Photo copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo. All rights reserved.
So maybe your kids love going to Mass and look forward to it every Sunday and get dressed quickly and jump in the car with smiles on their faces. If this is your family, feel free to stop reading; this probably won’t apply to you. If by chance you have a child who depending on the day, isn’t that excited to get dressed and wants to stay in their pajamas at home, maybe you can relate. Now my children are lovely and they do participate in Mass, and they pray, and they talk about Jesus, but there are some Sundays when getting out of the house for 10:30 Mass feels like an all-out battle. What I’ve come to realize is that, just like me, my kids have preferences and some days, they’d prefer to stay home and relax in pjs instead of putting on their “church clothes” and heading out the door in a rush. Luckily, I know the beauty and the importance of Mass; otherwise I’d say I’d have to agree with them. See, I know I’ll get to receive Jesus and get to hear about His works and His mission from the Priest, but they’re still learning that concept and they’re not sacramental age yet so it might seem like something “just the grown ups get to do.”
The bigger problem with the “getting out the door battle,” is that sometimes the less-than-happy pouty-face behavior can spill over into Mass. I wish I could say it ends by the welcoming song, but last week, I have to admit we got to see it throughout the whole Mass! Something had set one of my children off before we left and it was a “game on” challenge to keep them focused and attentive. What the Lord let me realize, through my seemigly constant redirection, was that the behavior I was experiencing was just a mirror of the way I can treat the Lord at different points in my life. Just the day before this happened, I had just been reminded about how one of the signs of a bad behavior is shown with the desire to hide it. As my child wanted to act out during Mass, they would turn and look the other way, hiding their actions from me. I would catch them and redirect their vision to the Altar. Then they would fall limp during kneeling and I would gently lift them back up. During the consecration they were to busy looking at the pew and needed the “head lift” to remind them of where our focus should be. All I kept thinking was, this must be how Mary and Jesus lead us. When I sin, I want to turn away and hide, but Mary is there as a mother to redirect me to her Son. When I refuse to look at Him, she encourages me to simply look up. I kept my arm around my child, allowing a small gap for them to roam around in and envisioned the Lord with His arm around me, keeping me in a safe space near him, but still allowing me to make my own choices.
To say that my children are the only ones who struggle to pay attention would be a lie. I get distracted, my eyes wander and I lose my way, but luckily we have the perfect Mother and Son to guide us back to the Father. If only I weren’t so stubborn! At least I don’t have to wonder where he gets it.
How do you gently encourage your children to engage in Mass when they’d rather be doing anything else but that?