Mass Etiquette: When babies cry at mass I want to….

Deacon Greg gets a major hat tip for this one that I will now turn into a series of shoulds and shouldn’ts at mass. These will come complete with stories of real events that happened at mass and the resulting fallout from the event.

The good Deacon points us today to this blog which talks about things that “Father should never say…”

What Father says, “Please, be mindful of your children during Mass. We have a cry room.” What parents hear: “Your kids are disruptive brats and you cannot control them. They have no place at Mass, so why do you insist on ruining our prayer with these public displays of your failed parenting? Go somewhere else!”

I probably agree with Father here that parents are certainly resentful of priests who point out how their children are being a disturbance. I would also say that if we are really about being pro-life, a crying baby should be music to our ears. A family’s presence at mass should indeed be a celebration for us all.


I do like the idea of a cry room for noisy babies. It’s not a room that people should opt to sit in at mass simply because they have a baby. It should be a place that people CAN go to WHEN their child starts screaming and wailing and is becoming a disturbance. I would also note that parents wouldn’t bring a crying baby into a show at a Broadway theatre–but they are often pretty much OK with having them be a disturbance at mass. That seems to be inconsistent to me.

The “rambunctious child” who should know better is more of my concern. I’ve seen this more often. A kid who simply is not engaged and doesn’t sit still during mass. They are probably 2 or 3 and they are often given everything to play with from keys to racecars to coloring books. Granted mass is not exactly a Sesame Street production that might hold their attention (especially in certain parishes!) but I do think that a parent can whisper to a child to teach them what is happening without it being much of a disturbance. My own mother often taught me to read during mass by having me listen to the priest’s words and following along in the missalette.

A further however…

“Father” and even “lay minister” should be pastorally sensitive to parents at all costs. We should consider what it took for this family to get their children fed, dressed, looking presentable, avoiding meltdowns and traffic jams to get to mass. Here is perhaps the worst story I have ever heard:

A priest in a parish that I won’t name was preaching his homily. A woman was seated near the front with her 4 young boys all close in age, say 7, 5, 3, and an infant in her arms. Her boys (as they will tend to do) began to get rambunctious during mass. One would punch the other in the arm only to be kicked back. The other would kick the kneeler. The baby spit up. This young mother had all she could do to maintain order. Any parent can probably relate. The boys would indeed listen to her when she told them to cut it out but there was certainly a constant need for her scolding them or centering them back on the mass.

At one point mother snapped her fingers at the boys and leaned over to them, kissed one on the head and pulled him closer to her to keep him from killing his little brother. At that juncture the priest on the altar screamed out one word: “YOU!” and he pointed his finger right at the woman.

“YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER! NOW TAKE THOSE KIDS AND GET OUT OF HERE AND DON’T COME BACK UNTIL THEY ARE BETTER BEHAVED! I have worked very hard on this homily all week and your children are disturbing the entire parish!”

Yikes! Father, you might want to try the decaf. I doubt that they were disturbing anyone except maybe a few nearby parishioners who seemed to be more sympathetic to their cause than anything else.

The mother started up the aisle with kids in tow, eyes downcast. Over 20 parishioners walked out with her in protest of the priest’s arrogance and found the next parish up the block to be much more accommodating to this young lady and her kids.

If I were pastor (and I’m not) I would state at the beginning of mass just “How wonderful it is to see so many families at mass. We are a parish that welcomes all people and how blessed we are to see the children here with their parents. Just one logistical item, we don’t want to lose your presence here so we have constructed a cry room for children that become too rambunctious or who start crying. We don’t encourage you to sit there throughout the entire mass, nor do we wish to exile you there. HOWEVER, if it is obvious to you and to those around you that baby or child is simply too noisy or is in the midst of a meltdown please feel free to take them to the crying room until they can calm down and more peacefully and comfortably sit amongst the congregation.

