Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On children in church

I am sometimes at a loss as to how one should respond to those people who look back at parents or children every time a small child makes a noise. This is not to say that when a child has lost control of himself that he shouldn't be removed for a time, he most certainly should, but of those infrequent sounds that should be expected in the very young it should be an seen as an obvious byproduct of having children in a room with you. The number one response from one set of parents to another is, "Oh.. well, when she has children it will all be different." The close second is assuredly, "I know I know, but he's old and you're not going to change him."

They are probably right. Still, we who mystically represent the Cherubim do so together regardless of how well we stay on key or mark the words from memory while "adjusting" children to do so. The Lord not only asked the children to come unto Him, but also that we should be as children in the faith. There is an ideal in the heads of some reverent people that a perfect liturgy of orderly, contemplative prayer is the expectation. Logically, then, any commotion that distracts from that state is a bother that should be rectified immediately. This is neither theologically or liturgically accurate nor physically possible. Unless we want to make half the church building a cry room or play poor mimic to the ancient Armenian Church and stand outside while the divine liturgy is celebrated (they did so for different reasons), the expectation in the mind of those perturbed faithful needs some perspective. It is not a surprise then that my parish priest does a regular homily on suffering the little children joyfully.

Below are some links on children in church:


  1. Wise words, Joseph! My wife struggles with this. She generally will not visit other parishes when I am filling in at them, because she has gotten quite a few stares in the past. We have a very energetic three-year-old and an autistic 9-year-old. The latter does some things that are quite bizarre at times. Fortunately, the people in our parish know, love, and accept her, and so they don't care. This grace is generally not extended to her in other parishes (although to be fair, it might be if they knew her and us).

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. I may quote it on my blog in the future if you wouldn't mind.

  2. I understand her struggle (as well as one without an autistic child can) from seeing other parents efforts to take their children with autism, Asperger syndrome, Downes, and until recently conjoined twins. It is a sad irony that the very place where these children should be most welcomed (Schmemann's "fourth dimension" where reality is most real, vibrant, and visible) is where they feel most out of place. We, as the "crowns of His creation," should see that divine spark if not in those special children then at least in the love and affection their parents show them in their caretaking.

    At our previous parish my wife and I had to sit separately so that we didn't draw too much attention. My opinion was that the occasional screech from a young child should be less cause for scandal than the child hidden in a pew playing a handheld game console. Others did not share that view. :)

    Please feel free to repost. In fact, we should be seeing you July 4th weekend!