Children don’t Belong in a Cry Room and Neither do You

The question of whether loud or unruly children should attend Mass with their parents has been extensively debated. Everyone has an opinion. As a father of four children (who endeavors to attend mass with my kids on Sundays, and also as regular daily communicants), I have my opinion, too. But my opinion is not the point; rather, this article examines whether cry rooms or nursery care are part of Tradition, and applies the significance of the objective facts to answer the question that children belong at Mass.

There is no precedent for the “cry room” or nursery care in the Catholic Church. You can go to the ancient churches of Rome, the Holy Land, or anywhere else the Church began to flourish after the Edict of Milan, and you will not find a cry room anywhere.

You can visit catacombs and graveyards and other clandestine places where early Christians gathered before Constantine’s conversion, and you will not hear tales of the nursery care offered during Mass. You can, however, imagine the particular danger of a crying baby in that situation!

You will not read accounts of such things contained in the writings of Origen or St. Justin Martyr. There is nothing in Canon Law or the Catechism on the use of nurseries or crying rooms. Yet, in the Acts of the Apostles, you can read about Cornelius and his whole household (arguably consisting of at least one or two children) who were baptized at the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10). Before baptizing, Peter didn’t say, “You grownups can stay, but the children have to go outside.”

From the earliest times in the life of the Church, children — the love due them from their parents, their right to receive education and formation in the faith — were important priorities that commanded protection and support from the structures of the Church. James Hitchcock, historian and author of History of the Catholic Church, writes about marriage in the very early Church: “Marriage was also honored in the high value the Church placed on children, against a pagan society in which unwanted babies were put out to die of exposure. The begetting of children was always considered the principal purpose of Christian marriage, so that abortion and contraception were condemned from the earliest times.” (p. 29)

We also cannot ignore Our Lord’s own words: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them.” (Mark 10:14).

The contrast is clear: pagan societies were free to remove children from public life when doing so was convenient or expedient, but the Church commanded an entirely different, and counter-cultural approach to the raising and care of children. Children, babies, and young families have been elemental to the survival and growth of Christianity throughout the ages. The cry room or nursery has no historical connection to the Christian life; it is the product of the technological age and protestantism.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The catechesis of children, young people, and adults aims at teaching them to meditate on The Word of God in personal prayer, practicing it in liturgical prayer, and internalizing it at all times in order to bear fruit in a new life. Catechesis is also a time for the discernment and education of popular piety. The memorization of basic prayers offers an essential support to the life of prayer, but it is important to help learners savor their meaning.” (CCC 2688). In other words, “practicing” in “liturgical prayer” requires attendance at liturgy! My three-year-old can recite the Our Father, not because I taught it to him, but because he’s heard it recited over and over, both during Mass and at home in family prayer.

Also, “In a very special way, parents share in the office of sanctifying ‘by leading a conjugal life in the Christian spirit and by seeing to the Christian education of their children.’ (CCC 902, CIC, can. 835 s 4). We educate our children by modeling the practice of Christian worship. Children can benefit from witnessing the devotion of their parents, family, and siblings in the context of liturgical celebration.

This is not to say that parents do not have a duty to expect good behavior from their children, according to what is reasonable for their age, while they attend liturgical celebrations of the Church. Bringing children to mass carries an obligation to avoid deliberately distracting others, and parents should always try to discern when it is more appropriate to move a child who is causing a disruption.

As a side note, my personal experience is that the only way children learn how to behave at Mass is by going to Mass, over and over again. We take them out when they misbehave, but the goal is to remain in the pew with them.

Children belong at Mass. Period. Efforts to remove children for “special liturgies,” “CCD”, “religious ed”, “nursery care” — or whatever else — is not in keeping with the traditions of the Church or its precepts. Loud children and their parents (whose sin is that they have dutifully brought their kids to Mass) should not be relegated to segregated, soundproofed rooms for the convenience and comfort of people who complain about the noise or distraction at the expense of the good of the whole community.

The good of the whole community requires that the Church remain an extension of the family. Mass is the Sunday Dinner for the Family Church. We cannot expect children and their parents or caregivers to become mere spectators, watchers, of the Sacred Liturgy, rather than full participants, because doing so is a terrible kind of dis-invitation, a violation well beyond that of the “kid’s table” for holiday meals.

Children have always been, and should always be present at liturgical celebrations. Their presence, especially in overwhelming numbers, is a sign of the great blessings showered by God upon His people. The most joy-filled, spiritually enriching celebrations of the Eucharist that you can find often involve the prominent presence and participation of young people and children. It does not matter if you attend the Mass in the Novus Ordo or the Extraordinary Form, when young people are present, Jesus is happy, because the growth and life of the Church is something that ensures a healthy, dynamic and living faith for future generations.

When our Holy Father told our young people at World Youth Day to go make some noise, he did not also say, “but only in the cry room.”

Children belong at mass, and so do you!

[NOTE: We are in the final days of voting for Beer Camp, please vote for me.]

