Teacher’s View from the Back Pew – Chapter 2

Chapter 2  –  Cry Room 101

If you go into most Catholic churches you will find statues of Mary, Joseph and Jesus on the Cross.   You may also see other statues and or stained glass windows that depict stories from the Bible.  I have noticed that you rarely see children depicted in any of these scenes.  Did children not exist back then?  As a child at mass I would always wonder, where are the children?

Occasionally you will see Jesus depicted as a child.  I’ve seen him in the arms of his mother Mary and I’ve seen him preaching to adults on the steps of churches but I have never seen him depicted as a child doing childlike things.  Why do we skip going from him as a baby in a manger to an adult on his way to preaching and his crucifixion?

Go into most Catholic churches and the church has devised a way to also hide children.  It’s called the Cry Room.  Its basically a confined glassed in room that is sound proof to the outsiders but has piped in music and reception of what is being said up on the altar.  Its an isolation booth like the one that they use when someone is put to death.  I know that this sounds morbid, but that is what I always relate it to.

As the late Whitney Houston sang, “I believe the children are our future”.  Sure they are, but until they stop crying and fidgeting, put them in an isolation room.  I have been to masses where kids cry and cry and cry and their parents will not go to that given room.  I have also been to masses where the priest asks you to take your child there.  The best church that I have recently been to has a paper in the pew that asks you to move to the front with your kids so that they can see everything that is taking place at mass because kids are our future and they need to see what they are hearing instead of a back pew view of the cry room that looks interesting to them.  Everyone has their interpretation of this room but it  has different meanings to different people.  Its like your dining room in your house.  You buy a house and insist that you need a fancy dining room and then you only use it twice a year although it is very useful for piling and storing those items that you just need to put somewhere.

My mom tells a story of my dad taking me to Easter mass on his own.  My mom at the time was not Catholic yet and she was going to stay home with my brother who is fourteen months younger than me.  At two years old she dressed me in a darling dress with patent leather shoes and the white laced roll down socks.  She says that I was just darling.  The story goes that my dad lasted about ten minutes with me.  He came home sweating, dropped me off, and went to the next scheduled mass.  Why didn’t he take me into the Cry Room?  This I have always wondered about.

St. Joan of Arc is designed with three aisles that form a cross.  The long main part of the church makes the long part of the cross, while the two side aisles make the cross bars of the cross. The Cry Room is situated at the back of the East aisle side.  Easter is always at full capacity and my dad had me in the safe confines of the back main aisle section.  Obviously, I didn’t agree with this section of the church.  Why didn’t he take me to the infamous Cry Room I once again ask?

Let’s skip ahead a few years.  As a kid, I always wanted to go into the Cry Room to sit for mass.  I never remember being taken into that room.  I think that my parents believed that in that room was where the bad undisciplined children were taken by their parents.  My brother and sister and I were trained to sit quietly in the main section.  I know that there were times when we just wanted to go into that Cry Room for that experience. Nope.  We can sit perfectly fine in the main section.

Well I am not sure about us being fine because you see my brother Bill was a nonsitter.  He was an active kid.  Hello mom and dad, do you not remember how he always came to life when we sat down to dinner in our own house?  I remember many times when I would wonder why oh why couldn’t he just come to dinner, eat our good meal, and then head out the door to play?  So knowing this, don’t you think that maybe we should sit in the Cry Room?  Not going to happen!

My brother Bill would be just as active during mass at church.  I cannot really tell you what he did during mass, but I know that he must have did something when after mass and once we were in the car my dad would turn around and spank us.  US!  I honestly do not remember doing anything wrong.  We never sat next to each other, our parents would sit between us but I guess that I was also a hellion during mass.  Maybe looking back on this I was possessed and forgot my involvement?  During this time period when we were probably about 4 and 5, why didn’t they just take us to the Cry Room and let us grow into sitting through mass viewing through bullet proof glass?  (If it is sound proof, its probably also bullet proof to a 5 year old!)

I always wanted to sit in the Cry Room because it seemed like a freer place in church.  I believed that in there I could move a little, maybe swing my feet while listening at the same time of course!  That Cry Room just seemed to me to have a better environment.  Fresher air, piped in sound, cushioned chairs!  Who wouldn’t want to sit in that luxury other than on those hard wooden pews?  Look, someone has built a room to comfort kids, so take them on in.

As we grew older and passed the “I cannot sit for that hour” time in our lives, the Cry Room was not even thought of as a choice of entrance.  I remember just slipping in there on the way into church or after mass to just breathe in that smell of a room where no one occupied.  It truly was like a mystery room to me.

When I had my own kids, the church that I went to had the audacity to not even have a Cry Room.  In my plans in taking my own kids to church I was set on using that Cry Room.  St. Paul’s Church in North Canton, Ohio is void of this room.  How could they deny me this choice seating for my own kids?

Taking young kids to church is a chore and a learning experience for not only the kid to learn how to act in a church setting but for the parent to also figure out how their child is going to react.  Newborns are easy, take them, hold them, feed them Cheerios, and they are usually fine.  Were Cheerios in existence when I was two?  The ages from 1 to 3 are the ringer years.  Once your kid walks then the fun begins.

I was fine at St. Paul’s until I had two kids both at the walking age of 2 and 3.  I made my choice to go to church alone leaving them at home with their dad.  Sometimes I would take one or the other and then both when we all went but this was not the easiest way to listen to an entire mass.  I’m better than this I used to think to myself.   I can take them both all of the time because I did my motherly duty and I found another nearby Catholic Church with, ta-da, a Cry Room!!!  So off to Little Flower Church we all went.

That Cry Room at Little Flower Church was perfect.  Piped in air conditioning, a clear view to the altar, comfortable chairs, but one item bothered us all.  The families who let their kids run and actually play while mass was going on.  My kids were fine.  They would just stare at the wild and free kids.  Even as an adult, I would catch myself watching the kid show instead of listening to mass.  Was this the reason why I was never taken into the Holy Cry Room?  I may have found the answer.

I have taught in a Catholic School for six years.  As a Catholic school teacher, the entire school goes to a weekly mass.  Sometimes I sit in astonishment as students from Pre-K to 8th grade sit quietly during mass.  We do have the occasional student who is not used to going to mass and has to be taken out or has to sit by a teacher until they realize that not going to mass is not an option.  Once again the Cry Room is overlooked to remedy this restlessness.

I teach science and do not have a homeroom so I am one of the teachers who has been positioned to sit in the back pew during school masses.  We are there for security reasons and to catch the morning mass pukers.  I am positioned directly in front of the Cry Room at St. Rose of Lima School and that Cry Room not only beckons to me each time that I sit in front of it but it has its own stories that have become some of my best beer stories when someone is listening to my time in that back pew.  Hold on to your hats, the following chapters will have you looking at mass time in a way that may change your point of view of what really takes place at a school mass with me sitting in that back pew.






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