I have to say, I was quite pissed off this morning. I entered church and seeing that it was quite full went to go and sit in the crying chapel (where parents with young children sit so as not to disturb other parishioners during Mass). Now, I'm not sure what to make about crying chapels. In theory they make sense but I think they just foster separation. I'll come back to this later.
Anyway, I sat down and a steward came up to me.
Steward: "There are plenty of seats at the front."
Me: "I'm fine here thanks."
Steward: "Well this is for young children."
Me: "Well if parents want to sit here then I'll move."
Steward: *shaking his head, tuts mumbling* "Yes but it's for children ... You shouldn't be sitting there...." *walks away*
My patience and anger was seriously tested. If I wasn't in church - and in the presence of a young boy - I think I may have told him to p**s off. I felt like the steward was judging me and he didn't even know me.
Someone said to me: "I have friends who sit there (in the crying chapel) because of chemical sensitivity or because they struggle to be around people; that guy needs to back off!" People have their reasons for sitting where they do, doing what they do, and saying what they do. If parents with children came, naturally I was going to shift.
It's not the first time I've clashed with this guy. He once insisted that I go and sit down (I was standing at the back) because I was blocking the way for the procession. Bulls**t. There was plenty of space. He just wanted everything and everyone to fit into his image of what a perfect church and a perfect Mass should be like. But guess what? Hardly anything is perfect! Not only does he like to tell people what to do but he thinks he's the exception when it comes to talking during Mass. I'm sorry but don't tell people to shush and then go and have a conversation with the person next to you.
To make things worse he completely ignored me during the Offertory. To be honest, I felt really crap about myself at that point. There were three adults in that crying chapel - the size of a small shed. There was no way he did not see me. Even if I wasn't going to give a donation it was incredibly rude to not offer the collection bag to me.
I'm tired of people like the steward I encountered today. It's a pretentious kind of attitude I deplore in churches, and it's something I notice more so in Catholic churches than any other denomination. True, most religions can be quite snobbish and pompous when it comes to comparing themselves to others, but Catholics like to look down on others in a way that doesn't do the Church any good. It's a sort of "well you're not a regular/one of us so we don't need to treat you the same" kind of attitude. It's sad really, but there is usually at least one person like this in every Catholic parish.
Back to talking about crying chapels. Children are children. They're going to make noise. Ok, so you want to pray in silence, but show a bit of compassion. What did Jesus say about children in Matthew (10:13-16)? If Jesus could put up with noisy children, I don't think it's asking much of parishioners to do the same. Do you not think the parents of loud children are embarrassed enough that their "little angels" are wailing during the Eucharistic doxology? They don't need you tutting and judging them from your pew at the front.
Surprisingly the boy I was sitting next to this morning was quite quiet. He was rather cute, sitting on the lower beam of the pew with his feet sticking out, resting his chin on the middle beam listening to his grandmother sing. Quite a beautiful sight. That said, if he was making dinosaur noises as his tyrannosaurus rex mauled a little car, I would have bit my tongue. It's not my place - nor anyone else's - to tell someone to leave church or go sit in a corner somewhere because their child is being a child.
I struggle to feel comfortable and welcome in the parish up here, but being the only Catholic church in St Andrews I don't have much of a choice. Behaviour like that of the steward's this morning is more likely to prevent someone from coming to God than if one were to read The God Delusion. We worry about secularisation and new atheism, when the trouble is much closer to home. It's guys like that one at Mass today who push people away from the Church, not those people protesting out on the street.