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132 thoughts on “Children don’t Belong in a Cry Room and Neither do You

    • The rule that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence is still in effect. That not withstanding many practices of the present are not found in the catacombs or the ancient house churches yet one does not argue that we ought not have bell towers, baldacchini or statues of St. Therese. More to the point, each family needs the freedom to attend Mass and not allow themselves to be distracted by needing to attend to the needs of their children. “Full and active participation” calls the community to a different level of attentiveness and perspective than did the so-called Extraordinary Form of the Mass, hence new accommodations are required. We are a church that is “ever old and ever new.” While I do not believe all children need to be consigned to the dreaded “cry room” there are some children, especially those with special needs, who are more comfortable in a different setting. To deprive them of a suitable means of participation does them no service as well.
      I am not sure why all the to do about the cry room. The church in which I was raised was built before there was a Vatican II and it had a cry room, so I do not know why this is a current concern. Either way, I do not think there ought to be a blanket rule that tries to settle all cases here.

      • Thank you for a thoughtful reply. I would love nothing more that to be able to have my 7yr old severely autistic child attend Mass with me, but this is simply not so simple a case. Our Holy Priests are already over-worked, but I would love to start even a monthly Novus Ordo Mass for small groups where we could all attend. In keeping with the most respectful settings of the Supper of the Lamb, the Heavenly banquet here on earth, I am open to suggestions or experiences that I can draw from. markfive.36(at-sign)gmail.com
        Thank you and may God Bless you all.

  1. Pingback: Children don’t Belong in a Cry Room and Neither do You - BigPulpit.com

  2. Mmm, you took some huge (and fallacious) liberties to make this article work.

    “When our Holy Father told our young people at World Youth Day to go make some noise, he did not also say, “but only in the cry room.”

    Total conflation happening here. Totally different topic.

    I get your position, but you made it by stretching Scripture and papal calls to action to mean things they are simply not related to. I find this article a bit deceiving , and maybe even manipulative.

    I also don’t think you’d have this position if you didn’t have 4 kids. If your kids are obnoxiously loud, keep them in the cry room or at home until they can shut up for an hour

    • And at what point do you think these kids who have been deprived of the benefit of the true presence of Christ will magically become reverent and habitual Catholics? With 11 children, have all ages in my house, I cringed my way through the early years with rowdy( normal) toddler boys. Yes, I took them for a walk when things got out of hand but mostly for the benefit of people like you. I’m convinced Jesus, Mary and Joseph would have welcomed them with a smile. After all, we each sit in the presence of Christ as imperfect sinners and our presence is still celebrated in heaven. I had an epiphany a few years ago when my oldest son, a homesick freshman in college, called me and told me that, were it not for daily Mass, he’d have been close to despair. He thanked me for making Mass a habit in his life. He said it was the one place that felt like home. Needless to say, I resolved this particular debate in my mind that day. How do you expect our faith to survive if we don’t welcome it’s lifeblood- our newest members? Maybe you should reexamine your intolerant attitude. After all, Catholic means “welcome” and that doesn’t mean just the well-behaved- or none of us has any business being there.

    • “…until they can shut up for an hour…” ?
      When you are old, disabled, alone, and craving (but unable) to attend Mass, you will remember what you. I”m sorry for what you will feel. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

  3. As a new father I was very mindful of my child’s behavior during Mass, and I erred on the side of being too quick to walk to the back of the church when he made some noise. A few months ago one elderly parishioner gently told me after Mass, “Don’t worry so much about him making noise, it’s so nice to hear a child in church, it reminds me that the church is alive.” That comment has stuck with me. While I am careful to not allow my child to become a serious distraction during Mass, I am slower to head for the back of the church anytime my child behaves like a child.

    While I suspect that everyone has been distracted by a child’s misbehavior during Mass there is a big difference between an older child misbehaving, and a crying child (normal behavior for a small child.) When Christ chastised the apostles for trying to prevent people from bothering him with children, I believe he made himself very clear when he stated in Matthew 19:13 “ …Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.”

    Whenever we are unwilling to “suffer the little children” as Christ commanded we should examine our reasons for being uncomfortable with a child being noisy in Mass. As Catholic’s we are required to believe in the Real Presence, and should understand our that Mass is an experience of Heaven on earth. I personally try to heed Christ’s admonition and “suffer the little children” during Mass “for the kingdom of heaven is for such.”

  4. When the sanctuary is being filled with mindless racket anyway by so-called music ministers, who are grown up and know better, is it really the human being, limited by his age and maturity, distracting others with unavoidable noise, who should be asked to leave?

  5. freddysanford is right on with his observations. Some children misbehave and must be removed when they create distractions. There is absolutely no requirement that small children need to be at Mass, and considerate families of children who cannot be quiet will even take different Mass shifts so the child(ren) can remain at home.

    While it’s been a while since I had to sit through an obnoxious Novus Ordo production, I suspect that kids are able to behave better in the older form than the ersatz one, due to the incessant talking and singing and banging and clanking in the latter. About the only kids I hear acting up at my parish are the ones who are teething.

    By the way, I hope you’re this forgiving when your kids turn up their music too loudly one day.

    P.S.: Pews are a protestant invention. Now what?

  6. I enjoyed your article very much, and as a father of 7 these matters are very much a part of my families Mass experience. This said, I do believe that the Priest plays an integral role in the reception of children and their presence in within the flock. From personal experience I’ve found when a Pastor extends the invitation for the children to come to him, both are immensely blessed from the action. Sadly, this invitation seems to be something that is becoming more and more rare.

  7. In the old days parents taught their children manners and taught them to be quiet in church. They even disciplined their children, when appropriate. Now many parents don’t want to inhibit their children and find it easier to ignore their misbehaving children confident that some year they will grow out of it. Cry rooms and nursery care were introduced as an antidote to these negligent parents and their untrained children. I believe that children should be brought to church as soon as mom is back on her feet. No one minds a crying infant. The problem is toddlers (and older children) who have been trained by their parents that if they make a big enough stink they will get whatever they want.

