This post is not intended to make anyone feel guilty for not attending Mass. Something the pandemic is teaching me repeatedly is that everyone is experiencing it in their own way. So, if you haven’t dragged your kids (or yourself) back to Mass yet – that’s okay. I am not about to lecture you, judge you, or condemn you!
When St. Mary’s announced their first Mass post-quarantine, one of my first thoughts was, “Great! An excuse to get out of the house without the kids!” Honestly, my first thought was not that I can receive Jesus in the Eucharist again; it was that I could get away from my kids.
We tuned in to virtual Mass every Sunday during quarantine and we even watched Easter Mass at the parish Kurt and I met and fell in love at which was super sweet and nostalgic. We semi-forced our kids to sit still on the couch while Mass was on in our living room but inevitably each week broke down and let the kids run around and play while we tried to pay attention.
We started bringing our cups of coffee with us to the couch, a snack, our journals, etc. While we did journal some great thoughts during quarantine and still took something from each homily, our Mass experience was vastly different during quarantine than we are accustomed to.
So when Mass started back up again in person, both Kurt and I were eager to reserve our spots and attend in person. For our first Sunday back, we left the kids with grandma and grandpa and attending Mass turned in to a great opportunity for Kurt and I to “go on a date.” Getting dressed up for Mass felt rejuvenating. Sitting with Kurt in the pew, in silence, before and during Mass was wonderful. When I received communion again after months away, I did almost cry with joy.
The whole Mass experience is so beneficial: a cleansing of my soul after a week of yelling at my kids, arguing with Kurt, worrying about the pandemic, stressing over who to listen to and who not to listen to, swearing under my breath, and so much more. Attending Mass on Sundays and driving to the physical building, sitting in the wooden pews, surrounded by my parish is such a healing experience that I do not do at any other time during the week.
It’s therapeutic, it’s calming, it’s restorative, and it’s always what I need most on Sundays. I almost never walk out of Mass thinking that I should not have gone in the first place. Almost. There have been one or two Sundays when I walk out of St. Mary’s with a crying child wondering why I even came and why do I even bother.
The reasons why I love attending Mass so much are exactly why I am dragging my kids to church on Sundays. I remember growing up and the expectation that I be at Mass with my family with the only excusable absence being sickness. I resented my parents at times for forcing me to go but resentment soon gave way to joy when my church’s youth activities drew me and my friends in. I attended multiple retreats every year during high school and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
Several years later, I am still dedicated to celebrating Mass together with my parish in person. I bring my kids with me to share with them my faith in Jesus Christ; my faith which lights up my life with love, peace, and joy. I want them to soak in the reverence of Mass, the rituals of celebrating our faith together, the inclusivity of our universal church, and the fact that Jesus loves them so much He was willing to die on the cross. Helping them enjoy Mass will supplement their formal Catholic education. Teaching them the profound and unparalleled importance of the Eucharist will give them something concrete on which to build their faith and their relationship with Jesus. And at the very least, they will learn to be okay with sitting in silence and not to interrupt someone when they are speaking.
So, yes, most Masses with my children feel like a physical workout, a tedious whispering battle to get them to be quiet, and a constant negotiation for compliance and reverence. However, I truly believe that if we just keep bringing our kids every Sunday and we show them how we hold our hands and the joy we receive from singing and receiving the Eucharist, they will learn to love their faith as we do.
We greatly appreciate everyone who encourages us each week with a smile or a kind comment. Early on in parenting, I worried about bringing a baby to Mass: will Elizabeth be disruptive, will she annoy someone, will I even get anything out of it? Now, thanks to the kindness of parishioners, strangers, and priests, I don’t mind if my kids make some noise or distract a little bit. If it helps you feel more comfortable at Mass with your kids, it is totally worth it!
If you do see us having a more difficult Mass experience than usual or even if it’s going really well, we love your encouragement, your smiles, and your loving comments. I’m sure other parents with young children feel similarly, so help us all feel more welcomed and supported at Mass.
Thanks so much for your time and attention!
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