Crying Babies in Church

With this post I am not trying to act sarcastic, condescending, or holier than thou so please don’t think I am writing this in that type of tone. I am basically just asking for insight and feedback.

I attend mass at historical St. Francis Xavier in the outskirts of downtown Missoula. It is the biggest Catholic parish in the city and offers a beautiful setting, solid preaching, and great singing. It also offers many options as the mass schedule includes four different times over the weekend (5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. on Sunday). About 90% of the time I attend the 6 p.m. Sunday evening contemplative mass. For someone like me who works many weekends throughout the year, a later mass on Sunday is very welcome. It allows me to obviously make it to church and on many weeks it really gives me my first time to relax and reflect over the week in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

Notice how I said “quiet and peaceful”. The setting at the 6 p.m. mass is special. The lights are turned down low, there are fifteen minutes of singing leading up to the opening prayer, it is never crowded, you aren’t tempted by the smells of a pancake breakfast swirling through the church, and, like I said, it is quiet. On a personal faith level I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I feel like I get the most out of the Sunday evening mass. If possible, I would attend it every single weekend. However, that is not always possible.

Every now and then, like today, I attend a different mass. When choosing an alternative I mostly try to hit the 5 p.m. Saturday vigil (because it most resembles the 6 p.m. Sunday mass) but that doesn’t always work out. Next in line for me is the 8 a.m. one but sometimes after pretty much not sleeping the whole week, I do elect to cash in on a couple extra hours of shut eye, thus leaving me with the 10 a.m. mass. On days like today where I do attend the later morning session I do prepare myself before walking through the church doors and then say a little prayer for increased patience when I find my pew because I know I am going to need it.

St. Francis Xavier clearly identifies the 10 a.m. mass as the “Family Mass”. In order to make the other masses (such as the 6 p.m. Sunday one) so peaceful and reflective they advise people with babies and toddlers to attend the 10 a.m. session. Before I say as much as one negative thing about how I get distracted, let me say thank you to St. Francis for making this distinction and to the families for observing it.

So while I attend 10 a.m. mass knowing full well that it will most likely be noisy and understanding that all the parents in there are not only following the wishes of the parish but also acting as great moms and dads by raising their kids in the church, sometimes I think the noise level gets a little out of hand.

My basic question is this: At what point do you leave your spot in the pew and take a crying or misbehaving child to the back of the church, out to the lobby, or outside?

I understand quick crying fits and the occasional random outbursts but if a baby has cried for the past three minutes of the priest’s homily or if a four year old is yelling at his sister during the blessing of the Eucharist isn’t that the cue to remove the child? I understand it is a family mass and certain noises are expected and accepted but am I off base to say that when a child becomes a legitimate distraction to others it is time to take him/her to the back? Maybe I am totally off on this. Like I said, I do my best to avoid this type of situation entirely but sometimes I do find myself at the family mass and at the mercy of the parents’ decision to either take their child out or keep him/her in place.

I would love it if parents told me what their standards and rules are when it comes to making the call on keeping or removing their children from mass. What goes through your mind when your baby happens to just naturally act like a baby and begins to cry? Are there standards you have in place with how you are going to act in the situation? Have fellow church-goers ever given you an annoyed or hostile glance before because of your kids?

Again to all parents, do not take what I am saying too personally. I know I play a big role in how much I want to deal with this. I recognize the good parenting and baptism promise fulfilling work that you are doing. Please also take to heart that if you do keep your crying baby in mass for way longer than warranted I still don’t hold as much scorn for you as I do for the disrespectful mass attendees who let their cell phones go off in church. As long as you don’t get to that point, you and I will be just fine. Don’t Blink.

