To the Older Crowd at Mass

29 Dec

Christmas Eve we went to Mass – the 6:30 pm mass to be precise, not the 4 pm Children’s Mass.

We chose the 6:30 mass because the teen girl was singing with her youth group choir then.  And also, after years of having to do the Children’s Mass for various reasons, it’s nice to go to the grown up mass.

However, one of you Older Crowd didn’t feel the same way about us apparently.

We got there early.  Really early.  As in “got a parking spot really close to the door because we had to show up 45 minutes early for choir practice” early.  We killed some time in the car, then went into the church, picking out a spot on the side with the choir, waving to Miriam, showing Maura (who was distraught at her sister’s disappearance) where Mim was.  Maura was not being quiet, and not being very cooperative at first.  She didn’t like the idea of being confined to the pew.  But the church was buzzing, everyone was chatting and saying hello, the choir was doing sound checks with the microphones.  It was just after 6 pm – there was lots of time to kill before mass started.  There was no need to be quiet.  In a way, it was ideal because it gave Maura time to get her outbursts out of the way before she settled down.

However, our presence wasn’t ideal to the three people in the pew directly in front of us.  The elderly couple and the middle aged woman got up and moved five minutes after we sat down behind them.

They didn’t try to get closer to the front, or away from a cold breeze (there was none), or because they spotted family/friends and went to sit with them.  No, they got up and moved across the church from us.  Same section of pews, just across the church – away from our child.

My husband and I looked at each other.  “Did they just move because of us?”

Yes.  Yes they did.

They moved because our child wasn’t being quiet.  At a time when quiet wasn’t necessary. She wasn’t flailing about, hitting people and throwing things.  She was just saying “No” loudly a couple times.  Then she settled down.  She actually settled down about the time they decided to move.  Maybe their presence was bothering her.

But my husband and I did sit there, slightly giggling at the thought of those people moving because of Maura.  That laugh you do when you’re not sure how else to react.  “That would have never happened in Ireland.” I said.

It’s true.  Maura could be all sorts of obnoxious at church in Ireland, and the older crowd there would stop us after Mass to tell us what a beautiful child she was and what patient parents we were.  I remember once, sitting behind a row of older women, and wondering what they must be thinking.  After mass, they told me  – “Oh she must keep you busy!  But what a beautiful child!  You’re a beautiful family!”

Recently, Pope Francis has made headlines by meeting with families of children affected by autism.  The point of the meeting was to help break down the isolation many parents feel, to help break the stigma so many feel.  The Pope has been quite vocal about accepting people with all sorts of special needs, treating them with kindness and showing love to them whenever he encounters them, being the example we should follow when it comes to how to treat people with any sort of special needs.

I don’t think the Pope would approve of the trio in front of us moving off in a huff because my child was being a bit loud.

In fact, I think he’d be a bit…

"Oy vey"

“Oy vey”


Luckily, I am less judgy than the trio that moved away from us.  And the people who took their spots were much more welcoming, admired Maura’s dress when she pointed it out, smiling at her.

So, to the Older Crowd at any church, do me a favor.  If there is a tall child being loud and maybe even obnoxious behind your pew, turn to the family of that child and tell them what a good job they’re doing.  Smile at them, at their child.  Give only words of encouragement.  Because an encounter like what we had on Christmas Eve would be enough to make some people never enter that church again.  We’re hardy and more stubborn than to let a few cranky people get in our way.  But on the wrong day, actions like that – actions that reek of non-acceptance and are chock full of silent criticism – can cut even me to the bone.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) –  He didn’t say “Except for the loud and unruly ones, those must be left behind until they learn how to behave better.”

Or, two quote two friends when they heard about what happened to us –

“Jokes on them, they gave up the best seats in the house. I mean, sitting right next to the kid who is the closest person to Jesus.
Fools.” – R. D.

#sheishisvoice  – M. D.


Maura on her First Communion

Maura on her First Communion



11 Responses to “To the Older Crowd at Mass”

  1. neodecaussade December 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Dear R.D.,
    In my parish it is expected that everybody is to be silent and reverent all times in the worship space. 30 minutes before Mass everybody is expected to say the rosary. There is no cry room, so children must sit in the general congregation. The looks that parents get come from both young and old folks.