    • I agree 100%. I am tired of people with children these days not PARENTING them. I expect the children are unruly and spoiled at home too. I expect they talk back, don’t go to bed when told, nor stay there when put there. I expect these parents think as long as the child’s behavior is a little less than what happens at Chuck E. Cheese or on a playground the child is exhibiting good behavior. I expect teachers have a heck of a time getting a classroom to pay attention due to the lack of training at home. I don’t think there should be cry rooms either. I think children should be taught to sit still and be quiet.

    • My six children have learned to be still and quiet through Mass (and often Adoration afterwards) because of daily Mass. When they were much younger my husband would come to morning Mass with us and hold the toddlers firmly….they soon learned we were not going anywhere until Mass ended. And daily Mass only being 30 minutes was good training for the full 60.

  8. Before I had children, I was surprised to see that St. Therese, in spite of her earnest desire to attend mass, was left at home – by her very devout parents – until she was five! I think that my husband and I would do that with our children were it not for the fact that we don’t have servants to watch them.

  9. As the mother of six grown children, the oldest of whom is a priest, I would like to respectfully disagree with you. Let me start out by saying that I do agree that the cry room is not the ideal place to attend Mass. These rooms tend to have a very informal, casual atmosphere and, far too often, parents do not try to make their children behave there, which is distracting. However, it is good to have a cry room available if a baby’s or child’s behavior would otherwise prevent his parents from staying for the whole Mass.

    That being said, however, it is up to parents to decide when their young children are ready to attend Mass. The Church does not require children to attend Mass until they are six years old. Therefore, parents are not obligated to take children who are under the age of six to Mass.

    A baby who cannot walk or crawl will usually be okay being held throughout the Mass but once they can crawl or walk, they want to move around and do not want to be held for an hour at a time. Many toddlers and pre schoolers cannot sit still for an hour and, therefore, will not behave during Mass. When my three oldest sons were small, and this includes the one who is a priest, my husband and I stopped taking them to Mass because they misbehaved. It was distracting to have to have to deal with them at church. Therefore, my husband and I started attending Mass separately and left the boys at home with the other parent. When the oldest was around four or five years old, we started taking him to church again and he behaved well. He learned the prayers of the Mass fairly quickly. In fact, by the time he was in third grade, he was serving Mass, so he did not miss anything by staying home from Mass when he was very young. The rest of our children also started going to church around the age of 4 or 5, which is when they were ready to go and looked upon going to church as a “grown up” thing to do.

    I do not think you should give other parents a guilt trip about not taking very young children to Mass. It is great that your children behave at Mass but some young children just are not capable of sitting still for an hour and being quiet. In that case, it is up to their parents to decide if they should take them to Mass or wait until they are a little older. Sometimes the latter is the prudent choice.

    • This works well when both parents are home, but what happens when one of them has to leave? I am a military spouse, and will not be able to leave the kids at home when my husband deploys (I’ll have two under the age of three when he leaves). And not going to Mass isn’t an option either. I’ll just have to ask the congregation’s forgiveness, I guess.

    • I’ve been too long surfing and will probably “skim” the rest of the comments smiles. Allow me to comment. I’m single and a convert to Catholicisim. As such, at least in my background, I’ve never had to or dealt with issues like pre-Vatican II Masses, Novus Ordo, etc.. etc.. or crying rooms, ahem. I will be 48 very very soon. I appreciate Mary S’s comments. I think one, at least in my case, will be “influenced” or molded, by the atmosphere of the church that one first started to attend. The parish church that I attended in southern Spain ( am American by birth but grew up there due to mother’s divorce of father here in U.S.), I don’t know, maybe it’s because it didn’t have a lot of money or people… In a nutshell ( am trying to get to the point better, smiles) I guess it didn’t really bother me that much if you saw a child squiggle or cry a bit. I never really pondered the issue of how “long” a child should stay at Mass if he/she is squiggling out of his clothes ( am trying to convey something that’s all) or “misbehaving ( not that I’ve ever been close enough to anyone with kids to see or hear that… I will say that whoever takes out their kids for “people like you” is doing “us” a big big favor. You can say whateaver you want about Jesus, Mary and Joseph being “happy, that babies, toddlers, who can’t think fully or comprehend what the Mass is about, would be happy and with a “smile” on their faces watching “all the little children attending Mass” ( which they aren’t, only, physically) but silence is needed to get some benefit or a lot (?) out of the Mass, at least for me. I’m having enough distractions from adults who I see whispering to each other, right in front of me. Let alone, parents with adult children. When I saw this happen during the consecration, I kind of lost it and tapped a man on the shoulder, looked at him, and said, is there anytime when your family “doesn’t” talk during the Mass? He glared and said nothing. As soon as the Mass was ended, I think, or right after the consecration, he turns and says to me, please don’t talk that way to me again. I looked at him and said something to the effect of I will do that each and every time I hear you talking at Mass. And I have a hearing impairment and can “hear” the “noise” that consonants and vowels make even if I’m not understanding a word smiles. Can be very distracting.

      Anyways, apologies for my ramblings. It happens sometimes. It’s very interesting as a a convert ( was baptized at 18 though) to read the opinions of people on the many and one topics that are touched upon with regards to the Catholic faith and its’ practice.

      If you’re used to a church where the atmosphere is mainly a silent one, for whatever reason ( was referring to St. Joseph in southern Spain), where there weren’t many smal children whatever Mass you attended, it will take a while to get used to another atmosphere. I think I should shut up now smiles. I “hear” the comment of the elderly person who told the parent to not worry about taking out the child to the back of the church “every” time he/she started crying. Yes, a child is “new life”, but new life is also waiting for you on the streets, in your family, etc… I just try to ignore the whining or cries or fidgeting. If I was a parent I would definitely be “experiencing” the situation from a totally different vantage point. I think the parents themselves are the best ones to know what their child’s limits are. For those of us who are observers we really can’t know if a small child’s crying or whining is out of bounds, “just the beginning” etc… Both sides need to practice patience because just as the parents are probably dying to get through the Mass “having gotten something out of it” ( besides dealing with distracted children, smiles) so do those who don’t have children want to get through the Mass having been able to have some quiet time. Hope I didn’t bother anyone too much with opinons. Take care and God bless.

      • I am an outsider here as the pastor of a convergence Recovery church connected to an Anglican tradition. Our people are in recovery from substance abuse and trauma, so they are a bit noisy any way sometimes. One day a new mother brought in her baby who was fussy. She was holding that child as if he was a a howling cat. I stopped the sermon and asked if I could hold her baby. She looked relieved and handed the kid to me. I took him and rocked him while I finished my sermon. He went to sleep in my arms and then I handed him back to her.

        Years later I was told that the sermon was the baby in my arms as a pastor, not what I said.

        Take that for what it is worth. Our kids are at Liturgy and they love it.

  10. My personal view. All children are welcome. HOWEVER, IT IS THE PARENTS RESPONSIBILITY TO SEE THAT THEY SHOW RESPECT FOR THE OTHERS AT MASS AND THE LITURGY. I THINK THE PARENTS HAVE DROPPED THE BALL,MANY TIMES, BY NOT EITHER CORRECTING A CHILD AND ALLOWING THEM TO RUN DOWN THE AISLES, ETC. AND CREATE HAVOC. Parents need to take control of the situation, not the other congregants.

    Infants are welcome, interruptive behavior should be minimized or reduced. DO YOUR JOB, PARENTS.

    • I agree with the older parishioner about babies’ cries. They indeed can be sweet and I do love hearing those little voices. However, when a child is disruptive, my old hard-of-hearing ears can’t hear. While I would forbear with that parent, would it be considerate to take the child out for a bit if they are disruptive? I am more than willing be forbearing with young parents, because I have been there. But I was aware of others’ needs as well. . . not just my child. IN fact, I really didn’t hear a full sermon until they were 5 or so, because I really made sure they behaved during mass.

  11. This issue can be as divisive as breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, but I will put in my two cents as a life-long Catholic and a Mom. I do think it is important for children to attend Mass from a very, very young age and to hear the Liturgy because that is part of good catechesis and the development of a spiritual life. However, there is nothing wrong with a cry room as it does give a parent the ability to stay inside the church and hear the Mass while avoiding becoming a disruption to others who are trying to hear the Mass as well. I don’t think removing children for a separate liturgy is helpful because families should always try to attend Mass together when possible. And it is a good practice to teach small children to sit quietly and behave for an hour, it seems to be one of those lost skills today among children. But, there has to be a balance between allowing your child to make it impossible for others around you to hear the Mass and disciplining your child in the pew. I always brought a Biblical coloring book and a couple of crayons and used them when it became clear that my child was going through that restless phase. It was usually very effective and I think those around me appreciated that. But, the child was still hearing the Mass and that is important. My parents were much stricter than parents are today, but I was not as strict as they were. There has to be a balance and consideration of others around you. So don’t look at a cry room as some sort of banishment of you and your children – rather look at it as a tool to be used judiciously as your children grow up.

    • Thank you for thinking of others around you. I don’t get the sense that other parents do these days. But I am most happy to be forbearing and learn what God wants me to learn in that moment as well. It’s just nice when parents are aware of others’ needs around them. Bravo. Well said.

  12. Organs and electricity, heat and running water were also not a part of the early church; however, all that begs the point.

    I don’t mind the young children. It is the older kids, the parents, and teens who must chatter throughout the mass. Also, why can’t people go to the bathroom before coming to Mass. Occasionally, physiology or illness may require it. In our Church, the same families, parents and children, go to the toilet separately at every Mass. They also, “religiously,” are late every Sunday and walk from receiving Communion, directly out the door. These are not folks who are hurrying to work after Mass or elderly who require space and longer time to leave in order to avoid getting “run over” by the parents and kids who are leaving.

    While I’m at it, the folks who stop in the door-ways to visit are also an annoyance.

    Having said all of this, I would like to state that these are all personal, unimportant peeves that don’t need to be in my way as a participant at Mass. I try to put it out of mind, but being less than perfect, I still do notice it and wonder what some of these folks are thinking.

    We rarely ever used the cry room with our kids. It didn’t take long to train them to behave. I also have taken them out and swatted their butts when, as older kids, they wouldn’t settle down. Of course, I’m older than dirt and grew up in a home that allowed my 9 younger siblings to be chaotic only at home, never in public.

    At school, our Blessed Franciscan nuns allowed no misbehavior. Neither did our Franciscan priests. Members of the congregation had no qualms calling down disturbing misbehavior either.
    This was also followed up by further correction when we returned home.

    The only ones who seemed to mind the “children being raised by the whole village” were our northern newbies who had 1 or 2 children and had moved into our sleepy, southern town. Nowadays, hurt feelings and harsh words would ensue.

  13. I absolutely LOVED the crying room!!! When our church needed updating, the pastor put the room right in front on the side facing the altar. The kids could see everything that they never saw sitting in the pews. One Sunday, as Fr. Joe held up the Holy Eucharist, my 4-year-old stopped fiddling and said, “Mommy! Is that God?” His eyes were so filled with awe that he made me ashamed to think of how I have taken Our Lord for granted.

  14. Pretty silly argument. Not only did the early Church not have cry rooms, they didn’t have bathrooms either. Are you against them as well.

  15. If there is no crying room parents have a canon law excuse to never go to mass for years:
    Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181 “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”
    I don’t know if that i a good thing or a bad thing because while they won’t receive the Eucharist for like ever they also, my default, won’t receive in a state of mortal sin.

  16. If the child has been baptized, then the Church is as much theirs as it is yours. This is what I was told by the Deqcon who baptized my 3 children. Only Satan likes to defide families and community’s. And to say leave your kid at home until he can “shut up” is the wrong attitude to have.

  17. I for the most part agree, however I found the cry room to be important when I was nursing a baby, who want to eat when they want to eat, Mass time or no. Also, I remember reading St. Therese of Lisieux who wrote about not going to Mass until she was about 7-8 and ready for catechism. I think common sense is warranted. Cry rooms work for some people when needed. We just need to not use them unless really needed.

  18. As a wife,mother and grandmother, an RN and a cantor,liturgist and organist for 38 years, my comment is that these little ones are baptized members of our faith communities,albeit the youngest members and they definitely have a right and place in our church. Parents set the example and have the responsibility to train their children with love…..and they are children for such a short time !!! BTWQ, my children are 3 in number , all one year apart and our oldest has Downs Syndrome, and at age 49, is a beautiful ,practicing member of our community !!! And we do not have a cry room and never did !!! That is not of prime importance !!

      • It takes one crying/screaming baby to ruin Mass for an entire congregation. Bring the children when they are ready. This applies to theaters, stores, or any public venue. Don’t be the rotten apple that spoils the barrel of apples. And Jesus did not say it was okay to bring the babies to the synagogue when he was there to preach. When he says to bring the children to him, he is making a different point from the one often and ignorantly believed.

  19. Our Parish doesn’t have a cry room and the average number of children a family has is eight. Most have all their children with them, unless they are singing in choir or serving on the altar. We also have a few autistic children and a fairly senile elderly lady who sings sometimes when everyone else is done. (I suppose she should be in a cry room too?) Our Parish is a family and we know how to tolerate a little noise.

    (And yes parents take their children out if they get too noisy and children who are old enough get disciplined.)

    • Therese where in the world are you living where their is an average of eight children per family? I live where contracepting Catholics are lucky to average two. By the way I am from a family of 12. Maybe I should more.

  20. A timely post, indeed.

    Having recently been diagnosed with stomach cancer and having forgotten my anti-nausea pills (mea maxima culpa, it’s all my fault) before going to Mass last Sunday, and sitting in the farthest back corner of the church in order to make a quick getaway if necessary, it was really touch and go as to whether I would survive the two-year-old’s running back and forth across the remainder of the 100-year-old pew between us or the stocky toddler running back and forth from one side of the church to the other behind us on the 100-year-old, creaky, squeaky, bouncing wood-planked floor to the other. And then there was the clever three-month old who discovered that the louder he squealed, the louder his mother’s SHHHhhhh!!!- response, joined by the little girl who could tap out “Twinkle, twinkle little star” on the top edge of the pew in front of her with her mother’s rosary beads right in the ear of the elderly woman sitting in that pew. Yes, I guess it was all my fault. I should have been more patient.

    However, I could hardly refrain from envying the people in the church where I attended Easter Masses, including the very late vigil Mass, where not a sound was heard throughout the whole time. One does not have to blame the children. They are only doing what they have been taught (or not taught) to do by their extremely rude, unruly parents, who think that every sqeak, squeal, scream, howl, loud demand is just adorable and should be loved and applauded by everyone and anyone within earshot. “See how well my darling little girl matches that key on the organ–‘you know, that perfect high A-flat, complete with vibrato. Isn’t she just too adorable for words?” Children are capable of incredible feats of self control when it is in their interests to do so. (We raised four. Only once did we take a two-year old out of the church for unruly behavior. Parents expect too little from their children. Perhaps it’s because they are too stressed themselves to teach the discipline required.)

    Yes, suffer the little children to come unto Me, for such is the kingdom of heaven–but, please, for our precious Lord’s sake, keep the parents at home.

  21. I think most reasonable people happily accept a baby that fusses or cries for a few moments – or even a toddler who does the same. It is when the crying accelerates and parents refuse to do anything that congregations become fussed. Or, there is consternation when a child talks at length in a normal tone of voice and the parents refuse to shush them or tell them to “use their Church voices.” But, at the same time, too many times we have arrived early for Mass, only to find ourselves in front of well-seasoned adults who insist on having their Sunday visit in the pew. While I am trying to prepare for Mass I am not interested in hearing about cousin Cheryl’s wedding or the ongoing bathroom renovations in someones’s house. In the end, a good pastor has his finger on the pulse of all this and gently but firmly addresses it from the pulpit – not once, but on a regular basis.

