Monday, June 02, 2008

I am not a DVD

There is story here about some heroic parents and their 6-foot, 225-pound 13-year-old autistic son who is creating difficulties for "church leaders". His mother said,
"He's never actually injured anyone. He's never knocked down anyone. He's never urinated on anyone or spit on anyone."

At one time I used to find it impossible to preach when babies cried, I just couldn't gather my thoughts. I prepare my homilies meticulously but I have never written them, over the years I have learnt to cope but I still find screaming babies impossible to ignore, I just don't know parents can carry on a conversation whilst a distempered 1 year old is having a tantrum, I tend to foreshorten my homily in such a situation but on the whole parents in my congregation tend to be sensitive.
I just don't know how I would cope with this young lad in my congregation.
In these days of electronic entertainment it is very easy to assume the priest is a DVD, switch him on and assume he can carry on regardless.

One thing worse than screaming children is that headsplitting sound a hearing aid makes when the batteries run down.
What is it reasonable for a priest to cope with?


gemoftheocean said...

I read the article, and there seems to be a difference in the accounts of the people at the church and this family re: how disruptive the behavior is. It's reasonable to try and make accomodation...for instance is there a cry room and is there a Mass where not many use it, and this family could attend Mass without bothering others? Occasional fussiness in small children is one thing, but when it gets to the point no one else can concentrate it's unfair to everyone. Does the whole family have to attend Mass together on Sunday, and can they take it in shifts? They segregate him from his own siblings when the kids have homework to do, keeping him in a separate room.

[Don't feel alone, Fr. Blake, one priest I knew had a vision of what hell must be like. He decided it was stuck trying to give a sermon in a church full of crying babies and it never stopped. I wasn't there the Sunday it happened but apparently some kid had been YELLING his head off with the mom doing one of those "feign no notice" attitudes and the priest finally lost it and said "Madam, would you take your child outside?" She huffed on out, but apparently everyone else breathed a sigh of relief.]

I wonder in such a situation, would it not be permissible that the youngster could attend Mass on a weekday and use the cry room when there was no one else apt to be around to use it? I know "Sunday" Mass is important, but in such situations would it not be better for all concerned that this boy be taken on a different day of the week? At least until his behaviors are under control?

pelerin said...

Yes priests have to have the patience of Job some times with all the distractions in the congregation. I remember many years ago the parish priest tried to keep going over some very loud cries from an infant, then just announced 'I can't compete with that' and stepped down from the pulpit - defeated!

I'm proud to say that we never had to take our sons out from Mass because of crying although on one occasion we had difficulty stifling a laugh when one of them in a loud voice said 'ding dong' when the bell was rung at the Consecration. Some time later he asked me why God's name was Peter. Puzzled I asked him why he thought that. 'Well' he replied 'the priest is always saying "thanks Peter God". I think that rivals the 'prairie tortoise' of legendary fame.

Ma Beck said...

There is indeed a cry room at their parish, AND THEY USE IT!
That's what kills me - this child is not in "church" - the entire family is in the cry room.

gemoftheocean said...

Pelerin, I thought God's name was "Howard." As in "our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be Thy name...."

pattif said...

Long ago, when my own dear son (now nearly 21) was not yet even a twinkle in his parents' eyes, our then PP (a retired bishop) once began a homily by saying, "I'm sick and tired of the treatment some of you give the mothers of small children. The sound of a baby crying is music to my ears, because it tells me the mother cares enough to bring her child to Mass."

From then on, we called it "the Bishop's music".

A few years ago, the young mother of two boys, one of whom was autistic, appeared in the parish. After some weeks, one of our more ferocious lady parishioners offered to pay for a babysitter for this poor young woman, so that her son would not disturb the older one's devotions. Not surprisingly, I haven't seen that family since.

Karen - perhaps you're too young to remember "The family that prays together stays together." In any case, what advice would you give to, say, the widowed mother of small children?

Martin said...

I know how difficult it is for priests and congretations - let alone parents - to cope with crying babies but rather than dwell on the inconvenience shouldn't we be glad that young parents are bringing their children to Mass? Not every church can accommodate a "crying room" - would we rather have young families stay away from church and join the great numbers of those who have left?

pattif said...

