I've been watching a fray start. And I've been watching it from the side-lines. First it started with Deacon George, then Calah, then Cam, then Dr. Gregory, and later Leila. I didn't want to get into it. I really believe firmly that we tend to polarize parents too much. I believe that you can advocate for things like breastfeeding while understanding at the same time that it isn't possible for everyone all the time. But when Dr. Gregory Popcak when on about it, I'm glad that Leila stood up. And so I'm standing up with her. I hope she doesn't mind.
I don't take my children to Mass and sit in the sanctuary with them either.
They are three and one. They climb. They fidget. They destroy things. It has nothing to do with my parenting skills and more to do with their level of energy and dislike of physical constraints. It has to do with the fact that they've inherited very physically motivated people genes from both their dad and his dad. I've learned to live with that.
I also believe that if you can and want to take your child inside the sanctuary. Feel free to do so. I just won't. I have no desire to spend my entire time standing in the vestibule and trying to prevent my children from flinging open the outside doors and running out into the parking lot and into oncoming traffic from the street.
So we either take them and sit in the cry room, which doesn't have kneelers either so I kneel on the floor. They can move around in there without bothering people. Or I put them in childcare depending on how much sleep I've had or how restless they are.
Dr. Popcak's article disturbed me quite a bit. I've read his book and there are points (particularly about sexuality in young children) that I respectfully disagree with. This particular point is one of them.
1. As far as Catholics are concerned, babies are not merely tolerated. They have a right to be in Church. IF YOU ARE BAPTIZED, YOU BELONG. PERIOD. END OF STORY.
I agree in as much as they have a right to be there. Whether they belong or not is a matter of debate (clearly). There's no set rubric on the matter. My understanding is that since the Catechism teaches that parents are the primary teachers, they have the right also to discern whether or not a child belongs ie should go to Mass.
2. As a matter of Catholic social teaching, it is the duty of every Catholic to support the mission of the family to raise godly children. Failure to do so is a serious offense against both charity and the dignity of the family. If you have ever scowled at a parent of a crying baby at Church. I recommend you confess your hardened heart. “Whatever you do to the least…” (Mt 25:40).
Certainly and it should also be the mission for the church to provide appropriate means to aid parents ie cry room and child care. Not every church has that option and that's unfortunate.
3. While I respect the intention behind it, a parent who leaves a child at home “until they are old enough” is being unjust regarding the child’s religious education. Education begins unconsciously before it begins consciously. Your baby or toddler needs to be given the opportunity to learn the rhythm, sights, sounds, and smells of the Mass before he is conscious enough to understand the Mass. Robbing a child of the sensory education makes catechesis that much harder later on. Spirituality is primarily a sensory call (from God) that leads to a transformative response. Robbing a child of that early sensual experience of God and His Church is a very serious impediment to future catechesis and spiritual development.
I beg your pardon! Unjust indeed! While I agree the Mass is very sensory, I would argue that it also requires a level of cognition. I've known many adults who've come to Mass and have said that they have understood the ritual and all the sensory based things better (because often Protestant churches deprive themselves of these things) when it was explained to them. I consider it equally "unjust" to take a child to Mass and expect them to understand all the facets of the Mass without explaining the intellectual underpinnings of it.
Furthermore, I'm not robbing my children of anything. They aren't paying attention as it is. Not to mention that you, dear sir, are forgetting private devotion and prayer are sensory experiences as well, which can be taught at the pace and understanding for the child. I might also add without worrying over if it's too noisy or not.
There is no evidence that this impedes a child's education either. St. Terese did not attend Mass as a young child. It did not deter her fervor to enter Carmel at a young age.
5. Some tips for moms and dads.
-This is counterintuitive, but sit in the front. Kids behave better when they can look at what’s going on instead of some other parishioner’s butt (which is, afterall what’s on their eye-level).
-Don’t ever just sit in the cry-room from the start. Although I understand, and support, their intended use, in practice, most cry rooms are from the devil. It’s like Lord of the Flies Sunday School in there. Go in only for as long as you need to, if you need, then go back to your pew. You and your child will get more out of the experience
Oh, boy! "Most cry rooms are from the devil." If that were the case, sir, then priests would ban them outright. My children get more out the experience being able to move around rather than having to pulled out from under pews or told to stop touching people's hair.
-If you have to remove your child from the sanctuary, hold him the entire time you are in the cry room or the back of the church. DO NOT under any circumstances let him down. If you take the child out and put him down and play with him (or, God forbid, let him run around) you will teach him–through simple Pavlovian conditioning–that he NEEDS to cry to get the fun times that happen when he forces you to leave the sanctuary. Let your child have a minimal amount of freedom of movement if he allows you to stay the pew, but none if he makes you leave the sanctuary. If a little one is really that out of control, he isn’t able to get himself back online anyway (remember our discussion about the myth of self-soothing). If he makes you leave, by all means be loving, sympathetic, compassionate, and affectionat, but DO NOT PUT THE KID DOWN. When he’s quiet, return to the pew.
Okay, Hold up there. Mass should be enjoyable. Making it a miserable experience for a child is just plain wrong. It seems to me that your equating a child's ability to move around as being "fun times" and being constrained as what?
Second point, my children do not like be physically constrained. Instead of calming down, they will kick, head butt, punch, bite, and scratch me and my husband. I have learned that holding them and never putting them down is a bad idea. And don't say I screwed up when my oldest was young because I did everything you suggested until he started the thrashing about when he was a toddler. It's far easier to get him to calm down if he's allowed to space to move in. The space around a pew is not large enough.
-By all means, for children under, say, 4-ish, bring some quiet, soft, preferably religiously-themed toy-like things. Keep them in a special “going to Mass bag” that the child doesn’t get to see unless you are in church. That will keep these activities special. Regarldess, try to put these things away before the consecration. At the elevation, point to the host and whisper something like, “look at the miracle! Look at Jesus. Say, “I love you Jesus!”
During the consecration, I believe the rubric is to bow one's head while kneeling. So no, I will not be telling my child to look up.
-Don’t do mass in shifts. The Mass is for families. When parents say they aren’t “getting anything out of Mass” when they bring small children they are missing the point. What you get out of Mass when you have small children is the joy of passing your faith on to them. That’s what you signed up for when you became a Catholic parent. Yes, it can be tough, and yes, you may certainly do other things to get your spiritual needs met, but Sunday mass is for your family. Go as a family.
Sorry wrong again. Sunday Mass is not for family. It's for worshiping Christ.
What's annoying to me is that it would seem that the only way a child can understand the faith is through Mass attendance. And that to do without it at a young age they are somehow deprived. There is no evidence of this. My brother and myself were in the cry room until age five. We are still faithful Catholics.
Furthermore my three year old and I have numerous discussion outside of Mass. He knows the Baby Jesus, the Crucified Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and those sorts of things from books. He's not cognitively reticent to understand the Sacrifice of the Mass. It's for this reason that the Latin Church decided to hold off on infant communion until the child is of an age and intellect to understand what the Holy Eucharist means. It's unconscionable to suggest that my child is impeded from something that he's not able to understand anyway. Surely you wouldn't suggest that catecumens/candidates are impeded because they are removed from Mass before the celebration of the Eucharist? That they somehow don't know Christ because they don't get to see him in the Holy Eucharist.
What should be at the forefront of discussion is proper catechesis for older children and teens. The reason why so many people turn away from the church is not the lack of sensory but rather the lack of the intellectual.