Dear Friends in Christ,
“Be still and know that I am God.” This exhortation of Psalm 46 reveals the connection between sacred silence and being in the presence of the living God. Throughout Holy Scripture the prophets reveal the necessity of reverential silence as a condition for approaching the majesty and mercy of God, and the New Testament frequently speaks of the Lord Jesus seeking a quiet place to be in communion with His Father. For this reason, the Church exhorts us in a variety of ways to seek sacred silence in the liturgy, and that task becomes difficult or even impossible when parents bring to the liturgy children who are too young to remain quiet. So, given the importance of silence in the sacred liturgy, I ask everyone to be generous as I reach out to grab the third rail of ecclesial life: loud children in church.
There is no way to address this matter without offending someone’s sensibilities, but as the shepherd of the flock it is my duty to ensure good order for all in the celebration of the sacred mysteries. And so I must firmly remind parents that children who are too young to remain quiet during the sacred liturgy are not yet ready to be in the church while Mass or (most especially) Vespers is being celebrated. Of course, we want our children to learn from earliest years to be at home in the House of God, but a child who regularly shatters the sacred silence of the liturgy is best kept at home with other family members who would attend another Mass, in the nursery provided in Sacred Heart Hall, in one of the cry rooms, or at least in one of the vestibules of the church with the double doors closed. Audio speakers are provided in the cry rooms and vestibules precisely so that parents tending small children can hear what is taking place in the church. Of course, from time to time even parents who are doing their best to observe these suggestions may find themselves in a pew with a recalcitrant child. When that happens, please head for the door sooner rather than later; such situations are almost never resolved quietly in the church, and the by the time the screaming rises to the rafters, nearly no one else in the building is still praying.
Now, to those without small children who are usually the first to notice the distraction caused by crying babies or troublesome toddlers: Please understand that the parents are doing their best to raise their children in the fear of the Lord, and bringing them into the precincts of the sacred liturgy is a part of that task. We should always be grateful for the gift of new life, even when that gift is squirming and shrieking in the next pew. Be patient, and offer your distraction to the Throne of Grace for the sake of all the babies who will never learn to love the Lord.
And to all: Let common sense, loving-kindness, and good humor prevail. We are all in this together, striving to follow the Lord as His pilgrim people, in the service of which we need to heed His command: “Be still and know that I am God.”