Wednesday, April 04, 2007

While I'm at it

After describing that big musical effort on Palm Sunday in my last post, with all its beautiful sounds from our rich Catholic traditions, I guess I should also mention another, not so agreeable, sound nearly continuously filling St. Thomas's at the same time: that of screaming, fussing infants.

First, let me say that I think it's wonderful that parents want to bring their children to Mass at all. Even though the kids are too small to understand what's going on, we know that they're receiving God's grace just by being there.


When the parents of these very small children doggedly stay in church while the children wail, fuss, shout, bang toys, etc., they're interfering with the ability of everyone around them to participate in the Mass -- or often, even just to hear what is being spoken or sung. For many of the latter people, it's the only hour of the week that they get away from every other demand of life, and give their full attention to God. And I'm sorry, but those parents are taking that hour away from them.

I can imagine the parents protesting, "But it's our only hour, too! And if we take our kids out far enough so they can't be heard, then we can't hear the Mass, either."

I'm sorry for you. We have a daughter, and she was a fussy infant and toddler, too, many years ago. But we always figured that our child was our problem, not everyone else's, too. If she was too noisy -- and we had a pretty low threshold for that -- we went out with her. Completely. Until the storm passed, or it was time to go home. We didn't (effectively) say to everyone else gathered for worship, "You won't mind having to strain to hear what's being said, will you? Or not getting to hear any of the music without trying to mentally filter out all my kid's noise? Of course you wouldn't!"

Parents: what goes around, comes around. If you succeed in making rudeness the norm, then when you're older and your children are grown, you'll come to Mass one Sunday just longing for an hour of peace, beauty and grace amidst some ruinous period of your life, and instead, you'll have your mind flayed with the screams of the next generation's infants. And you'll go home thinking seriously about going somewhere else for Mass next Sunday -- if you overcome the temptation to give up and just not go at all.

If you don't want that future experience for yourself, don't inflict it in the present on others.