In recent months, I’ve had more than one parishioner tell me about negative experiences they’ve had when their young children have acted up during Mass. I know that in some cases, it’s even made them feel self-conscious about coming back to Mass the following Sunday. I want to use this column to ask for the cooperation of all of our parish family in making our young families feel welcome.
I know that everyone has different opinions on when would be the right time to take a fussy child out to the vestibule or the cry room. That decision is up to the parents, and our response goes a long way towards making this a welcoming congregation for them. And so I humbly ask all of you to please join in this important effort of hospitality:
- Remember what Jesus said to His disciples when they tried to discourage people who were bringing their children to Him: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:14) If a fussy child is disturbing you during Mass, please do not scold the parents. That generally doesn’t accomplish much!
- Instead, offer it up! Pray for that child. Pray for their parents, who certainly need a little extra love and support when their child is acting up. Always remember that we are not here to “get” something from Mass, but instead to give this hour to the Lord. Mindful of the fact that “bearing wrongs patiently” is a spiritual work of mercy, part of our sacrifice may be patiently bearing a little extra noise.
- If you ever see someone being treated in an un-hospitable way because of their noisy child, I beg to you please offer them some support. Just a simple “Don’t worry”, “It’s OK”, or “Why don’t you come sit here with us?” can go such a long way towards making people feel welcome.
I realize that it’s frustrating to sit next to a noisy child at Mass, both when it’s your child and when it’s not. But the damage that a negative encounter can do is significant and can last for years. A parish without crying babies is a dying parish, and I am very happy that our parish is alive and well!
Parents, I want to encourage you to feel emboldened to bring your children to Mass, sit where you feel comfortable (even up front!) and smile through the rough patches, knowing that God desires your children there, and so does your parish.