Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Feeling like Mother of the Year...NOT


Late this afternoon my family attended our parish vigil Mass, and after the closing hymn, I turned to Josh standing next to me. I was about to tell him I was going to light a candle and would catch up with them, and was stopped in my tracks as the woman behind us reached up and thumped my 14-year-old on the back. He turned toward her and I couldn't believe my ears as I heard her say, "You behaved worse than a six-year-old today." She was red in the face and clearly very angry. She caught him by surprise and for once he had nothing to say. Before I could ask her what it was that had bothered her, my husband, clearly embarrassed but also defensive, said, "I will correct my son's behavior. You don't need to." I didn't catch what she said next, but later my husband told me that she said, "Don't ever sit in front of me again."

Sigh. Big sigh.

I won't pretend my children are perfect at Mass. I corrected my teenager's behavior a few times today and so did my husband. Mostly I corrected him because he was distracted by a very cute and very noisy infant across the aisle. Several times I redirected his focus toward the altar, and a few times I shushed both Noah and Josh for whispered commentary on the cute baby.

I don't know what annoyed the woman behind us so much. Maybe she thought we shouldn't have to redirect a teenager. She's right, we shouldn't. But was her method of correction helpful? Not at all.

Now we have a teen who views Mass not only as a place where he has to sit still and be quiet, but also as a place we he might be accosted by a stranger for his behavior.

Noah got a big lecture in the car on the way home by his father and I. He knows what he should be doing in Mass and why, but he's a teenager -- they don't always think so clearly, nor act their age.

Unfortunately, this exchange, for whatever reason (most likely because Satan follows us all into Mass) will likely leave a nasty taste in his mouth about Mass for a while, maybe for a long time. Any suggestions? Has this ever happened to you? Honest advice would be greatly appreciated.



  1. When my children were younger, we had a very crabby old lady who would occasionally grump at them for moving, putting the kneelers up noisily, or whispering if we happened to sit too close to her. She was at our regular Mass every week but some weeks, she would be as sweet as could be and smile and coo at them. Our first instinct was to correct the children, but then, we realized that the problem really was with her, not them. We would use any confrontation as an opportunity to remind them of what their behavior should be during Mass, but we wouldn't fuss at them unless we had actually seen them do something that we did not approve of or behavior we found unacceptable. On most occasions, I thought they had behaved very well considering their young ages and then she would come along looking so angry and put out. I remember being very sensitive and wanting to burst into tears those first few times. Just the other day, she patted my stomach and told me she was praying for us. But I admit, we tried not to sit near her for a long time.

  2. Barbara, it sounds like this woman may have carried some "baggage" into Mass and your son happened to be her outlet. I'm keeping your son in prayer that his heart won't hurt because of this incident. I'm so sorry.

  3. Yeah, I must say I'm more astounded at the stranger's behavior than your teenage son's misbehavior. I'm glad that your husband spoke up and my only suggestion is lots of prayers for that lady and your son.

  4. Wow, all I can think of is this woman about 8 or 10 years from now. Will she think back to this day and her behavior?

    It's no different than the people bothered by young children during Mass.

    God wants all there, distracted or not, and that's who it's between you and God, or your teen son and God (and you of course) but no one else.

    You should read Clay Rosary Girl's post the other day, something very similar, only it was the priest who commented to her very rudely!

  5. I think I'd try to sit behind her from now on, right behind her, so she can feel you breathing on her. haha!!

    Just trying to be funny, but it might make her think. and as you are kneeling behind her, prayers can go for her too, of course!!

    I'll say a prayer for her right now.

  6. Here's the link:

  7. Sigh. This is a toughy. Mine are so much younger than yours and they need constant redirection. Perhaps this lady was overreacting...or perhaps she was just overly sensitive today. Either way, she probably should have given a stern look his way instead of calling him on the carpet that way. I would hope that she would "mention" the dress code to those young girls that come to Mass half dressed! I think THAT behavior is EVER SO MORE distracting that playing with a baby a few rows over.
    I'm sure it stung his pride some and yes, will probably leave a nasty taste in his mouth...but maybe that's not such a bad thing.
    I'm sorry this happened, Barbara. I think you and Doug both handled it well. I will keep Noah in my prayers.

