“Ask a Priest: What to Do About Noisy Kids at Mass?”

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Q: I attend church regularly as much as I can. I believe the sacrifice of the Mass is the most beautiful gift given to us because of the body and blood of Christ. I am very dismayed at the amount of disrespect showed during the Mass today by young parents. We have a cry room, yet parents choose to bring their children into the congregation, believing that you are not Christian if you speak up about the disruptive behavior of their children. Now, I do not mind the sounds of laughter from babies. I do take issue with parents who allow their children to play and make noises during the Mass and especially during the consecration. A prime example is that of a grandmother who brought two young boys to Mass, and after the first reading a woman in her late 30s joined them with three other children. The entire time, the children were making noises and playing with their toy cars, hair dryers and much more. The mother joined in by braiding the hair of her daughter’s doll during the celebration of the Eucharist. I just wanted to cry. It was such a fiasco. After Mass I went up and nicely asked if the women knew we had room for young people in the back of the church. They said they did and showed disgust that I should even ask. I am so upset because I want to pay reverence to God and now I am the bad guy. Is it really wrong for me to address this behavior? I do believe it is turning people away because [the children] have such bad boundaries. Why don’t more priests speak up about this? If they lose parishioners, then so be it. -M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear of your great love for the Mass and for the Eucharist. It is the highest form of prayer in the Church and certainly deserves to be celebrated in an atmosphere of reverence. Part of the beauty of the Mass is that all the faithful are called to participate in it.

It sounds as if you have tried to broach the topic discreetly with folks, but to no avail. To press the issue might cause further bad blood. So what should you do?

First, you could see it as an opportunity to go the extra distance in patience. Raising children in today’s culture is not easy, and parents need all the support they can get, especially from their parish.

Second, it is good to realize that the average pastor is already swamped with problems (including complaints from church custodians who have to clean up Cheerios and other food left behind in pews) and is probably grateful for the people who do show up at Mass. He might not want to risk alienating young families by singling out them on the account of noisy kids.

Still, you could try approaching the pastor and sharing your concerns. If you know him well, that would be good. If you don’t know him well, maybe you could wait for a moment when you could first help him with something in the parish. It is easier to approach someone when he is already aware of your good intentions and contributions to the parish community. Perhaps you could suggest some compromises; perhaps parents could be encouraged to at least avoid talking with their kids during the consecration. Or have them keep the toys to a minimum. Once you raise the issue with the priest, leave it in his hands.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, then perhaps you might consider attending Mass at different times (when there are fewer children around) or even at another parish. That second option is a more radical solution, and not an easy one for many people. The idea here is to attend Masses that will actually help you grow in your spiritual life and not distract you to the point of frustration.

In the meantime, though, look to help out at your parish as much as possible. This helps to build community.

For more reading on this issue, see Patrick Madrid’s posting here and Greg Popcak’s here. I hope some of this helps.

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