Sunday, December 31, 2006

Difficulties with the Incarnation


I put this (see below) in the newsletter and got a few irritated reactions from some of our parishioners, all incidently single men. One in particular was absolutely fuming after the evening Mass when we had a family of three older, very quite prayerful children and their younger brother who spent his time tearing around the church, I presume he will eventually become like his elders. I could not help but reflect that if a congregation like a marriage does not welcome children, it is sterile and will die. Children remind us God not only became man but also a child, most people can cope with that but maybe not with ...became man and dwelt amongst us. I always feel for parents who have to dwell with a small child for years not just a few minutes once a week.

CHILDREN AND MILLSTONES
It is a dreadfully distraction when members of the congregation turn round and glare at small children, especially when many of us know the difficulty that parents with children have getting to Mass. We should expect children to be distracting, it is their nature, as it is for adult Christians to bear their crosses, even if these are small children, and pray to be delivered from temptation to show any sign of irritation. Christian love is often simple forbearance, biting a tongue, not giving a shrug.

Remember what the Lord says about how much better it is for people to have millstones tied around their necks and for them to be thrown into the sea than that they should offend one of the little ones, it might apply to offending their parents too.
Small children have an obligation to come to Mass as much soured older people, try to make it easy for them and their parents. A parish family is sterile, and certainly does not reflect the Church’s understanding of family life if it does not welcome small children along with eccentric uncles, mad aunts and black sheep.

12 comments:

Ttony said...

Thank you Father!

What a joy it was to bring up babies who became small children in a parish (in fact in a Mass Centre belonging to a parish) where the fact that children would make a noise and be distracting was taken for granted! It takes the pressure off parents (for example, to try to force the children to be quiet) and helps the parents to teach the children (at their own pace and in their own time) that there are times and places in which natural exuberance should be internalised.

the dúnadan said...

Your newsletter column is true as far as it goes, but seems to me to be also one sided.

If we must expect children to be distracting we must also expect their parents to take any reasonable action to quieten their young charges. They surely have a duty to do so.

I wonder if your angry parishioners were not really objecting to the bias in your comment on account of its lack of a mention of parental responsibility.

D said...

"Small children have an obligation to come to Mass as much soured older people "

I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about welcoming children, but is the above statement true ?
I didn't hink young children did have an obligation.

Anonymous said...

Small children don't spend their time tearing around the doctor's surgery or the bank or the supermarket so why should they be permitted to tear around the church during the Sacrifice of the Mass?

Parents with small children at my parish usually supply the chilren with picture books, colouring in books or small toys to keep them occupied.

Anonymous said...

All the baptised faithful have an aobligation ot attend Mass.

Anonymous said...

Glaring never works, it is a distraction to everyone else, you should have suggested the glarers talked to the child.
Either the child will stop and talk and then you can invite him to pray or the parents will be so horrified they will do something.

Pastor Pontusaurea said...

I remember spending five years of visiting, prayer and penance too, getting a family to come to back to Mass. They did for a couple of months, we had started to talk about baptism for the youngest and Ist Communion for the older children then some sour old man, made a remark about how he would spanked if he behaved like the families three year old.
They wouldn't come again.

D said...

Not sure if my previous attempt was lost or is just being moderated.
Code of Canon Law :
Can. 11 Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the efficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age.

Daniel said...

Jesus was pretty unequivocal in the remarks he made about young children and I think that Father Ray is absolutely right. Most of the parents I see do their very best to control their children and glaring at them is hardly helpful

ffn said...

Was it King Herod who had a problem with Children at Christmas time; well written Fr.Ray.Few people leave the church because of doctrine,but many do because of a thoughtless or unkind word.

Henry said...

I do not want to belong to a nice tidy church which shunned people who were shabbily dressed, old, or let their babies cry. It is a sign of our authenticity that all are welcome.

But parents of children who are in the terrible two stage might usefully take them outside for a while. However, I do not see this as something that should become a big issue.

Hebdomadary said...

As to the distraction, I have a suggestion, celebrate ad Orientem, that way you won't have to be bothered either when people come in LATE and miss the confiteor, leave EARLY to avoid the hymn, or answer their MOBILES during the readings. Drives me NUTS! And those are the adults! Crying children are the sound of the future, and in many cases, a metaphor for the present!