Some of you may remember the posts I did here discussing Deacon Kandra's letters from a woman complaining about babies screaming at Mass. Earlier this week, Deacon Kandra received another letter from this woman, and it's a shocker:
I thought I should let you & your readers know that I’ve been forced by my hearing problem to leave the Church. After talking with a priest yesterday, I told him that I realize that the Catholic Church’s exists primarily for screaming–& yes, I do mean SCREAMING, not making little babbling sounds–babies & their apparently-deaf parents.
Read the rest of her letter, and Deacon Kandra's comments, here.
Lots of things don't add up here, to me. I don't want to psychoanalyze a person I don't know based on a handful of letters, but in her first letter this woman made it clear that the Mass with the screaming babies is a Saturday morning Mass (that is, NOT a Sunday Mass), and in her second letter, that she was "saddened" by the comments to her first letter and said that she and her husband had never brought their children to Sunday Mass before age 5 or so (kindergarten). She also said that only she went to Sunday Mass during those years; her husband went to daily Mass and would take the kids on Saturdays when they were old enough (around 4). Here, in this third letter, she is clearly chagrined that babies are still welcome at Mass despite her health-related inability to tolerate their "screaming." She blames parents who bring their children to Mass for a lack of charity and advises them to go to Confession, and says that she's leaving the Church.
In short, I agree with Deacon Kandra when he says:
My sense is that there has to be more than just noise that is driving this woman away, and that there may be more layers to her story. There’s pain there, along with anger and frustration. I suspect what she needs more than silence is time—and prayer, and someone who will listen. I hope she finds all of that.
I think that when this lady wrote to Deacon Kandra in the first place, what she was looking for, perhaps even expecting, was validation of her particular situation. Again, I'm not psychoanalyzing when I say that, just pointing out that as human beings we tend to crave this sort of thing. When we tell someone our troubles, we might be looking for solutions, or we might just be looking for sympathy, for a voice that says, "How terrible for you! You must be so upset." This is one of those things that is much, much easier to tell in real-life conversation than in blogs, emails, Facebook updates, etc. I suspect--though of course I don't know--that what this particular lady wanted was a chorus of voices saying, "Oh, how awful that the priest at your parish lets people bring babies to what should be a quiet Saturday morning Mass and then lets those babies SCREAM at the top of their tiny lungs like operatic banshees for the entire thirty minutes without ever suggesting that the parents take them outside for a moment to calm down, especially when the slightest noise can trigger the distressing symptoms of your health problem and you've gone out of your way to explain this patiently and..." etc. Instead, what she got was: total agreement that babies ought not be allowed to scream like operatic banshees throughout an entire Mass, but also doubt that this was actually the case, along with a lot of people saying that infants and young children do, as baptized Catholics, have the right to attend Mass and that people should cut parents some slack when they're trying to make that sometimes-complicated "vestibule or not?" decision should Junior start to act up a bit.
In other words, people gave a fairly sane, balanced, reasonable response. But it would seem (again, none of us knows for certain) that perhaps this lady simply wanted some sympathy and understanding for her particular situation, even if she couched it in language about what all parents ought to do or what the Church ought to do, etc.
I don't think the desire for validation, sympathy, and understanding is a sinful thing; I think it's a human one. But I also think that once our emotions calm down in these situations, we should try to look at the big picture, examine our own motives and reactions, and strive for a sense of balance about it all.
Deciding to leave the Church altogether because of screaming babies (or female altar servers or bad music or too much/too little Latin or the lack of women priests or the Church's refusal to bless artificial birth control or too many EMHCs or...) is a clear sign that one's sense of balance is not quite right. And that, as Deacon Kandra says, prayer is the main thing that is called for here.