Q. What is the responsibility of parents when their children are crying, shouting, or being disruptive? It is sometimes hard for me to hear the priest at Mass because of the noise in the congregation.
A. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Church’s public act of worship, and all Catholics have the right, and the duty, to participate in the Mass. This right extends to parents of small children, and to children themselves, even if they have difficulty keeping quiet during Mass.
At the same time, while the Mass is not the same as a quiet time for private devotions, it is a prayerful activity, and it can be difficult to maintain a prayerful attitude when disruptions become very loud or very long.
The best approach, for everyone attending Holy Mass, is courtesy. Catholics should be courteous, patient, and welcoming to children and families present at Mass, even when young children are making noise. The parents of young children bring their children to Mass in order to help them grow in the Catholic faith, and they should be welcomed and supported by the community.
In the 18th chapter of Luke, Christ commands: “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Parents, especially the parents of large families, would be best served by a kind word or a helping hand, rather than a criticism of their children’s behavior.
There are some people, children and adults, who have particular difficulty remaining quiet during Mass, especially people with disabilities or mental illnesses. It is especially important for the entire community to be welcoming to such persons and their families, and to remember the virtues of courteousness and respect to those who may be less able to remain quiet. What might sound like a disruption or outburst could in fact be a prayer, and it is important to consider these circumstances in the light of Christ’s love.
At the same time, parents have a responsibility to the congregation. Parents should be conscientious of the difference between the ordinary noisiness of children, and particular, protracted tantrums or breakdowns. If a young baby is inconsolable, choosing to move to a different space might be more calming for everyone involved, including the baby’s parents.
If a child is having a tantrum, removing him or her from the church to calm down is courteous to the congregation, and also reinforces to the child that Mass is a time when such behavior is not appropriate.
Each of us is privileged to worship the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. None of us, save the saints, worships in perfection, and yet the Lord receives each of us with respect and love. We should do the same—treating our fellow Catholics with courtesy, and striving to offer the challenges of Holy Mass to the Lord, for the salvation of souls.
Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.