Q & A on Children at Mass and Holy Water in Lent

Q & A on Children at Mass and Holy Water in Lent

Q: I read your article on children at Mass and have a comment. I am from Florida, USA and many of the churches here have what is called a cry room. It is a part of the church that is completely enclosed by glass, where the parents can see and participate in the Mass without their children disrupting others from hearing everything and participating fully in the Mass. The children are also free to bring toys or whatever and run around and the parents alone have to put up with it not the whole church. It works well for everyone involved.

A: Some churches in Australia have 'crying rooms', but they make me feel uneasy. It is as if we are saying that children must be kept out of sight and out of mind. I would feel very cut off from the worshipping community if, as a parent, I felt obliged to go to the 'soundproof room' if my child dared to make the slightest noise in church. Certainly the parents can still hear and see, but liturgy is not just about seeing and hearing.
I can see the sense in having an isolation room in a concert hall or movie theatre, but not in a church. I would prefer to see the children being socialised into the behaviour that is appropriate while out in public, not only in church, rather than relegating them to a place where they can do what they like.
Even the best-behaved child will throw a tantrum occasionally, and usually at the most embarrassing time! Most parents deal with the situation by taking the upset child out for a few minutes until things settle down again.
It is not always easy to please everyone, but I am not convinced that 'crying rooms' are the answer, except as a last resort.
Elizabeth Harrington

Q: Would you please respond to me about a parish removing the Holy Water from the fonts on Ash Wednesday and replacing it with sand during Lent?My daughter's parish does this and when she asked about it they said it was to help them to remember that they were 'desert' people.A lot of New Age stuff is entering there, it seems. How does she resolve this without just going to another church during Lent?

A: Many parishes do not celebrate baptisms during Lent but defer them until the Easter season, the time par excellence for initiation into the church. The practice of covering the baptismal font during Lent shows visually that baptisms are not conducted then.Emptying the holy water stoops is a natural follow-on from this.
However, I do think it is unwise to replace the water with ashes or sand as they then look a bit like ashtrays. It is also unfair to catch people out and have them unsuspectingly finish up withdirt on their fingers.
It would be better to cover the stoops with a purple cloth or put small crosses in them to make it clear that they are not just empty because of neglect.
When new practices are introduced in liturgy, it isessential to prepare people well in advance and explain the reasons for the change - in this case that the removal of the Holy Water from the stoops is an image of the desert, of the Lenten fast, of our thirsting for baptism at Easter. If the practice is carried out every year, then people come to appreciate its symbolism.


Elizabeth Harrington