Friday, May 17, 2013

Validation and balance

Sorry for the continued spotty blogging this week; all I can say is that I've been busy.  For those of you who are waiting for the sequel to my first children's science-fiction book, The Telmaj, I may have some really good news soon!  And if you haven't yet bought a copy of The Telmaj for the 8 to 12-year-old reader(s) in your life: summer is coming, and sometimes it will be too hot to play outside, and a book may be a nice break from all the screen time, and that's all the shameless self-promotion I can stand for one day. :)

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.

13 comments:

Barbara C. said...

Yeah, I've heard stories like this before. Something happens at one Mass at one church and suddenly a person is "leaving the Church" with righteous anger. It's not hard to see that they already had one foot out the door and were just waiting for a reason to take the other one out, too.

vera said...

I find it discouraging that all that the deacon is saying is that he hopes she will be back. No hope apparently for making arrangements for babies, and accommodating her in some way. I am betting she is not the only one. How about a nursery during mass? Sheesh.

But in this extrovert-run culture, noise always seems to win over silence and quiet.

Christian LeBlanc said...

My experience is that those who leave were never meaningfully engaged in the life of the parish anyway.

vera said...

Christian, this lady is seriously upset. Would it not be a Christian thing to listen to her... and not in the "I hope she gets over it" sense, but in the hm... maybe she's a bit overboard on this, but she has a point? How can we stop arguing with her and support her instead? How about a quiet mass once a month? Betcha folks would love it. For every person who complains, there are lots of others who think alike but are unwilling to come forth.

And about the issue itself, does it bother any of you Catholics that this culture wages war on peace & quiet, on darkness, on slowness? When was the last time you enjoyed a quiet library? They have gone the way of the dodo. Apparently, churches are next. Do extroverts always have to get their way? Bah humbug.

Tony said...

Erin, now you've gone from simply being annoying in your obsession with people who have a problem with screaming babies, to belittling someone's handicap.

Dismissing someone with a hearing problem by saying "I don't want to paychoanalyze anyone" is distinctly uncharitable.

My wife is hard of hearing, and she wears two hearing aids. They are digital, and she can't turn them down, or filter background noise they're not tuned to deal with. So a screaming baby cuts through her hearing aid, is amplified, and stabs her brain like a knife. If she tries to ignore it and listen to what the priest is saying it can exhaust her. And putting up with this sort of behavior week after week, can be debilitating, and can indeed prompt someone to stop attending Mass.

In our church when our new pastor arrived with his Johnny Carson style of homilitics, coming out of the sanctuary and wandering back and forth, my wife approached him and explained that when his back was to her, she couldn't hear him and he dismissed her with: "I didn't have anything that important to say". Few things piss off my wife more than that. If it was important enough to tell the rest of the congregation, it was important enough to make sure my wife could hear it.

"Googling" doesn't both my wife, "talking" doesn't bother her. "cooing and babbling" doesn't bother her. Full throated screeching does.

So parents, when your demonically posessed offspring screeches at a decibel level comperable to an F-15 taking off, take them out of the church proper, and possibly dunk them in the Holy Water font on the way out until they stop sizzling. :P

PS: Your Captcha is REALLY annoying. I missed it 4 times before I could finally read it.

Red Cardigan said...

Tony, I have no control over the Captcha. I may try turning it off, but I honestly don't have time to hand-delete spam comments, so if turning off the captcha increases the spam too much I won't have any choice but to go back to it.

As to your comment: nobody who responded to this lady, including me, said anything belittling of her handicap. In fact, in Deacon Kandra's original post and some other places I saw lots of helpful advice about early Masses, monastery or convent Masses, hospital or nursing home chapel Masses, etc. where babies will not usually be present. She made it clear in her repeated comments that she wants to be able to go to her usual parish Saturday morning (!) Mass without having to deal with two families whose infants, according to her, scream at the top of their voices for the entire time of the Mass and are never taken out of the church for a second. She said that she never took her kids to Sunday Mass till they were five and pretty much implied that parents are selfish to take small children to Mass instead of staying home with them for years at a time as her husband did for her. And her final email to Deacon Kandra referenced her speaking to the priest about this--she clearly wanted him to agree with her to bar infants from attending any Mass where she might be present, and her decision to leave the Church altogether came after that conversation. Now tell me: what, exactly is the pastor of any parish supposed to do with that sort of demand, even if he agreed with the principle that children under five don't belong in church, which is something few Catholic priests would ever agree with in the first place?

vera said...

