I’ll begin this blog post in saying that I attended an anime convention for the first time in my life yesterday. And long story short, because that placed me across town and because of the hospitality of friends letting me crash at their place after said anime convention, I decided to venture forth where this Catholic has never gone before in terms of parishes visited.
With that said, I knew that my crashing at a friend’s place meant that I would be in the near vicinity of a Catholic parish that I’ve always wanted to visit. This parish is Mater Dei, which is a Latin Mass parish in Irving, TX. My motivation for even visiting Mater Dei is simply to experience Mass done in the Extraordinary Form again. No English. It’s all done in Latin. Pretty cool!
Apart from me stumbling through Mass as I attempted at following along with what everyone is doing in terms of postures and trying not to get lost in following in the Missal to see the English translation of what was being said, I was particularly jarred by how the priest scolded us.
During announcements to the congregation, the priest (Fr. Longua) opened up in saying that sometimes a father has to scold his children. That makes sense to me because how often has my own father scolded me for things… Then he made reference that he, as a Catholic priest and father to us as a congregation (not in the same sense as God is our Father in heaven), needed to scold us. Okay…
Apparently last Friday for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (it’s a holy day of obligation for us Catholics (and that we should go to Mass)), some woman with a lot of kids had a crying baby. Her husband wasn’t present due to work. Apparently, one of the parishioners at Mater Dei harshly scolded the mother for having the crying baby and told her to go to the crying room (some churches have designated areas for parents to calm their kids).
And mother-of-crying-baby got really upset. She was already stressed out already from looking after her kids and dealing with her crying baby. And now someone is upset at her.
And the priest scolded us that this happened.
He said that it’s okay for babies to make weird noises. If a baby makes a sad noise, we’re free to share a sad moment with the baby. A happy noise merits a happy reaction and moment from us.
Fr. Longua mentioned that under no circumstances is it cool for us to be totally unwelcoming and harshly tell mothers to get out when crying babies happen. This parish (really any parish) should be welcoming because it’s already tough to be welcoming and for someone (one person) to harshly tell this mother to get out of Mass is unacceptable. But I wouldn’t say he scolded us out of anger. Very father-like. You know, very disappointed, but still forgiving. I knew that him scolding us was not a gesture of malice, but really from a place of love and desire for us to be better versions of ourselves.
Actually, it was awkward because as he was saying these things, I wanted to raise my hand and make the classic Mean Girls reference and yell out “I DON’T EVEN GO HERE!” so as not to be guilty by association with my fellow pew warmers.
Haha, but I love what Fr. Longua said because it is applicable to me. I haven’t personally given mothers death stares or vocally expressed them to excuse themselves, but it’s important for me to keep in mind Fr. Longua’s words. He also said something cool, and I paraphrase him in saying it is selfish of us to be upset/frustrated/angry about crying babies at Mass. We should focus on the Mass and not the crying baby. If we react in an upset/frustrated/angry way, the focus has then turned onto ourselves and not the Mass. This is kind of a big deal when one realizes that the Mass is about worshipping God by encountering Him in His Word and Flesh in the Eucharist. That is our focus. Not ourselves. Nor what’s going on with others.
See, crying babies at Mass are definitely a thing at my home parish. Man, sometimes the 9AM Mass is a cacophonous symphony of crying babies and that can be quite distracting. In recent years, I’ve taken such moments to be opportunities to really refocus on the Mass rather than the baby crying. It’s difficult. It takes practice. Even as I’ve practiced, I still let my focus go wayward sometimes. But I never react in a negative way to the sound of crying babies at Mass.
Actually, the sound of crying babies at Mass is a good thing. It means that a baby exists in the midsts of the pews. This means that the love between husband and wife has indeed been fruitful. A crying baby is a beautiful sign that the Church is growing. Not just the domestic church (ie. the family), not just for the local church (ie. the parish), but the Church as a whole (ie. the Body of Christ) is growing! This growth points towards the fruitfulness of the love that Christ has for His Bride, the Church. And that’s really cool.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that beautiful fact when I’m too frustrated with a crying baby. Sure, it is indeed courteous of parents to excuse themselves (without being harshly told) when dealing with their crying baby. And even if they don’t, it’s still on me to focus on what I should be focused on.
In the end, I’m grateful that Fr. Longua scolded us. It needed to be said. I needed the reminder of what my focus should be on during Mass.
Mass isn’t about me.