A Little Rusty

Last evening’s class went very nicely, however, I really felt like I needed to ovecome some “rust” after a few weeks of not teaching (because of interruptions in the schedule). For one, I forgot to include our little ritual gesture of marking our foreheads, lips, and hearts with the sign of the Cross at the start of class! Didn’t think about it till I got home and was reviewing in my mind how the class went!

It was nice to see the kids again and we spent one last class going over the Ten Commandments. We had a very good discussion about the Commandments and focused on lots of examples of different ways that we can find ourselves performing actions that are against the spirit of the Commandments. In particular, 2 very interesting discussions took place. The first was with regards to the 5th Commandment, You Shall Not Kill. We talked about bullying and how that is an offense against the 5th Commandment and I made some allusions to my childhood and growing up in a pretty tough neighborhood. One of the kids asked (with a laugh), “Did you ever see anyone get killed?” It got very quiet and serious when I told them that, yes, unfortunately, I did witness such a tragedy years ago. I did not go into any details but simply explained that the world can be a very scary place at times and that we need the Commandments to guide us. The kids couldn’t stop asking questions about what it was like for me to grow up in such a neighborhood…they love “real-life” stories!

The 2nd good discussion we had was about the 3rd Commandment and going to Mass. I said that I know many of them don’t go to Mass because their parents don’t take them. So many of them looked like they thought I was talking to them personally! I said that, at their age, they are not totally responsible for this because they rely on their parents for transportation however I explained that as they get older and can walk or ride a bike to church, they must assume that responsibility. I explained that it is their parents’ responsibility now but I did not want to make it sound like I was condemning them for not taking them to Mass. I simply said that sometimes, parents let things get in the way of keeping God first, and that hopefully, they will see how important it is to keep the Lord’s Day on Sunday by going to Mass. It was a good discussion but a tricky one because I want to emphasize the importance of going to Mass but at the same time not have them feeling as though they and their parents are bad people. Your thoughts?

Finally, I had planned to lead a guided reflection about their experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation the week before however one of the moms came to see me right before class and asked that I not do so because her child had a bad experience (sounds like the child had a bit of a panic attack about the idea of going to talk to the priest…that can happen to kids). Instead, I let the Jeopardy review game go longer and then used the last few minutes of class to talk about Ash Wednesday which is a week from tomorrow.

In all, a pretty good class. Remember, I’d love to hear your thoughts about talking to kids about the importance of going to Mass when the fact is their parents aren’t taking them.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Encourage with students to invite their parents to bring them to Mass. Or even a grandparent or other close relative who may already be going Personal invitation is good, even when coming from a 4th grader.

  2. A tactic I use is to ask whether, when they are not able to make Mass, they are part of the problem or part of the solution. For example, are they not going to Mass because Mom & Dad are tired of fighting a battle with them about going (part of the problem) or have they ever said they’d like to go to Mass and offered to help with younger siblings (part of the solution). I’m usually working with junior high kids, so a little older than your 4th graders.

  3. I get catechists asking me about this all the time. Catechists are frustrated that parents don’t take their kids to Mass. I share with the catechists that it is important to share with their students that God asks us to go to Mass every Sunday and if parents do not go they are not doing what God wants (i.e., I’m speaking about the parents, not the kids). Yes, it is important to not make any judgments upon the parents but I do believe that when parents put going to a sporting event, planning for Grandpa’s Birthday party, doing grocery shopping or being too tired to go to one of the 40 Masses offered in the county they live in above going to Mass they are disobeying God’s Commandment. If students ask if their parents are bad people, I make sure they know that it does not make them bad, but it does affect their relationship with God. God knows what is best for us and He knows we need Him and are called to participate at Mass. It is a graced event and the most important thing we do during our week.

  4. I think it’s good to let the children know they should be going to Mass. It’s true, some of the families don’t attend Mass with their children. As catechists, we can suggest things at church that they may like to be involved in and that might lead to attending Mass. When our church is having a social, I invite the kids to stop by after mass to have a treat and say hi to me (the word treat gets their attention).

  5. In our Church, we have a slightly different problem. Our CCD classes are on Sunday in between Masses, so when CCD is scheduled, most children are there. We have a problem with summer and holidays.

    The problem we run into is the behavior of the children during Mass. They get out of the pew to go to the rest room, talk and socialize, read, do homework, don’t have the proper respect, etc. The thing is that the parents are sitting there with them and allowing it to happen. If the children do sit up front together, the behavior is better because some of the teachers will be sitting there also. How do we get the parents to have the proper “Mass etiquette”. The problem is so bad that there are times when those of us that see the behavior find ourselves either admonishing the children quietly or going after them to bring them back and not being able to experience Mass ourselves. It is discussed during class, but once they get into the pew with their parents, all bets are off.

    • Sounds like little by little, the parents need to be taught proper church etiquette, something that needs to be done tactfully and without speaking down to them. The key is helping them and their children to understand the concept of reverence.

  6. Joe, I am very happy to share with you the joys of my being involve in the catechism ministry, cause our Pastor Fr. Jeffrey Day, makes it a point to celebrate mass with the kids after classes, so the parents who are giving a ride to their kids can attend the mass, and with this heavenly celebration, it encourages the parents to attend mass every Sunday with the family. The kids introduced me to their parents, and it makes me overwhelm with joy. I kneeled at the Blessed Sacrament…after each mass…What an awesome wonder…The Holy Mass is Heaven on Earth. Thanks for your spiritual input. God Bless. PEACE.

  7. hi i am sure you have heard it a thousand times and will hear it a thousand times more – you are an inspiration to catechists world wide and we praise God for that. just reading the reponses makes me realise we have much more in common than sharing the same ministry but also we share the same challenges world wide. Mass attendance, children’s behavior in class and the list just goes on and on. is it a catholic thing? is it the norm? will we ever be able to overcome these challenges? when you listen to the applogies its like – mummy and daddy went out, we slept out and it just goes on and on!!! Be blessed.

  8. I agree it’s a delicate situation. Usually I challenge the kids about their persisitence… if they need a ride to a friend’s house or another activity, they can be pretty persistent. I ask them to ask their parents if they can please go to Mass as a family because they believe it is important to worship together as family.
    One of our catechists always incorporates a few questions about something from the previous Sunday Mass in her class; hoping to motivate the kids to want to attend so they can participate in the class discussion. No recriminations ~ just a very brief discussion.
    If that doesn’t work out, they can watch Mass on the website… not a great substitute at all, but better than not participating at all.
    God’s blessings, especially for our children!

  9. I have 2nd graders that will be going to their first Reconciliation Rite. In discussing the 3rd Commandment, I ask if any of them can drive. After all the chuckles, we talk about attending & if they are not at Mass how they can explain to Father the reason. Thus, if no adult could transport them, it is not a sin for them. Then in the hope of encouaging attendance, I give them something different each week to look for or listen for during Mass. (How many times did Father make the Sign of the Cross, what are the colors of the vestments, whose gospel did we hear, etc.) Those that attend, excitedly come in with the answer. I also have parent volunteers that come in at times & they see this as well. Hopefully the word will spread & even if it is just one more attending, that will be a blessing!

  10. I wanted to see what other catechists thought about mass attendance. I teach 8th grade, Confirmation class. I was disheartened to see how many were not attending mass and I used the idea if you wanted to get to the mall, game, party or movie, you would ask someone to take you, to get a ride. I even told them to ask their parents to go with them. I am pleased to tell you that 3 out of the 4 are attending mass and it makes my heart rejoyce! I feel the children need encouragement and they will respond through prayers and the Holy Spirit. God bless.

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