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Q: My young children won’t stop making noise during Mass. Should I leave them at home with a sitter so we don’t disturb the priest and other parishioners?
—Too loud for liturgy
A: On the one hand, Jesus himself welcomed the children, even as his disciples tried to keep them—and the noise and disturbance that small humans effortlessly conjure—away (Matthew 19:13-15). It is my hope that priests and parishioners of all ages can and do remember Jesus’ example in the moments when children laugh, talk, shout, and play during Mass, and that they also recognize the presence of God in the gummy smiles, clapping hands, and exclamations of your little ones.
On the other hand, you are right that it’s important to be conscious of the distraction that your children cause, and I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that many priests and parishioners don’t adopt the way of Jesus and have been known to make young parents feel unwelcome. I’d hate for that to be your experience.
Perhaps there is a balance to be struck regarding your inquiry. There is much to be gained from surrounding your young family with a community of believers, so don’t leave your children at home. But once you are at Mass, do your best to minimize disturbance. Walk to the back of the church with crying babies and squirming toddlers (many vestibules are equipped with speakers so that parents standing in the back can still hear the Mass), take advantage of the nursery if your parish has one, and refrain from adding to the hoopla that a young family almost necessarily generates by bringing along snacks, toys, or screens. Your children will eventually learn how to behave in church through your example and the example of others, and until that point, try your best to rest in the confidence that your children are welcomed by Jesus and that you are doing a great job simply through wanting them to be there (and going to the effort of getting them there!).