle aisle I marched, face flaming red.

  63. If a newborn is crying for an hour, that is a major problem. Poor baby was hungry, or sick, or both.

  64. Wonderful post! I have written about this subject in the past. It’s an important one–God bless you!

  65. kira says:

    thank you for this article. my husband and i have a 5 yr old, 2 yr old, and a baby due the end of august. we have always taken our children to mass with us even though there were times when we knew it would be rough even before we got to the church. i have had people outside of our faith ask why we take our children into the sanctuary with us and i simply say that this is how they will learn to behave, appreciate, and deepen their love for God and our faith. thankfully, we have usually gotten nice comments about our kiddos that are lively. most say that they remember those days and can now smile and laugh when they see our 2 do the things kids do during mass or that they love watching our kids. those comments mean the more than those people will ever know.

  66. AH says:

    Thank you for this post. I am not Catholic, but methodist, and the church I come from has a lot of little kids. However my boyfriend is Catholic and since I am able to hear God’s word in any church and he hears it better in a Catholic church we bring his kids to Mass every Sunday. He has two older kids and a 4 year old. We’ve been struggling with how we feel after we leave mass, because we are both so frustrated. So we’ve done a few things – I bring his bag which has some sort of snack, those color wonder markers that only write on the certain paper, and now I’ve also purchased the Action bible (the one that looks like a comic book). I’m sure when people see him looking through what looks like a comic book they are questioning our parenting, but what better for a little boy then a bible that has all the action depicted in picture form – with words so as he gets older he learns to read and he’s already really into the bible. The other thing we do, we sit in the same spot every week – if somebody doesn’t like how he behaves they can move. Our church does not have a cry room and they do not have a nursery – so they are not even an option.
    That all being said we both still struggle when we leave Mass because we are still focused on him not being a distraction for others – we want him to be quit and reverent – but this article has opened my eyes to back off myself a little bit (not stop keeping him in control, but not to fret over the normal child noises and squirming).

  67. Jordan says:

    Our pastor says I can’t ask our people to be pro-life then get upset when kids are kids
    at mass. God is blessing our parish with many young families i believe for this very
    reason. Jesus said bring the little ones to me and thats what we do and His light shines ever brighter through the loudest of masses.

  68. Lauren says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for this great entry! I recommended our pastor reprint it for our parish bulletin and he did, just last week! Everyone loved it!!

  69. Amanda French says:

    I admire parents with the guts to take many children to Mass by themselves. I won’t do it because we need an adult on either end of the pew to keep them from dancing in the isles! As soon as children are old enough to understand (around age 3) we make a big deal out of Mass. Befor we ask them “how do we behave in church?” and they respond “be quiet, sit still and pay attention!”. So even though our 2 year old is climbing over the back of the pew and our 1 year old is blowing raspberries, our 4 and 6 year old are usually very good. If they aren’t we make them kneel before the tabernacle and apologize to Jesus after Mass. If we do have to take our toddler to the back then we hold her the whole time. Yes, our arms get tired but she realizes that we don’t go back to play. I don’t mind the raspberries, it’s a happy noise and the only comment I have gotten is “she is so cute!”. Praise God for children at Mass!!! Just remember parents- the more you take them to daily Mass, the better they will behave on Sunday.

  70. Barbara says:

    I am not Catholic but I attend church with lots of young families. I’ve had two children of my own (grown now) and had the same problems of embarrassment, especially with my son, who couldn’t sit for a full hour, so he got up to use the bathroom or to get a drink, and then sat up front, because I was in the choir when he got older, and his father didn’t go to church. I would get comments about him from distracted older traditional attendees. Oh, they wanted me to sing, loved my voice, but somehow they wanted ME to discipline my son! As time went on, my son refused to attend, (overheard what they were saying – “hypocrites” was his response) as did more and more younger families and the church almost died! I held on to that church too long, and finally switched. I haven’t read all of these posts, but what about the other Christians sitting in the pew with these young ones, or behind them? We should be introducing ourselves to them, getting to know the kids, and asking if we can help hold them, let them sit in OUR laps, sing with them, etc. I am a teacher and I have seen the success of children in awe of those who show them attention, even when it is to quiet them. Offer to take them out and walk around, and be an example for them. Give the young parents a break! Also, we have a children’s church during the service, for up to 1st or 2nd grade. The kids stay in the sanctuary for the first part of the service, including praise music, and then right before the sermon, they go out for a children’s service. The people who lead that rotate, so they don’t miss church (we only get ‘mass’ once a week, but there’s an evening service too). There are ways to help our young families that still accomplish meeting everyone’s needs! God bless you all.

  71. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this eloquent, humble post! I get to take all 6 of mine to Mass by myself frequently because of my husband’s work/training schedule. We try to sit near the front, on the “families w/small children” side (it has carpet, and yes, it does make a difference!) My husband’s presence is usually a calming influence, since we flank them in the pews. Without him, I sit in the middle, hoping the littles don’t escape from either side. Sometimes, if we arrive early enough, I put the youngest one in the nursery since he’s the main point of contention during Mass–all the other kids argue over who gets to hold the baby. That’s an okay problem to have, in my book. 🙂 Often, people sitting around us comment on what a beautiful family we have, and thank God for those people! They, and several of the others who have left comments, understand that children are smart, and when they whine, you don’t give in to them or they’ll know they can always get it–that includes getting to leave Mass when they feel it’s boring. If they leave, they miss the miracle of the Eucharist, and how will they learn that it is the most exciting thing we Catholics have? Your line–“Take this as a sign that God is calling you out of yourself” was spot on. Children humble us, and who doesn’t need a little more of that? PS–I have a John Paul, and that sounds exactly like something he would say during Mass!

  72. Lindsay says:

    I love, love, love this!!! Thank you!!!! 🙂 from, a mom of two toddlers who attend catholic church almost every Sunday! 🙂

  73. Ann says:

    Wonderful post ! I encounter “your screaming kids are distracting me” situation every Sunday. About 3 months ago, seating in front of us is the young family of five. Mom, dad & three very active toddlers. The toddlers screamed & kicked, pushed & shoved each other & of course the people seating next to them is also their “victims”. Poor mom & dad keep apolizing & take turn to take the worse behavior out. My normally strick husband leaned forward to the distressed parents & said “It’s OK, we’re Catholics, we love children. I’m glad you bring them to Mass”. So now, they seat in front of us very Sunday along with their three very active toddlers. I don’t know if it’s by the grace of God or I just developed a tolerant for screaming chidren, the toddlers don’t distract me any more. I’m sure it’s by the grace of God..

    • Marilynne says:

      When I was little my Mom had three or four of us to watch on Sunday mornings. (Mom took in foster kids.) One of the things I remember is members of the congregation inviting me to sit with them. If me and my oldest brother were out of the mix and under the control of other people, Mom could handle the other two. I thought it was a privilege to sit with other people. I was on my best behavior.

      I know people are less trusting these days, but surely there are people nearby who could offer to watch just one of those kids for the hour needed.

  74. Debby says:

    Our pastor has reminded our congregation many times that we are there at Mass to celebrate as a community–that means there will be babies, toddlers, children, teens– all the way up to centenarians. All are welcome. Our priest purposely did not include a “cry room,” in our church. The way to teach kids to go to Mass is to take them. One time, at a daily Mass in the chapel, I stood up to go out to the foyer with my fussy infant. The priest said (with a smile), “Where are you going with that baby? Sit down!” So I did. The elderly ladies thanked me after Mass for bringing my beautiful baby, since they liked hearing the little sounds he made. Our church holds 800-1000 people at each Mass and there are lots of kids, but they are made to feel important and welcome. They pass the collection baskets, become altar servers and lectors, hand out song sheets, etc. My kids are now 13, 11, 9 and 7 and learned how to behave and participate at Mass by going to noon Mass since they were each about a month old. I let them bring a small activity bag when they were younger, with religious books, crayons and paper, a few legos. I do ask them to whisper and I always took a tantruming child out to calm down for a minute, then go back in. I didn’t want them to “win” and get to leave. My youngest will receive First Communion this year, and then he’ll have more understanding to participate in the prayers, songs, sign of peace, Eucharist. I have a friend who has 6 kids under age 14, and they always sit in the front row so the kids can see. It works for their family. We don’t do that, but try to let the youngest two sit near the inner aisle so they can see better. Yes, we are there to be with Jesus in the Eucharist, but Jesus also said to welcome the little children and learn from them. Jesus lives in each one of us. Sometimes their excitement, awe, loud singing, laughter and even cries are inspiring to others. Last week my free spirited daughter, who loves to wear rainbow colored skirts, enjoyed the music so much that she tried dancing in the aisles. I did stop her, but asked if she could just tone it down and dance in the pew next to me. It was a really wonderful song by our great choir, and she was “worshipping” in her own way. God bless all the children of the world, to be loved, fed, educated and welcomed.

  75. Meredith says:

    Though I go to Temple and not Church, this story really touched me…. made me cry in fact. As I have been stressed over bringing my youngest to Rosh Hashanah services next week. thank you for this!!!!!!

  76. Peggy says:

    Welcoming children is so important, but I wonder whether offering an age appropriate liturgy of the word and having the children return for the liturgy of the Eucharist would be even more welcoming. The ‘Directory for Masses With Children’ does caution us:
    “Nonetheless, we may fear spiritual harm if over the years children repeatedly experience in the Church things that are barely comprehensible: recent psychological study has established how profoundly children are formed by the religious experience of infancy and early childhood, because of the special religious receptivity proper to those years.” It would be good to develop more lectionary-based curriculum for a children’s liturgy of the word.

  77. Colleen says:

    Are we not suppose to put ourselves in God’s Divine Will? We are to be focusing on what God wants and not what we want. So as my mother was so fond of saying when we complained about ANYTHING at all…offer it up for your own salvation.