"She made it clear in her repeated comments that she wants to be able to go to her usual parish Saturday morning (!) Mass without having to deal with two families whose infants, according to her, scream at the top of their voices for the entire time of the Mass and are never taken out of the church for a second."

Gosh, how cheeky of her. How about asking these two families to take the kids out when they start carrying on?! If the kiddies are that unhappy, they'll make everyone unhappy. What's a parish priest to do? First, make sure she feels *heard* (duh!).

The problem I have with the discussion, what I have seen of it, is that people seem to think it's all her problem. Let her take it elsewhere. Uncharitable? Yeah, I am with Tony.

Tony said...

I guess we really don't know the whole story. Recently I read the same story linked to two different reports. The headlines went:

"Man saves son from raging pit bull"

-and-

"Off duty policeman kills family pet".


Red Cardigan said...

Tony, Vera, nobody said the priest shouldn't ask the families to walk to the back with their infants to settle them down, etc. Everybody was sympathetic to the idea that fussy or crying babies need to be carried outside till they are calm again. Most parents do this instinctively, even if it takes a moment to gather everyone from the pew (as happens when there are several children with Mom, for instance). Nobody anywhere has said that it's fine for babies to scream without stopping for 45 to 60 minutes without anybody doing anything about it.

You know what? I don't believe for one second that this is what's happening in this lady's parish. I'm 44 years old and a cradle Catholic; I've lived in 10 states and attended more parishes than I can count, and I've NEVER heard an infant SCREAM at Mass for more than about 30 seconds before mom/dad is looking for an exit route. I've heard babies fuss, vocalize, babble, etc., but I've never heard one SCREAM (like the colic scream my oldest used to have, for instance) for a full hour while everyone ignored it or told disabled people to put up with the noise. In fact, if I heard an infant SCREAM like that for more than a couple of minutes I'd be worried that there was some serious medical problem with the baby, and would be encouraging the parents to take the baby straight to the nearest hospital!

Bottom line: I don't believe that when this woman goes to a Saturday morning Mass (not even the Sunday obligatory one, mind you) that two families carry in two babies and then allow them to SCREAM at the top of their lungs for the entire 30 or 45 minutes or however long the daily Mass lasts at her parish, and that the priest and the other parishioners and lay volunteers etc. act like nothing is happening at all and never ask the parents to step outside with the baby for a moment, and that this happens Saturday after Saturday after Saturday. Whatever is going on here, this isn't it.

vera said...

More ranting against the woman. :-( Now you are invalidating her. Bah. Why don't you ask the deacon to really really listen to her, and post what he finds? But he may not have the skill. Better, invite her to post to the blog, either this or some other, where she has a direct voice? Maybe if people really listened to what she has to say instead of assuming that what she is saying could not possibly be true, the whole affair would be on its way of resolving.

There is a thing called Miller's Law; it makes an interesting point: "In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true, and try to imagine what it could be true of."

Empathy... what an idea!

Red Cardigan said...

Okay, Vera. I'll assume it is true, and that at this woman's parish every Saturday morning Mass is made completely unendurable because two babies are permitted to SCREAM at the top of their voices for the entire 30 to 45 minutes, and nobody will tell them to take the babies out or otherwise encourage the parents to hush their SCREAMING children (and she, by the way, is the one who writes "SCREAM" in all caps when she writes about this; I'm taking her at her word, here).

My next question is, why not simply find another Saturday morning Mass at a different parish to attend? Is this the only parish this woman can get to on Saturday? Can someone offer her a ride elsewhere? How is, "That's it: I'm leaving the Church!" over a problem she faces at one daily Mass per week (not the Sunday Mass of obligation, note well!) the right response on her part?

vera said...

Erin, you are still fighting and not listening. If you have access, find out the real story from her. If you have access to the deacon, persuade him to give her voice.

"Being right" is highly overrated.

vera said...

What? No captcha? That's awesome! :-)