Pelerin -

My son also asked a very puzzled priest why God's name was Peter. This is the same kid who used to pray "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us dinners, now at the hour of our death. Amen."

But I don't think even he equalled a childhood friend of mine who used to think the Act of Contrition began, "Oh, my God, I am partly sorry..."

Beryl said...

A child's cry is a distress call, it is suppose to stop those around it, do anything other than attend to the child.
It is designed to stop prayer, preaching or anything else.

gemoftheocean said...

Pattif --- you're very much mistaken. I'm 51...a bit of fussing is to be expected from small children. Hellish behavior is something else! And this sounds like it exceeds bounds. Of course a single mother should take the children to church. But autistic children with this level of behavioral abnormalities are NOT the norm. Is the entire congregation to be distracted 100% of the time from now until eternity? The boy should go to church, but if there is no cry room at that church, is there a different parish with a cry room nearby? Not all churches have a cry room, of course, but parents needs to be reasonable about trying to make an effort for some control. If his own brothers and sisters are not expected to tolerate a hellish racket while they are trying to study...why should the parishioners be expected to try and worship through a constant barrage of noisy , and indeed dangerous behavior? It's not even so much the boy, as the parents who don't seem to control him. What can be done to minimalize the situation?

Paul, South Midlands said...

While I can see there is a problem, getting a restraining order stopping someone attending Sunday Mass at the same time as the churchs cathecism states it is a mortal sin not to attend Sunday Mass is to my mind deeply worrying and says an awful lot about the church in the western English Speaking nations.

Of course in the old days, the sanctuary was securely fenced off, most of the Mass was silent so a noisy child could not stop you hearing anything and the people were seated in rows of fixed pews where a troublesome child had little room for trouble if seated between two stout persons.

Personally however I take the children out to the porch if they start seriously crying and return when they stop. If the sermon is long, then I take them out until after the creed to have a run.

Jackie said...

Father, if you had your own children you would know how trying it is to remain calm at 4am when your child begins crying! It would help put your slight troubles into perspective. Who knows, that crying baby may turn out to be a priest!

V said...

I quite like the sound of crying children in church; it reminds me of new life. Sometimes it's piercing and uncomfortable, yes. I like to take note at what point in the homily a child cries out ~ is that kid subconsciously hearing and expressing something the rest of us adults can't?

Hearing aids gone wonky, mobile phones and microphone/speaker feedback are an irritation. Technology can be invasive, although in this instance it's helping to write this.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I agree with Beryl, when a child cries I can only think of the child, everything else goes out of my mind.
I am amazed that some parents can switch off to it. How do they do it?

Fr Francis said...

Why not write out your sermon as part of your preparation?

Then preach as usual without notes - but have the script to hand in case your mind goes blank during your sermon.

miss book said...

This is a really difficult one!Clearly it is of the greatest importance that The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be offered in a way that both Celebrant and congregation are not unduly distracted.All parents will have at some time experienced those mortifying moments when their own child is causing disturbances, and most, surely, manage behaviour by removing the child temporarily, until the child has settled.In the case of children with severe disabilities, it is important to realise that the parents often may have great difficulties in getting to Mass at all, and that behaviour which for non-family members may be distracting, is possibly unremarkable to close family.Parents of disabled children often feel totally isolated in their neighbourhoods, their children are gawped at, sometimes called freaks, and occasionally, comments such as 'should never have been born' are heard.The world has little time for or patience with disabled children, it would be a great shame if the Church, despite all its pro-life teaching, became yet another place where there isn't much of a welcome.

Henry said...

Some of us never get to hear children crying except at mass, especially in a parish like ours. It is good that parents take the trouble to get out of the house and come to mass on a Sunday even with a child. The liturgy is not going to be a flawless concert or theatrical performance, but is our best effort at worship, each of us being in the circumstances they find themselves. I prefer to read the sermon at leisure anyway rather than listen to it. And what about Luke 18:16?

Hearing aids are not a problem if they are switched to the inductive loop setting then they will not give feedback. It is usually due to having the gain control set too high.

L'Arche community organises special masses for mentally handicapped and disturbed people. Such events may not be the occasion for Palestrina.