Why are there so many crying children when there is a cry room?
There are two sides to every coin. First, children cry. It’s a natural phenomenon. As far as I know there is no solution to this and we have to accept this as normal. Yet, children are a welcome part of our Church. It is very important that children are included in our worship together. I don’t want anyone to feel like they are not welcome at our liturgies or that they are second-class members of the Catholic Church. I think too it is wonderful when families can come to Mass together and sit together. I cannot encourage that enough, and I know the impact it has on little ones when they observe the faithful examples of parents, older siblings, and other parishioners. Children learn what Mass is and how to behave by being at Mass, so it is important to introduce them even at the youngest of ages. I know too that some young ones like to be able to see what is going on at Mass and prefer to sit up close. I think that is really important too. Otherwise, they will get bored in a hurry if they have no idea what is going on.
The other side of the coin is that of distraction to others, and yes, a crying child can be distracting. The cry room is available for children and parents who feel self-conscious about noise or have a particularly active and vocal child. I have some people tell me they prefer yet to sit in the pews. Parents are free to make that choice on their own. Of course, if a child acts up and is distracting others by their actions or noise, it is always appropriate to take them out for a bit to the vestibule or into the cry room to save others from undue distraction. There are speakers out there so that they can still hear what is going on at Mass. You know this, like a lot of things, is a balancing act. We should all try to be understanding of crying children—each of us probably was one in the past.
I’m actually less concerned about children, who don’t know any better, than I am with adults who should know full well that it is important to keep a reverent and, if possible, a quiet environment in the church for prayer and Mass. Cell phones going off are very distracting! We’ve all realized with horror when we forgot to turn our phone off for Mass, but please try to remember. Talking to your neighbors and greeting each other is also a normal and good thing to do, but not inside the church where people are praying. Please take conversations to the vestibule or cry room; they can be just as or more distracting than crying children. Praying in the church is highly, highly encouraged. But to pray out loud or in an audible whisper can distract others who are trying to pray silently. The same is true in our adoration chapel. I get lots of comments about the distractions going on in there…. So let’s all work together to create a prayerful, yet open and welcoming environment for all of us to come together as a parish family to celebrate these awesome and sacred mysteries we have at Mass.
If you would like submit a question, please write it out and place it in the “Ask a Priest” box in the vestibule or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.