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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

Crying babies

Could you say something about when it is appropriate to take crying babies out of the church?

     This is admittedly a delicate question that cannot be answered without attention to several nuances, such as our own varying preferences and senses as individuals on “what is that point when there ought to be a response to a crying baby.” Therefore, in my attempt to give a fair answer to this question (and at the risk of only giving ideas rather than a real answer), I will do my best to think about the good of all ahead of one preference or sensibility over another (especially since my own sensibilities will likely not match that of others).

     First, I want to speak to parents of young children with encouragement.  Without inserting any preference or opinion, it is important that parents who are in the midst of raising children are reminded of how God Himself is at work in your lives. You have accepted a God-given vocation in your openness to life and in acceptance of parenthood such that you hopefully will never be afraid to act upon this call with great trust that God will give you every grace and “spiritual blessing in the heavens” to live this call in the most proper way. Such acknowledgement of your vocation includes the awareness that God has entrusted to you the particular children that you are raising; and as no two human beings are alike, so God will bless you with what you need for your particular calling. 

     The reality of your vocation to parenthood being as it is, it is my belief that parents ought never to fear bringing your children to Mass at all stages of their lives. For as with all vocations, your own participation at Mass is at the heart of living your call.  Likewise, that you may now have children of young age (who will not be that age for long) is a real, but changing, part of your vocation. Therefore, as an element of being true to your call, it is essential that you be encouraged to always bring your children to Mass (and not wait for the undetermined/non-existent “right age” to start bringing them).

     “But Father, I never get anything out of Mass because I am always tending to their needs/behaviors/etc.” This life of distraction, too, is an element of your vocation – and God’s grace doesn’t necessarily need our attention to work, so long as we have the right intention and disposition to receive what He offers us. Thus, if you receive Holy Communion without having consciously reflected/prayed one single word of the whole Mass due to children and their needs, so long as you have had the right
intention and disposition in choosing to be there, I believe the Lord will give you particular graces that you’d receive were you to be most attentive – based upon your intention and disposition for that grace in coming to Mass in the first place.

     Having established that parents are to be encouraged, now to the heart of the matter – which is always to seek the good of the whole. For some individuals, any small “peep” is a distraction, while others can pray through almost any disturbance.  So, “When should one take a crying baby out of church?” Rather than defining a threshold to be followed, I answer this way: I humbly ask everyone (and not just the parents) to prayerful consider “how can I best respect the opportunity for every person in the church to not be distracted by my own actions (and/or those of my children).” I believe if we all are seeking to enter into the true purpose of the Mass (that is, worship of God) with a sense of both our own good and the good of our neighbor, helping others to worship without we ourselves being a distraction to them (and
believe me – even adults can be a distraction to others at Mass by their conduct), not only will parents learn and “know” the right time as they themselves discern such for a trip to the gathering space, but all of us present will seek to build up the good in one another, constantly encouraging better participation by our own personal attentiveness to the worship – and thus rejoicing always in the Lord, even when an unexpected voice of a little one (to whom the Kingdom belongs) makes itself known and is heard by the rest of us.


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