Why I want my daughter to grow up in a noisy, chaotic Catholic Church

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I had half an hour to kill, and as a young mom with a busy schedule, 30 minutes of free time doesn’t come very often. My daughter and I were early for lunch with a friend, and rather than getting to the restaurant and strapping my squirmy 1-year-old into a high chair before I had to, I decided we would swing by the perpetual adoration chapel at our parish.

I love that tiny chapel. Its concrete walls and uncomfortable chairs have been a home to me for years, and as I pulled into a parking spot I excitedly realized this was the first time I was bringing my daughter, Rose, there. I had spent countless hours praying in that chapel over the years—for her father and I, for my students, for friends and family. And now, I would get to share this space and this prayer with her, for just a few minutes.

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Armed with a backpack full of snacks, a sippy cup of water, a few books and quiet toys and her rainbow teething rosary, we walked in. My normally squirmy daughter was perfectly still as I held her in my arms, looking around at this new space, taking it all in. As she caught sight of the monstrance, with Jesus in the Eucharist exposed for all to see, she stared, captivated, I am sure, by the gold and jewels and overcome, I believe, by the presence of the Lord.

I take confidence in the fact that I am teaching the faith to my child, who greets Jesus the same way she greets our loved ones.

I whispered to her quietly: “That’s Jesus, Rose. That’s Jesus. Can you say ‘hi’ to Jesus?” Immediately, she pointed and waved at the monstrance and excitedly babbled her little 1-year-old hello. She does the same thing when we point out saints in stained glass windows, when we direct her attention to the altar during the consecration at Mass and when we kiss the images of Jesus and Mary goodnight each evening as we put her to bed. And I have seen that excited little wave before, when friends and family come over, when we FaceTime our relatives who live far away. It never ceases to warm my heart, and I take confidence in the fact that I am teaching the faith to my child, who greets Jesus the same way she greets our loved ones.

We stood there quietly for a moment, just gazing at the Lord together. I was so completely absorbed watching my child look at the monstrance that I did not notice the older woman sitting in a chair in the far corner of the chapel, staring at us disapprovingly. I know it was a disapproving look because as I made eye contact with her and smiled, she very curtly said: “You can’t just stand there, you’re blocking the door. And don’t make noise. You need to be silent.”

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I have never felt so small, insignificant or unwelcomed in my life than in that single moment after I showed my child Jesus in the monstrance for the first time and was met with a harsh tone, disapproving words and a cold stare from a fellow Catholic.

“You need to be silent” are not words I associate with being Catholic. In fact, they are words I would say are decidedly anti-Catholic because our church and our faith and our sacraments and our prayer and our worship and our encounter with the Lord is far from this perfectly silent, perfectly orchestrated, nice, neat and tidy experience. Have you ever been to a baptism? The baby usually screams, and everyone smiles and comforts the child shocked by the cold water on their head. Have you ever attended a first Communion Mass? It is “organized” chaos, and oh-so-beautiful. Have you gotten married? Even in the moments of reverent quiet, there is a buzz of joyful, noisy energy filling the church. Have you set foot in a parish on a Sunday morning, when families are hopefully filling the pews with squirmy kids who ask to go potty and stand on the pews to see and parishioners are picking up their hymnals and singing way off key and responding with gusto to every prayer? It is nothing if not noisy.

“You need to be silent” are not words I associate with being Catholic. They are words I would say are decidedly anti-Catholic.

In fact, the churches that are perfectly silent and empty of noise are churches that will be empty of parishioners and closed very soon because those are the churches that have shut their doors to the joyful noise we are called to make for the Lord—noise that comes from young families, passionate believers (both young and old) and youth and young adults who want to make a mess as they encounter Jesus and grow to love the sacraments. A silent church is a dead church because life makes joyful noise.

A few weeks ago, as a Thursday evening session was about to begin at the synod on young people at the Vatican, Pope Francis stopped shaking hands with bishops and cardinals down at the head table and instead climbed the stairs of the synod hall to greet the young adult auditors milling around in the back. As he shook hands and took pictures, he said to them, “Make more noise.”

All through the synod, the young adult participants have whooped and hollered their approval or dismay as speeches have been given, breathing new life into the process. They have been vibrant and vocal in their discussions; they have been brave and bold with their interventions; they have been honest and forthright with their criticisms and insights. They have made noise, and this is a model of what parishes and dioceses can encourage faithful men and women to do: show up and make their voices heard.

A silent church is a dead church because life makes joyful noise.