  78. Heather Mills says:

    Is there room at a parish for people who crave silent Adoration? Silence is so reverant and is really beautiful. Is there patience and mercy for those who leave their “packing lists” at home and bring their fears and worries about cancer, deployed spouses, abortion and pain to our Lord in front of the Real Presence?

    Do we scorn those who are silent at Mass and praise those who have vibrant and outspoken toddlers? Must we vilify and take sides? Can’t we see a toddler’s outburst part of nature and be neutral?

    Or maybe silence should only be reserved for special silent retreats?

    “Prayer is so often a veil for narcissism” is one of the scariest statements I’ve read on a blog lately.

    Kids are kids, they are noisy at times. This isn’t new to anyone on earth.

    I do not know why the topic of noisy toddlers is discussed ad nauseum on blogs, mommy blogs, catholic blogs. I think it’s because like most personal blogs, it’s an opportunity for the self ruighteous to vent and seek affirmation from the blog communites they roll in.

    • Allison says:

      Great post, Heather Mills. I hope everyone reads this.

      It’s true “Prayer is so often a veil for narcissism” is indeed a creepy statement.

      The author should not extrapolate her own experience of her prayer life onto the rest of the congregation. If it’s a “veil for narcissism”, you’re not doing the thing right and you shouldn’t be calling it “prayer”. 🙂

      The author should read and understand this definition of prayer, “Prayer is a form of communication, a way of talking to God or to the saints.”

      No, it’s not some silent Buddhist meditation, where you are trying to tune out passing thoughts. It’s not relaxing or deep breathing exercises. -It’s communication. Communication requires focus. And communication of any sort is difficult when there is someone screaming next to you. To make it even easier to pray, we have the words of the homilies, songs, sermon and the Gospel to inspire and guide our thoughts.

      Meg, you have no idea how I’m praying for what I’m praying for. You don’t know about the hardships or tragedies that I’m dealing with. You definitely don’t know what is best for me spiritually.

      Please don’t insult me and others by say that your kid is “distracting me from my narcissism. They’re distracting me from the idol I’ve made of worship, making me encounter God as he really is, not as I want him to be. They’re distracting me from the endless series of irrelevant thoughts that occupy my “praying” mind.”

      Maybe your kids are distracting me from the words of a sermon that really would have soothed my soul. Maybe the screaming is making it difficult for me to hear a homily that would have provided comfort after the early death of my niece. This is MY experience, Meg. Please, please don’t trivialize it by summing up the prayer of your fellow parishioners, your brothers and sisters in Christ, so superficially and so self servingly. Please reflect upon your statement and the advice that you are giving.

      I know that you and many others want affirmation, but please don’t try to gain it at the expense of those who need healing, who need comfort and who desperately need to hear the soul-nourishing Word of God.

      Use common sense. Some kid noise is OK and to be expected in a thriving community. However, when your kid is screaming at the top of their lungs, during the Gospel, it is really not OK. Please make the distinction. Thank you.

  79. Deborah says:

    Heather, here’s something I know: Jesus said to bring the little children to him, so he was pretty cool with children. But when he wanted silence, he went away alone. Seems an appropriate example to follow. And what do you propose, an adults-only mass? That would be kind of weird, to be honest.

  80. {Kathy} There is more wisdom in this post than I have read in some time. As a mother of 4, absolutely everything you describe, from the events to the feelings going on in your head and of others, is DEAD ON. Thank you so much for expressing these thoughts. The title is perfect…..

  81. Brenda Hermanson says:

    One of our pastors just posted this blog, so my comment is WAY late! But having raised 2 kids, and now being a grandparent, like others, I can truly say what a blessing children are in worship. I attended a church where there were the rolling eyes and critical comments and it made me profoundly sad, not to mention angry. Actually, my gripe is the ADULTS who are whispering to each other when they should be attending to the readings or the sermon. They distract me more than a child ever does. So bring on the babies! They are God’s children too!

  82. Sandi says:

    This was an interesting post that was shared by our pastor. I read almost every comment and found the views interesting. I decided to share mine. When I was a child, I learned at a young age to be quiet in church, that it was a sacred place. I taught my children, and then my grandson the same thing. That said, there are always times when a quiet whisper is too loud or a young child giggles or says “hi” to an older brother or sister as they sing in a program or the choir. All that is normal in any setting. But I have too often seen parents allow a child to talk, read a book outloud, and play with toys making noises that are totally distracting to those who are near them (this happens at school programs, too, not just church). And I’ve seen it enough to know the parent is not training the child, but simply ignoring the child and missing the opportunity to teach the child the importance of reverance/respect. If my child got noisy, etc., I never felt there was anything wrong with leaving the pew, taking a “teachable” moment to step away and tell my child why it was important to speak softly and then return to the pew. My child didn’t “win” by being removed momentarily. Instead, it was a gentle reminder to be quiet. I always had tiny books, colors and paper to keep my children quiet and they had to use their “quiet voice”. I never made them feel like they couldn’t speak, only that they had to be well-behaved. I clearly believe that children should be welcome at service, but allowing the child to cry or talk or play noisily teaches them nothing, and it may cause someone who is attending mass and is in need of spiritual nourishment to miss the words he/she needs to hear from the pastor or priest. We need to remember that worship is for everyone and we are all God’s children. And yes, there are adults who whisper and talk or let their cell phones ring. I recently sang at a funeral and could have easily been distracted by the three cellphone rings that went off during the music I shared. Yes, adults need to learn to be reverent and respectful, too!

  83. Elizabeth says:

    I think you’ve given many a different side to think about, and thank you so much for opining for tolerance of others in mass. I want to expand on it a bit. As a mother of a child with autism and other developmental disabilities, we have extra challenges to overcome. It takes many months and sometimes years to teach our children something and being quiet in service is one of those. Yet, our children are also children of God, and the “least of these” and deserve a place in mass. So if I’m there with my child and she starts doing her “ah, ah, ah” and waving her hands, don’t tell us we don’t belong.

  84. Sandi says:

    Ah, Elizabeth, I have been in service with children who are autistic and have no problem with that at all. I’ve also sat near a parishioner who had to use an oxygen machine and it makes a noise that to some might be disconcerting. I would never tell you or any child or adult that you do not belong and I grieve when I see others who do that. I gave careful thought to the thoughts I shared. There is clearly a difference between a child who is being taught and one who is not being quiet and respectful. And the same goes for adults. It is a courtesy to others to step outside the sanctuary until the child calms down and as adults who leave their phones on……don’t answer them in church or during programs. And last thought……..A baby who is hungry and fussy is not old enough to mind if the parent steps out of the service to tend to it’s needs so I never understand why someone would continue to let a child fuss and cause a disruption to a sermon or prayer. This is a touchy subject but I’ve been child, parent, parishioner and a church secretary so I took the leap and shared my thoughts.

    • Marilynne says:

      When my children were small and fussy I would take them out to calm them down. I would comfort myself for missing part of the service by telling myself that God knew where I was and what I was doing.

  85. brooke r. says:

    I just posted this on FB in reaction to this post. It’s maybe a different perspective on things..

    This is complex, at least for someone like me. I’m single, 40 and childless. In the 2 churches in Logan, UT that I attended (once PCUSA, one Epsicopal) I felt on the outside of the community because of my demographic. Both communities were better at serving families – whatever the make up, family = more than 1 – than me. Yeah, single people, of college age (re: traditional college age), but not me.

    In word I was a part of the community that was serving the children of the church, but in reality that wasn’t the case. I even brought this up to the PCUSA pastor, who is more like a brother to me, and that is one place that he and I just had to disagree on.

    Now I’m back in Eugene, Or. I’ve been looking for a church community. I wasn’t part of one when I left here. One of the things I was looking for was whether I would be included in the church community. I talked to some congregants and was assured that I would be welcome. I had a meeting with the priest last week who affirmed what I’d heard from the congregants. He also affirmed my feelings about being left out of faith communities because of my demographic.

    So, my point. I like silent worship. I don’t like it when children are disruptive. I, know, though, even though I’m not a mother, that the parents probably aren’t thrilled that their children are being loud. I understand that. It’s part of being human, even though I don’t have children. I just wish that the same understanding of the difficulty of bringing a child to church was afforded to me – that being in my shoes is just as difficult. That I should be as welcome as the children are, in all facets of the community. That I have something to offer families and children, even though I’m single. That maybe, I know something. Maybe I’ve been watching and paying attention. Maybe I can offer the community something too.

    • Meg says:

      Brooke, I’m so sorry that this has been your experience. Fortunately, I think that many Protestant ministers are becoming more aware of this–in fact I just stumbled across this column that speaks to your frustration:

      I say Protestant ministers because I think it’s less of an issue in the Catholic Church because of the great emphasis placed on celibacy in the Catholic tradition. Of course, I’m not yet 30 and it may be different down the road–perhaps being 40 and single in the Catholic Church is just as hard as in Protestant churches.

      In any event, friend, I’ll be praying for you to find a welcoming church home where you feel valued for all that you are, not judged for all you are not. Wherever you are, I’m sure you will be a blessing.

  86. Joey Tucker says:

    The article was great but the inspiring moment was reading the “About Meg” at the end of the article! Thanks Meg for your devotion and commitment to service for the Everlasting God, Jesus and Holy Spirit!! This, ladies and gentlemen is the way we win the battles on all our fields, whether social, political or Spiritual. COMMITMENT to God and service to others! Believe Jesus may have something about that??? 🙂

  87. Celia says:

    Absolutely right. Every church I’ve ever been to has this tension between those loving/craving/deeply needing the sanctuary of silence, and those who have come for the noisy exhuberance of friends, family, music, preaching, or because for whatever reason they couldn’t/wouldn’t “park” their kid …

    You found something amazing and holy in this tension.

    I’m thinking of printing out your blog and posting somewhere at our church!
    hugs and thanks
    Celia recently posted…A Mind like Georgia O’KeeffeMy Profile

  88. Rev. Paul Kirker says:

    As the clergy person of a Protestant denomination, The United Church of Christ, I believe that any one from any church or denomination can read this and have it touch their heart and soul in some way shape or form. Children need to be brought to church at a young age. It is at this time where they will learn how to behave, what appropriate behavior is and how to act in church as they get older. Yes, children will misbehave, get loud sometimes but think of it in this manner it is their way of “making a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

  89. Mary says:

    Personally, I think that churches should offer a quiet room for people who don’t want to be distracted by small children, or adults coughing or whispering, wheezing, or any number of distractions. My husband always says, “if a church has babies and small children than it is a church that is alive and growing.” As someone wrote earlier, if you are in the cry room, you cannot possibly be experience Mass in its fullest.

  90. Terri says:

    Thank you! What a lovely easy to look at those beautiful distractions!

  91. Christina says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have to admit, my husband and I get nervous when we take our 3 1/5 and 22-month-old to Mass. For many of the reasons people stated – Mass is something I look forward to for myself – in a crazy, busy, distracting week, all I want is peace and quiet during Mass, to center myself on God. I feel like, if we have the kids there, we can’t pay attention. We leave asking each other if we remembered the Homily or which reading were read. So we have come to taking turns each week as to who is going out with the little one. We don’t have a cry room at our church and I actually have seen some in other churches that I’d like to have, ones in which you can still participate in Mass. I also believe that if your child is really going on and on, or screaming bloody murder, it is your responsibility as a parent to take them out for a little break, as many times as needed, kind of a “time out”. I try to remind my husband (who gets MUCH more upset and embarrassed) that we and the kids are receiving graces just from being there and God is just happy that we tried. But that is not always easy. My oldest has come a long way and sits there for the most part like an angel – provided we remembered to bring fruit snacks and a few princesses along. But my son sometimes just takes off, often toward to altar or the marble holy water font. We pray that he settles down, especially before we welcome our next one in August. I can’t even imagine what three will be like! But thank you for reminding me of what is truly important. God Bless You!

  92. Melissa says:

    I remember going to our baptism class (we moved a few weeks after our oldest was born and had not fully decided on a church home until our second child was almost 2–my husband and I are different denominations and trying to find the best fit for our family). We commented on how it hardly seemed worth the effort to attend weekly mass when we could barely hear anything in the cry room. That was when we were told we should be sitting right up front with our children where they could see what is going on during mass.

    After reading several of the comments I am wondering about some of these churches. To the best of my knowledge, the ushers at our church are there to assist people in finding a seat during particularly crowded masses, pass the collection basket, and things of that nature, not police the service and act like bouncers.

    • Mandy says:

      Wow your last line just made me think about the time I visited my sister-in-laws church. One of their ushers came up to my husband and told him “that is why we have childcare.” What? Seriously? You just told me that my child was not welcomed at mass. We got up and walked right out of their church. We found it very rude. Especially since we were visitors and our kids didn’t know the people running the “childcare,” so they wouldn’t stay there. They wanted to be with us, they were in a strange church, with strange people (they were 2 at the time. ) The real kicker was my sister-in-law got mad at us for leaving even after we told her what happened.

  93. Monica says:

    Thank you for writing this. I have 5 children. I think this article needs to be printed in every bulletin and posted in every church so all can see it.

  94. Hannah says:

    WOW!!! thank you. I have gotten dirty looks – many of them and few affirming smiles and words of encouragement at Mass. Many times I have to go with three kids alone since my husband has to work…. Dirty looks, eye rolls… it hurts. I am doing the best that I can. My kids are almost 5 – very good in Mass, just turned 3 – much better in Mass, 17 month old (teething, yep got 5 of those babies coming in) — not so great all of the time. I thank you fo this and wish it could be printed in our Church bulletin.

  95. catherine says:

    As the mother of four who started church (protestant) at one week of age – dad was minister, mom was organist/choir director = it was instilled on them that worship service was a holy time and play/noise were not for this time. They usually sat with fellow members who respected our thoughts of behavior. Our three year old was sitting by himself on the front pew very near the organ that I was playing. His dad moved to the side of the pulpit to make come comment, and our son looked up at me and said “tell him to go back, I’ll behave”. He had not been misbehaving. Now, for those who say making them behave in church, no noise, etc., would make them dislike church as they got older. Sorry, all four are very active with their families in their churches. Yes, discipline is important both out of church and in church. I find that so many young parents today are afraid to discipline their children. Just go to any restaurant and experience the behavior of their children. Enough said — old lady!!!!

  96. Rev Ivan says:

    As a protestant minister, I am often confronted with members of the congregation who want something to be done about the sound of kids in church. We now have a speaker in the foyer and I’ve said that whenever the sound of kids gets too much, people are welcome to sit in the foyer and listen without the sound of kids disrupting them as much.
    But the big question this raises for us as clergy is how we do church. If our time of worship is when we gather as the whole people of God, then what we do in worship should reflect that; it should be appropriate to all the people of God – including children and including parents. The Roman Catholic tradition has a head start on us in this already in that so much of your history is involved with art, with symbol, with ritual. All of these can be sources for wonderful engagement with children. When historically people have responded to God through art, why do we always sit in silence to pray; why don’t we spend more time drawing our prayers with crayons? I know there will always be times when kids are upset and screaming no matter what, but with a little imagination, we could at least offer a worship experience where they have the option to engage.

  97. Lou says:

    I am one of those people who hasn’t been going to church because my youngest boy is a rowdy mess. I miss going to mass and feel disconnected because I am not going. This post made me feel a little bit better about trying again, even if my kids are not the best behaved!

    • Meg says:

      Oh, please come back! We’d so much rather have you there and noisy than missing from the family. And feel free to print this to hand out to anyone who gives you dirty looks–although I bet you get fewer than you’re expecting. God bless you!

  98. Amy says:

    On Ash Wednesday evening service, my husband had to take my 3 year old to the bathroom while my 8 year old was left in the pew by himself (I was in the choir loft). Our Priest was talking about how we all fall down sometimes and my son got out of the pew, and fell to the floor giving a literal demonstration. Guess what, that means he was actually LISTENING to the homily and taking it in. In the church is exactly where children need to be because they are like sponges soaking up everything they hear. This is how they grow up to be followers of Christ – by hearing his word.

  99. Kara says:


    Thank you so much for your wonderful post. I am the wife of a Pastor and I am always at church alone with my two kids. Although no one in the church says anything about the kids, we have a lot, it is always good to hear the positive attitude about children in the Worship. In fact your post struck me so much that I wanted to ask if I could put it in our congreational newsletter. I feel that it is important for our new mom and dads to hear this. Thank you so much for considering this. Kara Vehar Scotland SD

  100. Kara says:

    Thank you so much! I will be happy to put your blog address up. Thanks again.

  101. Bonnie Way says:

    THANK YOU for this post. I’m crying as I read it. I’m a mom with two little girls – and not two little girls who like to sit in the pew quietly reading or colouring, but two little girls who wiggle and squirm and sing and want to know when Mass is done. We’ve switched churches to find a Mass that is more family-friendly (and I’m grateful to the other families who attend with their “screaming” children). Yet often at church, I have a head-down attitude so that I can’t see those around me casting judgement at me for not keeping my children quiet enough. So thank you for the grace in this post.
    Bonnie Way recently posted…Coming Home: Practicing Mammal’s Conversion StoryMy Profile

  102. Allison says:

    Let’s be real here. Everybody, myself included, wants to believe that we are not being selfish or insensitive to others in prayer when our kid is screaming.

    For the sake of intellectual honesty, it’s important to make a distinction between “kid noises” and “screaming”. If you can’t focus on prayer becuase of a couple comments or noises or squeaks from chairs then, yes, it’s kinda on you at this point. Mass is not supposed to be a Zen meditation center.

    HOWEVER, if you are someone who actually is listening to the WORDS, trying to focus on the hymns, someone who really needs the spiritual nourishment provided by contemplation and focus on the actual service, sonmeone that may have had a setback, might be at their breaking point, then no, it is not helpful to have a screaming kid, pulling you out of your “narcissistic prayer”.

    If I’m trying to listen to a sermon, especially something thats deeply relevant and healing for me, I don’t need to be “tested” on the strength of my focus or attention, because you won’t take your kid outside for a few minutes. It’s not selfish for me to say that sometimes I really NEED to be able to listen to the Word of God. I’m not just floating around in some vague meditational prayer, drifting in and out of focus, as you cite in your straw man arguement, waiting for your baby or toddler to jolt me back into reality.

    It’s not fun to have to run out of the service with your screaming child, but often it’s the thoughtful thing to do. Convincing yourself that it’s no skin off anyone else’s back or even that your somehow providing some sort of service by stopping their minds from drifting to shopping lists or fantasy football numbers is borderline delusional.

    There’s a reason they “say stuff” in church. It’s not to provide background noise for some sort of meditation. If your child is screaming to the point where people can’t focus on the Word, that’s on YOU, not them. Maybe they really needed to hear a homily or perhaps they really would be well served by that key phrase in the sermon that your child just screamed over.

    So yes, I agree, normal kid noises are not at all out of place and may even be a welcome sound, but if you feel absolutely fine having your kid scream their head off during the middle of a sermon, maybe you should focus less on those “narcissistic congregants” and a bit more attention on your own spiritual state. Your insensitivity to the lives, troubles and needs of those around you, screams a message to the rest of the congregation just as loud as the cries of your own yelling child.


    • Susan says:

      WOW, Allison, bravely done and very well put. I could not agree more. An awful lot of what I have read here was pretty self-indulgent (screaming kid = joyful noise, etc.). I wasn’t courageous enough to say it myself, but I do wholeheartedly second you. People with kids whom you feel compelled to “entertain” in order to get them through the agony of sitting still for an hour — you’re not teaching them anything, at least not anything about why you are all there. They’re not going to get religion through osmosis. It’s pretty disheartening that other congregants’ desire for communion with God should take a back seat to your need for a “welcoming, family-friendly” atmosphere. Last time I checked, that was NOT the reason we’re there, “suffer the little children” or no.

      • Michelle says:

        I’m not hearing anyone here say that Jesus, Our Lord and Savior himself ~ in person, in the flesh ~ body, blood, soul, and divinity is literally present among us! I mean it is way more than “osmosis” here ladies. The MOST important thing about mass is that you are receiving Jesus into your very own body (or the heart, if that isn’t possible). Even if you haven’t heard a word, you are still worthy and will receive this awesome gift. (that is if you are prepared) Let’s ponder this fact.

        When I wake up, I try to meditate on the daily readings for mass. It’s my quiet time and I also enjoy my coffee. When I get to mass, I am aware of what is being said in spite of any distractions.

        It is true that there is a difference between behaviors and it would be nice to have a mini chapel with glass for full view for families with small children, but not always possible.

        Children are getting something, since the KING himself is there. How exciting. If you are close to God, you will hear what he wants you to hear one way or another.
        God Bless

    • Sheila Teresa says:

      I understand how you feel. I really do. I like to sit and listen quietly myself. I guess that’s why I don’t go to church anymore, partly. I went to a church that routinely cancelled all childcare so the workers could attend church (once a month and then all summer). I spent weeks sitting in the foyer with my 2 year old trying to climb on my head, while people glared at me, even though I had taken them out of the service. I’m a single mother, and I don’t actually have a support system around. It wasn’t church for us. It was enduring the hour until we could go home. So now we don’t go and it’s much more peaceful for everyone.

    • Emily says:

      Amen, Allison

    • Mira says:

      Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

  103. Susan says:

    “Jesus, Our Lord and Savior himself ~ in person, in the flesh ~ body, blood, soul, and divinity is literally present among us!”

    Indeed. All the more reason to inculcate in our children from the age of nought that church is a very special place, a place that demands our very best behavior, in order that we CAN fully participate in the wonderful mystery that is the reason we are here. This demands a bit more from parents than just bringing enough toys, drinks, snacks, etc. to tide them over until Mass is over and they can get on to the most important part of the outing, which is undoubtedly coffee hour. This demands that parents teach their children, in an age-appropriate way, what is going on in church and why they have gone to the trouble of dressing in their best and making the trip. This demands that parents demonstrate by their own behavior how they expect the children to behave. It is the EXPECTATION of better behavior on the part of some parents that I do not see. I see plenty of families, large families, who seem to have a fine handle on this; I raised a son from diapers up, in church every Sunday, and I assure you we never brought a playground with us. I simply cannot understand those parents, however, who let their children behave as they wish with never a word of correction. “Children are getting something”? I think they’re getting that church is just another place where they get to “act like children” (I can imagine that they behave the same way in movie theaters and restaurants). I invite you to come back in 15-20 years and see how many of those children are in church of their own volition. My guess would be, not many.

    • Michelle says:

      Thank you Susan. I wondered if I should have pondered and prayed more before leaving my comment. “Winning” an argument isn’t worth much if I’ve made an enemy. I have 8 children from age 23 down to 4 months. Going to mass is a struggle for sure, but you have given me much to ponder and I will double my efforts for “the children’s sake” ~ since they are the future of the church. God Bless.

    • Deborah says:

      Clearly spoken as someone who had a very very easy child . . . thank goodness the people in my parish welcome life and understand that children are children. Even strong-willed ones.

      • Michelle says:

        Yes, I almost mentioned my “full of life” twins! You are blessed to be in your parish Deborah.

        • Deborah says:

          Ah, twins! Now those are a handful! (I am one and my brother has them!) I don’t know how you survive twins! 🙂

          Our parish is good. We’re all family. Well, not literally, but spiritually. I was delighted (and relieved) last Sunday when my husband was serving, I was in the back trying to sing, and my 19-month-old all of a sudden decided to make a break for the altar. One of our old retirees (and soon-to-be priest) swooped in, picked him up, and fed him cheerios with a big smile on his face. In most environments I don’t believe in “group parenting”, but at a church I don’t mind because I look up to my elders for helping me learn to parent better and they get joy out of the youth of my child. Even if he is completely insane. At least he has learned to genuflect now, so there’s something . . .

    • Number 9 says:

      Ah. Good point. I once heard some great advice that worked for us. If we sat in the very front row at Mass our children always behaved better. There was no one in front of them to mess with and no where to hide. Plus being right up front gave them a great view of all the activities happening up on the altar!
      Number 9 recently posted…7 Quick Takes: 7 Greetings of “Happy Women’s Day” from a Politically Incorrect Full-blooded American WomanMy Profile

  104. Sarah says:

    Perhaps we should all go back & re-read Meg’s original blog post to see what she really said, & reflect on our reactions to both it & the comments posted here, both the ones we “amen!” to & the ones that leave us scratching our heads. The last line of CCC 1658 states “No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home & family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor & are heavy laden.’ ” That includes children, & especially their parents, who may need that hour of grace to make it through another week. How dare we presume that our need for quiet contemplative worship usurps other members of the Body of Christ’s right to unburden themselves before Christ?

    Neither my husband nor I were raised with the Real Presence in our churches—church was a place we went to “get” something–fellowship with other Chrstians & hopefully a good sermon from the pastor. Now, we give ourselves to God during the celebration of the Mass. The only thing we should expect to “get” from a Catholic Mass is grace, in receiving Holy Eucharist. Not quiet. Not solitude. That’s what making a holy hour in the middle of the night is for, like when Jesus went off to be by Himself & pray. The focus of Mass is NOT the lector, the choir, nor the priest, no matter how wonderful they all are—it IS the Eucharist (as the very wise, very orthodox priest who brought us to the Faith told us), so even if we can’t focus on the readings, or a hymn, or that profound homily, it doesn’t matter. It is NICE to have those other things, but they are extras–not the pinnacle, the summit of our faith. Why else should we bother to go to Mass in a foreign country where we don’t understand the language but happily join the communion line?

    This is not at all meant to be argumentative, & I pray no one takes it as such. I agree that some parents may appear not to have much reverence, but is that really worse than the pride we feel when comparing them with us? For example: We don’t let our kids bring food, toys (though they’ve been known to sneak an action figure in their pocket), etc. so it can be easy to look down upon those who do while feeling morally superior. I can feel smug when my little ones say “amen” appropriately & have the Creed memorized better than most adults around us. I can feel really proud when our brood gets complimented on their behavior in Mass. But then I recall C.S. Lewis’ wonderful quote–“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Ouch! To remind us of this concept, Christ Crucified is usually right up there in Mass, above the altar–where we should be gazing & focusing our attention. Pride is a sin we have to be on guard for, especially since it tends to hit people who are trying to do everything right–we want to give ourselves a pat on the back when we do, or that we did. However, we also have to remember that “there but for the grace of God go I…” And then, of course, there’s divine retribution, where the next week my kids are misbehaving & I’m not feeling so proud…God has wonderful ways of humbling us as parents.

    So, I simply ask, please do not assume that parents are not disciplining their kids because you see them misbehave at 1 point during 1 hour of the week. Even if you see it happen week after week. We can’t always “see” a disability, either of the parent or the child. We can’t see what that family’s struggles are all the rest of the week. Children do have free will so even if they’re disciplined, they don’t always behave the way they’ve been taught, no matter the age (as anyone with adult children can likely tell.) Many nurseries are used only because parents are so stressed leaving Mass feeling judged & despised, instead of full of God’s grace, & therefore feel guilted into using one. I understand that, because I tend to use it for that reason for my youngest when my husband’s gone, especially if it’s one of “those” days (of which there are many when being a “single” parent.) My heart breaks for those true single parents, who struggle with that feeling by themselves permanently, like Sheila Teresa. Yet, by reading some of these comments it is easy to understand why she feels Mass must be more peaceful without her. We as a Christian community should feel ashamed this is happening, not more peaceful, & pray she returns. The Catholic Church is ABSOLUTELY supposed to be welcoming & family-friendly–what is the point of the teachings of being pro-marriage, pro-life, open to life, etc. if we don’t expect people to follow them? The Catechism, paragraphs 1602-1658, particularly 1655-1658, along with 2201-2233 is plainly clear about its position on families.

    When we’re wrangling disruptive kids in the pew, the best thing for “concerned” parishioners to do is offer to sit with us or have a young one sit with them (if they’re sitting nearby) or at LEAST smile encouragingly, especially when they see us correcting our kids’ behavior, instead of criticizing, staring with a disapproving frown & then suggesting the nursery or Narthex for next time. The kindness & generosity shown by strangers to us over the years has truly reflected the love of Christ that should be in His Church. Therefore, I’ve vowed that someday I’ll be the one sending my teens to sit with families with young kids, & will be that older lady cooing at crying babies & offering to hold them, or sitting with the fidgety toddler so the mother can soothe the baby or discipline an older child. Basically, I hope I’m like Meg when I grow up! 🙂 (I also won’t park next to a 12 passenger van if I don’t have time to wait for all the kids to load or unload–but that’s beside the point.)

    Adults also need to learn how to behave well at Mass, & learning to show kindness, mercy, compassion & patience with our own children as well as with other parishoners is a gradual but necessary process. It is understandable & perhaps preferable for parents to remove a child who is crying loudly or screaming, but it is unconscionable to make parents or their children feel unwelcome. If the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are not displayed at our Church, where will people go to find them? Please, think & pray about it, especially keeping in mind the comment of Sheila Teresa just a bit ago. God bless.

    • Michelle says:

      Haha Deborah. God is so good. He continues to put me in touch with twins or their parents, as well as large families to encourage me.

      and Sarah, I might just print your comments because they are perfect. You are indeed filled with the spirit of God. I would bet you have made many holy hours yourself. Keep doing it because the fruits are apparent.

      Meg, you are awesome~God Bless

    • Deborah says:

      Sarah, thank you!

    • Allison says:

      Interesting, Sarah…

      You completely twisted the definition of the Mass in order to support your argument/make yourself feel righteous & justified.

      —-There’s one paragraph that is particularly arrogant. I’ll break it down:

      “The only thing we should expect to “get” from a Catholic Mass is grace, in receiving Holy Eucharist.”

      —–Hmm, OK. Got it. We show up, struggle to stay focused for an hour and get communion. I shouldn’t expect anything else. Homilies, Gospel reading, Sermon? I shouldn’t expect any of that. It’s all just window dressing.

      “Not quiet. Not solitude. That’s what making a holy hour in the middle of the night is for, like when Jesus went off to be by Himself & pray.”

      —–Straw man argument. No one suggested church be silent. You are introducing the words “quiet” and “solitude”. I am talking about screaming and outbursts that make it impossible to focus on the Word.

      “The focus of Mass is NOT the lector, the choir, nor the priest, no matter how wonderful they all are—it IS the Eucharist (as the very wise, very orthodox priest who brought us to the Faith told us), so even if we can’t focus on the readings, or a hymn, or that profound homily, it doesn’t matter.”

      —-I can even begin to really convey to you how self centered this statement is… but I’ll try 🙂 Look, YOU might think all that “wordy stuff” doesn’t matter, but how dare you suggest that it shouldn’t matter to me or anyone else reading this thread. You’re completely missing an important point. The focus of the Mass IS the the Eucharist. HOWEVER, it is the focus on the readings, the hymns, the profound homilies the GOSPEL and the sermon that PREPARE us for the Eucharist, prepare us to receive that Grace. The Mass is to be taken as a whole, not just deduced to some focal point. Are we to assume that Sarah doesn’t need to focus on any of those afore-mentioned things in order to prepare for the Eucharist? It doesn’t matter? Wow… Maybe you can lecture the next pope about theology too…

      —-Look, I get it. It probably doesn’t help to support your point of view to imagine that there is a real importance to being able to listen to the Word and prepare for the Eucharist. But that doesn’t change the fact that those homilies, hymns and sermons and Gospel readings are important. They are in the service for a reason, and you disregard their importance at your own soul’s expense. Perhaps you should listen to some of the homilies on humility…

      “It is NICE to have those other things, but they are extras–not the pinnacle, the summit of our faith. Why else should we bother to go to Mass in a foreign country where we don’t understand the language but happily join the communion line?”

      —-No, it’s not simply “NICE” to have those other things, it’s actually very important.
      —-And what’s with this pinnacle, summit talk? More straw man. Something doesn’t have to be the “pinnacle” to be very important. The engine of my car might be the most important feature in the vehicle, but my brakes are not simply “extras”. 🙂 Is the Gospel an “extra”?

      —And why bother to go to Mass in a foreign language?
      —Because it’s better than nothing. Of course, it’s better to go to one in your native tongue, given the importance of the Word.

      —For example, if you are very sick, you can get the Eucharist delivered right to you by your priest. Again, it’s much better to be able to go to Mass, but that visit from the priest would be better than nothing. I think you get the point.

      —-I know that everyone wants to feel good about themselves, but don’t throw theology and church teachings out the window in order to try and prove some point, so you can “feel good” about your own behavior in church.

      —I made it clear that I’m talking about screaming kids distracting from the Word of God. I’ve made it clear that those words are an integral part of the Mass and part of the preparation for the Eucharist. You obviously don’t feel that way. You seem to know better.

      —Whatever the case may be, please have some respect for those around you, the next time your kid is screaming during one of those Homilies, Gospel Readings or Sermons. Do what I do, along with countless others (including the overwhelming majority of parents in our parish) and just walk your kid outside until they are able to be quiet enough to come back in. If they can’t they can’t. There’s always next week. This is not some gigantic imposition on your part.

      — If your kids is shreiking, sure I’ll give a smile or two and maybe a calming word, but after a while you need to show some respect for others, including those who actually think it just might be important to listen to the Word of God.


      • Amanda says:

        This argument reminds me of “don’t remove the splinter from your brothers eye until you remove the plank from your own.” I know we all like being right but sometimes it’s best to hold your tongue and get over it. We all have opinions about kids noise in church but in this case, until the Pope, says “take your kids out,” or “let them scream,” we should leave our negative opinions to ourselves. If noisy kids bother you, offer it up. If people that have kids in the back bother you, offer it up. Let’s not play judge here, the “No you are WRONG and I am RIGHT” argument doesn’t belong in this case. Let’s be friends 🙂

        • Judy says:

          I want everbody to be happy and get along too, but Internet forums are not just about giving “hi fives” and “kudos”.

          Minimizing the way someone prays and trying to say “your focus on the Word is selfish and doesn’t matter to me, so get over the screaming and just offer it up” doesn’t seem to be a very loving response to those who truly need to understand and experience the Word in preparation for communion. Why not take the kids outside and “offer it up”?

          I felt Sarah was a bit condescending in her response. I felt the need to mention the importance of the Word of God during Mass.

          Jesus has no problem mentioning a certain issue with some money changers in the temple, so I dont feel too off base, on standing up against the tide on here and discussing a relevant problem that affects the worship of many people, in our own temples.

          I think having a thoughtful rational discussion is preferable to saying “shut up and deal with it”.

          I have no animosity to Sarah or anyone else and would welcome the chance to share some coffee with her after Mass. 🙂 I just feel that there’s a viewpoint, shared by many people that is not being adequately expressed here.

          I think a discussion that brings focus on the nature of the Mass, Eucharist and Grace is generally a good thing. We are all better served with a sincere discussion (even if it can be a little vigorous 😉 ) rather than being in some echo chamber where everyone is simply patting each other on the back. Even though

          My edges can be a bit sharp, but at the end of the day, I still see you all as brothers and sisters in Christ, valuing you all equally, no matter what your viewpoint.

          With Love,

      • Sarah says:

        My purpose in writing, then as in now, is not to act righteous & justified, nor to be condescending & arrogant, but to plead on behalf of those who feel unwelcome because they may cause disturbance. I admit that indignation came across in my writing, but it was in response to the comment posted shortly before mine, not personally directed toward anyone. The words of Shelia Teresa, posted Feb. 23 at 4:38pm, broke my heart—“I understand how you feel. I really do. I like to sit and listen quietly myself. I guess that’s why I don’t go to church anymore, partly. I went to a church that routinely cancelled all childcare so the workers could attend church (once a month and then all summer). I spent weeks sitting in the foyer with my 2 year old trying to climb on my head, while people glared at me, even though I had taken them out of the service. I’m a single mother, and I don’t actually have a support system around. It wasn’t church for us. It was enduring the hour until we could go home. So now we don’t go and it’s much more peaceful for everyone.”

        No one responded to her, yet ALL of us, the entire Body of Christ, should feel indignant about the treatment toward this mother and her child, and the countless others out there. I can’t imagine a single priest who would rather this woman and her child remain separated from the Body than put up with whatever noises her child makes in the foyer—in fact, many priests have spoken about this (such as the priest in the link Shannon posted.) See, for some people, “There’s always next week. This is not some gigantic imposition on your part” doesn’t work. This ONE particular week may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, or the glare that made a young mother decide not to come back. I’d rather listen to a child shrieking in the foyer than think that my glare was the one that did it. From the Catechism, paragraph 1186 “The visible church is a symbol of our Father’s house toward which the People of God is journeying and where the Father ‘will wipe every tear from their eyes.’ Also, for this reason, the Church is the house of all God’s children, open and welcoming.”

        As for the sources of my writing, apologies for not being more forthcoming—I am definitely not one to throw theology or Church teachings out the window. Many things were in fact referenced by the Catechism (so that one wouldn’t think it was from me—this was not intended to be condescending but to be clear), along with the punch-in-the-gut quote by C.S. Lewis. I did reference a priest as being the one who first told us about the Eucharist being the Summit of Mass (as of our Faith), & that if we can’t focus or understand the other things it doesn’t really matter. Again, apologies for not being able to state it as eloquently as he did, & I did not mean to say that the Liturgy of the Word was unimportant though admittedly that is how my words came across, especially in using the term “extras.” The point was that we can read the words of the hymn or the readings. The homily may or may not make sense, or be a reflection on the readings, or be in a language or accent we easily understand. Who doesn’t love a good homily? (the priest who told us this was a great homilist), and of course we all have to prepare for receiving the Eucharist especially during the Eucharistic prayers and consecration. EWTN has a wonderful thread on this:

        My former priest’s point (& mine, even if clumsily made) is that IF we are unable to focus, due to our own mental distractions or those caused by others in the pews, we can still receive the grace of the Eucharist. This priest is a wonderful theologian and did not speak out of ignorance, even if I butchered his words. However, the “summit” talk about the Eucharist was definitely NOT a straw man argument—it is a teaching of our faith. The source on this teaching is in Part 2, Article 3, Section 3 of the Catechism, mainly paragraph 1324 ( “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.’”), 1382 (…”But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion.”)

        In all charity, the comments in my former post were not meant to be argumentative, & I certainly do not feel righteous. My 3rd paragraph was specifically written to that point—I have been prideful about our family in Mass, but God in His wisdom has time and time again humbled me. For the record, we DO remove our children for misconduct, but because of past experiences, we try not to judge others who do not. Hopefully, in this Year of Faith and in the face of the New Evangelization, there will be more and more visitors, whether fallen-away Catholics, folks interested in converting to Catholicism, and those completely new to Christianity—many of these families will be unfamiliar with behavior in a church atmosphere. For those of us already Catholic, we all need the Eucharist, whether married or single, with or without children, and are therefore doing a disservice to anyone by suggesting that they stay away from it, or try again another time. Again, from the Catechism, paragraph 1140 states “’Therefore, liturgical services pertain to the whole Body of Christ. They manifest it, and have effects upon it. But they touch individual members of the Church in different ways, depending on their orders, their role in the liturgical services, and their actual participation in them.’ For this reason, ‘rites which are meant to be celebrated in common, with the faithful present and actively participating, should as far as possible be celebrated in that way rather than by an individual and quasi-privately’” and paragraphs 1392 & 1393, “This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage…For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins…” And, for parents, paragraphs 2225-2227, “Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children. The should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church….The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and their parents…Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents.” (Whoo boy, do they ever!)