  8. Wow. Just wow. I have no advice because nothing like this has happened to us (yet!). I think mostly because we spend so much time out in the vestibule with various children anyway . . .

    Anyway, I think you and your husband handled the situation admirably considering many more angry words could have been exchanged in church. No matter what his behavior, this woman should have approached you and not thumped your son on the back.

    I guess all anyone can do is pray since the moment is over and you have addressed all that you can as a responsible parent. And I agree with the Stephanie and I hope this doesn't rankle with your son (or you) for long.

  9. I'm so sorry this happened to your son. Satan does follow us everywhere. The lady next to me tonight wouldn't offer me the sign of peace (ignored my outstretched hand), but I decided to pray for her rather than to remain upset. I think you should tell your sign that this is just an example of how people at every age act badly, and that my two daughters and I are distracted at every cute baby also. I'll be praying for him that he can separate the mean spirit of this woman from Christ's church and His love. They have nothing in common. I'll pray for her also, that she can know Christ's love.

  10. hmmmm... Barbara, I'm thinking she came to mass with a heavy heart and was looking for some way to act out her frustration. It doesn't sound like your son behaved in a bad manner so her reaction was an over-reaction!

    I wouldn't worry about it if you and your husband agreed your son's behavior didn't warrant that reprimand. She had no right though to tell you not to sit in front of her again... that's ridiculous. She's being petty and uncharitable.

    It is a good reminder though for your children (all children) that any disruptive behavior can disturb others during mass.

    I've no doubt that you and your husband handled it perfectly.

  11. Guess the Sign of Peace didn't work on her, eh? :)
    Seriously, I'm much more appalled by her behavior than anything your son might have done. Even I, an almost-thirty-year-old, cannot resist smiling at a cute baby, and probably distracting them and causing trouble. I try not to do it, but sometimes...can't help it.
    It doesn't sound like your son was doing anything terribly egregious. I agree with the above poster who said she seemed to have brought some "baggage" in with her. After Mass, especially after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, she should have at least been able to hold her tongue and remember what she just did. Definite lack of charity on her part.
    Kudos to Doug for standing up for you parents! It is not someone else's job to discipline your kids!

  12. Wow. I'm sorry you all had that experience. I think it sounds like you and your husband handled it the best way possible. Maybe you all could pray for this woman as a family.

  13. Definitely make sure he knows it is HER problem and not his. I have a forty year old husband, for goodness sake, who can't sit through Mass without fidgeting or whispering! And I confess I've played with many a cute baby during Mass. :-) It's okay. Mass is about community worshiping God together, and as a community, we're going to be somewhat fidgety and maybe a little bit noisy, but that's what a family is. We're not all perfect, not even for the hour we spend at Mass. That lady clearly didn't get it.

  14. That's funny Jennie C. because I have a similar husband who is fidgety and whispers through mass too! But's he's 47 years old and at times, will engage our 11 year old in a conversation and then I'm shushing them both!!!

  15. I am on two sides of the fence with this, and wish an adult had called me on my inappropriate behaviors when I was a teenager, I could have used a rebuke because my behaviors had a negative impact on others let alone myself. My hurt feelings would have been a small price to pay if it would have brought me up short and made me realize my inability to control myself had a consequence.Maybe sometimes we are too concerned with our kids getting their feelings hurt. When I was younger than your teen I lived in a neighborhood where EVERYONE'S mother would discipline you, you never got away with anything because you knew that no one would hesitate to tell you to knock it off.

