We’re all familiar with the question that children ask when we are taking them somewhere they are excited about: “Are we there yet?!” Unfortunately, when it comes to taking our children to church on Sunday, the question often turns into, “Why do we have to go?”
It can be challenging for parents who want their children to develop an appreciation for the centrality of Sunday Eucharist, when they receive “push-back” instead of enthusiasm. Try as we might, the kids compare the experience of going to Mass with other experiences in their lives and conclude that “it’s boring.” Our goal is not to convince them that the Mass is fun and exciting but rather, to help them develop a deeper understanding of what it means to worship and why it is so critical to our spiritual health.
The first thing that I tell parents who encounter the question, “Why do we have to go to Mass?” is to respond (and I’m being only half-facetious) by saying, “Because Mommy and Daddy are broken. And so are you, sweetie. Get in the car.” The point is that we don’t go to Mass because it’s fun or exciting but because we are in need of being “fixed.” Ultimately, we believe that we need help from beyond ourselves when it comes to avoiding sin. We need a Savior. We go to Mass to be saved, because we are incapable of saving ourselves.
In an article for Together Magazine (a Loyola Press resource for God’s Gift: Eucharist), my friend Tom McGrath shares “8 Reasons to Bring Your Child to Mass Regularly.” What I like about this article is that Tom does encourage parents to enter the debate of “why should we go to Mass” at the superficial level of fun and excitement but delves deeper into the existential realities that are associated with worship. Tom asserts that, “Children learn to value what their parents and extended family value, and they learn not so much by what we say as what we do.” Here are his first four reasons why it’s important to take our children to Mass. (I’ve added my own thoughts below each.)
Taking our children to Mass will:
- “reveal their true identity as beloved children of God. In a fast-changing world, children need to know that they are valued and loved.”
[I refer to this as “changing their narrative,” which is something that people do in 12-step groups to overcome their addictions. As human beings we are “addicted”—prone—to sin and in need of recovery. Our tendency to sin is driven by false narratives, which need to be replaced by the narrative revealed by God through Jesus Christ. Talk to your children about the narrative Jesus is proposing in Sunday’s Gospel.]
- “shape their values. People take on the values of those with whom they associate. Join together with the people who strive to follow Jesus’ way.”
[We aim to teach our children that they will be known by the company they keep. We can set an example for them by associating with people who are striving to live lives of holiness.]
- “connect them with many generations. Mass unites people of all ages.”
[While children long to be with those of their own age, they also benefit greatly from associating with people of other generations, especially the elderly. If your children comment that, “Most of the people at church are old,” use that to your advantage to introduce them to some wise elders.]
- “populate their imaginations with stories of faith. Expose your child to the stories that lead to abundant life.”
[This reinforces the point I made in #1, since stories are the vehicle by which a narrative is formed. Help your children to learn the stories proclaimed in Scripture at Mass by talking about them and asking about their understanding of the stories.]
In a future post, I’ll share reasons 5–8.