As a young professional, wife and mom, hearing that Pope Francis encouraged the auditors to keep making noise was an encouragement to me. It reminded me that as a young mom I and my child have every right to show up to an adoration chapel, even if she is going to be squirmy. It is my place to pray, too. It reminded me that as a young wife I have every right to ask my diocese to provide better resources for marriage prep and teaching natural family planning and helping young couples through the first few years, and I have every right to offer to spearhead and aid in those efforts. It reminded me that as a young professional I should not be afraid to approach my pastor with ideas to improve the parish bulletin or parish website or ways our parish can engage with those who may be new to the parish and seeking a home in our church.

For far too long, we Catholics have simply gone to church. And often when we have shown up, we have been met with a disapproving stare and a curt hush.

What if we stopped going to church and we started being the church?

But what if we stopped going to church and we started being the church? What if we did as Pope Francis encouraged the auditors—and the rest of us—to do? What if we started making and kept making noise? What if we showed up, spoke up, offered our gifts, made use of our talents and served the church vibrantly, joyfully, faithfully and noisily?

That is the church I want my squirmy 1-year-old to grow up in: the church full of noisy people, vibrant worship and passionate prayer.

That is the church I want my little girl to love: the church that welcomes her at every age and makes space for her, even if we have to put a basket of quiet kid toys in the corner of the adoration chapel or reserve pews at the front for families to sit so their kids can see what is going on.

That is the church I want my child to be a member of: the Body of Christ that rejoices and serves and prays together, with every member—young and old and in-between—greeting each other not with shushes and hushed tones but with joyful smiles, open arms and helping hands.

That is the church I think this synod on young people is trying to articulate to us more clearly—a church of noisy believers, who make a joyful noise for the Lord, so we can change the world.

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Mike Macrie
1 month 3 weeks ago

When our Church is left with a large majority of old people who tend to be Conservative, they look down upon people who don’t share their beliefs. We need a noisey Church not a funeral every Sunday.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

Wow, Mike, put away the "too broad brush" - your painting is going to be garbage otherwise. We need, actually, respect, understanding, empathy, patience..... can you deliver on those without the sanctimony. You really should be glad you have a church, at all, to go to, instead of wishing these people dead, which is basically what you're doing. Think about those in this world with literally no church, or living under threat of death to even profess Christ, and THIS is what we are concerned with, this is our 'crisis?' Sad and pathetic.

Carlos R Gonzalez Weins
1 month 2 weeks ago

Mike you are light years away from experiencing the kingdom of God. This has nothing to do with conservative or progressive ideology. In fact it was the biblical restraint conservative movement who founded the charismatic movement and they did not stop there. They took the church to the streets by putting up tents with loud music as an attempt to bring the sheep back home. I consider myself a person of faith, a Christian and a Catholic. I completely agree with this article. The church is the place that gives us the space to pray in silence, meditate, reflect, rejoice and cry but is also where we go on Sundays to sing, to celebrate, to take communion, to participate in the liturgical act and to share our life experiences with other parishioners. When we go to church is like having an appointment with the therapist. Bring everything with you and be ready to embrace the uncertainty of the journey because at times it will be very loud and chaotic

Carl McColman
1 month 3 weeks ago

I for one hope that the silence / noisy tension can be held together. Children, like adults, need both silence and "joyful noise." Our culture is afraid of silence and we work very hard to avoid it. Equating silence with death seems ideologically brittle. Children need silence — silence to think, silence to wonder, silence to imagine, silence to explore. Check out Helen Lee's wonderful book "Silence in Schools" to explore this further.

Ryan Cornelissen
1 month 3 weeks ago

Silence is definitely needed in our culture, yes. But it's quite impractical to expect a 1 year old to be silent, no matter where they are...

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

Ideologically brittle, great phrase. Yes, the same ones that are against "rigidity" of the elderly, have zero patience for the same. The great cultures revere the elderly, not despise them. Put that in your too impatient pipe and smoke it young whippersnappers.

John Chuchman
1 month 3 weeks ago

The church’s words, you need to be obedient, are not Jesus.
Help your daughter by moving on from a Church Jesus would despise.

Phillip Stone
1 month 3 weeks ago

Some of the sayings of the Lord
I did not come to abolish the law ...
I did not come to bring peace ...

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

OH just pu leeze, 'Jesus would despise. ' Mommy too butt hurt is going to shake the dust off now that she's been dissed, she of the "real faith." Someone wasn't feelin junior, aww, now, if that was me, wouldn't even bat an eye. We are raising complete and total snowflakes. John, we are to obey authority, that is Scriptural, very.

Seems to me meditation chapels are for just that, not excited mom's and infants, come when it is empty and do that, this is not an either/or situation. Young people always want the world to simply revolve around their every impulse. What poppycock. Did the woman over react, perhaps, I was not there, but so what, one person does not make a church. Can't this magazine find real subjects to discuss other than whiney "woe is me" regret a tations.