    I know you keep in mind that the issues of other people are their own issues and not yours. I have an entire parish of people with issues that are their own, but it still weighs on me.

    God bless,

    • phoebz4 December 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      We could never ever go to your parish. Ever.

      • neodecaussade December 29, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        Dear phoebz4,
        Some parishoners travel 30 minutes or more to attend services. All the homeschool families in the area attend daily services in the parish. This experience is what these folks want. It is the only parish with a school in my area, so I am stuck for now.

  2. Mar December 29, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Why is it wrong that they moved? If they thought it was going to be distracting to them, then I don’t see what the big deal is. They didn’t say anything to you or give you nasty looks, right? I know Maura is doing her best and all, but maybe they just wanted a quiet mass and in general aren’t used to anything else. Sometimes this time of year is overwhelming for everyone and we all cope the best we can.

    • phoebz4 December 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

      It was a Christmas Eve service, there were tons of kids. It wasn’t going to be a quiet 7 am Wednesday morning mass. They didn’t say anything to us, no, but they sat there looking disgruntled until they moved. So yes, I felt it was a bit rude. They moved to a different pew that still had kids around it. (I know b/c a couple rows behind them was a mom with a toddler who kept running off – which I could totally relate to, having had to chase toddlers down in church.)

      If they wanted a quiet Christmas mass….well…I’m not sure where you’d get that actually.

      • Mara December 29, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

        Maybe mass with only deaf and non verbal people allowed. Sounds super tolerant. Just like Jesus, right? 😉

  3. Sharon Choate December 29, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Blessings to you, and your beautiful children. That being said, the people in front of I you did absolutely the right thing. If they said anything to you, embarrassed you, or were mean in anyway your complaint about them would be legitimate. Looking disgruntled is no crime against children.. They moved to a spot where they’re felt they could worship better. It appears their efforts failed. That’s honestly too bad. I have a nephew with autism who I love beyond distraction. I would have enjoyed Mara, but that’s me. What do you know about these people? Could this be their first Christmas without a loved one? Is Christmas exacerbating financial difficulties? Is someone in the family ill? Maybe, they were just plain tired. I read a quote not long ago which stated “everyone is mourning the loss of something— be kind”. words to live by. I am sure there was room in the inn/church for everyone on Christmas even the “Older Crowd”. Best of everything to marvelous Mara and her patient parents

    • Sharon Choate December 29, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

      I’m sorry I meant Maura , not Mara. What a lovely first communion picture– She just bubbles.

  4. Liz Palika December 29, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    I usually agree with your posts but this one I don’t. When someone is sitting behind or around me and is disruptive to me, I’ll move. This includes a restaurant or movie theatre, too. I’m not being rude, nor do I send dirty looks, but I will move. Why not? Don’t I deserve to be as comfortable as you and your family?

    Better they moved than they were uncomfortable and/or shot dirty looks over their shoulders.

  5. astudentinkolkata December 30, 2014 at 2:17 am #

    Hullo from a lurker 🙂

    I’m sorry about how those three people reacted. I understand about wanting a quiet, reverent atmosphere before and during worship, whatever be your faith. But above all else is honouring God and sometimes that means just smiling and knowing the situation you are in as being sent from God. Instead of distraction, one finds a blessing instead.

    In my ideal world nobody, including myself, would judge or criticise anybody who breaks the reverent or worshipful silence of a place of God. But if people must, I wish they would reserve it for those who are thoughtless and selfish as opposed to those who are just being themselves. Extending grace does not come with riders of ‘conditions apply’…

    A very happy 2015 to you and your family 🙂 I greatly enjoy your blog: both the actual writing bit and what you write about.

  6. MFF December 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    I think mass is different from a movie theater or a restaurant. When you go to a movie theater, you are purchasing a ticket with the entire purpose of being entertained by the movie; you’re there for pleasure. When you go to mass, you go with the purpose of practicing your faith, which is not always a pleasurable or comfortable experience. Sometimes God asks us to be uncomfortable, especially if it means making others feel welcome in our church.

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