Suffer the children
MY REACTION TO THE JULY SOUNDING BOARD, "FOR cryin' out loud, let's keep kids from disrupting Mass" by Joel Schorn, was best summed up by a letter to the editor that appeared in our archdiocesan paper, the St. Louis Review (June 18, 1999). The anonymous author wrote, "Somehow I can't imagine Jesus saying, `Let the little ones come to me, but keep those crying babies behind that glass.'" As baptized members of the Catholic Church, small children should be a welcomed part of the assembly.
The concept "It takes a village" is often misconstrued. It does not mean that parents relegate the care and teaching of their children to others, but rather recognize the influence all members of a community have on each child. I do not expect others to discipline my children, but I do expect others to greatly influence them.
Schorn addresses a very real concern over parents who do not attempt to exercise any control over their children's behavior at Mass. We all have witnessed these displays, and not just at Mass. A distinction needs to be made, however, between truly disruptive behavior and the babbling of babies and small children. Should a crying baby or an out-of-control preschooler be whisked out of Mass? Absolutely. Should a babbling toddler be subjected to dirty looks from another parishioner? Absolutely not.
There should be tolerance for the smallest members of our community. Yes, sometimes they're distracting, but they are also a tremendous joy and blessing.
Cathy Donahue St. Louis
As a single, never-married Catholic, I have no right to pray in silence at Mass. Although we have a training room and a nursery, some families seem to think it's cute to let their children cry and cut up during Mass. Since I'm single, people think I'm just an old maid. I talked to my pastor, who comes from a family of 14 kids, and he said, "Oh, but they're so cute."
Carolyn Luetgens Chattanooga, Tenn.
Schorn's article brought forth a range of strong emotions in me. As a mother of four (very soon to be five) children, ages 1 1/2, 5, 6, and 9, I took issue with many of the characterizations of parents of young children. Perhaps I am more fortunate than most, but I have never witnessed parents who have ignored their children's behavior and let them roam unattended throughout church.
I can assure your readers that I am very embarrassed when my children are not perfectly behaved, and yet I realize that appropriate Mass behavior is indeed a learning experience. Separate family Masses may be wonderful, but lumping all of the young children together does not tend to show them models of appropriate behavior and often just leads to an elevation of the noise level and inattentiveness.
I think that Schorn's suggestion about preparing our children for Mass at home was the most constructive in the article. I have thought many times about leaving the children home with my husband. However, I feel certain that Jesus welcomes their presence at Mass. I'm sure the gatherings of the 5,000 to hear Him preach were not quiet affairs, either.
I have a suggestion for those who do not want to be bothered by children at Mass. Choose a time when young families are typically not in attendance (such as the earlier Mass).
Joanne C. Dacek Rockville Centre, N.Y.
In the early '90s, I was a single mother of a small, active boy. We did not feel welcome at Mass, and I wasn't about to pay a sitter because Mass is for family. It is because of attitudes like those of Schorn's that I stopped going to Mass and eventually left the church.
Adira Vardarvin Lakewood, Ohio
Finding the right direction
I was very impressed with Heidi Schlumpfs article, "Spiritual guides: How to stop and ask for direction," in the July issue. I commend her for thorough research of knowledgable persons in the field of spiritual direction.
The article summarized a number of key learnings I have found helpful in my brief two-year experience of working with directees in a parish setting. …