This is part two on a series on our Contraceptive Culture. You can find part one here. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to write a guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.
The Catholic blogs were alive with debate earlier this week on the topic of "screaming" babies at Mass. From what I can tell, the conversation began on Deacon Greg's blog, continued at Barefoot and Pregnant, was elaborated upon at Dr. Greg's blog, and then Leila chimed in too. Clearly, we all have strong opinions about this topic. Well. I can't help myself. I'm making today's installment on the Contraceptive Culture series my own commentary on this issue.
There were lots of good points shared on both sides of this debate, but I'm going to have to mostly agree with Calah (Barefoot and Pregnant). We have many many young children in our parish, and a lot of mothers who bring their children alone because husbands are doing something extremely sacrificial for their families and cannot attend (they are deployed, or like my husband, on a mission to secure a job and housing for his family before a move). If I didn't take my toddler, I wouldn't go to Mass. It's that simple.
The thing I'd like to add to this conversation is the notion that it's a contraceptive culture that encourages our desire to cut off people who are parents from the things parents do (such as bring young children to Mass and train them up in the faith). It's a contraceptive culture that tells us that humans do not have to be connected to what is good and natural for humans to do, such as train children--from their baptisms as infants into adulthood--to love, serve, and worship God in the Mass. It's a contraceptive culture that says children under a certain age are not to be brought into the house of God. My apologies for being blunt, but can't people see that arbitrarily separating a baptized Christian from Jesus in the Mass is an arbitrary separation of a human from what that human naturally does and is commanded by God to do? To me, it is essentially the same as separating the unitive and procreative elements of the marital act. And the same as separating the pregnant mother from the act of carrying out her pregnancy to term via abortion.
My analogies here may sound extreme, but the principle is the same between all of them. And the mentality put forth by our contraceptive culture regarding abortion and contraception has vast effects on the way we think about even the smallest things.
My two year old is not a perfect angel at Mass. She's just not. But, because I bring her to Mass, she knows the words "crucifix" and "monstrance," and the songs "O Salutaris" and "Immaculate Mary." She knows what she is supposed to do at Mass (whisper, sit nicely, read her books, make the sign of the Cross, cross her arms over her chest in the Communion line, genuflect, and pray). She knows that if she misbehaves, we go in timeout and then immediately back into Mass. If I didn't bring her to Mass until some arbitrary age when she was "ready," she wouldn't know any of these things, and we'd have to start training her at age five or whatever age I chose.
I can truly understand the desire for people to focus at Mass, and have some silence. I cantor at our parish regularly, and it is sometimes very difficult to do my job, and worship God, all while the various distractions are working to keep me from glorifying God in His Mass through leading the congregation in worship. And as a parent, I am extremely sensitive to my child's own behavior and how it could be distracting others. Yet, no matter how much I want to focus at Mass, I simply cannot justify requesting that young children not be there for the simple fact that the request would betray a contraceptive mentality.
For me it is simple: we are a pro-life people of Christ. It doesn't just mean that we protest the horror of abortion, or oppose hormonal contraceptives and sterilizations. It doesn't just mean that we remain open to life in our marriages.
It also means that when life happens around us, when we witness difficulty in the lives of others (including small children and their parents at Mass), or are displeased by events in the lives of others, or when the lives of others inconvenience us or even cause us physical pain, we forgive, we pray, we show compassion, and we love one another. We may not understand the lives of others, but we praise God that there is life to be witnessed.
It is a contraceptive culture that says otherwise.
**See also: Haley's post: How My Kids Didn't Ruin Mass