As laity, I think we also have a responsibility to help young parents. Maybe grabbing the diaper bag from them when they have their hands full? Maybe offering to baby sit for them so they can have a respite for themselves? Maybe bringing them some water or offering to help them with some other matter? We are a community of faith and that means we need to be concerned for the needs of all–babies included.

This is really all about courtesy in my opinion, from all sides. What do you think? When babies cry at mass what do you want to do or wish would happen?

Do YOU Want Mass in Latin? – SURVEY RESULTS

OK people…results are in after about a 24 hour wait. Thanks to all who took the survey. We have a small but significant sample.

66 people took the survey.

Would you like Mass to be in Latin?
15 YES
51 NO

77.3% said NO.


Do you wish the priest would face away from the people during mass?
(OK before we get to the answers, I’ll take responsibility for a poorly worded question. Better stated, “Do you wish the priest and people were facing the same direction during mass? Now regardless, I don’t think it would change the answers)

13 YES
53 NO

80.3% said NO.


Do you want to NOT have the option of receiving the Eucharist in the hands?
11 said YES
54 said NO
1 person skipped the question

83.1% said NO.

Now before we move on to the latter three questions, I’d just like to point out that I think our sample speaks conclusively on this issue. That there’s really not an interest in having mass in Latin or some of the other options from before the council being restored. Interestingly there have been comments from both sides of the aisle on this issue. Some of these include the following:

Philip Schweiger: As long as it’s always in addition to, and never in place of the local language, sure, let’s have Latin mass. If some people feel more comfortable worshipping in Latin, then the addition of that choice is a good thing. I think the vernacular should be the norm, though.

Melissa McKerroll Francis: I don’t want the Latin Tridentine. I get the fact that some of the most famous composers of all time have written for the Mass, but I don’t think I’ve heard a convincing reason other then that, and that reason is purely aesthetic–so an occasional *performance*, sure. Otherwise, no.

Gladys Izquierdo: My Parish holds Mass in Latin once a month on a Sunday for anyone interested in attending. That’s an idea for Parishes. I have never been to one but would like to one of these days.
Yesterday at 9:08pm ยท Delete

Vickie Figueroa: Mass in Latin is good for honoring tradition and a universal common language – because regardless of our tongue, we are one. But I prefer Mass in each culture’s vernacular to allow for full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium 14 Vat II – gotta love it.

Larry Rice: The fact that the mass in English is often celebrated poorly isn’t going to be improved by switching to Latin. Ask someone in their 60s and 70s, and they’ll tell you that the old rite was often celebrated so poorly that any sense of transcendence and mystery was obliterated.

That said, I’m not going to get all pushed out of shape by the revised Roman Missal…

Fr. Charlie Donahue: I am of two minds (at least) with this. I have a growing respect for the hunger for the ‘Extrordinary Form of the Mass’ as I do for the Mass as celebrated by the Church ordinarily.

From my student ministry there has been a group, sometimes small, sometimes more, that has ben deeply nutured and comforted and challenged by full and conscious participation in the ‘Extrordinary Form of the Mass.’ Even though it looks quite different from the ‘full and conscious participation’ as I have been used to it.

As I celebrate the Mass I was trianed to celebrate and try to teach myself the “EF” Mass, I am struck by:

-How many people are suspicious and angry that I am doing this, because it ‘must betoken’ some agenda.

– How different the ‘operative theologies’ of the two Masses are – for example – 1) the ‘locus’ of the ‘Holy’ 2) Is the table an altar or is the altar a table or both? 3) Are we gathered for a celebration or a sacrifice or both 4) Is the Priest ‘in persona Christi’ or leading the community communitas’ in it’s offering?

– It is a very different undestanding of what we are doing as ‘liturgy is the work of the people.’

Looking through the lens of the theology of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the Extraordinary form is lacking… Looking through the lens of the Extraordinary Form, the Ordinary Form is lacking.

