This is the fifth and final article in a series about liturgical catechesis.
Many young people in parish catechetical programs don’t go to weekend Mass for a variety of reasons. Even so, catechists should always offer an inviting expectation that weekend Mass attendance is the norm. Here are some simple strategies.
1. Teach the importance of Sunday.
We all know the Third Commandment: “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.” Read from Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Dies Domini, on the subject. “Sunday,” he wrote, “is a day which is at the very heart of the Christian life.” Help families recover a sense that Sunday is not complete without the Mass.
2. Teach the meaning of the Mass and the role of the people.
All catechists should study the Mass: what we do, why we do it, and what it means. Share what you learn about the Mass with students and promote full, conscious, and active participation. This is not just part of preparation for First Holy Communion. More importantly, an effective liturgical catechist understands how to live the Mass and shares the value of that.
3. Teach both the meal and the sacrifice.
Too often, we teach children that the Mass is only a meal. We do come to the table of the Lord to be nourished by Word and Sacrament. We also come to reenact the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; we offer ourselves—not just the bread and wine—to be changed into people of sacrificial love. (See CCC 901 and Lumen Gentium 34) Teach children that by offering themselves as living sacrifices, they can be changed to become more like Jesus.
4. Always make classroom connections.
As mentioned earlier in this series, liturgical catechists integrate elements of the Mass into their classrooms, such as the colors of the liturgical season, symbols used during the liturgy, postures and gestures of the Mass, and the verbal formulas used during the Mass. This helps young people develop a comfort-level with ritual action, language, and symbols. These connections reinforce the importance of the liturgy and its significance for all Catholics.
5. Connect the domestic church to the liturgy.
Try sending home prayer and activity ideas as each new season of the liturgical year begins. Invite families to study the readings together by subscribing to the Sunday Connection. You can e-mail parents links to good liturgical videos. You can also start your own Pinterest board for great ideas and share those boards with families.
6. Encourage family Mass attendance.
A catechist I once knew invited families of his first graders to meet in the back of church before Mass and to sit together as a class. After Mass, they went out for donuts. This approach can help non-participating parents become comfortable with the community and come to know one another as part of the Body of Christ. The most important thing we can do for children and youth is to give them a sense that they are a vital part of the Church.
What are your ideas to encourage Mass attendance?
Read the first four articles in the series:
Why Become a Liturgical Catechist?
Sights, Sounds, and Movements: Connecting the Liturgy to the Classroom
Smells and Bells: Props for the Catechetical Session
Four Ways to Connect to the Sunday Gospel