Baby cries. There’s something about them. They do something to you.
If you don’t believe me, then have a look at Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men”. In that 2006 film, the world is old and sterile, aging and dying out. For reasons unknown, human fertility and pregnancy is no more, and the youngest person alive is 18 years old:
In a world where children are extinct, adults go mad. And trust me, the film is worth your time, considering it was Cuaron’s last film before his latest “Gravity“.
That brings me to what I noticed one day at Mass. Most Catholic church buildings constructed after the 1950s have a few things in common that older churches just do not seem to originally have. Actually and unfortunately, the “new” churches have many things I find irritating on good days and barely tolerable on bad days, but the thing I noticed this one day were the quarantine cells.
That’s right. Isolation chambers. Also known as baby rooms, or cry rooms, where parents attend Mass with their infants and toddlers, safely behind soundproof windows and walls.
A few questions: how did young families at Mass handle their crying babies before the invention of modern soundproofing? And what did priests and people in the pews do with the cries and yelps and whimpers in the old days?
My thoughts: Baby cries are closer to the songs of angels than we think. I mean, if Jesus said that only the childlike will enter Heaven, then it makes sense that babies belong in the nave, not in some outlying room removed from the Mass, as if they were dangerous to everyone else’s prayers. I even dare say that people at Mass need to hear those whimpers and yelps! It reminds them, it reminds all of us that the Church is young! The Church has young husbands and wives with young children! The Church has loving and patient parents! The Church is fruitful and multiplying!
We need to learn how to listen to babies again. Too many of us find it excruciating and annoying. We throw death stares at hungry and tired children, and we roll our eyes at their parents. Sometimes, we even dream of snuffing out their breaths to gain some peace, and that’s not far from the culture of death…
Shame on us. As if we were never that way ourselves. As if we saw the hungry and tired brothers and sisters on the street and thought them annoying and needing to be quarantined. Those cries convict us if we are bothered by them, and those cries convince us if we could only hear their beauty: that we are all crying to God, crying for mercy, forgiveness, beauty. Crying for justice, love and Heaven.
We’re all supposed to be weeping at Mass. Tears of joy at the Kyrie, tears of sorrow at the sacrifice, tears of ecstasy at Holy Communion. And the whole world is meant to hear our cries, our cries that remind it that the Church is young! The Church has a loving and patient Father and Mother! The Church is fruitful and multiplying!
P.S. Check out what one parish is doing to help parishioners cope with the kiddos.
And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Check out what Pope Francis has to say about bawling babies at Mass.