And so many speak pejoritivly about the other. It is as if theologians are choosing “shirts or skins” and then playing dodgeball.
I think that it may lie in Myers Briggs or left brain right brain or some other representative of human differences that speak to how liturgy nutures and worships God in Spirit and in Truth.

So it seems even those who MIGHT want it don’t even want it exclusively. Now let’s look at the three remaining questions:

Do you wish Sunday preaching was more interesting and engaging?
59 YES
6 No
1 person skipped the question.

90.8% said YES

Do you wish that music in your church was actually singable?
57 YES
7 No
2 I don’t want music at all

86.2% said YES

Do you wish that people were actually engaged in parish life and that it became more than a place to go to mass for one hour each week?

60 YES
2 No

90.9% said YES

Again some significant good comments were made on Facebook

Crissy Bowen: The “do you wish questions” were skewed… yes, I wish songs at Church were singable… most of the time they are, people just don’t sing… though occasionally the cantor can’t be matched and people just leave it to her/him… liked the preaching question but rarely is there no room for improvement. On the East Coast many parishes are understaffed leaving parish life to be lacking… and now I am seeing parishes being consolidated… it is all very sad, very sad. Going back to the Latin Mass isn’t going to solve the Church’s problems…

Susan Francesconi: the one question about music presumes that no where is the music good or singable. My parish St. thomas the apostle in naperville has fabulous music and we can all sing it.

I would agree that the questions presume that this isn’t happening already. So perhaps there’s an assumption at hand that things aren’t as great as we’d like them to be.

But my point is along the same lines as Fr Larry’s. People aren’t engaged when the mass is in ENGLISH. Why? Because most places simply don’t do liturgy well. Preaching is lousy, music is downright embarrassing and welcoming attitudes are not present at all. Doing things in Latin might ratchet up the curiosity scale for a Sunday or two but is that really the change that is needed?

Not by a long shot.

Good, relevant preaching that is engaging and challenging, professional sounding music that we can all sing along with, a sense of mystery and transcendence running throughout the mass and an attitude of welcoming. If we can get the parishes to just do these things well I think we’d be doing the church a huge service.

Or we can do something that most people aren’t interested in.

Do YOU Want Mass in Latin?

Click Here to take our brief survey

It’s amazing how people jump to conclusions regarding conferences that offer suggestions to the Pope. This is from today’s National Catholic Reporter.

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican spokesman downplayed a report that major liturgical reforms are being considered by Pope Benedict XVI.
“At the moment, there are no institutional proposals for a modification of the liturgical books currently in use,” the spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, said Aug. 24.
He was responding to a report that a document with proposed liturgical modifications, including a curb on the practice of receiving Communion in the hand, had been sent to the pope last April by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
The article, published by the newspaper Il Giornale, said the document was a first concrete step toward the “reform of the reform” in liturgy planned by Pope Benedict. It said the congregation proposed to promote a greater sense of the sacred in liturgy, recover the use of the Latin language in celebrations, and reformulate introductive parts of the Roman Missal to end abuses and experimentation.
The article said the worship congregation had voted on and approved the recommendations almost unanimously during its plenary session last March.
Vatican sources told Catholic News Service that the worship congregation did not, in fact, suggest a program of liturgical change, but simply forwarded to the pope some considerations from its discussions focusing on eucharistic adoration, the theme of the plenary session.
Some individual members may have added opinions on other liturgical issues, but they in no way constituted formal proposals, one source said.

Read the rest here. I wonder why people love stirring this pot? I’d like to take a poll of the 150 or so of you who regularly view these pages here. How many here would like Mass to be in Latin? How many want the priest to face away from the people during mass? How many people want to not have the option of receiving the Eucharist in their hands?

OK those are three easy questions. Click Here to take survey

Now let’s ask three more:

How many here wish their Sunday preaching was more interesting and engaging? How many here wish that music in their church was actually singable? How many wish that people were actually engaged in parish life and that it became more than a place to go to mass for one hour each week?

Click Here to take survey