Rose Tait
1 month 3 weeks ago

Adoration is a time for silence and reverence.
Millennials seem to believe it’s their way or the highway.
Why would you take a 1 year old to a place where people are concentrating on the presence of Jesus, and are distracted by noise?

Phillip Stone
1 month 3 weeks ago

Your apparent narcissistic self-interest has been cultivated by such a long time of multiplying sacramentals.
Jesus in the Eucharist is the bread of life in the realm of the spirit aspect of our human nature.
Do you sit in silence and adore your Thanksgiving turkey or your Christmas roast?
Just for a moment - then you eat it.

So it is to be with the consecrated host, EAT it.

Another remonstration - do you know nothing of distraction during prayer and the advice given by spiritual directors? You CANNOT silence them, you pray and meditate and contemplate despite them.
You grow by self discipline in those circumstances.

You seem to know nothing despite your pharisaical rectitude, you are supposed to realise you are in the presence of the same Jesus who said "... suffer the little children to come unto me ..." to the same sort of creeps as you who were shooing them away at that time long ago.

How many people do you boast to about your absorption in "Adoration"?

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

What a load of gobbledygook Phillip.

Wow, this is the "high horse" generation, so many on those high horses they all think it's normal. Well, its' not, you are full of bologna.

Never saw so many "high minded" young twits regurgitating unhinged twaddle as they play Pharisee to the supposed "awful church lady" Pharisees who have the gall to have one small space put aside, in all of this noisy and pushy, insistent world, (earth to Phillip, that'd be you friend) for prayer. Too bad Jesus did not get that memo as he headed towards the desert, or Gethsemane, or other times when he went apart to pray, let's suppose, in relative quiet.

The Church really made a mistake when we took away the Baltimore Catechism and started teaching mush, and our feelings, and 'our rights,' (ours, not theirs) and other SJW mantras. Now we're a church full of a holes, sorry to say.

Rose Tait
1 month 3 weeks ago

Adoration is a time for silence and reverence.
Millennials seem to believe it’s their way or the highway.
Why would you take a 1 year old to a place where people are concentrating on the presence of Jesus, and are distracted by noise?

Chris Dinh
1 month 3 weeks ago

Because God is there

Tim Donovan
1 month 3 weeks ago

With respect, a few personal observations. By nature, I'm quiet and shy. However, at the nursing home/rehabilitation center where I live, I make it a point to introduce myself to new people that I meet, shake hands and smile. I'm certainly not a "millennial," as I 'm 56. Years ago, when I drove,, I occasionally went to Eucharistic Adoration and enjoyed the quiet and reverence. Also, for a time I drove to Philadelphia from my suburban township to an approved Tridentine "Latin"Mass carrying a Missal that had the English translation of the prayers and was struck by the reverence of the parishioners (it was interesting that the faithful at the Mass were of different ages and ethnic groups/races). However, when my nieces and nephew were very young, they not surprisingly could be noisy and rambunctious, but I would take them to Mass and when necessary to maintain "order" I'd stand in the vestibule of the Church holding them, but carry them up with me to receive the Eucharist. It could be noisy, but I agree with the author that it's worthwhile to expose even young babies to Jesus. Finally, for several years I worked at a group home caring for mentally disabled men. Fortunately for me, the parents of the men were Catholic, so my co-worker and me took the men to Mass. We sat in chairs in the multi-purpose room with other people because the church didn't have enough pews for all the faithful. One of the disabled men would at times make sounds of either happiness or loud displeasure (usually happy noises, however). While I personally prefer a quiet place to pray (either at a liturgy of when alone) I believe that, as the author of all life, that God accepts the noise made by all the people He created, even at times when it might seem prudent to not have those whose behavior is distracting attend Adoration or Mass. Each day, I pray a prayer that I think is relevant to this article. The brief prayer is simple: "Gracious God, help me to know the joy and strength of Christ's love, that I may become more and more like Him each day, and share His love with others. Amen."

Kristen Ciaccia
1 month 2 weeks ago

I have 7 children and have always taken my children to adoration. In fact, at our old parish my 5 children and I committed to one hour each week in adoration in a chapel. We had some meltdowns and noise but every week our hour ended at 3:00 and we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. In fact, the elderly woman who arrived after us would come early and hold the baby and talk to the younger children about Jesus' presence. She ended up making dolls for my young girls. When she died we stayed an extra hour until someone else was found to cover for her. When the older children were teens, they did not hesitate to fill in at our adoration chapel and while in college they went to adoration on their own. My teens still at home love to go into NYC (a 3 hour drive) just to spend an hour in adoration with the CFR's. Last Saturday evening my four year asked if we could go to Fatima devotions to pray the Rosary with Jesus in the monstrance. He rested in the pew but popped up for benediction and the blessing. When Jesus was reposed he waved good-bye. So to answer your question. That is why you take a 1 year old to adoration. If Jesus is truly present in the monstrance, then I would be remiss not taking my children to visit Him and spend time with Him. Finally, a child's voice is a reminder that God hasn't given up on us yet. Maybe that "noise" can be a reminder and help us reflect on God's goodness.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

