By Caroline McDonald
It’s Sunday morning, and you hear the dreaded words from your kids: “I don’t wanna go to Mass. It’s so booooring.” We’ve sure heard it more than once in our house. How we respond depends on the age of the child complaining, and each age brings its own particular challenge. Rather than address a direct response to this question (we’ll tackle age-appropriate responses next time) we’d like to share with you about laying the groundwork for a more positive Sunday experience for your family.
First, do a little planning ahead, preferably the night before, so that we aren’t desperately searching for that lost belt or dress shoe while Dad is backing out of the driveway. We try to have the ironing done and clothes laid out, even Mom and Dad’s, because a sure-fire good attitude killer is to leave for Mass 5 minutes late after yelling maniacally at the kids. We speak from experience here. It really helps if we can arrive at Mass on time and calm.
Second, do what you can to make Sunday a special day for your family. That is, after all, the third commandment! Try establishing a tradition that really sets it apart from other days. When I was growing up, Mom used to make homemade pancakes every Sunday before Mass. In Tom’s family, they used to go out to brunch every Sunday after Mass. You might reward good Mass behavior (and good participation – something our family is working on) by a weekly trip to Krispy Kreme. You may visit grandparents, or suspend chores, or allow sugary cereals … a little something that young or old can look forward to.
Along these lines, Mass in a vacuum can seem disconnected, and yes, boring. We want to live out the liturgical year all week in our families, not just for one hour on Sunday morning. So we’ve got to start talking about it well ahead of time. Even little ones can understand the seasons of the liturgical year, for example. You can ask, “OK, we’re in ordinary time, so what colors will we see at Mass today? What new season will start next month? What new things will be in the church then?” Dust off that calendar from St. Ignatius so that you can be attuned to the seasons and feast days. “Look, this Sunday is the Feast of Corpus Christi. What does that mean?” The kids can also benefit from knowing that the readings aren’t just chosen willy-nilly, that they’re part of a progression. One family we know and admire reads the Mass readings every day as a family, including the Sunday readings ahead of time. Then they can discuss them and make applications to their kids’ lives: “When Jesus said we must forgive 70 times seven times, do you think He meant even when your little sister destroys your Lego creation?”
And then there is the Mass itself. You and I know that at every Mass an incredible miracle is occurring, and that we’re truly privileged to be a part of it. We cannot be any closer to the Lord than we are when we receive Holy Communion. If somehow we can communicate this overwhelming grace and blessing to our children, no one could possibly be bored! But we parents, and Tom and I are included, often do a lousy job on this front … we’re distracted during Mass, we forget to pray, we’re thinking of a million other things, we zone out during the homily, we mumble out the responses, we barely sing. If Sunday Mass is not the most important part of our week, it will not be important in the lives of our children. Perhaps it’s time to for us parents to recommit ourselves to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to give us a new zeal. He will! Maybe we need a little re-catechizing in this area. A book on the Mass that really moved us is The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn. We hate clichés, but that old one about faith being caught, not taught, is certainly true. At our children’s baptisms, part of the rite is the priest praying over us parents that we will be “the best of teachers.” Let’s keep praying that prayer and ask the Lord to help us also be the best witnesses of the beauty of the Mass!