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.