Deacon Kevin Hannon – Saint Clare of Assisi Parish, Swedesboro
If we are a community, why do we have cry rooms? To accommodate a nursing mother? To spare a family the embarrassment they experience due to their infant’s wail, or their little one’s fidgeting behavior? I’ve been conflicted about distractions at Mass due to a child or infant’s behavior because they interfered with “my” worship. Thanks to formation and ordination, I was slowly reevaluating my position. But, sometime God wants something faster than slowly from us. And one Sunday morning He changed slowly to rapidly for me.
It happened about a year after being assigned to St. Clare of Assisi, amid a homily. As I was speaking a father rose in his pew with an infant in his arms. I’d heard his daughter’s stirring but wasn’t overly distracted by her. Still, Dad felt the need, or perhaps pressure, to head for the cry room. Seeing this, I stopped speaking and then heard this question issue from my mouth… “Where are you going”?
Looking at me, then down at the child he said in effect “My daughter is crying, and I don’t want to be bother anybody”. Without second thought I heard myself saying, “Sit down. You are a member here. We are a community and you belong with us. Please sit and stay.” He mildly resisted, saying he didn’t want to offend anyone. I suggested he wouldn’t be offending anyone, just offering them a chance to practice acceptance. He stayed.
Dad found me in the sacristy after Mass. He said his family had been attending Mass for some time but never before had they felt so welcomed. He and his wife concerned about their newborn distracting people. He spoke of the regret caused them by disapproving glances, or mumbled words of disapproval. I knew too well of what he spoke.
Dad said, “I afraid all the people will be able to hear is her crying”. I answered, “Where you hear crying others hear the future of our Church”. As I type this the emotion of the moment stirs and moves me, because I felt then, as I do now, that those words were not mine
I pondered that encounter as I drove home that day and I recalled that Christ said, “…do not worry about how… or what you are to say. For the holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
That day I am sure some of those present were distracted, maybe annoyed by that crying baby. All I saw was the importance of his remaining with us, of making that couple feel not just at ease, but at home.
I leave it to you to ponder the ways God was at work in this story; on that family, those who heard and saw what occurred, on me. But now, when I hear a child’s cry I hear and hope for something far beyond that simple, and still at times, mildly distracting sound…maybe you will too.