Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Appropriate response

Dear Anonymous has replied most graciously to my last post on the behaviour of children at Mass. Most of the text is shown below, but I have added my own comments in bold.

1. Parenting is really, very hard work, a type of difficulty against which all others pale to nothing, which cannot be known properly by those who do not have children. This is not the kind of 'hard' one ever stops to consider because, when one is presented with the one's first baby, you just get on with it. By the time you have three in (nearly) four years, the work is near constant, as are the anxieties (too numerous to count, but try 'How do I form my children in a robust Faith?'), the contingent work (wage-earning), organisation, housing (especially if you do not own a place), and of course education, to important to be entrusted to normal schools. And so on, and so on. In short, when some parents seem to let their children run riot it is because they are so tired they do not know what to do, are too overburdened to think a behavioural situation through.
Yes, but would they let this happen in a restaurant or at a concert. No, they wouldn't take the children, they would find a baby sitter or go without such luxuries. Now is Mass a luxury, of course not. However, one reason why parenting is so difficult these days is the lack of an extended family, people to leave children with whilst you go to Mass with your husband. The primary aim of marriage is offspring, the secondary is the sanctification of your partner, spiritual time together is very important.

2. The children who are misbehaved may well be unwell, have ADHD or somesuch (be it nature or nurture induced). Again, although I have no direct experience of this, and one tends to think 'Bloody give them a clip round the ear', this doesn't actually work with mentally disabled children.
Unwell is fine at Mass, unwell and unruly needs thinking through, if it is going to distract the priest, then it is not good, they can be under enough assaults from the devil during Mass as it is. Children are rarely living saints, they can vehicles for ill (because of their self-centredness), even without sinning. Pray to their guardian angels.

3. The Mass may be the only time in a week a parent can get to be with the Lord in the Eucharist. Should they give this up so you can have some quiet?
No, that is a silly argument. The answer remains the same as the one to point 1.

4. Your concentration is not relevant to the reality of the Mass; God happens, so you have to be there. This is a reality of great importance to parents. In the nearly five years since I had parenthood sprung on me, I have actually felt like I prayed at most a dozen times at Sunday Mass. My children are immaculately behaved, (for children - see below) but this takes continuous low-level concentration on my part. I can never loose myself in praise.
Yes, the action of the Mass takes place irrespective of the worthyness of the priest or the concentration of the congregation. But, there is a danger here of presumption, the presumption that reverence is not necessary (I'm not referring to your family here, only really bad behaviour). Reverence is vital, Calvary deserves reverence. Yes, it is MY problem BUT the assaults of the devil and the occasions for sinful thought when children are misbehaving are great.

5. Don't expect children to behave like adults. They are not adults and do not behave like it. Even mine, who are, as implied above, quiet and engaged, will find themselves amazingly excited by some seemingly pointless thing and fall over themselves to explain it/ fall about laughing/ squeal with excitement/ whisper at the consecration/ etc.
That is all good, there is no problem with this.

6. The Latin Mass in its current incarnation creates amongst the congregants an attitude of sighing intolerance, a real 'people set apart'. 'Did you not know, Latin Mass is for the truly devoted?' I have experienced this in about five different churches. Nobody likes the de-sacralised, jumble-sale shtick of the average NO Mass, but nobody wants us at the Latin one (except the Franciscans of the Immaculate in Stoke). So what do we parents do? Trudge along broken-hearted to an event we are confused (at best) about, passing on only frustration and disappointment as the fruits of a Catholic life to our children?
But you have just said that the Mass is the Mass. I must say, I regularly attend Latin Mass is two different diocese and there are far more children there than other Masses, they are behaving like children, not adults, but they are welcomed and there is no irreverent misbehaviour.

I could go on, but my point is simply this: If the Catholic Church is going to survive in this country, and outside of the major university cities this is actually not likely, we need children to get the Faith. There is no one blueprint for the Faith, but if the children aren't praying at home and building a relationship with the Blessed Trinity, the Mother of God, the angels and the saints, then no amount of Mass attendance will work. They will not get the Faith in school, even less of it in Catholic school (statistically true), and are normally raised in functionally Protestant households (85-odd percent of Catholics are contraceptive, contra God and his Church) Our best Catholics are so often converts or reverts who really discover Faith in adulthood. If they don't go to church and receive the full grace of God by baring witness to and eventually participating in the Mass, from where is it supposed to come? Turning up at Mass does not magically bestow grace on anyone.

Question: Sanctifying grace is a habitual gift...a supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God (CCC 2000), we know this grace by its fruits, are the fruits really there if chaos reigns supreme and a child who is old enough to know better, is bent on destruction and mischief?


Patricius said...

I was growing increasingly peturbed by your remarks until I came to:

"There is no one blueprint for the Faith, but if the children aren't praying at home and building a relationship with the Blessed Trinity, the Mother of God, the angels and the saints, then no amount of Mass attendance will work"

We took our children to mass from a very young age. I think it is very important and indeed necessary to do so. It was, at times, very hard work but, like most parenting, it got easier. The success of well-behaved children at mass involved a whole context. We did not simply go and expect our first child to behave- as some parents seem to. Prayer at home and visits to churches where we spoke and prayed quietly with the children formed the background to family attendance at Sunday mass. There was also the Sunday treat which followed mass. Physical restraint was also an option. A parent needs a full armoury! So, as I say, children should be taken to mass but it is equally important for parents to take responsibility for ensuring their children's behaviour is appropriate.

