As we rushed to the station wagon in a frantic bid to get to Sunday Mass on time, somebody noticed that our youngest brother wasn’t there.
I dashed back into the house and found the red-haired two-year-old in the bathroom, solemnly waving good-bye to the little sock, so carefully chosen to match his church clothes, as it disappeared down the toilet.
When I recall memories of my family going to Mass together when I was a child, many of them are of the mad scramble to get five kids and two parents ready on time in a house with one bathroom.
I remember sitting in a long line in a pew fairly close to the front (so we could see), on the right side of the church (because that’s just where we always sat). I remember my parents trying to figure out who could sit next to whom without getting into too much trouble. I remember the smells and the symbols, the songs and the privilege of being able to go up for Communion.
I also remember my parents, before the days of voicemail or internet, trying to figure out where we could get to Mass when we traveled. Memories of visits to the grandparents’ homes are bound up with memories of their parish churches and Mass on holidays and holy days, of funerals and weddings and First Communions, and of going to Mass together because it was Sunday, and that’s what we did.
I think these memories illustrate why it is so important to go to Mass as family whenever possible (and not to beat ourselves up when we can’t all go together, as long as we all get there).
It’s what we do and it’s important
We go every Sunday, and it’s worth the hassle of getting that many people all dressed up and out the door. It’s simply what we do as Catholics.
Sunday after Sunday, year after year, children learn that they can depend on the traditions of their family, the Church. From this repetition, they learn the prayers and responses without needing to look at a missalette or worship aid. They learn the rhythm and flow of the Church’s years and seasons. They get to know their parish community and its traditions.
Being true to our promise
Sure, it can be difficult to build Mass attendance into travel plans. Weekend sports or other extra-curricular activities can present a huge challenge, especially if they involve travel. But what better way to demonstrate the priority of our faith in our family life?
Make going to Mass when traveling an adventure. Find an interesting or historical church if you can. Even if it’s a small town and there’s only one church, notice what is different about the building, their customs, how they celebrate liturgy. Read the parish bulletin together to learn more about the parish. And point out what is consistent, never changing in the liturgy no matter where you attend Mass.
We Catholic parents promised to form our children’s faith when they were baptized. While the formation involves many facets, I believe the most important is making sure they go to Mass every week.
(Paulette Chapman, Director of Faith Formation, Sts. John & Paul Parish)