    ON the other hand, maybe those labeling that lady as petty would think about this a little. I got real sick, husband ran out on us, and had no income coming in. My ex-husband was threatening me, and I had to carry a gun, even around the house. Mass was the place I could go to talk to God, envelope myself in worship of him, I can't tell you what it meant to have that hour of prayer in a week of horror. It was my lifeline. Before Mass would start I would kneel and try to concentrate, connect with my Savior, and I can remember occasions when the teens in front of me would horse around, heck, even the adults would turn that quiet time before Mass into a social. There was one child who would yell, shriek and talk back to her parents throughout the Mass, and at the end I would feel robbed, like my recharge was only halfway there.Sometimes during Masss I would cry, I needed to be with God so badly, and there would be those idiots who would be horsing around or goofing off. Believe it or not, some people go to Mass with "Baggage"! So maybe this lady has more on her plate than some of you who accuse her of being uncharitable realize. Maybe she is just a pill, but if you are willing to excuse the teenagers behavior or at least rationalize it because they are a teen, it goes both ways. Sit behind her and breathe on her? What are some of you thinking!! She's uncharitable, not "getting" what the Church is all about, she's mean spirited? Reality check, anyone?

    Personally, I would not pray that my son's heart had not been hurt. I would have told him to put on his big boy pants, go up to her and apologize and learn that his behaviors are going to impact on others. Was she harsh? Maybe so. MAybe I'd feel a little defensive if I was the parent. But if your kid's life is going so well that he has the luxury to be put off of church by a chastisement, maybe he should take this opportunity to realize to some people that hour of Mass is literally a lifeline. A lifeline.

    You know what I just realized? No one in the above comments suggested that the boy apologize, or talk to his priest, or offer up an act of contrition and penance, or go to confession!

  16. You know what I just realized? No one in the above comments suggested that the boy apologize, or talk to his priest, or offer up an act of contrition and penance, or go to confession!

    Perhaps that's because what a person is culpable for and what he confesses is a private matter. And since his parents already expressed ample interest in his behavior and were obviously aware of any difficulties he was having during Mass, taking the time to correct and redirect his attention, we left it in their very capable hands, right where that responsibility belongs! No one has the right to say "You were sinning because you distracted me." Obviously, if this woman's response was to say, "Don't ever sit in front of me again" then she is someone who is so incredibly self-centered that she might need some correction in the ways of Christian charity. Why couldn't she have moved or decided to sit in a place where she wouldn't be distracted by anyone in the future? How did she know that this boy didn't suffer from autism or some other condition that might have made his behavior more understandable. She knew nothing about him or his parents and even though she must have seen his parents correct and instruct him, she still chose to administer her own admonition.

    I'm very sorry for your situation, I know that might make this situation seem more personal to you but nobody has a crystal ball to know of another's sufferings without being told. If you need a certain level of silence and solitude in order to really feel like you've achieved a close connection with Christ during Mass then you need to be the one the seek out a place where that is easily found. Maybe a monastery chapel instead of a large parish. Then again, whether we feel recharged or not by our communion, Christ is still present, as are the graces from that communion with Him.

  17. Anna,

    From what you wrote, it sounds like you have had very hard things in your life and are working through some bitterness and sadness about that. I'm sure I would be as well. I'll pray for you also. Have you considered Eucharistic adoration? This might be a good opportunity for you to sit quietly with Jesus with none of the distractions that Mass may bring. As for chastising him, suggesting he go to confession, etc, I think Barb's post made it more than clear that they had diligently corrected his actions and while she may not be feeling like parent of the year right now, I absolutely respect her as a parent, and know that she has taken appropriate action. None of us are perfect, including this teen. I am so thankful for God's grace, that NONE of us receive what we ought, but instead's God's neverending love and mercy. Peace be with you, Anna, and with you Barb!

  18. Oh my goodness! I can't believe what that lady did! She was out of line and sometimes I'm distracted at church by cute/crying babies. Of course our older children should need less reminders about how to behave, but I hardly believe he warranted a thump on the head! Sorry.