Can we, for once, as mature Catholics, quit looking to be offended at every opportunity, to show that we are the smart ones, everyone else in the Church is a crumudgeon. Oh, boy I am tired of the fake martyrdom. We know, you went there in ernest and took a Kick in the gut. If it was me, I'd smile and move on, that is maturity, not licking your "wounds" ......another first world "problem." My goodness people, let's start maturing. Times are hard, we don't need pansy Catholics.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

As a young professional, wife and mom, hearing that Pope Francis encouraged the auditors to keep making noise was an encouragement to me. It reminded me that as a young mom I and my child have every right to show up to an adoration chapel, even if she is going to be squirmy. It is my place to pray, too

Ah yes, the disaffected youth, always concerned with "rights" and not responsiblities....so typical, and tired. You, Ms. Prajean, need an attitude adjustment, not a better church. One follows the other, just btw.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

copy

In third Grade, Sister Anastasia taught us to name the other party first, to not do so is a sign of self preoccupation, or self importance, lack of humility and grace...(hello?) . and this is also AMATEUR writing....where is the AMERICA editor...

Let's up our standards, people; this is garbage == again, sad to say.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

In third Grade, Sister Anastasia taught us to name the other party first, to not do so is a sign of self preoccupation, or self importance, lack of humility and grace...(hello?) . and this is also AMATEUR writing....where is the AMERICA editor...

Let's up our standards, people; this is garbage == again, sad to say.

TJ Rauch
1 month 3 weeks ago

First, yay for taking your baby to Adoration! I have three boys and often take them, having started when they were tots also. I teach them that it's a "whisper place" and show them what to do. Keep going!

Now, regarding the "curt" older lady: pause a minute before you condemn her. Maybe she's on the autism spectrum and was just trying to inform you of the customs you were breaking (people I've been around on that spectrum sometimes forget to smile or engage in social niceties they have to work at which the rest of us take for granted. They just need you to be aware they don't mean to be rude, and they're not being enforcers, they're just trying to help you and maintain order). Maybe she's suffering from chronic pain, which makes many people a little extra cranky. Maybe she's unaware of how her speaking conveys curtness. Maybe she's going through a rough time. Maybe a variety of things that made her seem "curt" and "harsh" when she didn't mean to be. As you get older, and perhaps learn to give people a second chance and not take things so personally, you will find that first impressions are often very misleading. I have found this to be true often, and it's mostly gotten through my thick skull now.
It's also possible she's just kind of a jerk. All the more reason to be glad she's at Adoration and to afford her the patience in her immaturity that you were hoping would be afforded to your infant in hers. We can offer up the suffering others cause us for their own salvation.
I agree that we need to speak up, certainly, but the thing with the Church, as with Adoration, is that it isn't actually about us and all our brilliant ideas the rest of the world needs to hear. It's about Jesus, and we should definitely be listening and imbibing His Spirit, which is of peace, and speaking from a place of peace. Peaceful isn't weak, and it's far more effective than noise and chaos.
We don't really want to make the Church noisier and more chaotic, do we? We get enough of that in comboxes, right? We want it to be full of people conforming ourselves to Christ in peace and forebearance, not clawing for change in noise and chaos. We, as Christians, should be able to, or should be striving to, work for solutions in peaceful and loving ways, speaking up in truth and charity and calmness. The less we get our knickers in a twist over every little bump and bruise, the more we can focus on what really matters and what's really worth expending our energy on, and the better we can work together with people from different age brackets, socio-economic, political, etc backgrounds. Noise and chaos indicate polarization and a lack of listening and real communion. Sort of the opposite of what we're going for, right?
Keep striving and growing and keep taking your baby to visit Jesus in Adoration! May God continue to bless you and others through you!:)

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

TJ, thanks for your well considered thoughts, there is a trading now in being offended, it seems to mark one (in their minds) as some sort of warrior, you know, "the struggle is real" i.e., I went to pray and had to go through this affront and now I can get on my soap box and complain about that and whatever else I've had on my mind all along. This is really fake outrage, who knows what America pays for this sort of tripe. IOW, I think your breath is wasted here, she's not looking to be placated, she's looking for outrage for which she can then make a (righteous) noise, according to the Pope. I pray I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

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