“We can be confident, even though things can seem rather dark to us that if we cooperate with God’s grace, and are true defenders of the faith and promoters of the truth about marriage and the family, that Our Lord will not be lacking in his grace for us.” – Cardinal Raymond Burke.
As we draw near to the solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord who came among us an infant, I cannot help be mindful of not just the miracle of new life, but also that passage of Matthew 21 verse 15 just after Jesus cleared the Temple of the moneychangers, “when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant; and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise’?’”
I am underlining this teaching of Christ because we would all do well at this time of year to reflect, perhaps when our churches suddenly look fuller with families accompanied by children we sadly rarely see week by week. I know how tempting it is to feel a tiny bit put out when on such a solemn feast as Christmas, when you want to immerse yourself in reverent praise and prayer, that your yearning for tranquil space within the liturgy is somewhat “shattered” by the cacophony of children – mostly through no fault of their own – who do not know how to behave or conduct themselves appropriately in church.
But whilst I am among those who would call for parents to exercise a balanced restraint on their young children during the liturgy for their sake and the sake of others – being the father of a 5 year old and a 10 month old baby – I am on the side of leniency too and at one with the sentiments of Pope Francis who said the other day, “babies and children cry, they make noise, they run about … and it bothers me greatly when a child cries in church and people expect him or her to leave. No! It is the best sermon. The cry of a child is the voice of God. Never, ever send them out of the church!”
There is nothing more disconcerting for a parent or carer of an infant or child to be glared at, especially by the priest or anyone else for the “noise” coming from their charges. Any parent will know that it’s a minor miracle getting one’s family ready and out the door to Sunday Mass – like an expedition to the airport! – so we should never make them feel uncomfortable. If anything, try and smile at the parent and even offer to help them with their children during Mass. As awkward as it might feel, make some gesture of reaching out to those parents so that at the very least, they’re not put off coming back ever again!
As one very wise priest sensibly put it, “There are several things one can consider when we hear children crying. They are the future of our parish. Their noisy cries call to mind the inaudible lament of the souls in purgatory, for whom we ought to pray. Such noises teach us patience. And so forth. When you hear a child crying during Mass, let the sound of those tears call to mind the mystery of the Cross and the weeping of Our Lady, St Mary Magdalen and the Women of Jerusalem who wept at the feet of the dying Christ, which is represented in The Holy Mass.”
Furthermore, we must never underestimate the efficacy of the prayers of children which precisely because they are children have as Blessed Paul VI once said they are guaranteed to have the power to pierce through the ‘veil of heaven’, “especially boys and girls in the flower of their innocence.”
– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster