I WANT TO REASSURE Marie Lim that it is definitely not her fault for bringing her child to church. It is every Catholic mother's duty to steep her children in the faith from as early on as possible.

I think the crux lies in maintaining a balance between introducing a young child to Mass and teaching the child to observe common rules of propriety.

It is common these days to see children talking loudly, screaming, eating snacks, running around in church... all with their parents' blessing. Obviously, this is wrong. A good parent needs to teach her child to maintain a respectful silence in church.

It is not impossible for children to behave well in church. I have seen children as young as two or three keeping an earnest, respectful silence throughout. This contrasts sharply with some of their peers. The difference, as I have observed, lies with the parents.

On the other hand, parishioners should try to be more understanding. As long as the parent is already trying his or her best to discipline the child, then we should not be giving them the evil eye.

    Stella Cheong

    Singapore 681692

I HAVE BEEN following the letters regarding noisy children in church during Mass with more than a passing interest. For some time now I have had the impression that the disturbances may be getting worse and are becoming very distracting.

What are small children supposed to learn at a Mass? Their attention spans are too short and the pre-requisite level of knowledge required to participate is well outside their comprehension. This results in them getting bored, restless and noisy. Some parents believe that others will excuse the disturbance simply because they're in a church while others take along their children because there would be no one to look after them at home. Parents of small children should realize that there are many other avenues and programmes open by which to introduce their children to God's teachings other than taking them to Mass.

Small children are not the problem. It is normal for most children to get restless and noisy when bored - it's what children do. The problem lies with parents who do not consider the feelings of other members of the congregation. I attend Mass for a number of reasons, one of which is to have a quiet environment in which to bow my head, clear all other thoughts from my mind and attempt to communicate with God.

This cannot be achieved when there are small children around me crying, talking, playing with toys, jumping up and down etc, with the parents seemingly oblivious to the consequences. On too many occasions I have come away from a Mass with more pent-up frustrations than I had when I went in!

Some churches have addressed the problem by constructing separate areas for small children where the noise will not disturb others and although this is a re-active measure rather than pro-active, it does help. Or rather it would help if the church would then take measures to ensure parents of small children stay in that area, alas, most don't.

Somewhat ironically, at my church the pre-Mass message projected onto the wall asking that all mobile phones and pagers be turned off, ends with the line "Let us give this hour to God" as if to say that the ringing and buzzing of mobile phones or pagers is unacceptable but noisy children are. Something like the following notice being used at an arts venue would be better; "Out of respect for other concertgoers, only children above six years of age will be allowed admission" - this is very clear and sends an unambiguous message.

I'm fully in favour of small children attending church, but not during a Mass. Perhaps it is now necessary for the archdiocese to step forward and give some firm directive to resolve this matter rather than leaving it to individual churches, the ongoing correspondence on this topic clearly shows it to be of widespread concern.

Finally, please remember this - noisy children disturbing the solemnity of Mass is disrespectful to others, is disrespectful to the church, is disrespectful to the priest and most important it is disrespectful to God.

    Mike McCormack

    Singapore 820185

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