April 29, 2023 Column Father De Celles

Operation “Lost Sheep.” I’ve mentioned several times that our current attendance is only 67% of
our pre-Covid attendance numbers. So as I’ve said before, we have to do something to bring back
our lost or missing sheep.
But to identify the folks who are missing, we first need to identify who is coming to Mass. So,
today and next week we are doing something extremely unusual: we’re taking attendance.
I ask you sometime during Mass today or next week to PLEASE fill out the survey cards in
the pews and drop them into the collection basket at Mass (either the first or the second
collection). Or if you forget to do that, please do this on our website (go to straymonds.org and
click the link “Attendance Survey” on the pop-up menu).
I’m sorry for this sort of intrusion into your privacy, but we need to do something to help our
brothers and sisters come back. So, out of love for your pastor and your fellow parishioners, I
ask you to please cooperate.
Month of May. There are a lot of special activities in May in the parish. One very important “event” in
May is always First Holy Communion for the 2 nd graders. As we’ve done in the last few years, we
are allowing the children to receive FHC at any Mass in May their parents choose. The main reason
we do this is to spread the FHC’s around to various Masses so that all of you can share in this
gift—and so not only pray for the children, but be reminded of your own First Communion, and
maybe be renewed in that childlike faith and love for the Blessed Sacrament.
Please keep these little ones in your prayers, that they may prepare worthily and understand
what they are doing and Who they are receiving. Pray that it will be a truly happy, holy and
memorable day for them, and that it will lead them and their families to a long life of intimacy and
fidelity with Jesus.
Mary’s Month. The entire month of May is “Mary’s Month,” dedicated to honoring and
renewing our filial devotion to and love for the Mother of Jesus. So we will mark this month of Marian
piety next Sunday, May 7, with the “May Crowning” after the 9am Mass. I also encourage all of you
to pray the Rosary every day in May. Maybe you can join us for our daily Family Rosary in the
church, Monday thru Friday at 6:30pm, Saturday and Sunday after 9am Mass. I especially
encourage all families to pray the Rosary together at least once a week.
Touching the Third Rail: Children at Mass. Being a parent is incredibly challenging, especially
these days, and especially at Mass. For example, sometimes you just can’t stop a newborn or a two-
year-old from doing what they so often naturally do —make noise. This problem is often
compounded in larger families: parents try to deal with the crying newborn, while the 4 and 6-year-
old talk to each other. I don’t know how they manage; God bless them.
Many of these parents are torn between not wanting to disturb others and wanting to come to
Mass as a family. And many understandably think: “Well, the Church and the priests encourage us to
be pro-life and open to life—and we were!” Some people warn that if we’re not careful we’ll chase
these families away from the parish or from Catholicism altogether.
But there are others we have to be very careful not to “chase away.” I can’t tell you how
many times I’ve heard young people tell me that as a teenager they stopped going to Mass because
week after week they found themselves completely distracted by the little children around them. As
one boy told me, “why bother?” Not a good excuse, but that’s the way a lot of teenage (especially
boys’) minds work.
On the other hand, there’s the story of the mother who was up all night with a colicky baby,
and didn’t notice her 3-year-old run up into the sanctuary. Or the father of an autistic little boy who
suddenly laughed out loud at Mass, only to be scolded by the people in front of him, and he broke
into tears.
Back and forth. What do we do? The only answer seems again to be a combination of
Christ’s grace, and practicing the virtues of patience and charity—by all parties. All of us who might
be distracted should try our very best to charitably empathize and be patient, “offering up” the
distraction, and/or if necessary (and possible) move to another seat. But in the same way, those
parents with disruptive children should be charitable to those around them, and patient with their

frustration—and try to take steps to ease the situation when possible.
Now, let’s be clear. Babies and small children sometimes make noise—that’s just part of
what they do. A baby will start to fuss, and Mom whips out a bottle and the baby is happy again. Or a
5-year-old suddenly starts to talk out loud, and Dad gives him “the look,” and it’s under control. All of
us need to accept those largely uncontrollable situations —with patience and charity.
But where a child continues to make a prolonged disturbance that is genuinely distracting to
others (crying, talking, noisemaking, etc.), out of charity, parents must consider what action they can
Again, I know it’s hard for parents. One solution is to have Mom (or Dad) stay home with the
fussy baby while Dad takes the other children to Mass, and then vice versa. It worked for my family.
But family dynamics today can be very different than they used to be. We have to understand this,
and I leave it to the parents’ good judgment.
And there is another simple solution: at St. Raymond’s, parents with fussy children can take
them to the “Family Room” or the narthex (the vestibule at the main entrance). I know some parents
don’t like that option: they say these areas tend to become playrooms, not the setting to teach little
ones how to behave at Mass. Understood. But sometimes…?
On a personal note, I really love little children. But at the same time I can be easily distracted
by incongruous noise. It seems to be just something in my makeup—call it a neurosis, a disorder,
whatever. I work hard at dealing with this —I offer it up, pray, laugh at myself, etc. But sometimes it
gets the better of me when I am “tested” too much. I don’t like it, I’m sorry for it. Sometimes I’d like
to take myself to the “Family Room” (or better, the sacristy)! But I’m told many people have this same
difficulty. So I bring this to parents and ask for their consideration in this regard too.
With the grace of Jesus, let us all truly strive to love one another as He has loved us,
especially by practicing the virtues of patience and charity. And thanks again for your patience and
charity with me.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles