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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Suffering Mass Suffering

Holy Toledo! We have so much to cover from the last couple of days. It looks like I might have to be writing even more often to catch up. We have just been bombarded with questions and comments. Good thing it's almost Lent, because guess what I'll be giving up? Free time. Yes, nuns do have free time. It's so we don't go crazy. Even those cloister girls get to goof off a little. Of course their idea of goofing off and your idea of goofing off are, no doubt, light years apart. In their case, a brief conversation. In your case, beer may be involved. Anyhow, we can't have a bunch of crazy nuns running around, even though are numbers our are much smaller these days.

We have to make a distinction about free time and stuff we squeeze in. We make a real effort to have some free time that doesn't involve tearing morning glories out of the garden, harvesting worm compost, rearranging Sister Mary Fiacre, cleaning the stove, or battling bankers. Those are the things we squeeze in. My current free time is spent reading a book the eighth grade boys gave me for Christmas! It's about how to do a pod cast. I don't even know what that is, even though I've heard a podcast and I'm reading this book. Sister St. Aloysius does sudoku. Sister Mary Fiacre has nothing but free time, as far as we can tell.

Well earned.

Let's finish up on the children at Mass issue.
We've heard from readers who just leave the kids home until they are seven (the age of reason, when mortal sin kicks in). Good plan. Not practical for everyone, very practical for others.

Or leave the kids home until they are a little less wiggly, an age which varies among children. ( I know some wiggly adults.) There is also the risk that the non-wiggly child at home morphs into the wiggling poker once that child is faced with getting through Mass with his siblings. Sometimes the temptation to poke your brother is just too great.

That's all fine. My point simply was, if you want to brave Mass with the family, no matter how big, young, wiggly, blabby, gooey and impatient they are, those members are still welcome and shame on the stink eye crowd who would have it any other way.

We were also treated to a litany of what parents and children have been up to at Mass. Stuff like this:

But a few weeks ago, an older child (9ish?) and a younger child (4ish?) were in front of me. Playing video games. During church. Intermittently turning the volume on. The sound would go on, I'd hear loud bleeping and music for about a minute, then mom would turn and tell the kids to turn the sound off. Repeat in 5 minutes. Repeat again in 5 minutes.


Video games? I wouldn't know what to say. But I did tell a man (20's) to stop talking on his cell phone.

That's bad.

But it's not that bad. Look at it this way.

Sins you could possibly commit:

Torturing Someone
The Giving End of False Imprisonment
Electronic Devices at Mass.

As they say on "Sesame Street", "One of these things is not like the other."

I highly recommend talking to your pastor, asking for a line or two in the church bulletin, a sermon on the subject, or a sign in the vestibule. "Turn Off Electronic Devices. We Can't Believe We Have to Tell You This."

After that it's between them and God, not between you and them and God. Mind your own Massness.

I'll be back tomorrow. Even though it's Sunday. And not Lent yet.


Sarah - Kala said...

I love love love that funny pic of Sesame Street.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I don't think I watched that particular episode of Sesame Street.

Sister, we can't have you going crazy--who would answer our questions (in a sane way)?

And why are you pushing us into Lent, already? I looked at a calendar, and there are 3 weeks to go. I want those three weeks. I'm not ready!

Anonymous said...

I cannot stand it. You get better every day.

Lent? I say, "Bring it on, Sister!"

Jane said...

I know a family that has Jesus/Mass/saint-themed picture books and coloring books for the youngsters in their family. It's nice to see children who are too young to just sit still being kept occupied, but in a way that still relates to being at church. Of course, putting crayons in the hands of some children might be a risk to the integrity of the pew, but for many kids it might be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm howling! Too bad PBS is anti-2nd Amendment, or they might've gotten the NRA guy to come in and give the talk about weapon safety. Both Elmo and Ernie are about to hurt themselves. Maybe Cookie Monster, too. I don't know one end of those things from another.

La Bibliotecaria Laura said...

Some days my kids can do it, some days they can't. Some days I can do it, some days I can't (wrestle a 1 year-old and pull a 3.5 year-old out from under the pew in front of us every 5 minutes...).

Talk about needing a break or one might crack up?

Nice post, Sister. Thank you.

And I need Lent here sooner then later. Keeps me out of trouble.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,

I wish I'd seen the earlier thread but just wanted to add a short observation regarding children at church.

As you so aptly stated, children belong at church and crying infants are a sign of a healthy parish!

Yes if they get too loud, they need to be taken to the back but we need children at Mass and children need to be taught how to behave and how to pray the Mass. They can't do that if they aren't there or are there but are playing video games.

Also, as regards parents leaving their children at home because they don't want to deal with the noise etc. at Mass, it sounds trite but offer it up Mom and Dad.

Seriously, offer the distractions, your inability to focus to Our Lord, there at the Sacrifice. He will bless you. Call on the graces you have been given through your marriage sacrament.

And also, for those seated around you, how consoling would it be for your friends in the nearby pew to offer to hold your child for you during Mass.

My wife and others have made this very generous offer at times to the grateful tears of the Mom. What a wonderful gift to offer to a friend.

God bless you Sister.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, If a mother is to the point of tears in mass, it's time to let her have a DAY TO GO TO MASS BY HERSELF. She can offer it up on the other days.

