This is a notorious and perennially discussed talking point in many parishes, and indeed a question that the Church seems to have as many policies on as there are parishes. Our family Mass is the subject of such conversation since it is living proof that our part of London is, indeed, Nappy Valley – trying to get your buggy into our church porch is like trying to get it down the Northcote Road on a pleasant Saturday morning with coffee shops and trendy boutiques alike crammed with yummy mummies, daddies and babies. Indeed, the hubbub of noise at this family Mass (not because of particularly badly behaved children, but rather because of the sheer number of children) is quite extraordinary. I admit it – I attended this Mass once out of necessity and vowed never again. One mother told me that it is possible, with much saintly practice I’m sure, to tune into the priest and block out the cacophony around you. I suppose parents discover they need this ability in noisy, busy family life, too.
I reserve comment until I have children of my own, but I can see both sides of the question. There are some families in our parish who bring large numbers of children to Mass who don’t play with toys or read books, and behave impeccably. When the children attend Mass with school and for First Communion Presentation Masses, they are saint-like. But I think it’s too easy for us to jump in and say it’s down to bad parenting that they make such a racket on normal Sundays. There is, perhaps, a need for such a Mass. Several parents have told me in the past the only way they were able to bring their children to Mass was by attending this particular one, where they knew they would ‘blend in’ and not suffer the glares of other parishioners. One mother told me that there was a time in her life when she was ‘grateful’ for this Mass – for her it was a life-line. Parenting is difficult, every family is different, and while it’s good to have high standards in our Liturgy, it’s also good for parishes to welcome those who struggle and for whatever reason don’t have immaculately behaved children.
Thank God for the solemn sung Mass.