Why Young Children Belong at Mass


Hope you’ll take a few moments to read a compelling column by Kate Wicker entitled “Why Young Children Belong at Mass” over at InsideCatholic.com.  It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kate’s!  As my sons grow older, words like this are a great reminder to me to look around me at Mass and to offer my support and encouragement to moms who may have their hands full with the care of little ones.


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.


  1. Thanks for the engouragement. This is our story, should we be offended?

    We are a family of six, three boys, ages 2, 4 and 5 and a girl, age 1. Our parish has two cry rooms, which we have been a fixture in for the past 3 or so years. We go to the second mass of the day, which is the family mass. Many Sundays we dread going to mass because of the behavior of our children. Part of the problem is that the cry rooms are a bit of a free for all. Its tough to get a two year old to stop doing something when another child is doing the exact think we are trying to stop. Its rare that we can hear mass in the cry room and over the years the families that we knew have moved into the main church and the new families do not come across as being very friendly. A year ago, all the kids in the cry room shared snacks and toys and we chatted a bit with the parents before and after mass.

    This past Sunday, we decided to venture out into the main church and we arrived early and sat one row from the front. We had a talk with them before hand about behavior and other than being a little fidgety, they did great. Our daughter was chatty and fussy through most of mass, but we used as a gauge, if we could hear mass over her, she wasn’t being to loud. Also, if we got the stair from another parishioner, one of us would have walked out with her. At the very end, after communion, she became a bit too much and I took her to the back of the church and she did quit down.

    On our way out Father told my wife, very bluntly, we need to be in the cry room when our children behave like that. She was almost in tears. We were shocked. We chose this church because it was very focused on family. The mass we attend is the family mass and is geared toward the children. Both the early morning mass and the late morning mass are practically absent of children and we respect that and do not go to those services. Back when we had just two children, the deacon once walk over to us after mass and said how nice it is to see a family sitting in the front row.

    If our daughter was that disruptive, a more encouraging comment like “she was a tough one toady, with a smile” would have sent us a message. Furthermore, no one around us was giving us looks and we both very aware of our surround and go out of our way to remove our children when they are acting in appropriate for the setting.

    With this said, we are both very discouraged. We do not have any local family to watch our kids when we go to church and we thought church was suppose to be a family affair. We realize that kids don’t always act as we would like and we specifically chose this church and this mass because it is family orientated. When we go and sit in the cry room, we both generally leave miserable, we cannot hear the service, and our kids often get out of hand. Now with this recent scolding, my neither my wife of myself feel welcome. I am just looking for advice. We are most likely leaving the church that we have been attending for more that 6 years. Are we over reacting?

  2. Jamie,
    I am so sorry that you had this experience – I would hate to think that one inconsiderate priest could chase you away from your Church home! I never sat in the “cry room” section of my church with my boys since their behavior in that room was much worse than if I sat close to the front in the main section of our Church. While there behavior was far from perfect, we somehow got through those days. I’m sure many wished I wouldn’t have been there, but I tried to be as considerate as possible.
    I hope others will chime in on this topic, but I want you to know that I’m praying for you and your family. I hope you won’t feel you have to leave your church over this.

  3. I’ve had many of the same “cry room” experiences. I’ve even been so bold as to tell teens that came in so they could chat that if they were not there for Mass to please go outside and have their conversation. That said I have also had a preist comment that I should have used the cry room and I told him why I was not. I also ended the conversation by asking him to pray that my children would not distract him during Mass, I would pray also. My older boys are now Altar servers for the same priest. They sometimes do things that distract him still but it is part of his cross to bear. I must attend Mass with my children and do my best to instruct them in the faith, he must assist me in that task. How do children learn proper respect if they are not present? My boys are 12, 9, 5, 2 1/2 & 6 mo.

  4. Jamie – I feel for you. We have 5 kids from 19 down to 4 — our littest is finally able to behave in mass butit took a few years. Once when grandma waas sitting in front of us the baby was being quiet but playing with her hair …. another parishioner who didn’t realise this was gandma not some stranger our kid was bugging ..says to me ” discipline be with you ” instead of “peace be with you” …I was so hurt. I could only imagine if it had come from our pastor …I would have been devasted!

    You are right that there are kinder ways to acknowledge when the kids have been a handful …our usher ..is usually very sympathetic and says ” Cherish it now …they’ll be grown soon” whenever we have to take the kids out.

    We usually sit in the back for quick escapes … though I have friends who’s kids only behave if they are up front where they can see and know they can be seen in return.

    Another thing that really helped our youngest .I started taaking him to daily mass … and we would visit different parishes ( the new surroundings kept him interested … and I promised after mass if he was good we’d look at the statues and stations of the cross ) soon after that he started to LIKE mass .and now behaves on Sunday.

    You might also consider splitting up we use to do that when the thought of dealing with the little man was too much! … the wife takes some kids to one mass , the husband takes some kids to another … so one of you can stay home with baby girl until she is a little older. Yes she needs to learn how to behave at mass but she is not the age of reason yet and is not morally obilgated to attend – many Saints had to stay home as children when other members of the family went to mass. St Therese the little Flower & St Faustina are two such examples …the idea that we have to bring babies every week is somewhat modern. The idea being they have to be at mass to leaan how to behave at mass is valid …but they can also learn that mass is desirable if everyone else gets to go and they have to stay home until they can behave.

    One last thing …. like the man who said the unkind thing to me …your pastor is human …he may have been having an off day … or Satan may have been poking him every time your daughter chattered . Just offer prayers up for him everytime you think of this situation . It’s not uncommon to look for someone else to blame when we have trouble focusing on the mass .. pastors too!

  5. Jen makes a good point about your priest being human. We have an older priest at our parish and sometimes it seems like he stops and glares when a baby or young child gets a little loud (as babies and young children do!) I think, for him, it’s a distraction issue. He then has a hard time getting his head back where it belongs. I like the idea of praying for Father in this situation.

    We’ve never had a cry room to use, but we have taken our loud ones to the vestibule to quiet down. MOST people have been encouraging to us when our kids were young (the youngest is making First Communion this year, and was he a loud one!) They would tell us their “war stories” of attending Mass with their own children. And now, when they run into me at daily Mass or somewhere outside of church, they ask how my kids are. There was a whole bunch of people who went out of their way to compliment my husband and me for bringing the children to Mass each week. They loved seeing families together.

    I don’t think the “divide and conquer” route is always the way to go. Children will learn by being there, following your example, and having consistent rules set up for them. It sounds like you were aware of when the baby needed to leave the church.

    I too have seen cry rooms abused in places where we’ve been visiting, and in the parish we attended before we moved here and then had children. So even if one were available, it would be my last resort–not the place I plan to go to spend the whole Mass. It should be a quiet place where children can be calmed and comforted before returning to the sanctuary, not a zoo.

  6. Jamie, I’m an older Dad and my youngest is now 23 but I do remember being in your shoes. Offended? Yeah maybe but we Christians are taught to turn the other cheek. The priest is first of all human and not a parent at that. Seems he wasn’t in the line when they were handing out tact and graciousness. A couple of thoughts: go to another Catholic church if one is nearby where the congregation and priests are happy to see families in church. Second, consider alternating masses with your wife until the kids can attend Mass and not distract said priest and any parishoners and maybe yourselves (this won’t be forever and take the non-fidgety ones with you or her). Third, sit toward the back so those who seem to feel inclined to monitor such things can’t see you. I have mixed feelings about cry rooms. On the one hand, as a nervous father I worried that I was distracting the rest of the congregation so they seemed like a good idea; on the other hand, the kids began to see tis room as a social opportunity with snacks and I am not sure I always got something out of being at Mass under those conditions. The bottom line is that you were not well treated and that if there are certain needs they were not communicated graciously and the fixes that might be helpful were not communicated. Hang in there. We are all the Body of Christ but not all of us are particularly pretty or perfect. Mark

  7. I have had similar experiences, because my son has a sensory disorder and it affects him a lot in church. I had a really bad experience in church this Sunday and know how you are feeling. My son is 10. I pray about it. Pray is how we fight everything. All I can say is find a more family friendly church, or a pastor and priest that understands how you feel. I would talk to the pastor first and pray.

  8. Barb Patterson on

    I would encourage you to stay at the parish where you have attended for 6 years. This is a very good way to teach your children that when things are difficult, it’s important to try to work the situation out rather than taking off. I also encourage you to meet with your pastor and go over the incident with him privately. This is the kind of thing that St. Paul was talking about when he told us to speak to our brothers in love when they are acting in an unchristian way. You shouldn’t berate him, but rather explain the situation from your point of view. Tell him that you have thought of leaving the parish over this. He may not realize the impact that his comment made. Above all, pray for him.
    We have five children, and we have gone the divide and conquer route in the past. There is an age when children are simply unable to understand the concept of being quiet for over an hour and you are (for a very short time) really beating your head against a wall trying to teach them what they can’t understand. But this only lasts a short time, a year or two at most, and then they will be able to attend Mass with you and learn the way to behave. That being said, I realize there are lots of people who disagree and want to bring the family to Mass all together. I absolutely welcome those families at our parish. I never mind an active toddler in Mass as long as I can see that his/her parents are engaged with him/her and are doing their best, not ignoring the problem. We are a community and a parish family, and your parish is part of your family. I will pray that you are able to stay there. Blessings.

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