For Mothers, Young And Old, All Are Welcome At Mass

Easter Sunday circa. 2007. Me in my twenties, Addie, 4, Byron, 3, Edie, 1.

Throw back! Why the trip down memory lane? I wanted to reflect back today on my time as a younger mom, overwhelmed by young children at Mass, and offer some support to other moms who feel like this will be them for the rest of their lives. Believe it or not, you don’t need to do anything differently, because all are welcome at Mass. The real work belongs to the rest of us.

See that squirmy kid in a tie? He screamed for the first two-years of his life every time we stepped foot into a church. That ratty green blanket went with him everywhere, but did little to control his unruly behavior that often left me at the back of the church, or outside, or in tears. Today, he can help serve a Latin Mass.

That pouty girl in pink? She’s now a responsible 10-year-old who can hold babies, escort younger siblings to the bathroom, hold doors and keep the little ones in line when Mama or Papa need to exit the pew.

That wee one in purple refused to sit through a Mass in the Church, preferring the comfort of her Mama and baby brother in the cry room and pitching tantrums whenever we tried to make her sit with her Papa. While she still loves to snuggle close to me in Mass, she’ll be receiving her First Holy Communion next spring, without my apron strings attached.

Me? I’m still in the cry room with a very chatty two-year old, but even Fulton sits through 90 percent of Masses now.

The madness will end; I promise you! Even as you keep having new kids, the older ones will finally sit still, stop throwing up all over your Sunday dress and actually make things easier for you.

Hang in there! When the family in front of you keeps turning around and shooting you glances, I know this was the week the baby decided to start cutting teeth. When someone tells you how to discipline your kids because “you’re obviously not doing enough at home” I know you’ve been up since 4 a.m. with morning sickness and only manged to drag yourself to Mass by God’s grace. When the usher comes over and asks you to move to the lobby with your family, I know you’re doing your absolute best. Even if it’s not enough in that guy’s eyes, or that family’s or whomever’s, it’s enough in God’s, because all are welcome at Mass, even when they’re loud or disruptive.

I know that when you’ve got more kids than hands and more in diapers than not, Mass is hard, and rather than assume you’re lazy, or lax in your parenting or just plain inconsiderate, I’m going to offer to hold or watch your child. Maybe they’ll scream louder, but I’m going to smile and tell you it’s okay, don’t worry about it. I’m going to offer you words of encouragement when I see your child make it to the Gospel without screaming the word poop at the top of his lungs. I’m not going to compare your four-year old to my four-year old and make a cutting comment to another mom, because I know next week it might be my child who has the melt down, or slams the kneeler or rips a page out of the hymnal.

I may disagree with your parenting style, but I know that after wrestling two screaming kids through an hour-long Mass is not the time to offer you advice. I’m happy you came to Mass with your kids and so is God. You and your family are a blessing to our church and a witness to what being open to life really means. And if you’re there begrudgingly, only to humor your husband, I’m going to overlook the way you allow your child to run wild, and try to say a kind word to her and you so that you don’t prevent your husband from coming. I want you to truly understand that all are welcome at Mass, even the reluctant.

I’ve met moms whose children have disabilities that make it hard or impossible for them to sit through Mass. I’ve met moms with disabilities who can’t chase their children or haul them out of Mass fast enough when a tantrum strikes. I’ve met moms in bad marriages who drag all their kids to Mass alone because there is no one to help them, and only opposition at home. What cross are you carrying to Mass today? Let me help you. Just ask.

Next time I hear a child disrupt Mass, either sporadically or continuously,  I’m not going to judge that family or assume I understand their situation. I’m going to pray for them. I’m going to remember how it feels when nothing works and I feel like a failure. I’m going to pray that family doesn’t get discouraged, encounter someone uncharitable, leave Mass early or stop coming altogether.

I’m going to stop worrying about what other families are doing with their kids and focus on my family. I can’t control other parents or children, but I can guide my children and hopefully be an inspiration or support to others.

And so, young mothers, do not be discouraged and experienced mothers, do not discourage. Let us love and support one another for all are welcome at Mass.

What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.

St. Basil the Great


  1. Thank you that was written so beautifully that I’m chocking back tears ( I blame the pregnancy hormones lol). We have been through this 3 times and are still in the screaming, not sitting still stage with 2 youngest.

  2. Oh, this is just beautiful. How many Masses I spent as a young mom feeling guilty and inadequate as my four under five squirmed, cried, and chewed on missals. My oldest has Asperger’s and spent years being carried out of Mass in full tantrum mode. Once he even broke loose from the pew and raced around the altar during the homily, my husband chasing him with a baby bouncing in the sling! Now 9 years old, he just received First Communion, and the others can sit by themselves if I need to take the new baby out. Life as a mom just gets better and better. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for this today. Today was a rough one. Everyone had to be removed at least once for being too loud or having a tantrum or having to poop or having pooped. My son ran across the daily Mass chapel (where we had to sit because we were 10 minutes late and there were no seats in the main part of the church except on the front row and God KNOWS we’re not going all the way to the front row in between the Old Testament and the Psalm with everyone staring at us and hoping we won’t sit near them) shouting “Daddy! DADDY!” at the top of his lungs when Daddy left to change a diaper…and although I very gently and lovingly and firmly guided him back to our seats, he kicked and screamed and lay down on the floor. He also threw a missal at no one in particular and picked a flower off a statue of Mary that was nearby. (What makes them do these things?) I felt horrible after Mass today for how things went- felt like we disrupted everyone around us and generally ruined everything. Also, I have no idea what was said during Mass at all and I only remember two of the songs because they are favorites of mine. So it was one of those days. So thanks…for getting it and for reminding me that other people have been there, even if most of them seem to have forgotten what it’s like to have little kids in church…and for the reminder that these days don’t last forever.

  4. So lovingly said and a good reminder for those times when I have forgotten what it’s like to be _that_ young mom. 🙂

  5. Kelly,
    Ever since my first child I have always prayed to the Holy Spirit when I hear a child act up in Mass. I figured that every Mom and Dad needs extra special grace to deal with a screaming child in mass and sometimes we just don’t know what will be best to do. So in comes the prayer to the Holy Spirit to give help to that dear parent. My mom brought us to Mass without our Dad for many many years and I can only imagine how hard it was for her. Well said!

  6. Amen, Kelly. Amen. My older two are pretty good but my boys are just wack-o at Mass. The only thing that makes me *not* burst into tears every week is the fact that I know they will outgrow it.

    More understanding, less judgement. God is happy you are at Mass with your children. I am too.

  7. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN I say to YOU!!! Speaking the truth here, sister. Every word of it. This should be in every church’s newsletter!!!

  8. This is beautiful! You made me tear up. All you moms who bring your children to Mass each week take heart this too shall pass and I can not emphasize this enough it’s worth it! Child #1 is a practicing Catholic married in the church and all his children are baptized in the church. Child #2 is also a practicing Catholic and I just celebrated the Sacrament of Matrimony with her and my new son in law! This is why you take up your cross each week and take your kids to Mass each week to see the fruit of your labor and to live your vocation to the fullest. May God richly bless you all!

  9. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. This was just what I needed to read. I hope I remember to be charitable like you when many years down the road I get to sit for a whole Mass.

  10. Thank you for this. I’ve been feeling depressed about leaving my 2 year old home with my non-Catholic husband, and this gives me a bit of courage to try bringing him again!

    1. Do it. That’s all I can tell you. I have two “energetic” and “lively” boys — oh my, my. I also have a non-Catholic husband, and so I have always taken the boys by myself. But, I did my best … sucking us my pride every week and hanging tough. My best piece of advice is to find that family with several kids sitting at the front of the church. Then, park yourselves behind them. Your child will have other youngsters to model after. And I’ve been offered some great advice. Hold your head up, practice patience, stick to your guns and exit when necessary. Also, what terrifies us the most and mortifies us the most about our kids’ behaviors usually isn’t that “bad” to most others. When I have need encouragement the most, it has come from the most unexpected people. That older lady who seemed to give me dirty looks for so many Masses has complimented me and spoken so kindly to my kids more times than I can count. And, lest you think I am totally crazy, my priest recently told me, unsolicited, that he was really impressed with my youngest child’s behavior. Wow – that’s all I could think.
      Finally, remember that Jesus especially loved the children. He wants your baby in his home, visiting with him — cooing and laughing and, yes, challenging you. It is in the consistent and constant taking to church that your baby will learn to love God, learn, live and love his Faith. It is a great gift you can give your child. Stay calm and Go to Mass!!

  11. Thank you for your lovely words of encouragement. Nothing has hurt more than the days when I’ve had the glares of death at my children, or worse the explanations of what an awful mother I am (clearly the children haven’t had enough fatal beatings) because my child on the autism spectrum had a freak out or my husband was ill so I was wrangling 5 at once. Nothing has been more wonderful than when an experienced mother (or auntie) says “here, I’ll take this one up with me”. Being pro-life means more than being anti-abortion. It means moving all children, even the unruly ones, and helping mothers to get past the rough spots, not with judgement and criticism, but love and a helping hand.