        So, thank you for the invitation to clarify, and in doing so re-reading some wonderful sections from the Catechism. Please understand that this was not trying to justify any behavior of my own children (believe me, they definitely get called to task!), just seeking compassion for those families already feeling burdened, so they may feel welcome to return to the Holy Wedding Feast found in our beautiful faith.

        • Michelle says:

          However heated, this discussion needed to happen ~ at least for me. I have been struggling for so long here on base (no adequate cry room) and last Sunday, I was so much different. Getting everyone ready was very stressful, but the mass itself was just so much more pleasant and relaxed for me. The twins were still a handful, but I wasn’t trying to bribe them in my effort to get them to behave. I took them out some of the time, but otherwise, it was better than ever.

          I desparately need the strength that Jesus provides me and hate the feeling of my children being unwelcome ~ even if it was mostly in my own head.

          I did not know that paragraph in the catechism and can’t wait to share it with my husband who has refused, for the most part, to come with us.

          Thanks again.

          • Amanda says:

            Discussion can happen without being heated. Let’s just try to be more tactfull. I agree that people can take thier kids to the back and offer it up but if they don’t then we can. I have 5 children 7 and under. Our kids make noise but we still expect a certain level of behavior and will take them back if they are screaming. This is what we do but I don’t expect everyone to do as we do. It’s like homeschooling, spanking, potty training etc. Do what is best for you and don’t judge others. Now if we want to have a discussion on doctrine where there is a true and false and it’s not just opinion, let the heated discussion begin. 🙂

        • Allison says:

          Sarah, thanks for a thoughtful response and some wonderful references.


      • MH says:

        Other than not received Holy Communion, but hey, no big deal, right? Many of us parents with “unruly” children need those graces to survive the week. So, I know you don’t appreciate that, but I’m going to do my best to get Communion. Without it, I don’t feel as strong of a parent, and I need every grace I can get. Many a mass has felt like a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race to grace for me, but I stick it out b/c w/o the help of Jesus, I don’t know that I could raise my kids with any level of patience or love.

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    • Sarah says:

      Shannon, thank you for that link! I’ve heard wonderful priests say pretty much the same thing during homilies and in conversation. One priest was genuinely pleased to hear cries of babies. In a country where he had done mission work, he said he hardly heard babies because so many were sick. Hearing babies was music to his ears, even when crying, because it meant they were healthy & alive. Not all priests are like that, of course, and even after he said that I’d take my baby out if crying, but I’d rather get a lecture from him saying “You should have stayed!” rather than “You should have left.” 🙂 It seems that in parishes where real pro-life work, teachings on being open to life, etc. are happening it’s more the norm.

  106. Erika says:

    As a first time mom – THANK YOU for this post. It’s well written and I just had a huge emotional response to it 🙂 I am the mom that sometimes feels unwelcome because they may cause disturbance – this was a beautiful affirmation piece for me 🙂
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  107. Michelle says:

    The three main reasons for Catholics to fall away are:
    1. Ignorance of church teaching
    2. Church teaching given poorly or incorrectly
    3. Bad example

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  109. Allison says:

    Great post by Heather Mills, up above. I hope everyone reads it.

    It’s true “Prayer is so often a veil for narcissism” is indeed a creepy statement.

    The author should not extrapolate her own experience of her prayer life onto the rest of the congregation. If it’s a “veil for narcissism”, you’re not doing the thing right and you shouldn’t be calling it “prayer”. 🙂

    The author should read and understand this definition of prayer, “Prayer is a form of communication, a way of talking to God or to the saints.”

    No, it’s not some silent Buddhist meditation, where you are trying to tune out passing thoughts. It’s not relaxing or deep breathing exercises. -It’s communication. Communication requires focus. And communication of any sort is difficult when there is someone screaming next to you. To make it even easier to pray, we have the words of the homilies, songs, sermon and the Gospel to inspire and guide our thoughts.

    Meg, you have no idea how I’m praying for what I’m praying for. You don’t know about the hardships or tragedies that I’m dealing with. You definitely don’t know what is best for me spiritually.

    Please don’t insult me and others by say that your kid is “distracting me from my narcissism. They’re distracting me from the idol I’ve made of worship, making me encounter God as he really is, not as I want him to be. They’re distracting me from the endless series of irrelevant thoughts that occupy my “praying” mind.”

    Maybe your kids are distracting me from the words of a sermon that really would have soothed my soul. Maybe the screaming is making it difficult for me to hear a homily that would have provided comfort after the early death of my niece. This is MY experience, Meg. Please, please don’t trivialize it by summing up the prayer of your fellow parishioners, your brothers and sisters in Christ, so superficially and so self servingly. Please reflect upon your statement and the advice that you are giving.

    I know that you and many others want affirmation, but please don’t try to gain it at the expense of those who need healing, who need comfort and who desperately need to hear the soul-nourishing Word of God.

    Use common sense. Some kid noise is OK and to be expected in a thriving community. However, when your kid is screaming at the top of their lungs, during the Gospel, it is really not OK. Please make the distinction. Thank you.

  110. Number 9 says:

    Oh my goodness you must have a gazillion followers! It took me three hours to scroll all the way down here to leave this comment. But this post was so spectacular that I had to say something. Not only are you an excellent writer but I’m so glad there are other people on the planet who appreciate the crying babies and crazy toddlers at Mass. Every other type of religion keeps their noisy children separated but one of the best things about our Catholic faith is we keep the children with us and that’s real life. Anyways yay you!

  111. Number 9 says:

    Wow. I just read through the comments and wanted to post again. Sure noisy kids are a distraction in Mass. My children are in middle school and past all that. It’s really difficult for me to connect with God when I’m in a room with a bunch of people anyways, noisy or not. God wants me there though. He wants me to worship and praise him for that hour each week so I can remember I’m not an island and my relationship with him is not just personal it’s communal, it’s the whole Body of Christ. I would so much prefer to worship him in stillness all by myself but I love the messiness of the whole of the Church, all the crazy imperfect people in one room for one hour worshipping God together and receiving His body and blood. I love my time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament too because it is then when I can fully immerse myself in my personal relationship with Christ in peace and quiet. But please please leave the crying babies in Mass. It’s one of the beautiful things about our Faith. Families.
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  112. Ute says:

    Allison & Heather Mills,

    I respect that you prefer a quiet, reverent Mass. I think I would too, but the question doesn’t arise for me, because I have three little kids that I need to take to Mass so that they can grow in faith. So even though I may manage to keep them quiet (because I don’t like them bothering other people, and I tell them every week that we are not to distract other people from Jesus), keeping them well behaved will distract at least ME at some point. But even despite these distractions, I manage to keep hearing the things that I need to hear out of the liturgy. Funny, how the Holy Spirit manages that.

    I think it’s completely unreasonable to expect that you can go to a Mass and not be distracted by a single thing. And you yourself admit that kids will be kids and some level of noise is to be expected. Therefore, you’ll need to find a way to participate despite distractions, and without getting angry at the brothers or sisters in Christ who cause them. You can’t draw a definite line between “This is normal noise that I’m willing to tolerate” and “These parents are inconsiderate and should remove their child”. Don’t forget that Meg does suggest that if you need a quiet, reverent Mass to fully focus, you have the option to go to an early morning Mass or at other times when there aren’t so many loud children around.

    But the main thing I want to tell you is this: in your criticism of Meg’s blog post you focus on the line “Prayer is so often just a veil for narcissism.” You seem to overlook that when she calls prayer narcissistic, she means the kind of inner monologue when we “talk and talk and talk about ourselves and then slap an “Amen” on the end and consider ourselves holy.” She is not talking about real prayer that is indeed focused on God. Please don’t feel offended by this somewhat generalized statement (that seems necessary at this point to keep the writing fluent and captivating), as she most certainly didn’t mean to devalue your and other people’s truly holy prayer. I can say that because I know her personally and how much she appreciates everybody’s unique way of living the Faith. Have you read her other posts? If you do, the loving spirit in which she wrote this post may become more obvious to you.

    I have had a deployed spouse too, and I have brought pain and hurt with me to Mass, and that is why I’m going to pray that you and I and everybody will find comfort and peace during Mass.

    • Allison says:

      Hi Ute,

      As I said before, I don’t expect, as you say, “a quiet, reverent Mass.”

      I actually made this point,” Use common sense. Some kid noise is OK and to be expected in a thriving community. However, when your kid is screaming at the top of their lungs, during the Gospel, it is really not OK. Please make the distinction. Thank you.”

      However, you seem to be doing a great job, Ute. I mean that in total sincerity. You said, “I may manage to keep them quiet (because I don’t like them bothering other people, and I tell them every week that we are not to distract other people from Jesus)”

      I tried to do the same with my children and I thank you for your own efforts. Your heart is in the right place and you will be rewarded in heaven for your patience and thoughfulness towards other parishioners.

      This is much better than a “deal with my kid screaming his/her head off, he/she is doing your prayer life a favor” attitude that seems strong here.

      Thanks again,

    • Allison says:


      May God bless, watch over and protect your husband on his deployment.


  113. Michelle says:

    When I ask my grown son and teen son why they don’t go or want to go to mass, they say it’s partly because of seemingly miserable people who don’t smile, or seem to look down upon them. They never say it is because of noisy, or even screaming, kids. Now that may not be the truth and you never know what someone is experiencing, I know, but the vibes they get are a contributing factor, as well as the unfortunate lack of knowlege, sometimes incorrect teaching and bad example of their parents (i.e.Dad and me). So, the whole body is responsible for the faith formation of our youth.