7 thoughts on “Crying Babies in Church

  1. Crying and disruptive babies get taken out pretty much right away with us, unless the situation is quickly resolved. At our parish we have a place to stand outside the Sanctuary, where we can see and hear the Mass. not a cry room (I hate cry rooms, people talk all through Mass in then while their kids eat Goldfish and run around) but a place where you can still participate without distracting others. There is definitely a certain amount of patience required on the part of parents, but if rules and boundaries aren’t set, kids don’t learn how to behave properly. Our 3 year old rarely has to be taken out, in part because he sees it as a punishment to not get to be with the rest of the family. Also, the consecration is a no brainer- misbehavior is definitely not allowed and our kids are quickly removed.

  2. Jenna,

    Thanks for your response. I wish more parents were like you and Eric. I love the idea of the standing area next to the sanctuary. Aside from the crying, I think you would really like my parish if you guys ever came to Missoula.

  3. I do not attend Catholic but do attend another church. I personally made sure if my child began making ANY noise to disrupt ANYONE, especially the pastor who is trying to bring forth God’s word, I immediately took my child out. We now have custody of our 3 young grandchildren and we still deal with the matter immediately! Some parents however, do not! I am a parent and it is VERY frustrating when others don’t see their child or children as a distraction but as being “cute”. Others like the attention it draws to them. That’s the only other explanation I could possibly come up with. Not ALL parents are disrespectful in the house of God. Some of us would actually like for EVERYONE to have a positive experience in church. My kids grew up knowing not to be disruptive too. When I took them out they would know why! I wouldn’t just go back, console them until they are quiet and return!! Society has a lack of concern and respect for others this day and age! It’s sad really!

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  6. As a young parent, I was hyper-sensitive to the ‘hairy eyeballs’ parents received, at 1st peep, in our rural NH church. The priest there, God bless him, would stop and point out how wonderful it was to hear God’s children in church, but the parishioners never took that bait. So considerate were we to our fellow churchgoers, that we stopped going to church altogether between the time our 1st child’s baptism to our 2nd child’s delayed baptism here in Myrtle Beach. Sadly, we missed 12 years. Fr. Jim asked why we waited so long to get her baptized and enroll our girls in religious ed. to which I matter-of-factly replied, “well, yeah kids make noise, people get mad, the dirty looks…”. He schooled us right quick that it was far more important to bring children to church than to accommodate the comforts and whims of others. I was shocked. He is a superb evangelist and few escape his reach, hence he pulled 4 wayward Catholics back into the flock that day. We were of the 80’s mindset and thus started parenthood late by today’s standards. I was raised at the end of the era whose motto was ‘kids should be seen, not heard’ and so I was painfully shy and quiet as a child. Ditto for my husband. Despite that our children were extremely well behaved, we didn’t want to risk them possibly disrupting anyone’s peace. In hindsight, we should have put our children’s need to be exposed to God in a formal setting ahead of the approval of overly-crusty personalities. Fast forward, my girls are teenagers, my own faith journey has seen me through umpteen bible studies, catechist training, 3 rounds of RCIA (I’m a Cathoholic :), I’ve marched for life in Columbia and DC several times, and I feel as though Gus Lloyd could be an old friend from high school. I now have a slightly different perspective. I’m so engulfed in trying to harness my own all-too-easily distracted mind that I rarely notice the kid noises anymore. More bothersome to me are the neighboring *adults*; inconsiderately yakking among themselves (gosh, where are they going to eat ‘after this is over’? – do tell all why don’t you), smacking on their gum, crinkling things in their purse, loudly flipping through the bulletin during the scripture readings, yawning(!!), the fragrance of hand sanitizer wafting my nostrils after the Sign of Peace, ladies playing with their jewelry or admiring their new shoes, people darting out before the Final Blessing (ps: Judas was the only Apostle who didn’t stick around for the blessing…just saying). Sometimes I envy those in cloistered life, lol. But the biggest issue I take is with my own distractability and occasional impatience that makes noticing any of this even possible. Had it not been for my years practicing mindfulness and meditation back in the hippie-esque woods of NH’s Monadnock region, I couldn’t have arrived at the self-honesty that all outside distractions are really just my own inner musings. I’m also annoyed at myself for being a distraction to others – but that’s another story, lol.
    God’s blessings and peace be with you!