Monday, May 14, 2007

church law

A blogging priest posted some new rules he devised for his parish's new sanctuary in the bulletin.
Now, being in the midst of our parish's building campaign I can understand the priest's frustration with the mess and lack of reverence for Our Lord's house he details below. However, I wouldn't feel comfortable in a church that seems this draconian about the Mass behavior of small children. If these rules were in place at our parish I would feel very hurt. We try our best to keep our little ones quiet and respectful, but some of my best tools are keeping something in their mouths and something for their fingers to do.
Our TLM parish is like all others. There are parents who keep all of their children in a row intent on the priest's gestures and their picture missal. There are those who allow their toddlers to be unattended in the pew, racing noisy cars up and down the seat, rattling keys, and distracting all around them. And there are the rest of us, allowing our littlest to color religious coloring books, nibble on Cheerios, and drink diluted apple juice so we can possibly get 10 minutes of prayer and adoration into our Sunday morning.
If you just so happen to be from Mars, you might not know about the great debates about every aspect of parenting these days, the bottle vs breast debate, and the work vs stay-at-home, ad nauseum. Equally as passionate are the Catholic Mass with children debates, no snacks vs Cheerios, nurse only in the cry room vs in the pew, coloring allowed vs no distractions... Perhaps these discussions were just as vocal in the past, but I'm of the mindset that many choices parents made about their children long ago were made privately and did not require a public defense. Somehow, "I chose to do X,Y, or Z," turned into, "I do X, Y, and Z, and therefore you are a bad parent if you do not do the same."
I don't have any suggestions to the blogging priest. But after yesterday's Mass involving 2 squirming, fussy toddlers I would have blown up if I had been handed a copy of an edict from on high of "no bottles and no pencils permitted in the door or the priest and your fellow parishioners will chew you out."
Over the last month or so, several incidents have occurred that necessitate reiterating the obligation for each parishioner to work to keep our church clean and new. Parents have allowed children to draw on the baptismal font with crayons, to draw on the pew seats with pens, to walk on the pews with shoes, to litter the pews and floor with snacks, and spill drinks with no effort to clean up afterwards. Lest you think this is just a problem with careless parents, older people have used the kneelers as foot rests, failed to replace the missalettes and hymnals in the pew racks, and left their trash in the pews.Our church is the house of God. It must be treated with care, reverence, and respect. (It is not a playground or a family room!)
Please observe the following rules:
1-No gum is to be chewed in the church.
2-Silence cell phones before you enter the chapel.
3-Save conversations for the entrance area or the social hall.
4-Please do no let children draw in the church with pens, pencils, crayons, or markers.
5-If your small child must have a snack during, it is YOUR responsibility to clean up after them. Also, no snacks that are sticky or have the potential to stain.
6-Please no juice or milk in bottles. Water only in the church.
7-Don't let children walk on the pews wearing shoes or to stand with their shoes resting against the pew seats.
8-Kneelers are for kneeling. The are not footrests.
9-Straighten up your own pew before you leave. Replace books in the rack, take any trash with you, and leave the kneelers in the upright position.
All parishioners, please help us keep these rules. If you see someone who is out of line, please gently remind them of their obligations.


Michelle said...

I'm amazed at how many commenters remember their time in church with such rosy colored glasses - especially the youngest of 9 whose mom would NEVER let her do sucha dn such. Amazing what you don't remembering happening when you were only 2.

So, kids can't stand on kneelers or on pews. I wonder how they manage to have enough front row seats so all the little ones can see?

I agree that there will always be careless parents who don't pay attention to their children. But the "no nursing or bottles because children can go an hour between feedings" as one woman wrote included with the "my mom NEVER took us out of Mass for ANY reason" means that my fellow parishoners would have to listen to a newborn scream the whole time, or sit in the wet spot that my 3 year old left because I wouldn't take her to the potty, or witness the tantum that my toddler throws when I have to hold the kneeler firmly UP so he doesn't walk on it.

But I guess screaming children is better than potentially dirty kneelers and urine on the pews is better than diluted white grape juice. And we'll all patiently bear with it for a month or so while that baby learns that God's house is a place of starvation. I always wonder what did Mary do in the Temple? Do you think the Lord was upset that in the crowds listening to his sermons on the hillsides that children ran around and chased butterflies or mommies fed their babies?

I expect my children to behave. I enforce rules and have dragged children out to give them a talking to during Mass. I stand in the vestibule with the ones who are too noisy and distracting. But they are children, and I do not expect perfect behavior from them all the time.

scmom said...

