What do I tell my children when they don’t want to go to Mass?
It’s Sunday morning, and you hear the dreaded words: “I don’t wanna go to Mass. It’s booooring.” We’d like to share about laying the groundwork for a positive Sunday experience for your family; next time, we’ll address discussing the Mass with your young children and teenagers.
First, we plan ahead 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. A sure-fire good-attitude killer is to leave for Mass five minutes late after maniacally yelling at our kids. We strive to arrive at Mass on time and calm.
Second, make Sunday special. Establish a tradition that sets it apart. Caroline’s mom made homemade pancakes before Mass. Tom’s family went out to brunch after Mass. You might reward good Mass participation by a trip to get donuts. Visit grandparents, suspend chores or allow sugary cereals — something young or old can look forward to.
Mass in a vacuum can seem disconnected and, yes, boring. Live out the liturgical year all week in your family, not just for one hour on Sunday. Start talking about it well ahead of time. Even little ones can understand the seasons of the liturgical year, for example. Ask, “Okay, we’re in Ordinary Time, so what colors will we see at Mass today? What new season will start next month?” Dust off that calendar that your parish gave you 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 are part of a progression. Consider reading the Mass readings every day as a family ahead of time. Then discuss them and make applications to the 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?”
Try changing your family’s Mass routine occasionally so they can experience all kinds of liturgies. On big feast days, our kids enjoy going downtown to the cathedral. The music is so beautiful, and on special days there are additions like brass and strings. You can’t help but be moved. A pilgrimage to another parish every now and again helps them understand that our Church truly is universal.
Finally, there is the Mass itself. You and I know that at every Mass an incredible miracle occurs. We cannot be any closer to the Lord than when we receive holy Communion. If we communicate this overwhelming blessing to our children, no one could possibly be bored! But we parents often do a lousy job: We’re zoning out during the homily, mumbling responses, barely singing. 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 for us parents to ask the Holy Spirit to give us a new zeal. He will! In the baptismal rite, the priest prays over the parents to be “the best of teachers.” In a letter to his son, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that.”
The McDonalds are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.