National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Why We Need Kids at Mass

BY Matthew Warner

Register Blogger

March 25-April 7, 2012 Issue | Posted 3/15/12 at 4:43 PM

 

Some people think that kids who make any noise at Mass need to be in a soundproof room (i.e. a “cry room”) so they don’t bother anybody.

Here’s the deal: The average “cry room” holds about five families. Multiply that times about three Masses and that means the average parish is set up to accommodate 15 young families for Sunday Mass each week.

The average parish has about 1,200 families. About half of those (approximately 600) have kids under the age of 18. Of those, there are probably (I’m guessing now) 200 or so with kids under the age of 3. Pretty much every kid under 3 years old I know is loud and rowdy and has trouble understanding how to be reverent at Mass.

So the average parish needs to accommodate 200 families with at least one kid who is rowdy and loud. And it has space for 15 in the cry room (and we wonder why we only have 15 show up to Mass).

It just doesn’t add up. So, please, don’t expect that every family with young kids should be in the “cry room.” It’s impossible.

The “cry room” is not there for rowdy kids who can’t pay attention. It’s there for when the rowdy kids who can’t pay attention are having an especially difficult day.

The place for the rowdy kids who can’t pay attention is in the pew next to you. So you can hear their car noises and blibber blabber and have your hair pulled by them during the homily.

So we can watch them eat Cheerios, drop crumbs on the floor and then get all steamed up about how terribly misbehaved kids are these days and how negligent these half-wit parents are who are raising them. All while we should instead be thinking about what we’ve done, what we’ve failed to do, and the many things we are far guiltier of than this 2-year-old child — a child with an innocence and faith in life that we will never again grasp. Whose presence is less worthy at Mass?

Sure, lots of parents need to learn how to discipline their kids better and teach them how to sit still and keep quiet when they’re supposed to. But those families aren’t learning how to do that. Why? Because they are at home by themselves on Sunday morning, making excuses for not going to Mass and not watching how other families do it successfully. Because the few times they mustered the courage to try it, they got snide remarks from the priest or annoyed looks from parishioners. Because they ended up in a crowded cry room like second-class participants. Because they didn’t feel welcome. And they didn’t feel equipped. Because they are still learning how to raise kids. And because they haven’t yet learned how truly important Mass is for their growing family.

We need to teach them. We need to help them. We need to smile at them. We need to encourage them. We need to invite them. We need to celebrate the noise of children.

What a beautiful noise to hear at Mass. It’s the sound of a living, breathing, growing Church.

Matthew Warner blogs at NCRegister.com.