Rita said...


I'm a tad concerned you were perturbed, but your comments are most welcome.

If I sound a little jaded it is because I've virtually stopped going to my local Catholic Church because of the state of sheer exhaustion I end up in due to the poor management of unruly children.

When a priest pleads for quiet and for children to be taken out if they are fractious, and his cries are ignored by parents, what then? All those years of training and we're saying it doesn't matter how sloppily he is concentrating on his prayers due to distractions, God understands. The priest cares, the priest loves, his whole life is given over to the Mass. Nobody would treat a concert pianist like that, so why should they treat a priest in that way?

Anonymous said...

Dear Rita, Thank you for your reply to my comment. I have expanded on your points below, deleting my initial comments but putting “” around an excerpt from your subsequent comments (because I don’t know how to embolden in blogger).

“Yes, but would they let this happen in a restaurant or at a concert…”
Of course parents don't take their unruly children to restaurants or concerts; but as Mass is essential, they have to, unruly, untrained or not. Indeed, the fact that said parents continue to bring their horrid children along, despite the obvious difficulty this imposes on them and the sense of failure and embarrassment and communal disapprobation, is evidence indeed of the inherent value adjudged to be found in the Mass alone even by parents of badly behaved children.

“Unwell is fine at Mass, unwell and unruly needs thinking through…”
Children are not self-centred; they're children! We have the age of reason for a reason; don't impose adult morality on them. It's as nonsensical as attributing human feelings on animals.
At Latin Mass the priest faces the East, so he won't be distracted. And I thought the Sanctuary was full of angels, not demons during Mass.

“No, that is a silly argument. The answer remains the same as the one to point 1.”
This is not silly. As stated, outside decent cities one may have one local-ish Mass per Sunday, of varying quality. (Our recently ex-local parish was served by an heretical priest, who denies the Real Presence, the historical Jesus, the divine Jesus, the miracles, infant baptism, the relevance of Mary, the Eucharist and everything else contained within the broad spectrum of Christian belief. (The bishop knows; the bishop doesn’t care.) The entire diocese of Hallam has one Latin Mass a month so you're stuffed if that's your thing. Seriously, the South of England may have a thriving church but in the regions it is in many places worse than moribund. We are looking at the total devastation of Catholicity in many parts of the country, in all seriousness. To therefore suggest that Catholic parents should tag-team Mass attendance or not bring their children so that some can maintain their vision of reverence, in many ways represents the same carelessness (or, more cynically, outright contempt) towards the values and religious practices of ordinary Catholics, that characterises much post-V2 Catholicism.

contd. in next message...

Anonymous said...

contd. from previous (Blogger is a beast sometimes.)

“Yes, the action of the Mass takes place irrespective of the worthyness of the priest or the concentration of the congregation…”
The priest does the reverence, we do our best to respond, each according to his capacity. As for the ‘occasions for sinful thought, I know this very well, believe. And I’m confident that God in His mercy sees reverence where it is, not only where it looks like it is to humans.

“That is all good, there is no problem with this.”
So praise God for it. Children are amazing in their energy and variety; in their foolishness and joy.

6. "…I regularly attend Latin Mass …”
I stand corrected.

“ Turning up at Mass does not magically bestow grace on anyone.”
I rather think it does by, as ever, the grace of God. A quote from Fr Zulsdhorf:
"...our obligation to attend Holy Mass on days of precept is a commandment of the Church rooted in the divine positive law given in the Ten Commandments. Holy Church says you have to go to Mass because God says we are to give Him His due. That is a good enough reason to go.
"... Just because you cannot go to Communion, that doesn’t mean that you cannot receive human formation and edification from the readings, sermons, probity and good example of the congregants, the ars celebrandi of the priest, the beauty of the windows, a waft of incense, etc. God works in the small things, too, in the spaces between the signs, and in the silences." (Frz. WDTPRS 21/09/2011)
Also, further to my earlier comment, I bloody hope turning up does something because I've been going for years and only very, very occasionally have the white-noise of consciousness silenced by God's mystical voice. As for the necessity of home-spirituality, we must guard against judging the value of the faith of others.

“…are the fruits really there if chaos reigns supreme …”
Maybe not for that child (although as a child it is, I presume, somewhat free from what adults understand as sin) but it can be for you. Sit closer to the front, wear a starched mantilla that functions as blinkers. Suffer it, like Teresa of Lisieux.

It is a paradigmatic condition of the contemporary world to view children as both a burden to endure and a problem to be fixed. This is a consequence, in my view, of what Josef Pieper called the ‘world of total work’, in which all things become subsumed into an ideology (common to both capitalist and socialist agendas) which sees only value, and therefore virtue, in servile labour. The sheer blessing of the child and a joyful appreciation of this is made subservient to the idea that the child needs to be formed in the ways of the world (what is called socialisation), to set about it as if it were a problem to be solved, a job of work. We thus turn children into a raw material rather than an innately valuable, complete person.

Over and out.