Monday, May 19, 2008

At Mass...

...recently (and I am not saying where this was) a mother in front of me fed her little boy potato crisps while we all sang the Gloria...then of course he was thirsty, so out came a carton of orange juice and a straw...in due course both went up to Communion...

When did this fashion for feeding snacks to children in church begin? Priests sometimes complain of sweet-wrappers (once even a hamburger container) found in the pews after Mass...

I do remember being bored in church as a small child. It all seemed to be a bit remote and to go on for a long time and although I knew it was important and I was happy to pray and so on, it was difficult not to be glad when the second collection came round and things were clearly drawing to a close. But I didn't expect snacks or sweets - or toys or chat - and nor, when I swap these reminiscences with Anglican, Baptist, and Methodist friends, did they.

Please don't sugest that it's a problem of the liturgy: I have seen children munching through the most glorious Latin chant, while incense swirls around an altar glittering with candles - and indeed this week's experience was in that league, too. It's something to do with assuming that children simply have to be given a snack whenever they appear to want one, or to be bored or wriggly. But they don't.

11 comments:

Cindy said...

You've really struck a chord here. I've seen this sort of behaviour many times. As you say, it's not always very young children either. It always strikes me as odd that parents don't realise that if their children are quite capable of lasting through a school Mass, either in school or in church, without eating and drinking or 'colouring in' or playing with toys, then surely they can do the same when they're with their family.

James said...

Tricky one...

We currently give our one year old raisins during mass when she starts crying, she chews on the raisins and goes quiet. Genius.

But are we storing up trouble in the future...

Ttony said...

We stopped taking a bottle of juice to Church with us at about the 15 month mark - we thought this was a bit late!

JoannaB said...

I think it depends on the age of the child; if they are 2 and under then if she has a vocal child maybe she thought they would be quiter if she fed them but I would choose something quieter - like a banana! But a pre-school child can be kept happy during Mass with a book or a favourite (noiselss)toy and enjoy watching the service and joining in the hymns. If they are not communion age then they can go forward for a blessing. Sometimes it is just education; I think young parents especially seem to be less educated in the ways of bringing up a child these days. An older child can be expected to sit through Mass with the promise of a drink and a biscuit afterwards at tea and coffee in the hall. It is nice also if they are included in the offetory whenever possible and their mum can go up withem, so they feel they are part of the service. Older boys can start to help as altar servers as well.

Liz said...

We did feed goldfish crackers to our teeny tiny daughter (when she was under 3 and had already been to an hour plus of Sunday School before going to church). But then we learned that feeding her before church worked just as well. We had special books and toys for the wee ones for church time, but not once they got old enough to be able to understand what was going on. It seems to me that keeping little ones quiet requires all the ingenuity and preparation a parent can muster, but once they hit 4 or 5 they really should be able to manage without all the props. I will say we never needed to feed my son during church, but my daughter truly had a very small stomach and didn't do well if she didn't eat frequently. She also weighed only 25 lbs at 3. I would be pretty appalled at parents bringing things like crisps (we call them chips across the pond) and hamburgers into church. I also think that children who are old enough to receive communion are old enough to observe the communion fast.

Anonymous said...

There was a really good article in the Catholic Herald recently about a family who had tried all that, then decided to 'ignore' the children at Mass and concentrate on praying, which worked much better as the children copied them! This is what my daughter does with her children - with quite a good level of success.

I do think though that if parents do allow toys they could at least be of the small and silent type. At my last parish one mother used to allow her small boy to bring a whole bag of metal cars and road furniture which he set up in the aisle like a village - attracting all the other children who would see it. What hope for them!

But I still feel the worst thing I have heard of was at my daughter's last parish where a child went up for Holy Communion WEARING ROLLER BLADES.

Ho hum.

Kirk said...

I think that this sort of behaviour does nothing to instill within the child a respect for Holy Mass either.
It seems to indicate to a child that it is perfectly okay to tune out if you want to. That it is perfectly okay to do away with the rules governing the fit state in which to receive Holy Communion. The next stage is that it is perfectly okay not to go at all . . .
When I was growing up the priests referred to my mum as the 'Mother Superior' because when I and my sisters sat in our pew we were quiet and respectful; never daring or dreaming of putting a foot wrong ( and beleive me, outside of Holy Mass we could be 'difficult'). We never spoke out of turn and if the sermon was long or 'boring' or we started to fidget, we were given our childrens' prayer books to read and told to pray silently by ourselves . . .

James said...

We amde a decision a couple of years ago when our (then) two children were under 4 - not to allow toys, snacks, dolls....anything. we now have 4 kids. all under 6. The older two now expect that in Mass, they kneel, stand, sit at all the right moments, they join in teh Our Father, they watch what's happening at the altar etc etc. they know it's not a time for talking or playing...and they don;t resent it. It's an opportunity in their busy noisy week to be still and quiet - as is (hopefully) modelled by those around them. I'm sure it actually does them a lot of good. Instilling a sense of silence in a child at a young age is a good thing. Our 2 year old needs the ocasional book (religious) to keep her from clambering and chitchatting throughout. it works. sometimes she does without. the baby (4 months) sleeps or feeds...otherwise would wail.
So far so good.... most of the time!

Malcolm McLean said...

Pews are a relatively modern innovation. In the middle ages churches just had benches round the walls, for the lederly or infirm, and everyone else stood. It was rather expected that men would pop in and out of the building - I don't know about children, but Joanna is a historian and maybe could research this.

Mary said...

I don't see much eating in church, but there is one family who usually occupies a prominent (first row) spot and they have a rather active little.
They don't really bother me, I'm glad they make religion and mass attendance a centerpiece of the week, but very recently a woman I'd never seen attended mass with her little boy, very well behaved, and a tiny dog, Yorkie, I think, who sat on her lap throughout the mass, just a few pews from the pulpit. The dog was so still and quiet most people were unaware of his presence, except, I'm sure the celebrant, who couldn't help but notice out of proximity alone.
Now that I'd never seen before.

Anonymous said...

Hi Auntie Joanna. (May I call you that?? lol)

I happened upon your blog the other night, and replied to this post all fired up in agreement. And then I lost my lengthy comment trying to submit it!!

Anyway...kids eating in mass gets me all fired up. As do a variance of toys to keep them occupied. No one can tell ME it is impossible.
First, our now 10 year old daughter to mass from birth, with no such vices. She was taught and directed from the get go how to behave, participate and give reverence to the Lord at mass.

THEN we had TRIPLETS....and they too went to mass every week with us from birth. Never did we have food and toys. Never did we even have to leave because they were being a disturbance.Yes as babies they make little grunts and such, but we just comforted them. As toddlers we directed them and kept them focused and intrigued with what was going on on the alter, in a very quiet, comforting way. They have always been told that we are in God's house, and we will act as such, and give Him our time and attention.

My 10 year old daughter is now an very vey eager alter server, who does so with such JOY and honor. Our triplets are now years old and they sit, stand, kneel, respond, sing, and pray along with everyone else. In fact, we go to the older folks mass so that we all can focus without toys and snacking.
My kids all LOVE to go mass-and they have always been taught what is expected of them. That's the thing....parents need to have more higer expectations for their children--and they will see that their children will comply. Willingly and usually happily.

Sorry such a long post but...the topic hits a nerve with me. In other words....I AGREE!!

~ Laura
www.ourhouseofjoyfulnoise.com