I’m sure you have head this comment more than once from a child, maybe your own or one enrolled in your faith formation class or your religion class. Maybe even parents have said it to you while bemoaning how they can’t get their child to Mass. It can come from anyone really, no matter what age. And it begs a response because you can’t leave a comment like that out there without responding. But how without being rude, snarky, overbearing, or holier than thou?
First I agree with the person, wholeheartedly. Mass is not fun nor it is supposed to be. I can think of many adjectives to describe Mass: edifying, worshipful, engaging, thought-provoking, fulfilling, meaningful, satisfying, uplifting, or even somber. I’d never say fun. I don’t want Mass to be fun.
Then I would ask what they think is the purpose of Mass and why they attend. The risk in asking those questions is getting a blank stare or confused look. Make sure you ask with a smile on your face and no sarcasm; be gentle, think mercy. Explain that Mass is our opportunity to thank God, indeed Eucharist means Thanksgiving; we thank him for all he has given us. We learn more about what he wants from us when we hear the scriptures proclaimed and then explained in the homily. Don’t forget to include receiving Holy Communion; that moment when we Jesus comes to us as our spiritual food to help us become more like him.
Other suggestions to make would be preparing for Mass and making Sunday a special day. There are practical aspects to preparing for Mass such as going to bed at a reasonable hour based on what time you plan on going to Mass, having clothes ready so there’s not a mad scramble and serving an easy breakfast. Spiritually we can prepare for Mass by reading and discussing the scriptures ahead of time, checking if it is a feast day, and talking about why we want to go to Mass.
When you get to Church sit up close. This is especially helpful for elementary school children so they can see what is happening. If you are comfortable sitting up close with your toddlers do so. In my experience, it helps everyone behave a bit better and pay more attention.
Lastly, during the week it helps to have prayer time with your children, read Bible stories to them and teach them about the Mass. If you can, go to Church when Mass is not going on and tour the building, giving your child an opportunity to ask questions they have when Mass isn’t going on.
At times it is not easy to see the value taking reluctant children to Mass but it is a parent’s responsibility to do so. And let’s face, there are many things our children would like us to stop having them do but we don’t because in the end it’s good for them.
And pray, often; it’s our most powerful weapon.