    Love the quotation. We have landed at a Byzantine Catholic parish named for St Basil the Great and it had been a godsend, literally. We named one of our son’s after him and have been enjoying his patronage ever since.

  12. First, I LOVE that picture of you with the kids – you’ve hardly aged, and they look soooo cute!

    And second, thank you. Every post like this makes me feel a lot better. I should probably take to reading this every Sunday before and after Mass. Every time I think it’s getting better it suddenly gets worse again the next week… But one of these days it HAS to really get better!

    Sadly, the glares (and the old man telling us a 2-year-old John Paul ruined his Mass, and the priest looking pointedly at us and pointing to the cry room during the homily) are the reason I won’t take the kids to EF Mass anymore… I feel like our behavior standards are a little higher for all that silence, and we’re just not ready for that yet! Someday, maybe when you come visit and hold babies for me 😉

  13. Thank you so much for this post. Being the “large” family with the little kiddos can be so hard. At one Mass there was a family who’s little on was quite loud and the priest made a point to talk about it during announcements. He called the kiddos the “honorary children’s choir” and called them a blessing.

    It truly is amazing what a little bit of support can do to bring people closer to Christ, which is the whole reason we’re there, right?

  14. This was so great Kelly!
    I can’t imagine being past the little kid years right now…and Mass with five kids lately has been driving me to drink…but I do like hearing about hope. And I’ve definitely changed my prior judgements on moms/families at Mass since having mine. We really always have to be welcoming, its a great act of mercy and love sometimes!

  15. This is wonderful, Kelly. The rest of us – who are no longer in the position or who never were – should be helping out those who are. The Church is a communion.

  16. So beautiful! Thank you for this. My youngest is almost 6 now so our days of dealing with screaming in Mass are (mostly) over, but I remember all too clearly how much it can hurt to get those looks when you’re already exhausted and struggling.

  17. Still smarting from a scolding from our church’s sacristan (to our two year old!), your post offered balm and hope. Thank you.

  18. Just.. thank you. Every mom needs to see this. I haven’t had to deal with haters at Mass (yet!) but my heart goes out to those who do. I know people have left my church because of it, and it makes me sad.

  19. Thanks for this today. I needed it. For me, its not Mass because I’m not Catholic. (I’m a happy Protestant who reads homeschooling blogs. 🙂 Today it was chasing down my 3rd little running 20 month old for an hour at his older brothers’ gymnastics class. It was seeing all the sympathetic looks of other moms, smoldering because maybe they think I do nothing at home, and wondering if all the discipline I do will ever work. (He’s my most active and most stubborn by far.) Oh yeah, and yelling at God for giving me not one, not two, but 3 boys. All runners at that age. Yeah. Still bitter about that from time to time.

  20. Totally with you!! Sunday (mother’s day) a comment was said to me that has been burning in my brain since. I complimented a young mum on how beautifully well behaved her children were in Mass, she had taken the 2yr old out as he was crying and the two little boys, about 4 & 6 maybe younger sat by themselves as Dad read. So impressed, anyhow she responded to me with, “they know what is expected, they are old enough” or something like this. Man I was totally intimidated, and I’m a mother with 19yrs experience and my children hadn’t mucked up in that Mass (not always the case). These boys were like 4 & 6, let me tell you if my husband was not in the pew in the same situation my boys would have followed me out. Yes my 6yr old is old enough but… well let’s be honest… Perhaps this mother had no idea how her comment would be received but I kept thinking if I was the mother of 3 little ones only without the benefit of the years of experience since then, I would have slunk home and not peered out for years.

  21. Our previous parish had many families with small children. Every so often, when one would get particularly loud, our pastor would say, “I hope they are still making noise in church when they’re 80.” It made everyone relax a little.

  22. This is lovely! Thank you for writing it. All of us should just assume that everyone who is NOT actively chastising mothers of young children is thinking this. Then we’ll all feel so much better.

    And even though I’m over on your side of the river with some older and some younger kids and a usually positive experience of kids at Mass, it’s still nice to hear some encouragement!

  23. Thank you! I am so glad that someone is praying for this specific intention for me. Lord knows I need it.

    I should also get that saying from St. Basil tattooed on my forehead.

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