  19. My dad always had a saying, "Kill them with kindness". Once our elderly neighbor got mad at the household of 6 kids who played in the yard next to him for making noise (during the day). Now my dad knew this was silly, but he just told us to smile at him whenever we saw him. My mom and dad said if he dropped with a heart attack in his yard we were the first who would be able to take care of him. Just smile and keep to the side yard for a little while and always ask if he needed help with anything. It worked!Years later my own niece was chewed out by a neighbor for allowing her dog to poop on his grass. He brought it over to my sister's house and threw it on her driveway and gave my niece a piece of his mind. He is a fellow parishioner. My sister said she remembered the incident when we were children. Her daughter was told, of course, to pick up after the dog when walking him. If she saw the man at church she was to smile always smile and say hello. I live in the same neighborhood as my sister. When this man sees any of us he is over the top polite. He desires forgiveness, though he never has asked - and we have made it such that he does not have too - we just give it. My sister did tell my daughter if she wanted to write a letter of forgiveness to the man that they would never send to the man, that this would be okay. They read it together as family and she was told not to speak of the man in an ill way after that. That was probably helpful to my niece to vent a little ( and being homeschooled it was a chance to increase writing skills!)
    This is the real "man" lesson for your son that you seem to be teaching him. He will be fine. Your husband can assure him that he will have co-workers like this one day. It is not just the Church. My own son was hurt by someone in authority in the Church and with time and prayer, he is thriving. Be assured now that he is older his peers will be lucky to have a friend like him that has learned this lesson. No better spirit to evangelize than one of mercy and this is a way to cultivate it.
    Here is a little exerpt from Michael DeSanctis which is copyrighted. "So where is Christ to be found in the mystery we call Eucharist? He's in the cry room changing diapers and covered up to his elbows with the insides of someone else's tiny body. He's fallen asleeep on his daddy's shoulders, too tired to even make it to the Holy, Holy. He hangs in back with a cluster of teens, dressed in a GAP shirt and wondering secretly what any of this has to do with the bombshell-of-a message he dropped one Passover night long ago. ....he shuffles round in a walker sits anchored to a chair and looks forward to the day when he'll throw the things forever and dance a cha-cha with the angels. He wears a Roman collar, which is really a hlo pulled low, and like any high priest calls us again to an altar, where all our tears and pains and joys are laid as his Body an Blood."

    Tell him to keep believing, keep going even when he leaves home, keep praying,keep forgiving.

    Blessings on your family and all today!

  20. Life is so hard, isn't it? There's so little we can truly understand or control. My prayers for all.

    Thank you Barbara, for having the courage to post about this situation, it's good food for thought and prayer.

  21. Thank you, Barbara for sharing this! The Gospel this week is all about the "weeds and the wheat" -- God certainly has a sense of humor! LOL Our God is a patient God..with us and others. In our Bible study it says..."was Paul wheat when he was persecuting Christians? Was Augustine wheat when he was living a life of debauchery? What makes any of us so sure that we are wheat and not a weed? I'm guessing we are both at different times. Both Paul and Augustine went on to produce fruits in God's garden. We are all "unfinished" and it's important to be patient with all the other unfinished people we come in contact with. Today at Mass we were saving some spots for my daughter and her family (my brand new grandbaby!) and a couple came up and pointed to the spots and said that "they were use to sitting in this spot", LOLOLOL! Really? Seriously? My spine got a bit straighter and then I remembered...I'm use to this pew too! The woman that thumped your son - totally inappropriate but I think we can all agree she has need of our prayers. I hope your son didn't get in too much trouble -- I'm 51 years old and horribly guilty of playing with babies in Mass -- I think Jesus would too:-)

  22. Barbara, yesterday at Mass I saw a boy playing with his iPhone when he could have been paying attention to Jesus. I have seen behavior in church that is just not appropriate by some kids. I am tempted to say something but you know what, it just isn't my place. I would not like someone correcting my child especially in front of me.
    I'm sorry you had to go through that humiliation.