  22. Please, I can only go along with ‘some’ of this. I know there is a place and a purpose for children in the church but, by and large, we’re living in times that are different then those times the author speaks of here. I can’t say much, I’ve never had kids and have no business with them as I have no practical experience with kids and lack the temperament and patience required to raise whole, well rounded children into good and productive, young adults. I recognize that. However, even having some patience for children in the church there comes a time when their consistent misbehavior gets ‘old’ and very distracting to say the least. The main offenders are from age two to five…approximate. Their parents are not doing their jobs, more often then not and find that type of parental negligence to be a form of sin in it’s own. There I am spiritually ‘cut up and bleeding’ after having suffered serious battering the whole week before just living life on life’s terms in these days and times, sick, hurt, needing healing and refreshment and what is that I see and hear ?…instead ? I can’t hear the whole liturgy, can’t concentrate on the homily, likely, one I really need to hear and when the mass is over I come out in worse condition then I was when I went in. Why ? Because Mr. and/or Mrs. John Q Public can’t or won’t teach and control their active and ‘wired up’ children in the age group I stated were the age group causing disturbances every Sunday without fail….and they will, there kids, it’s to be expected. But to rob me of benefit from the Mass because your squalling kids, who have rights to be there too, won’t quiet down, to me, is shortsighted and wrong. That is why there IS such things as ‘Children’s Church’. Maybe there they will learn how and why to behave themselves and quit stressing the rest of us out. I went to a Mass one Sunday and found myself moving from one pew to another, up forward then back every time a set of parents brought kids in and sat down right beside me. I’d move and here would come a group of talk active teenagers who won’t shut up right up to the procession. I’d move again and there is another family come sat down near me. I could not get away from families with kids and sure enough, during the Mass, the children failed to behave enough to actually warrant having them in the sanctuary in the first place. I left and did not come back. I have no business in a nursery during Mass and I’m not going to allow for it. My nerves can’t handle it. Now, I always sit far forward as much as possible so that I can see and hear the spoken word and the homily and actually benefit from being at Mass instead of having to tolerate a nursery full of children and parents who are failing in their responsibilities. Otherwise, I can’t come to Mass.

    • Maybe the mother in question is just as spiritually battered as you. Maybe she needs to be there just as much, if not more, than you. After all, she has the responsibility of another person’s spiritual formation on her plate. What if she has no other choice but to bring her child? Or what if she is simply attempting to take her parental vocation seriously and follow the vow she made at her child’s baptism to raise him in the faith. You seem to be missing the point of a faith ” community” altogether. If I were you, I’d pray for grace and patience and maybe some divine guidance on how you can be of assistance to some well-meaning but struggling mother or father who is obviously trying to do the right thing. You might be surprised that you grow further spiritually in this endeavor than if you never miss a word of the sermon.

      • A good comment; if we could keep our focus on loving our neighbor we would see that our distractedness can be a form of penance that we do so that we can give our patience and support to others.

    • karla, get some children then you will get some patience, you will be busy focusing on others outside of yourself. very good for your pilgrimage on earth. speaking from experience.

  23. There are a LOT of wonderfully well-behaved children in our parish, and I love having them there during the service. A few others, however, are unruly and disruptive to the point that it’s a distraction to the people around them. This morning, a child near us was crying so loudly we couldn’t hear the priest as he prepared Communion. (His older sister and brother were also fussy, and the older boy spent all of Mass playing with books and beating up the hymnals.) The cry room has large windows looking into the church, as well as a speaker, so they can see and hear everything going on. I agree about not pulling the kids out for a Sunday school class or children’s version of the service, but moving a fussy child to the cry room is not missing the celebration of Mass, and it allows everyone else to hear and focus on the Mass, too.

  24. I think you’re exactly right. But my wife and I adopted three special needs kids, and one of them can be particularly disruptive. In a previous parish we attended I can tell you that there were people who did not think that such children belong in Mass. Clearly they’re wrong, but the hate stares can be disconcerting.

  25. My husband and I have 6 children ages 11-2 and we never start in the cry room and rarely end up there. Most cry rooms that I have seen (and our parish is no exception) are just an excuse for children to misbehave. I am appalled by the literal buffet of snacks and activities that children are presented with in there! We expect our children to behave and pay attention in mass. Of course it is not always possible for the younger ones or my 6 yr old who has severe ADHD and mild OCD, but for the most part they are. When not, one of us leaves mass with the child, has a discussion (and possibly a bribe to get a donut after mass) and then we re-enter the pew. We often get compliments from parishioners about how well behaved our kids are. It did not happen by accident or magic, we worked hard setting up expectations and consequences until they got it. The older kids set the example for the younger ones and they try to help keep the littles in line during mass.

  26. I like cry rooms. If a kid won’t shut up and stop running around, then mom can take the kid back there and still participate in the mass. And BONUS, the rest of the congregation can actually pay attention now. Everybody wins. The kid can have another chance to behave the following week.

