Ask CCM Tuesday!

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Ask the Caffeinated Catholic Mama!” This letter comes from Amy in Alberta Canada:

Hi Karianna,
I almost emailed you a question yesterday for today’s “ask CCM” and then my baby needed some attention and I forgot about it till I read your post saying you didn’t get any questions. Darn!
Anyways, I love reading your blog. I too am a Caffeinated Catholic Mama… (love coffee!)breastfeeder, cloth diaperer, co-sleeper, gentle parenting, etc…
My question for you comes from the idea of breastfeeding during mass. I personally nurse my baby in mass when I need to but have to say that I feel very uncomfortable doing so. I have a lot of friends who nurse their babies but they either completely cover themselves and baby (even in terribly hot weather) or go hide in the confessional or on the balcony, etc. or… make the baby wait till mass is over while they cry in the back :(…There is some idea that breastfeeding is somehow scandalous or innapropriate for mass. I pipe in where I believe it’s appropriate but have been feeling lately like I wish the church would address this issue directly. I know all about our rights to nurse our babies anytime and anywhere and I have read a lot about how seeing women nurse their babies helps remove some of our wounded and over-sexualized views of breasts and women in general. I personaly believe it would be very healing for our society to see more babies nursed at the breast. It seems in my little community anyways, there is an idea that even though we have a right to breastfeed our babies any time or anywhere, that we “should” go somewhere else to do it. I have thought about writing a letter to our bishop to ask him if he would consider addressing the issue but I’m not sure if that’s appropriate. Even something as simple as a note in the bulletin or a little sign on the door would be helpful, I think. Have you heard of any churches addressing this directly or do you know of any specific church teaching on this subject?
Thank you!

Sincerely,
Amy

Thanks for writing and reading Amy! You know, I never really thought about breastfeeding during Mass… it’s something that I have just always done. So, I asked some of my ladies about it and I was surprised to find out that at my parish those same feelings of discomfort you’ve mentioned are felt by some. In fact, at least two ladies and their babies have been asked to nurse somewhere else in the church during Mass.

This, of course, makes the CCM sad and I decided to do something. First, I contacted our Parish Pastor to find out if there is a breastfeeding policy in place. Our priests are pretty techno-saavy so I emailed him and I heard back that same day. As it turns out, there is not a parish policy in place and this was the first time in 36 years that he’d ever had to address the issue of breastfeeding in Mass. He was going to find out what the Archdiocesan policy was, if there was one. A few days later, I heard back from Monsignor, letting me know that there is no policy in the Archdiocese and that the question is headed to the Parish Council.

So, that’s where our parish stands on the topic of breastfeeding during Mass. It’s tough because we have to remember that it is not our will but God’s will. But considering that Jesus was breastfed, I am praying for a policy that works for all.

In short, to answer your question: Scripture is supportive of breastfeeding as it was the norm of the time. Before going to your Bishop, I would first talk to your pastor. Find out if your Parish has a policy in place. If not, find out if your Archdiocese has anything in place and go from there.

Keep in mind that this is not just a breastfeeding advocacy issue, but it is about making everyone feel comfortable in Mass. That thought might be the hardest one to convey as society tends to yield to the comfort of the masses rather than that of the singular. Pray about this. Pray that all view points can been seen and considered.

Thanks for your letter, Amy!

Luke 11:27-28 (New International Version)

27As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
28He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

“…[Breastfeeding] benefits the child and helps to create the closeness and maternal bonding so necessary for healthy child development. So human and natural is this bond that the Psalms use the image of the infant at its mother’s breast as a picture of God’s care for man…”
– Pope John Paul II
__________________________________________________
Every Tuesday is “Ask CCM Tuesday!” If you have questions about Catholicism, conversion, RCIA, Natural Family Planning, Breastfeeding, Cloth Diapering, Frugal Living, Knitting, Crochet, Biology, Forensic Science, Marriage, Parenting, Gentle Discipline, etc., etc., please send me an email at:

CaffeinatedCatholicMama (at) gmail (dot) com

In your email, please include your first name and your location and let me know if you want your name withheld when I answer your question on the blog.

I have no prizes to offer for your questions other than the knowledge that you might be helping others with their questions!

Pax Christi!

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10 Comments

Filed under breastfeeding, Catholic, Tuesday

10 responses to “Ask CCM Tuesday!

  1. David

    I don’t think it’s my business to tell you not to, or to encourage you. We go to mass to worship the Lord, and as a help against distraction, if I get caught up in stuff around me, I turn to focus on the crucifix. My BIL in Las Vegas took us to Mass one time we were visiting, and after all was said and done, he didn’t receive communion. I didn’t ask, but he told me why (although I think it was a misdirection). He said this young woman dressed skimpily sat in front of us and distracted him so much he felt dirty. I told him I didn’t notice (I was sitting 3 people from him-his wife, my wife, then me) because I didn’t-I was focussed on the mosaic of St. Joseph the Worker (yes, it was Joseph the Worker, Nancy Pelosi). We tend to get distracted by children and their antics in church, or babies and their mothers, but it is natural, so I would leave it alone…
    Thanks.

    • That’s a great reminder for us all to turn our focus to the cross when we find ourselves being judgemental or losing focus.

      But I am also trying to keep in mind the feelings of rejection a mother may feel if she is asked by a Minister of Hospitality to leave her seat and to nurse somewhere else. As a good friend said to me: “do you think Christ would have told mother not to nurse her child in his midst? Some disciples, maybe, but not the Lord.”

      • David

        I think if I was the mother in that situation, I’d be focussed on the crucifix, as well. And if the minister of hospitality was persistent enough, I’d have to tell them off. In a non-judgemental kind of way, of course.

        We don’t need ushers policing what people are doing in the pews. I’m sure that usher is using that mass so as to fulfill his obligation, so he/she needs to be paying attention to the altar, too, or else be attending a different mass to fulfill the Sunday requirement. I believe the mother feeding her child should be as discrete as possible (even a chapel veil would be plenty enough coverup), but who could eschew a mother using her breast for what it’s for? I don’t get it. Great question, though!

  2. Carmen

    Michelle Arnold at Catholic Answers recently answered an “Ask An Apologist” question re: nursing during Mass.

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=6861195

    And a discussion arose around that answer (you can’t post on Apologist answer threads):

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=477448

    It’s seven pages long and I haven’t read it all, but Michelle Arnold had already popped in a few times on the first page. I bet she knew when she answered the question to begin with that she was in for it, poor thing.

    I have more thoughts on this but I have to take care of some other things right at the moment.

  3. Carmen

    Back now.

    It seems that the main reason for people not wanting mothers to nurse at Mass is that it can make other people uncomfortable.

    I keep thinking about how she suggested that mothers even go so far as to miss Mass if necessary if their babies can’t go that whole hour without nursing. “Care of small children is just reason to miss Mass.”

    I don’t know. Lord Jesus, I can’t go see You because I have to stay home to feed my baby, whom You designed to be hungry every 45 minutes, therefore it must be Your will that I be isolated from the Mass because I choose to feed my child the way You were fed…

    …that doesn’t sound right, does it?

    I don’t think this comes down to care of a child so much as care of others’ attention spans.

    It’s such a unique situation that I can’t even think of a good analogy.

    There’s a gentleman at my parish who has lung cancer. He coughs for somewhat extended periods of time. I’ve been told there have been people who have stood up and left when he sat down next to them because they think he’s contagious; they don’t realize he has lung cancer.

    He’s not hurting anyone by coming. Should he stay home because other parishioners can’t focus with him there?

    I haven’t heard him in a few weeks; I hope and pray he’s simply going to a different Mass. And I ask the Lord to heal him and to bless him for coming to Mass even though it must make him uncomfortable to know that others are uncomfortable around him. He can’t help his situation.

    Suppose I had a child so disfigured that it made others uncomfortable to see him. Would it be right for others to ask me to stay home with him because they couldn’t focus on the Mass with him sitting in their line of sight? Would it be right for them to ask me to cover him up if I must bring him? Some people would be just fine in his presence, most people probably wouldn’t even notice him, but the two or three with wandering eyes and minds… are they my responsibility?

    That’s an awful analogy but it’s the best I can concoct. It blows my mind that people want babies to be hungry or uncomforted or isolated simply because they can’t focus on Jesus, or because they won’t choose to pray for the people who come to their attention rather than allowing themselves to become irrationally angry.

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  6. J.

    Hi Catholic Mama! I found this quote from Francis de Sales; I mentioned it to you in a comment a couple of months ago and just found it–it seems apropos to the conversation. Thought you might enjoy!:
    “Have you never noted, Theotimus, with what ardour little children sometimes cleave to their mother’s breast when hungry? You will see them, with a deep soft murmur, hold and squeeze it with their mouths, sucking so eagerly that they even put their mother to pain; but after the freshness of the milk has in some sort allayed the urgent heat of their little frame, and the agreeable vapours which it sends to the brain begin to lull them to sleep, Theotimus, you will see them softly shut their little eyes, and little by little give way to sleep; yet without letting go the breast, upon which they make no action saving a slow and almost insensible movement of the lips, whereby they continually draw the milk which they swallow imperceptibly. This they do without thinking of it, yet not without pleasure; for if one draw the teat from them before they fall sound asleep, they awake and weep bitterly, testifying by the sorrow which they show in the privation that their content was great in the possession. Now it fares in like manner with the soul who is in rest and quiet before God: for she sucks in a manner insensibly the delights of his presence, without any discourse, operation or motion of any of her faculties, save only the highest part of the will, which she moves softly and almost imperceptibly, as the mouth by which enter the delight and insensible satiety she finds in the fruition of the divine presence. But if one trouble this poor little babe, or offer to take from it its treasure because it seems to sleep, it will plainly show then that though it sleep to all other things yet not to that; for it perceives the trouble of this separation and grieves over it, showing thereby the pleasure which it took, though without thinking of it, in the good which it possessed.” (Thus the mother nursing in church COULD be said to be a sacramental presence and source of mystagogy, if we let her be. :-))

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