Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Before offering Sister the tweezers

Blog posts about children misbehaving at Mass seem to be a perennial favorite in the Catholic blogosphere. This one will probably be no exception:
About halfway through the Eucharistic prayer, the priest simply stopped and stared in the direction of the screaming for what felt like an hour but was probably about 15 seconds. It was pretty clear to those of us in the front that he was being pushed to his limit. This priest (who is not the pastor) is a peaceful, kind, loving, compassionate guy, a really good priest. Anyway, the parents of this baby did not take the hint, so the screaming continued right along with the rest of the Eucharistic prayer and into the Our Father. At that point the priest grimaced and stood by silently as the rest of us continued to pray.

I leaned over to my husband and said, "I think father is going to lose it." And that was just about when he did. As we approached the Sign of Peace, he stopped again and pleaded with them amid the screaming: "Will you please take the baby out of the church? Please?" Talk about an awkward moment. I couldn't see what was going on behind me but I felt myself holding my breath as I waited to see what happened next. I guess the family finally got the message and headed out to the Gathering Space, or, more likely, out of the church. Perhaps for good.
The blogger goes on to take a reasonably balanced view of this sort of thing, pointing out that while, on the one hand, babies will be babies, on the other, we need adults to be adults and to recognize when their children have passed the line into becoming a full-blown disruption. She is also clear that what was going on was a full-throated screaming meltdown that persisted through the Eucharistic Prayer, not a normal sort of whimpering or fussing that you might expect.

Still, as can be expected, the commenters took varying views of the situation, ranging from the calls to be as charitable as possible to parents wrestling with little ones, to discussions of how the ushers/pastor/etc. deal with similar things at their parish. One poster, a religious sister, made a rather nice comment coming from a non-parent; that is, she advised a sense of humor, a reminder that Jesus was used to crowds, and a call for everybody to be willing to "power through" such situations when they arise.

And for her pains, Sister got this comment:
Thank you for the post. Your mind is a perfect example of the Smoke of Satan that has entered the Sanctuary; in short it's selfishness. It's a selfishness led by priests who during the Mass have turned their backs on the Lord Crucified. Priests and nuns are blinded not by some spiritual act of the Devil, but by their own choice to turn their gaze away from the Lord's Sacrifice. All who turn away from His Sacrifice eventually fall in love with themselves, their gaze merely points to the objects of desire.

Your, "I mean, come on. No one could hear me or the program", when compared to how you see a child screaming during the Mass can not make this more clear.

Your "I felt this is what a crowd around Jesus would have been like" is not at all relevant and is filled with ignorance. The reverence, honor, and love of the Mass by the Early Church is clearly documented by Church and secular history. This is especially so for the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass. In the early Church the Eucharistic prayer was known as "the Secret", and attendance was allowed by only those who believed. {I am not saying the Church should return to such a rule}. The Early Church held the Mass as Sacred, Solemn, and Holy. The Mass is the Prayer of the Church. It was held by the Christian's of the Early Church as such, and never has the Church taught or accepted the Mass as a "crowd" event for chattel.

You are correct that "peace and quiet" is not part of the liturgical norms. But neither is cacophony. Your questions shows your grave ignorance and selfishness regarding your concern for the Mass. The Rubric's and GRIM are filled with language that makes such distinctions; so much so it is hard to believe your ignorance is not really willful selfishness for your own spiritual desires and happiness.

So Sister, "I mean, come on", "power through", stop focusing on your selfish desires that make you happy for a while. Start focusing on the Lord whom you devoted yourself to and stop "laughing a little" when the world turns the Sacrifice to your husband into a meal at a buffet restaurant.
Momento mori, Christ took a bull-whip to those who sat in the temple as if it was a place for crowds.
This sort of thing is the reason that I find rad-tradism totally poisonous. And let me just say, for the record, that I know more than one regular E.F. Mass attendee who would completely agree.

The conversation at the blog, note, was about children, their tendency to melt down, the proper way to handle such things at Mass, and the occasional need for a priest, deacon, team of ushers etc. to have an action plan by which the sometimes-clueless parents of a banshee-impersonating toddler will gently and kindly be asked if, perhaps, Snookums mightn't be soothed in the crying room, vestibule, or secret soundproof nuclear bunker (kidding, kidding). It was not about how Christ would have driven the parents and screaming toddler out of His Holy Mass with a bull-whip if necessary so that the sensibilities of people who most emphatically don't need people (especially in Church!!!!) can be preserved in acrylic facsimiles of amber (because real amber is sort of oozing and full of icky impurities).

To such a person, a nun who counsels lighthearted smiles of understanding in these situations is the walking embodiment of the Smoke of Satan for failing to understand how terribly offended God is by the presence of less-than-perfect people at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

None of this is to say that parents whose children could serve as tornado warning systems shouldn't be reminded that there are options, should the small human tornado siren go off during Mass. But the sort of person who sits in judgment on the soul of a professed religious and feels competent to declare that she is willfully selfish and ignorant might just want to check his own eye for the jutting plank before offering Sister the tweezers for that little mote.

UPDATE: The commenter removed his comment castigating Sister, and, apparently, all of his comments. Interesting.