  23. I'm late in responding but have been reading and thinking about what happened to your son. Prayers for him and you...and for the out-of-line woman behind you. This hits very close to home for me. We had a "friend" correct one of our children about something during Mass. Only this "friend" sent quite condemning emails to our child and the whole incident has pretty much tanked our friendship. I don't think it will ever be the same. She too, was wayyyyy out of line and entirely too harsh.
    Looking back I know she was trying to help/teach said child...sigh. My (at the time 12.5-13 yr. old) child did realize the error and the behavior stopped immediately (her sin....she was smiling at the altar rail) but at such a cost. Prayers for us all!

  24. I think it best to do exactly what you did. Our lovely piano instructor told our girls "Do your best. That is all you can do. But don't do less." Do your best. Then try not to think too hard about what anyone else thinks because it wouldn't change your response anyway. You did what you could. There will always be those who think you could or should do differently. As long as YOU know you did what you could you can let that roll off your back. I think it best to try very hard not to think much about what others feel about our progress - good OR bad. Leads to pride and discouragement both. And as Charlotte said we really must try to do the same and not think overmuch about the behavior of those around us because it has the same effect.

  25. Hurt and humiliation abound in this incident. The comments here have been very enlightening to me and given me much to consider. I've thought about this and I think you did the right thing, but you might also talk to your son now that the time has elapsed and ask him how he feels about what happened. Make sure you give him an opportunity to talk about it. I was a very shy and sensitive teen (gosh, I still am sensitive!) and I understand how that probably made him very ashamed and hurt. He is becoming a man and he does need to be able to deal with it as a man. As good a person as he is I am certain he can accept this and improve and go on. Personally, when I enter the church, I greet Our Lord and I tend to ask my Guardian Angel to help me with any distractions. He does. In fact, I can sometimes feel his disapproval if I let a distraction take too much time. ;) (Some distraction is understandable since we are human.) You might suggest it to him. After all, that's what Guardian Angels are for: to help us be better, more holy. He will be fine. He has excellent parents and a good background and lots of prayer to support him. I, too, will pray for him and for this poor woman who probably deserves our pity. In fact, perhaps Our Lord sent her to you for the purpose of praying for her because she must be in need. Only when you enter eternity will you know for sure if you have helped.

  26. "Stgiannaprayforus," I love that quote you shared!

    As for the rest, I'm sorry that happened! Barb, your son might have been out of line, but if he was with parents, then the lady should have left it to you to deal with him. It's not like he's young enough to drag to the vestibule for a talking-to. I'm sure that your drive home would have been occasion for discussion on what is expected at Mass.
    (And frankly, if your young teenage boy is distracted at Mass because he's smiling and making faces at a nearby baby, then you're lucky--you know he's got a future as one great Daddy.)

  27. Aw. =( This is so sad. I'm sad this lady wasn't able to "be Jesus" to your son, like we all should be. I like what Charlotte said. I will also pray for your son, that it will not leave a bad taste in his mouth. I do think if you talk to him about it and explain to him that the lady was obviously taking something out on him, and that he should forgive her. He didn't do anything wrong. We have crabby ladies in Mass. Some get REAL bent up out of shape when you sit near them or want to get into the middle of the pew, but the person is too lazy to step out, so they scoot down and are so mad they can't sit at the end anymore. I try to just pray for them. I admit, there is nothing worse than someone saying something that makes you, the parent, feel bad. That is just not helpful. I had a military priest once stop the entire Mass because my baby screamed out for 20 seconds. My hubby was deployed and I was so hurt. I left the Mass and thought I'd rather not go to daily Mass there where people aren't happy to see children. Then I had about 10 sweet old men and ladies come up to me and tell me that my baby is beautiful and that I'm a great mother and that babies are aloud to make noise and babble in mass, "it's their way of praying". I was so thankful for those sweet comments.


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!