Andrea said...

I just stumbled across your blog and I love it! I do have a question and I hope this is how i go about asking.

Is it wrong to breastfeed your child in Mass, if it's done discretely? We do not have a cry room, the Devotional Chapel is very, very cold right now, and the area that I've been going to now, you cannot hear any part of Mass and children are just left to run crazy. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do?

Anonymous said...

Our parish makes an announcement just before mass begins asking people to turn off "all electronic devices," unless they are first responders and then they are asked to put their phones, blackberries, etc. on vibrate. Once someone's phone rang during the homily. Our pastor immediately stopped his homily and said, "If that isn't on Jesus on the Main Line, hang up!" It made the point!

For those who aren't familiar, that's an old gospel song, "Hey, Jesus on the main line, tell Him what you want ... Go on, call Him up and tell Him what you want..."

Anonymous said...


I nursed 4 kids in Mass (not at the same time ;-)

I had quiet nurslings and I was extremely discreet. And I sat in between all my friends & their families who didn't care anyway.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with Monica, anonymous. I actually have my own set of sacrifices and sufferings that the Good Lord has given me, thanks very much, and I don't need any more just because you think I do. I prefer to follow the example of St. Therese's parents and not take my children to mass until I believe they are old enough to sit still enough to not be a loud bother to everyone. And I do this...because I can. It's perfectly legitimate and it works so well for me.

They do learn to pray the mass, when they're ready. And when they are too young to not run around, to not stay put, to not start screaming, to not understand what's going on, they're too young to pray the mass. When they can sit still and pay attention, then we get somewhere.

"Friends in the pew"? Are you serious? I don't go to mass with friends or to make friends. I would never inflict my children on anyone around me like that. It's just not what mass is for. You should not be caring for my or anyone else's children (except your own) at mass; there are much, much more important things going on that your mind should be focused on.


RadioPie said...

LOL! I love the sesame street pic! I wish kids gave me a book about podcasting...

Anonymous said...

I agree with leaving the kids at home until they're old enough (if you can). My oldest boy used to be totally wild--he would roll on the floor, yell, books and coloring-HA! He would have tossed them down. He loved the music and the people but his little body was all over the place.

But when he turned five it was like a switch went on and he could sit still. We learned about the parts of the Mass and which phrases to listen for, what to say in response. What the different colors mean, etc.

Now my youngest son, some days I just know he will not make it. So he stays home, and Papa or Mama goes to the later Mass alone.

The baby so far so good, but it really isn't worth suffering over.

And parents are providing *a lot* to offer up. I say let them have an hour of peace with the Lord now and then!

Anonymous said...

Eh. I nursed in the front row. I think that's far less distracting that what would have happened if I *didn't* nurse :)

Anonymous said...

"Friends in the pew"? Are you serious? I don't go to mass with friends or to make friends. I would never inflict my children on anyone around me like that. It's just not what mass is for. You should not be caring for my or anyone else's children (except your own) at mass; there are much, much more important things going on that your mind should be focused on.

Ah. But my friends are my small faith community. We pray the rosary together as families every week. If my friends were not at mass it would not make any difference--we would still go. But remember, we are a COMMUNITY. To give one another support. To be Godparents, Confirmation Sponsors. To listen to each others joy and struggles, to be Christ for one another. I am blessed with such a church family.

And how is nursing discreetly and quietly "inflicting" my children on others? I know that you have no idea who I am, and have no idea how I have raised my 5 blessings from God.

Please don't insult my ministry as a mother with small children in Mass. I am charged with helping these precious gifts get to heaven some day. How better than to make them LOVE going to Mass? If my child is screaming, I will leave.

It sounds as if you have sat next to some rude families. I'm sorry. But if I am standing next to my dear friend who is frazzled with her one-year-old, I would be happy to hold that child, take him out to the vestibule, or watch other children while she leaves. That is the beauty of being near friends, because the children tend to behave so much better around those who are familiar.

As far as what my mind should be focused on--every time I see the candle in front of the tabernacle I am reminded of my five year old son telling me that he knew what the candle meant--that there was a present from Jesus under it! Jesus is present/present from Jesus. By golly, I think he's got it! :-)

Finally, that same child was the one that my husband and I would have to take turns going to mass at different times because he was too noisy the entire time. I didn't "inflict" him on anyone! And of all my children, he is the one most likely to choose a priestly vocation.

I will offer up my morning sickness for you today, that God may bless you and your family richly.

Anonymous said...

"As you so aptly stated, children belong at church and crying infants are a sign of a healthy parish!"
Well said! It is especially noisy at the Spanish Mass as there are LOTS of children present. I often think going to a noisy Mass is the best reminder of what Catholics believe about the sanctity of life.

Anonymous said...

Try an Orthodox liturgy sometime! Kids everywhere, and the nursing is not necessarily what a mainstream American would consider discreet :)

MamaK said...

"You should not be caring for my or anyone else's children (except your own) at mass; there are much, much more important things going on that your mind should be focused on."

Um, what could be more important than loving our neighbor in an immediate, real and concrete way?

I think it was a commandment...

If we are not sitting near friends we know, we are still sitting near community members, bound together
by our common belief in - and love of- Jesus. Surely we can count on THOSE folks to help out, right?