Deirdre Mundy said...

I'd imagine that Sister realizes it's difficult to deal with annoying people and babies with a sense of humor-- her advice smacks of those vile, libertine Carmelite sisters and their admonitions to see Christ even in the people who annoy you!

Oh heavens! What heterodoxy!!

Next that crazy liberal nun will probably start claiming we should allow stinky homeless people, old women who mutter to themselves, and people with annoying hairdos to frequent our churches too!!

(For the record, my guess is that the sister in question is one of the orthodox ones--- they always seem much more ready to laugh off inconveniences and slights to their dignity... almost as if they're in constant conversation with someone who is MUCH more important than they are and also has a sense of humor.....)

Beth said...

I agree with your assessment of the ultra-traditionalists. Satan is used left and right for whatever reason they need to use him for. I have been seriously concerned about the mental health of some of them lately.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Not to mention... while I'm agreeing with Deirdre... that Carmelite nun might even do something REALLY liberal, like bring all the homeless people into church and wash their feet the week before Easter.

I'm kind of middling. I have a high tolerance level for babies running, playing, and even sobbing. There is such a thing as adult responsibility to take a screaming child out. I assume that Father would make sure to take a wafer back to the mother's room, so it wasn't a choice between taking communion OR taking the screaming child out of the sanctuary.

Smoke of Satan? I didn't even use that kind of language about George W. Bush. Well, wait, I did say the 2000 election was "Anti-Christ vs. The Blob." And Al Gore was The Blob.

Saphira said...

Yeah, I attend the E.F. when possible but I have to agree, there's a lot of poison of this type. That is why I am dearly hoping, with Ecclesia Dei, that more and more just normal people will attend the E.F. and it won't be so much a haven for weirdos. I have to admit, when I go to the E.F. with my four children, who are wiggly and make normal little child-noises, I kind of feel happy when the cantankerous folks give us dirty looks, because I feel that I am able to do a little bit of good for them, in my way, by helping them to experience something of what is normal. I used to be terribly abashed and take my kids out at the first little squeak, but not anymore. I just give those people a big smile.

Saphira said...

Oh, and for the record I agree that when a kid starts going into siren-mode or something, they need to be taken out.

The man who answered the nun has to be seriously mentally ill. That's all I can think. In some ways I think the trad movement (though it has its strengths) can tend to attract certain types of mentally ill people...that would be an interesting post topic.

Anonymous said...

The sort of person who writes blog comments and sits in judgment of the sort of person who writes blog posts and sits in judgment of the sort of person who writes blog comments and sits in judgment of the sort of person who writes friendly blog comments while not really sitting in judgement of anyone is exactly the sort of person I am.

freddy said...

You know, I don't get the feeling that the commenter you quoted really is a "rad-trad."

I mean, full marks for working in the "smoke of Satan" quote, but no self-respecting rad-trad would mistake the acronym for the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. (GIRM, not GRIM: sly humor is normally frowned upon by rad-trads so I doubt that's what's going on here.)

Additionally, no real rad-trad would pass up an opportunity to assert the superiority of the EF Mass. The commenter should have pointed out, in great detail, how if Father were speaking *sotto voce*, and facing *ad orientem*, and with the must-have addition of a well-trained chant choir and a powerful organ, any number of crying babies could do their pitiful best to disrupt the proceedings and have no more effect than the rosary-clacking grannies lining the front pews.

Finally, though the commenter is addressing a Catholic Sister, he fails to mention either the enneagram or walking the labyrinth as he disparages her point of view.

All these are clues that what we're dealing with here isn't a rad-trad, but garden variety crank.

Anyway, glad he took down his posts; God bless 'im! Hope he had a change of heart.

Oh, and God bless Sister for her kindness and charity!

Tony said...

Additionally, no real rad-trad would pass up an opportunity to assert the superiority of the EF Mass. The commenter should have pointed out, in great detail, how if Father were speaking *sotto voce*, and facing *ad orientem*, and with the must-have addition of a well-trained chant choir and a powerful organ, any number of crying babies could do their pitiful best to disrupt the proceedings and have no more effect than the rosary-clacking grannies lining the front pews.

Oh, freddy!!! You almost made me spew my coffee with that one!

I have to admit that I enjoyed Erin's liturgical jiu-jitsu when she turned a complaint against clueless parents into a complaint against one of her favorite hobby horses, those eeeeeeeeevil "rad trads". :)

I know we've been victims of the "I'm okay, you're okay, come as you are" brand of Catholicism recently, but there is nothing wrong with maybe offering to take the child to the crying room yourself so the parents can enjoy the rest of the mass in relative peace (if they don't want to, at least they might get the gentle hint). Just like you should tell the inappropriately dressed woman that if she wants to dress like Mary Magdaline, she should choose the time after her conversion.

A spiritual act of mercy is to teach the ignorant. I think we should start concentrating on the spiritual acts of mercy more than we are.

priest's wife said...

prayers for the lovely sister!

my policy: babies who are 'talking' stay in church- yes, it might distract some, but oh well. babies (and toddlers) who are being 'negative' are in the hall...not easy for me, but there will be a day when I miss having little ones