Children at Mass

“Let the little children come to me”

I was touched by this recent heartfelt plea from a young father:

I am married with two small children - a boy two and a girl three-and-a-half. We all try to make it to Mass every Sunday.
Of course it is impossible to get them to sit perfectly quietly throughout the whole Mass. We do our best and I think we usually do OK. They almost never scream or cry, generally it is babbling, shifting about, and dropping things on the floor.
However, at our parish church there are hardly any children at all, so Mass is very quiet, which can make the sound of a talking child seem disruptive in comparison. Some people clearly resent our children making a small amount of noise. There are cold stares and sometimes snubbing of us at the sign of peace.
My wife and I now spend most of Mass concentrating on keeping the children quiet. Often I'll take our son out after communion, not because he is so noisy, but because I can't take the tension any longer. Once my wife burst into tears in the car after a Mass where an elderly couple continually frowned and made harrumphing noises at us.
Would it be possible to have an announcement read out one Sunday that reminded people that the Church wants children to come to Mass and that the small chaos that children cause should be a joy rather than a problem?

I can understand both sides of the story here, having in the past known the difficulty of attending Mass with three young children and in more recent years being present when parents have allowed their children to run freely and noisily around the church during Mass.
I believe that a little tolerance and consideration need to be shown by both parties - the older Mass attendees and the parents of young children.
Of the first group I would ask:
If Mass were a time for private prayer, or a performance which required hearing every word, then noisy children might present a problem. But it is not: Mass is a communal act of worship. Does a little noise really stop the community offering its prayer and praise to God?
What did Christ mean when he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs ”?
If we don’t make a young child welcome at Mass, can we really be surprised when the child grows up and chooses to stay away?
Of parents, I would ask:
What effort do you make to keep your children occupied during Mass so that they don’t become too disruptive?
Most people think of a ‘Mass kit’ as the set of basic requirements that a priest carries with him for celebrating Mass in homes and institutions. My husband and I always had a different kind of ‘Mass kit’ on hand when our children were young. It contained storybooks, paper and crayons, a few soft toys, and several packets of sultanas. When the children became restive, the contents of our Mass kit came to the rescue.
The body of Christ, the Church, includes people of all ages, from the youngest to the oldest: all must be made welcome and no one excluded.


Elizabeth Harrington