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Noisy kids at Mass

It’s a subject of seemingly never ending conflict:  what should we do about noisy kids at Mass?  Dom Bettinelli got in some hot water just recently posting on this very issue.  Needless to say, the proper way to handle it has far from universal agreement.  Well let me tell you a little story.

I went to daily Mass this morning which, as with daily Mass in most places, is mostly older folks dotted with a few younger ones – much more salt in the hair than pepper, shall we say.  As Father started Mass with the sign of the cross one voice rang out loud and clear, “In the name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT, A-MEN!”  I didn’t notice any grumbling and even a few smiling faces could be seen – very few turned around to look, conscious of making the parent feel self-conscious.  I immediately felt bad for his mother, knowing what it’s like to be the parent of the one loud child in an otherwise quiet church.

Now normally you’d expect this to happen once, maybe twice during Mass and then the parent would either regain control or take the child out to re-inform him of proper etiquette.  Not this time – every single response was the same, twice as loud as the rest of us and a half-beat behind.  But it wasn’t just loud, it had a certain joy to it that our otherwise sedate responses lacked.  At the end of Mass I finally had the chance to surreptitiously catch a glimpse of the boy making all the noise and lo and behold, he was maybe five or six and appeared to have a slight disability (or maybe he just really didn’t want to put his jacket on, I don’t know).

That five or six-year-old boy taught everyone there a lesson today.  Our responses can be sedate, but must never be morose or lackluster.  He reminded us that proper solemnity does not consist in merely saying the responses in a reverently understated manner, but that they must be done with the joy only a Christian can bring.  Now I am not about for one second to suggest that loud or off-timed responses are the key to good liturgy – far from it – but rather that even those who love good liturgy must remember that joy is a fundamental component to all Christian living.  Even in recalling the Passion and death of our Lord there is an underlying joy in knowing that He deigns us worthy of all that.  As St. Leo the great said, “Be conscious, O Christian, of your dignity!”

Update: Keith’s comment really deserves a read.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Atom Heart Father February 12, 2009, 12:57 pm

    I wouldn’t call fruitful participation in mass noisy. Banging toys or throwing tantrums on the other hand…

  • frival February 12, 2009, 1:04 pm

    Yes, absolutely there is a difference. Even that noise I don’t mind so much as long as it’s kept under control. Kids will act out, even when well-disciplined. The parents do, however, have some responsibility to limit it if the rest of the congregation can’t hear what’s going on or think clearly. I used to be much more sensitive to noisy kids until I had two of my own. Now I feel more empathy than anything else. 🙂

  • Atom Heart Father February 12, 2009, 1:18 pm

    test comment sans AJAX

  • keith February 12, 2009, 5:06 pm

    I was back at my home parish over Christmas. There was a young boy (eight or nine) at one of the Christmas masses. He was extremely enthusiastic. He sang every song, every response. He was loud enough that the entire congregation could hear him, and he was painfully off pitch.

    I was in choir dress on the altar as the lector for the Mass, and it was all I could do to keep from chuckling the entire time. When an adult sings loud and off key in Mass, it can be annoying, but, at least for me, when a child does it, it’s just so darn cute!

    I agree that parents shouldn’t bring toys, notepads of Cheerios to Mass to keep the little ones entertained. Mass isn’t entertainment. But they should NEVER feel pressure to restrain a young boy or girl who, in their enthusiasm, is louder than everyone else in the Church, even if he is louder that everyone COMBINED!

    We can remember that Jesus loved children, telling us that unless we have the heart of a child, we can not enter heaven. THIS is that child’s heart of which you speak. It is that sublime sense that something extraordinary is happening combined with a gift that young ones have to accept what they don’t understand.

    FAITH is childlike, because when we have faith, we believe what we don’t understand. We take on the authority of another a promise of something spectacular.

    Yes, in time, the children will learn from their parents and their fellow Catholics, to be more subdued. But I would hope that more of us adults would learn to be more amazed, more astounded and more excited that Jesus is coming!

    My sister-in-law once told me this wonderful story about the faith of a younh (Catholic) girl:

    Maggie was about three, I guess, when her little brother was born. The family had an afternoon christening followed by a party. Things were so excited that Mom wasn’t able to bathe the baby that night.

    The following morning, as was her custom, Maggie was in the nursery just as her little brother awoke. Mom took him to the changing table and Maggie, with the guilelessness of a 3-year-old went over to kiss her little brother’s forehead. This she did, when she whiffed the oil from his annointing the previous afternoon. Wide-eyed and smiling, she turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, he still smells like Jesus!”

    Whenever you’re tempted to complain about the noise of a child whose parent is trying to bring them up Catholic, think of all the children who don’t have that. Instead of getting angry, say a little prayer that Jesus will keep that child forever in his care, and give you a little of his (or her) youthful zest.

  • frival February 12, 2009, 5:33 pm

    Awesome comment, Keith. You should have your own blog, although I don’t know if St. John’s allows seminarians to have them. 🙂

  • keith February 13, 2009, 11:10 am

    Thanks, Pete…

    It’s not St. John’s, that’s the seminary for the young guys (maybe they cry at Mass, I don’t know) 🙂

    My Diocese vocations office forbids it, so I have to be content with an occasional comment on someone else’s blog.

  • frival February 13, 2009, 12:27 pm

    LOL. You’re right, I knew it was Bl. John XXIII, but I always cross up those two seminaries. Who thought having two seminaries named for a John in such proximity was a good idea? And hey, you can always ghost write if you want. What, me get someone in trouble? Never! 🙂

  • keith February 13, 2009, 4:22 pm

    Originally, Cardinal Cushing was going to call this seminary Pius X, but John XXIII died shortly before groundbreaking.

    I was going to suggest you just steal the comments you like and post them as your own. 😉

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