"failed to replace the missalettes and hymnals in the pew racks"

Oh Noooo!

This well-intentioned priest apparently does not realize that there are an awful lot of people out there (even Catholics who go to Mass) that just don't care about other people's belongings. They throw their trash out their car windows, and smash their cigarette butts in the parking lot. Their kids write on bathrooms walls and don't flush the toilets. They leave their trash on fast food restaurant tables when they leave. They are every where. I too am amazed at what pigs people are.

Unfortunately he's preaching to the choir, because those people aparently can't read either. They never do.

I wish there was more of a happy medium between the priest who is obviously willing to "scare" Catholics away with his rules, and priests who are pretty much willing to let Catholics do whatever they want, as long as they stay.

Milehimama said...

I've seen it both ways - places where I wish the priest would say SOMETHING about the (multiple) toddlers running in the aisles, and a church where they LOCKED THE BATHROOM during Mass because you could hear it flush in the sanctuary.
My TLM in Denver solved the problem by having tile and kneelers instead of carpet.
Perhaps it's a typo, and it should read "please do not draw ON the church" rather than IN the church?

Mama Says

Milehimama said...

Oh, and it probably would have been better if instead of "please gently remind them" there had been a Mother Teresa warning:
"If you see someone fail to do those things, please help them out and do it out of Christian charity, and don't mention it to anyone, either, because we don't want to be gossipping..."

Anonymous said...

I don't think the priest's rules were bad at all. Put yourself in his shoes. At our parish, it takes more than 100 lay people each weekend to do all the work required (lectors, EMs, money counters, ushers, choir, etc.). How many more do we want to have volunteer for clean up? I have a four year old and a 15 month old and have had to remove them from mass many, many times for a variety of reasons, but we have never fed them or allowed them to write with anything in church. The main reason is because I want to be able to take my eyes off of them and pay attention to mass for at least part of the time, and if they're eating or drawing I'd have to watch them like a hawk to be sure they weren't making a mess. For us, it works just to be sure they have eaten before we leave home and only bring books and soft toys to occupy them. If they get antsy and distracting to those around us, we take them out to the vestibule. Eventually they learn how to play quietly and even pay attention at times (our 4 yr old pretends to read the hymnal). I think we should all be encouraging our children's best behavior (not perfection, just the best they can do at their age) while at the same time making sure we don't unduly distract or inconvenience others during these years when they are learning self control and respect in church (and it does take years). Bottom line, this priest's rules (like many of society's rules) exist because of all the people out there who are not responsible for themselves, and the result is that everyone is penalized, even those whose kids don't write on the pews or dribble apple juice.

kat said...

When I had 1 and even 2 children, Mass was a breeze.

It was when my husband was deployed for 9 months and I had a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a newborn ALL BY MYSELF at Mass that I learned that Cheerios, diluted apple juice, and coloring books are a Catholic mom's best friends.

I could have received a dispensation and stayed home because I'm now convinced that potty training is an mental illness. I recall clear as day having to drag all of them out of the pew right at the start of the homily every week when I heard a little voice pipe up, "Mommy, I gotta go potty!" However I managed because I needed the Eucharist to just get through another week alone.

Denise said...

While we may need rules, we don't need to be made to feel unwelcome in God's house. This priest sounds like he acting out of worry not love. If you want my children to learn to behave in mass, then they must BE IN MASS. For a toddler this involves them having something to help keep them quiet. Michelle and Kat already said it very well. When you have to go it alone, you do what you can. Cheerios and a sippy cup with a box of crayons will help us all to get something out of mass. Yes we need to enforce rules for our children, yes we need to care for our parish, but I think I'd have to find another parish if those rules were suddenly published at my church. But that's just my humble opinion-- And who doesn't put their feet on kneelers? Sheesh!

a thorn in the pew said...

I agree that there should be a happy medium. I am often more appalled by the adults behavior than the children's at our parish. The children learn reverence bc most attend the school. The parents talk loud, leave early, dress badly/immodestly, etc. I think if reverence were restored, the other problems may not seem quite as problematic.

T with Honey said...

I found myself here through the Catholic Mothers Online blogroll. Wow! If our pastor instituted these kind of rules it would be MUCH noisier in church. Plus Princess would have to go barefoot. She likes to stand on the pew so she can see what the priest is doing during mass. My 2 year old weighs over 30 pounds. Her daddy and I can't hold her all through mass just so she can see what is going on and feel involved.