  27. There is a difference between parents who perpetually use the cry room as the place to attend Mass (as in, the entire Mass, from beginning to end, every single week, “just in case” their baby starts being fussy) and parents who *occasionally* use the cry room when a little one is having a particularly bad day. As a parish priest, I can tell you that I would never encourage any parents to walk into the church with a perfectly quiet child and immediately go and set themselves up in the cry room (which yes, I have seen done before–there are people who do this!) Nor would I be quick to urge parents to take a child to the cry room if the baby was just being a little fussy or having a short outburst in the way that all children of a certain age naturally do. However, if there is a child having an extended, lengthy, top-of-the-lungs SHRIEKING meltdown that is not ending no matter what mom or dad tries to do, and is truly distracting the entire congregation from being able to focus at all on what is happening at the Mass, then at *some* point common sense says remaining in the pew trying to quiet down the child using the same things you have been trying (unsuccessfully) for the last 10 minutes is just not a realistic option. In such cases, a parent is faced with two choices: remove the child (and himself or herself) from the church entirely by walking out the door into the vestibule, where either mom or dad is completely cut off from the rest of the congregation and can’t participate or follow what is happening at all; or move to a cry room, where the noise of the shrieking baby can be insulated but where the parent can give at least partial, (admittedly distracted) attention to what is happening at Mass, and then return to the pew once the baby is finally quieted. Of those two options, both theologically and pastorally, the latter is better than the former.

  28. I don’t have children, and I agree with you whole-heartedly. There are a lot of things us Catholics in the US have adopted from the secular culture that surrounds us. One is the cry room. The most depressing Masses are the ones with no children, no crying, no life. Every time a baby cries at Mass I always say a little prayer for the mother and the father, and then I thank God for blessing our Church with new life. Thanks for this post and keep bringing the kids to Mass and proudly join the rest of us in the main Church!

    • On behalf of all parents, thank YOU, for your understanding. I have 11 children and now when we attend Mass together I have 10 well- behaved and a 2 year old so I don’t get the looks or comments that I used to as when I had a slew of babies but I still sympathize with parents of one or two who are working hard to live up to their Baptismal vows while having to endure an alarming lack of tolerance. How will our faith survive if we don’t welcome our little ones? So thank you- your comment and attitude is very generous and encouraging.

  29. Lisa, I totally agree…I too say a prayer for the parents and am so thankful for the parents making the effort to come to Mass and bring the children. Not an easy job today, and they need all our prayers and support. And Father’s comments were right on…. most of this is common sense !!

  30. As a father of six, I’ve worn out my share of carpet taking out children when they misbehave. And having just spent Mass this weekend in the cry room — a rare exception because I had my 1-year-old twins by myself — I can vouch that it’s a poor substitute for being in the sanctuary proper.

    But what I find surprising and disturbing is the fact that many of the commenters here have taken the opportunity to vent more broadly about all of the awful sins of their fellow parishioners. Be it music, dress, or some other behavior or standard that disturbs them, it makes me wonder if anyone is paying attention to the miracle on the altar and taking to heart how merciful our God is.

  31. Ah – the joys of arguing from silence. The fact that there was no provision for distracting children in the churches of ancient Rome DOESN’T prove that such children were present; to begin to be certain of that you would have to look at how society was organised in those days. I have a strong suspicion that the servants / slaves would have been looking after the children at home – but I really really don’t know – but neither do you. It is only in the last 100 years – when servants have become far less common, combined with a legitimation of poor behaviour (the Victorian phrase children are to be seen and not heard is now denigrated, but surely reflects the culture of the past) – that this issue has emerged.
    The counter argument is that the intellectual engagement necessary for the congregation to absorb the content of the homily is severely disrupted by the present of disruptive children. If we are serious in seeing the church service as a place of teaching, then we need to provide an environment where this can occur. That the Catholic tradition has a long tendency to value physical presence at the mass over any actual engagement is one of the bigger mistakes of the church over the years; thus when the mass was in Latin, it was being there that counted, not any sort of understanding.

  32. I found it hard to pay attention to what was going on at Mass when my husband and I were bringing very small children to Mass. When we started going to church separately, leaving our young children at home, we were both able to participate more actively in the liturgy. I got a brief respite from 24/7 babysitting, which I needed. By the time each of my children was five years old, they were going to Sunday Mass, they behaved well and they liked going. Eventually, we all went to Mass as a family, with our older sons serving on the altar and their younger brother and sisters in the pew with us.

    It can be hard to bring small children to Mass and parents should not feel guilty about going into the cry room if that is what they have to do to avoid having to leave Mass early or to avoid having their children distract others with disruptive behavior.

    Mr. Quartermaster, you need to give parents some slack here. By insisting that they bring young children to Mass and not use the cry room–all because your children behave nicely at church–you are asking more of them than the Church is.

  33. I love seeing children at mass, even though I have not been blessed with any of my own. However, your statement: “The cry room or nursery has no historical connection to the Christian life; it is the product of the technological age and protestantism”, is odd. There are many current day liturgical practices that are not historically connected. In my church, children bring up offerings to the front of the church. It is beautiful. And, the idea that everything connected to protestantism is bad is also misleading. As a former protestant, I feel I bring many gifts from my protestant upbringing to the Catholic church. BTW, the cry room is not one of them :).

  34. Pretty soon we’ll have a baby’s mass, children’s mass, a tween mass, a teenage mass, a young adult mass etc. because we all can’t deal with each other. I specifically attend a “family mass” because there are larger families there and we all understand each other, granted we have common sense to know when one of our children have gotten out of hand, but a few weeks ago, we weren’t able to attend our normal mass due to a family event, and went to another, it was if we had a scarlet letter attached to each one of us, the stares, and I mean mean stares, not the soft smiles sometimes we get. We were probably the only family with kids. To be honest, it was pretty said that in a mass with about 400 attends, my 3 kids were the only kids in sight, and most did look of childbearing years, so I did wonder, where are their kids. Out parish does have about 1500 registered families of which I’m sure the pastor is having a hard time manageing all the different stripes we are, I guess maybe that’s the “we don’t have any kids and shouldn’t deal with yours mass”.

  35. This is the beauty of my parish. I have a two year old who won’t stay still and I’m in the choir while my husband is always either serving or at sea (navy). He tries to be good, but he’s very active. We’ve finally all agreed that it’s okay for him to wander around anywhere he wants, as long as he doesn’t go past the altar rail. Everybody in our church helps keep an eye on him and it works out marvellously. (And the nice thing about him wandering up closer to the front rather than staying in the back with me is that he can often get a better view!) Every week I can see him learning new things and showing more and more interest. And then occasionally he comes to the back (where our choir is) and returns to playing with toys sort-of-quietly (he tries, haha).

    Our Monsignor says he likes the sound of children because it is the sound of life. One very old woman in our parish has made it clear that “I don’t like people who don’t like children!” One of our priests gave a sermon shortly before I had my first child saying, “if God’s little lambs want to bleat, then who are we to argue?” (I don’t think he meant screaming at the top of their lungs! Point being: we’re going to have a new child soon, learn to be patient.)

    Don’t get me wrong, obviously (as stated in this blog post and most blog posts stating the same views on this subject) if there’s a meltdown, yes, take the child out until he/she calms down. I don’t think anybody is arguing that. Mine is going through the terrible twos, I know that better than anyone. Sometimes we have to step outside for a few minutes until he calms down because I won’t let him climb on top of the organ or . . . whatever other weird thing he wants to do. But ordinary child noises, a little voice talking here and there, maybe even a wind-up car crashing into the wall, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, looooong before I had children, I figured God might have been using things like that to teach me to be a better listener or have more patience or . . . something like that. God uses even the little people to teach us.

    At one point early on when he first started walking I started feeling frustrated and when we mentioned that one of us was going to start staying home with him, everybody was appalled that we’d even think of such a thing, and all agreed that everybody can help look out for him.

    I don’t think that it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a church to raise a child.

  36. Well said! I can’t stand the cry rooms, and this is a very well thought out and reasonable explanation of why we should abandon them. When did they start? I haven’t been able to figure it out.
    My idea: convert these segregated rooms into Eucharistic adoration chapels…

  37. I cannot tell you how many times I have been bopped on my head-causing bruising-from kids bring their toys to Mass, how many times the kids have kicked the back of the pew I’m sitting on (a personal pet peeve), how many times my hair has been pulled because some kid has grabbed the back of my pew with their grubby little hands.

    Parents cannot control their kids. Even back when I was that age (and an Episcopalian), I would NEVER have been allowed to act this way. I was taught to sit there…QUIETLY…with hands folded in my lap, feet flat on the floor (no kicking, no grabbing, and no bringing anything from home to church).

    This is why I love the 4 pm Saturday vigil mass because it’s mostly adults; many of whom are 30-45 years older than I am.

    • Remarkably violent children you manage to sit by- I have never once in all of my 46 years been accosted thus by any child and I have always worked with children and have 11 of my own. You seem to be a magnet for budding sociopaths… or could it be you exaggerate?

  38. A friend passed this link onto me as I had a rough morning mass with my littles today. I have been seriously struggling with getting my kids to behave well in Mass. For a while I have felt called to bring them to more daily masses to help yet I resisted. A little over a year ago I had some negative comments from a parishoner about my kids who were not loud, but still antsy in Mass during a daily mass in our Chapel where there is no hiding place.
    I can not and will not deny this calling anymore. I try desperately to teach my kids to be quiet, be still and behave in Mass. And I will continue to do so, only more often with more daily Masses. I try to be respectful of others but I am limited in what I can do without being even more disruptive than my children.
    I understand fidgety children can be distracting, so sit closer to the front is my best suggestion. Most families I know choose the back if available to allow us to exit unobtrusively if needed. When you come across that family struggling with their littles in Mass I encourage you to pray for them. If they are anything like me I’m sure they would welcome your prayers.

  39. Pingback: Followup to the Cry Room Article: Screwtape Instructs | Quartermaster of the Barque

  40. I’ll begin to entertain a discussion about unruly and distracting children at mass when I no longer have to look at the lector’s cleavage.

  41. The real problem is how parents are raising children. The notion that (even small) children cannot be expected to sit still and quietly for an hour is a modern invention.

    The second problem is how adults behave at Church (especially before and after Mass). Silence would be a remedy for so many problems we now face, but I have a hard time finding a single parish where silence is tolerated.

  42. I was wondering why we pin all the distraction-frustration on the children. I have an idea. Let’s create an Immodest Room, a Smelly Person Room, a Sing Off Key Room, a Cough Room, a Sweaty Handshake Room, a Show Up Late Room, and a Receive Communion Unworthily Room, a Wearing Graphic T-Shirts Room (which can be combined with the Wearing Distracting Prints room). Oh and don’t forget the room for those secretly addicted to porn. All the perfect people can sit in the main church. Won’t it be wonderful community worship? Utopia at last!

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