Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Children Crying at Mass

Ed. Note: You won’t find much written on “children crying at Mass” in the liturgical books and documents of the Church, but it’s an issue for many! This excerpt from Fr. Ryan Erlenbush’s post on The New Theological Movement blog suggests that a different perspective will help to overcome one’s own annoyance at the noise of unhappy children. Be sure to read the entire article here.

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.

But I will show you a yet greater way.

Mary wept at the foot of the Cross

When you hear a child crying during Mass, let the sound of those tears call to mind the mystery of the Cross. The Holy Mass is, of course, one with the true sacrifice offered by Christ once for all upon the Cross at Golgotha. The Mass is a sacrifice, it is the Cross.
Consider: Who was weeping at the Cross? And who was insensitive to those sounds of weeping?

When St. Thomas Aquinas chronicles the torments which our Savior suffered in his ignominious Passion, the Angelic Doctor ends with the following pain, which was most grievous of all:

“Christ suffered in all his bodily senses: […] in sight, by beholding the tears of his Mother and of the disciple whom he loved.” [ST III, q.46, a.5 (here)]

Let the sound of toddlers and infants weeping (and even wailing) call to mind for you the tears shed by the Sorrowful Mother of our Savior, and by St. John the Beloved. Can you hear the wailing of St. Mary Magdalene, she who was overcome with grief? Consider also the other devout women, who wept straight through from Friday till early Sunday morning.

Think even of poor St. Peter, far away now, weeping alone – having betrayed the Lord whom he loved, more even than all the others.

Who did not weep, but instead scoffed at the mourners

And who was it that did not weep? The soldiers … ignorant, and brutal. The crowd … fickle and unloving. The priests, scribes and Pharisees … filled with hate.

Of these, it was the Jewish authorities more than the others who took offense at the noise of those who wailed and wept. These ones, righteous in their own estimation, had not even the charity to be touched by the tears of the Blessed Mother.

And how can I, or any, cast a spiteful glance in the direction of a crying child (or his parents)? How can I, or any, wish these children to be exiled from my presence? Am I, or you, so holy as to be above charity?
For the love of our Savior, let the sounds of these crying children call these thoughts to mind. From the lips of babes, our Lord has found praise – and we will have been instructed in the sublime mystery of the Cross.

Every time I celebrate Mass, I pray that God will allow a little child to cry – lest I should ever lose sight of the mystery which I am consummating.

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