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  115. Mishka says:

    As a catholic and single mother I thank you for this post. I simply have t bring my child to church if I am going to get there myself.

  116. Angela says:

    I’m not Catholic and I’ve often giggled at thinking about taking my son to church because he is 1.5 and I know he wouldn’t be able to sit through it, but I giggled because my Mom is Catholic and I just think of how echoe-y church is there and how loud his screams would be. I must admit I’ve been nervous to take him to church, even though I know I need to start while he’s young! The church I’ve been thinking of attending has a cry room with a two way mirror and speakers so the Moms can still see and hear the service while trying to calm down their young ones. I miss going to church since I grew up in one and my best friends were the Pastor’s kids… I need to just suck it up and go, even though it will be alone since my husbands works every Sunday. This article helped me a lot in thinking that even when he does yell or throw a little fit that at least others will understand and be glad that God made my son and I’m trying. 🙂

  117. Emily says:

    Or, the children could be taught how to behave appropriately at home. The Church is not the place to teach children how to behave or to make a point to them. You are disrespecting everyone else who is there to pray. I am not talking about a little crying or one or two words aloud, but tantrums, banging things and screaming bloodly murder. I should not have to go to the 7:00 “quickie” Mass or a 3-hour Mass in order to get the peace and quiet that is expected at Mass. There is a reason for cry rooms and lobbies. Do not educate your children at the expense of everyone else at Mass.

    • Mandy says:

      How in the world can you teach your children how to act AT church, AT home? That is ludacris. I have an 8, 6 and 3 year old twins who attend mass with me every week, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We don’t sit in the cry room. If one, two or three of them start making noise my husband or I correct the behavior and move on. Yes I’ve had people move after we’ve gotten to mass and yes people turn and stare or roll their eyes, but guess what? They are my unruly children and if you don’t like it too bad. God said “let the little children come,” not Take Them To The Cry Room.

  118. Joseph says:

    Wow, you can tell who the parents are and aren’t by the comments! I admit that as a single person I often wished that other’s children were more “appropriate”, but as a father I quickly realized how important it was to have my children next to me in Mass. I’m not even in favor of the children’s liturgy, because I consider Mass to be such a family activity. We sit close to the front and close to the music, and between the two our children are very engaged. Unfortunately, whether four or one-yr-old, 60 minutes of cooperation are still a stretch…nevertheless, hearing my daughter respond, sing, pray, and share the sign of peace (even moments after blatant disobedience) makes my heart swell with joy at the power of the Holy Spirit in her. Bless all of those parents around us who have encouraged us with smiles when they have witnessed youthful impatience!!!

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  120. Healthy children are noisy
    Hear it not as noise
    For it is not noise,
    Rather it is the sweetest music of God’s Creation.
    Truly you are blessed.

  121. rebecca says:

    thank you so much for this post! I have a 2.5 year old and a 4 month old and we take them to Mass every week. And I hate the cry room because you feel so separate from the mass. I believe it’s so important to go to Mass as a family every week. My husband was brought up this way and I think it’s made his family and faith so much closer. It’s hard, and a lot of times I’m self conscious about how we might be disturbing others, but luckily most of the people around us are supportive. Plus we sit in the same spot every week, so if you want to avoid us, you can 🙂

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  123. Your blog is wonderful. It was a really good read for me and my family. Thanks!

  124. Maureen Walsh says:

    Loved this article! Thank you! I’d like to add that I myself was not a well-behaved child and yet my grandmother made sure I went to mass every Sunday until I left her home. As a young adult, I left the church thinking I could find the truth somewhere other than the Catholic faith. After tragedy visited my life and I returned to the faith ( I finally got wise and came home!) I was amazed at how much scripture I knew just from the Sunday Masses I attended as a child/teenager- one who only paid attention half of the time. It DOES make a difference, they DO absorb the Word and children belong at Mass FROM BIRTH. I now have a special needs child who is unpredictable in behavior and have struggled through Masses with him. I have been scolded by other parishoners because of his behavior. I am still determined that my child deserves a place at the altar and to hear the Word and know Christ in the Eucharist, even if he struggles with autism. Thank you again for this great article.

  125. Cassandra says:

    I loved reading this. I work seven days a week and a family I help with he’s a 16 yr old boy with special needs and enjoys going to church. But there are times and moments he will be set on one thing for awhile until he decides to stop and he rocks side to side the whole time. Also another special needs boy that is very vocal usually through the whole thing. But not one person would say anything. They always say we hope to see y’all next week. And enjoy having the kids there. They also understand. Something’s you can’t control and when they do those things you need patience to keep calm.

    • Meg says:

      I’m so glad to hear the the church is welcoming these boys and providing them and their families the support they need. Praise God!

  126. Carey says:

    I have 4 children, ages 10, 8, 5 and 20 months old. They experienced their first Masses at 10 days, 4 days, 7 days and 10 days old- basically when I was well enough to go. With few exceptions, unless they are ill, my children younger than the age of reason go to Mass. We spend most of our Masses at our home parish and we sit in the foyer, which has glass doors and sound piped in. We do not use cry rooms unless we are visiting a Parish and our children are not able to cooperate. Why? Because virtually all cry rooms are filled with families who are not teaching their children to be reverent. It undoes all of the work we are doing to teach them to behave at Mass. This is why most families who choose not to use a cry room sit in the Sanctuary with small children. In my experience, Parishes without cry rooms are far more tolerant of children than those with cry rooms. I do not use the nursery either, because I want to teach them. I cannot teach them if they are not in Mass. I do my part and I remove the children if they are not reverent. I do not let them scream or carry on. However, there needs to be some give and take. Those without children need to at least be tolerant of some movement and minor sounds and redirection of children. They need to be tolerant of the small amount of time it takes to actually realize a situation cannot be resolved and the child removed.

    I spent a lot of years feeling guilty and frustrated, and I just don’t anymore. I do what is reasonable. I remove my children. I sit in that foyer so that most of the sound is blocked. I expect my fellow parishioners to meet me halfway on this. My children need Mass. They need to learn how to be a part of the Body of Christ. I need Mass and so does my husband. We need to go to Mass as a family. I have a responsibility to raise these children in our faith. I promised it at their Baptism. I cannot control other’s inflexibility, so if they want to be angry at me for fulfilling the responsibilities of my vocation, then that is on them. What I can say is this. My 10 year old has autism. He has made his Sacraments despite being up against incredible odds. Despite many issues he has with sitting still and sensory input, he behaves better and attends better than many of the adults in the congregation. That didn’t just happen in a vacuum.

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  128. Ron says:

    Great reminder in all settings, not just church!

  129. V Davison says:

    Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me.” And, I’m sure when He was preaching to the crowds, there were sounds of children making noise. However, if a child was crying so loud so that others around couldn’t hear Jesus’ words, hopefully the child’s mother would pick him/her up and carry her child a little further away. She would understand that the other people around her needed and wanted to hear what Jesus had to say.

    Similarly, in Mass, we should definitely put up with some “kid noise.” But, it is not Christian charity to say that others should joyfully put up with an very noisy child who is drowning out the words of the Mass, making it very difficult to hear Jesus speaking to us.

    Furthermore, you do not have to lose a battle if you take your child out of Mass. For example, my family would not allow naughty children to have a special treat after Mass. After a few weeks of missing out on a special treat (be it dessert, a movie etc…) and watching their siblings enjoy it, bad behavior in Mass began to decrease. I know other families who use the same approach. So, it is very possible to teach children (even 2 year-olds!) how to behave in Mass OUTSIDE of Mass (and I am NOT talking about autistic children or children with cognitive or developmental challenges).

  130. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment
    is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!
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    • Meg says:

      Gosh, I can’t find anything I can do from my end. Is there anything in the email that you can click–an unsubscribe button or manage emails or something? Otherwise, maybe just tell your email account to trash anything with “Your Screaming Kids Are Distracting Me” in the subject line. Good luck and sorry!!

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  132. Mary says:

    While I totally agree, and my children NEVER missed church, and the youngest one actually grabbed the neckline and more or less exposed me during church. However, I attended a service not long ago and thoroughly irritated my daughter-in-law when I commented that with all the children talking, playing on their electronic devices, building Legos, eating, crying, being chased back to their seats, and with the parents talking, trading places with fighting kids, chasing kids, that I had no idea what the readings or sermon was all about.

  133. Mary says:

    I totally agree that children belong in church with their parents. My kids NEVER missed church and learned appropriate behavior by the time they were two years old.(I know…a different era) However I managed to irritate my daughter-in-law because I felt that children talking, playing electronic devices complete with sound, eating, playing with Legos, crawling under pews and running through the isles, yelling, crying, AND their parents talking, admonishing, switching places with fighting children, chasing runaways, that I couldn’t even hear the readings or sermon, and wondered how many parents and children had a clue where they were, except for the free coffee and cookies. I think all persons including children need to show learn respect for others and for the space they share.

  134. Derick Josey , Knight of Coulumbus says:

    @ V Davidson I don’t know your faith. But I think you need some deep prayer about what you just posted.When Jesus talks to you tell him what you just wrote.

    @ All those that claim children go to a cry room get on your knees before god and mary and jesus and pray and listen for a small still voice, quiet voice first.

    God bless

  135. Jo says:

    This email was sent through a home school group. Thank you for this. I recently had a similar experience since I do try to go every day to mass. I was distracted by a small voice in the back of church which did bring me back from my distractions!! I was quite shocked that God tapped me on the shoulder this way;) Now each time I hear a child, the mass is brought back into focus. Praise God!!

  136. Stephanie says:

    My sister sent this to me a long time ago. I come back and re-read it if I’ve had a rough morning at Mass with the kids. 🙂

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  138. TLH says:

    This is something I admit I’m incredibly selfish about and need to work on. Part of me blames it on being a musician–if there is too much noise/movement/people getting up/cell phone conversations, etc., I have to double my concentration in order to maintain focus. I like to maintain a certain standard with my music, and if I have a hard time focusing, it’s challenging to do so. Though at the same time, it’s definitely NOT only children, and I would say some of the worst offenders are adults who should know better (and unsurprisingly, their children often behave the same way).

    There is a solution though: if I don’t have a “reason” to be at Mass (on the rare occasions when I’m not singing), I just don’t go. Better for everyone involved.

  139. Mandy says:

    Thank you for writing this blog.

    My family is not Catholic but we have been attending mass for awhile. We have a 2 year old and a 4 year old. It makes me anxious to take the kids to Mass. We sit in the back and I bring books and snacks to help keep them quiet. Thankfully it only lasts 45-60 minutes and then we’re done. I love Mass. But it makes me nervous when my 2 year old stands up in his seat to look at the person behind us. It makes me anxious when my 4 year old is standing on the kneeler instead of using his knees. I’m teaching him. But he is is still 4. I’m so thankful there is music every few minutes. It means my kids won’t be heard. Sometimes they look at each other to talk. I can’t help it. It’s not that I don’t have control over my children. It’s that they are 2 and 4.

    I read an article recently that says we shouldn’t take our young children to mass because it’s disrupting to others. That’s heartbreaking. How will me kids ever learn to behave in a Mass setting if we don’t take them?

    We are getting ready to start RCIA classes this Sunday. It’s directly after Mass. There is no way I can find a sitter every single Sunday from now until Easter. The class is 1.5 hours long. We have to bring our children. An hour and a half longer than mass!!

    I talked to the RCIA leader and she assured me that no one would care that we bring our children. That it’s an informal class.

    But these are young children. They can’t sit for an hour and a half right after sitting through an hour Mass. What other option is there though?

    People need to have grace. There are no other options.

    • Meg says:

      Mandy, I’m so glad to hear you’re starting RCIA! But I agree that it’s a lot to ask of your little ones. Where are you? I bet we can find someone who’d watch your kids.

  140. Mandy says:

    I’m in Ohio!
    We just had our first RCIA meeting today. The leaders knew we had to bring our kids and were completely ok with it. They are looking for sponsors for us that might have older children that could help with the kids as well. That would be nice. 🙂 The kids were ok today. Thankfully they get to eat lunch during that 1.5 hours.

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  142. I got linked to this post via a comment on my own blog today about this very topic. Except, mine was from the other perspective. I’m the flustered mom trying to keep her kids from disrupting the prayer time of those around us. They’ll get there eventually. I just have to keep giving them opportunities to get there.

    (the post that led me here…
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  143. Peg B. says:

    My brother and I either did not attend Mass, or we attended in the cry room, until we were old enough to behave properly at Mass. Mass is about God, not children playing. Does everything have to be as casual as home nowadays? How are children going tyo sit through school and other places if they don’t learn to behave? You must be the same types of parents who let their kids run wild in restaurants, etc. How do you think other people get their kids to behave? Firm, consistent, age-appropriate discipline. It makes you wonder how previous geerations got anything accomplished. Maybe because the parents were in charge, and the kids knew it?

    And I doubt the priest and other parishioners arehappy about your misbehaving children. More likely, they’re just trying to find a way to ope with it themselves.

    • Theresa says:

      Please try to understand. Today’s parents did not grow up in the same world we did. Many of them only had one parent. Most of them had absent parents. They are so important and valuable to all of us and we must be patient, understanding and encouraging.We need to be grateful they are there in the first place when most of their generation doesn’t bother to even get married much less go to church. This is at least in part our generations fault in giving them a poor example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
      All You Young Parents,
      Thank you for all your efforts. Please forgive all of our lack of support. Forgive for your and your children’s benefit, if not for ours.
      God Bless you!

  144. Jenni Williams says:

    Hi Meg
    I found this a awhile back and I think it’s wonderfully challenging and gracious. Thank you!

  145. Joseph says:

    Just this morning I visited a new parish and had a very hard time finding a worshipful groove. I wasn’t distracted with worldly concerns – I was trying to pay attention to the scripture but the deacon was being drowned out by a disruptive child all Mass long.

    It caused me to have a negative experience and may very well not return to that parish because of it.

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  147. Such an honest, transparent and touching post! Thank you for sharing!
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  148. The little ones really love Mass after Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training. Check it out!

  149. Sarah says:

    Here’s a different perspective from a mother:

    I do not take my daughter to Church because I consider her to be too young to remain quiet in a chair.
    This is a place for prayer and the parents ignore their misbehaving kids to the point that they don’t even mind other people telling their kids off!; I’ve done it, and I am not ashamed of it, because these parents don’t even sit their kids next to them, they allow them to sit wherever they want and disrupt people who want to focus on their prayers.
    This is as bad as children falling down the stairs and the parents still ignore it…and some of us have to pick up the crying kids from the floor because the parents do nothing….
    I go there to pray, not to babysit or to listen to your kids being spoiled brats. If you cannot control your children, leave them at home until they learn or are old enough to stay put!
    …and do not come up to me that God wants children to go… my kid is in a private religious school where they teach her the Bible, and how to pray and seek God, and I also do my part at home!.. so there is no need to take small children to Church where obviously they will not sit silently with the parents trying to learn (and in the silence of my house it is easier to teach prayer to my child), so please stop lying about that!
    I am a mom and I have a kid and I do agree with the other side: YOUR KIDS’ TANTRUMS DISRUPT PRAYER! not only that, but these kids often make other kids follow them in their misbehaving and scream and run around as if the Church was a playground! >> and I will not allow my kid to see and copy that behavior! it’s disgusting.

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  152. Kelli says:

    Just cause it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not super helupfl.

  153. This line… “being at Church is about emptying ourselves for God and each other.” thanks Meg!

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  155. dove66 says:

    I was just at mass. I had a hard time hearing the sermon because of the constant noise of the small children behind me. I don’t have a problem with some noise from kids, but I don’t think it’s fair to people who really want to hear what the priest is saying to just write off not being able to because “children are wonderful.” I think there is a huge difference between parents who take their little kids and babies to mass and actually make an effort to make sure that they don’t get super-disruptive and parents who take their kids to church and –at least to observers– completely ignore loud and disruptive behavior. Once again, some noise is to be expected, but I draw the line when the noise is such that it drowns out the reason why I’m there in the first place

  156. Catherine Leary says:

    My parents made me act decently in church. This never seemed odd to me or to anyone else.

  157. Who Ever says:

    I’m on the verge of reverting/converting to Catholicism but some Masses are more like preschools that is holding me back. Pray for me and I’ll do the same for you. thanks

  158. Who Ever says:

    seriously. I was in one today that had one of the most reverent priests ever but between the altar and me was a “preschool”. There was literally 3 groups of young children with parents who did NOTHING to minimize the noise. What I think it really bad about this is WHEN PARENTS DO NOTHING TO RESTRAIN THE DISTURBANCE OF THEIR CHILDREN. THEY REALLY DO DISTURB PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO FOCUS ON HOLY MASS, not like your own life like you mentioned in your article. Parents-at least TRY! Not everybody thinks your kid is cute nor is this normal!!!

    This is SERIOUSLY keeping me AWAY from going to Mass more often.

  159. Who Ever says:

    furthermore, it sounds to me like your article is your excuse to let your screaming kids disturb others at Mass. Sorry, I’m very upset about this tonight and I was surfing for ways to cope with it when I came upon this article. Maybe if your focus is on other things and screaming kids help you focus on God you should only attend children’s Masses, like the ones they have before school (the very few Catholic schools that even do this anymore).

    Again, sorry to sound negative, but I just don’t see any virtue in this. This is why there are cry rooms-now if parents would just use them!

    • Hi, friend 🙂 I don’t have kids, just trying to love people who are doing the best they can. Nearly every parent I’ve ever seen is trying really hard to keep their kids quiet and I choose to focus on what I can do to grow in holiness, not on what I wish others would do. I’m so sorry that the distraction is making it hard for you to come home to the Church, though! Are you in a place where you can shop different Masses to find a quiet one? I find that the Saturday Vigil and the earliest Sunday morning tend to be much quieter. Or a monastery nearby, perhaps? We so very much want you to be here with us–I’ll be praying for you!

  160. Margeret says:

    LOL. You all have it easy. The church I attend welcomed a severely emotionally, mentally disabled young man and his dad. This teenager/man roars a loud grunt throughout the service. Intermingled with spontaneous noises and clapping his hands. He stands and walks around emitting this ceaseless noise. I am not exaggerating. At times it’s ear splitting. I got a headache . Seriously. His dad does little to shush him. I tried to give him a picture book thinking this would calm him down but he took it and walked around slapping it loudly with his hands. Thankfully his dad snatched it and gave it back to me.

    But most disturbing was the smell. He smelled bad like he needed a “diaper change”. And his dad looked very hollow and depressed. The pair come to the church every so often for the past 3 years. But this sunday was the worst. I think the previous pastor left because of them. Really. Our pastor relocated to another state.

    Now you may say the church welcomed them and permits them to stay and disrupt service etc. We are christians etc. But their is no interaction. They come. The young man yells spastically throughout service. The dad hurries up and leaves after service. He doesn’t stay around. I guess so no one can tell him how much his son disturbs service.
    They is no outreach to help calm his son etc.

    Now the thing is, I’ve seen his son with an aid at the local library. At the library his son does not yell and spastically emit these loud sounds. His son gets a book and sits down with the aid and quietly reads it. For the love of ….. why can’t he do this during church service?

    Meanwhile the church membership keeps dwindling because no one really wants to put up with this pair every other sunday.

    Lastly when he first arrived at the church this young man would go around kissing the back of folks hands during fellowship. His dad thought this was amazing. I felt it was unwanted touching. The “kid” would snatch my hand and forcefully kiss it when I protested against this. No means no. Really? Fast forward 3 years and this sunday he has started doing this “cute” hand kissing again. ??? So now I have to be harassed by him and possible get the flu as he goes around salivating on everyones hand including mine. ???

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