How to Take Your Kids to Mass
By: Kayla Faherty
I joined the Catholic Church two years ago. And as a mother to two young children, almost two and four years old, I will admit that I often struggle in preparing for and attending Mass. I have searched for tried and true advice from mothers who have been there, and sometimes the knowledge that I am not alone is helpful. I am no expert, far from it, however I have discovered that there are basically two ways to take your kids to Mass. Perhaps these scenarios sound familiar to you.
Scenario One: The night before Mass I do little to prepare. I have not selected outfits for the children. Perhaps I have decided what breakfast would be, something quick and easy. But that’s about it. If we are attending a Vigil Mass I probably haven’t even chosen a snack for the children to eat beforehand. If it is a morning Mass I rush about preparing food, leaving little time to eat and less time to get dressed and ready. While the rest of the family finishes eating, I hurry around gathering items for the diaper bag. Towards the end of the meal I start barking commands to finish up as we leave the dishes in the sink. Then I herd the children to the bathroom. I hover over them as they quickly brush their teeth. I change their clothes as fast as possible, realizing we are already a few minutes late. I yell at them to put their shoes and coats on, and get flustered when a zipper sticks. We hurry to the car and get everyone buckled. When we pull out of the garage we are already five minutes late, and I am tense. I don’t talk much. When we arrive at Church we search for a parking spot. We’ve missed the bells and walk as quickly as we can. As we enter Church we might say a quick hello to the greeter. Then we squeeze into a pew and try to pay attention to the Scripture reading we entered in the middle of. We shush the children as we strain to hear a complete sentence of the homily. Then, for the rest of Mass, almost miraculously, the children sit quietly and so allow us to quiet our hearts to focus on the Lord.
Scenario Two: The night before Mass I do much to prepare. I have selected outfits for the children, making sure they are clean and readily accessible. I have decided what breakfast would be, something nutritional and filling. If we are attending a Vigil Mass I have a simple snack prepared for the children to eat in the car, something that is not very messy. If it is a morning Mass I prepare breakfast and we have enough time to eat before getting dressed and ready. I packed the diaper bag earlier so it is ready to go. Towards the end of the meal, when it seems everyone is finished, we clean the dishes and run the dishwasher if necessary. Then the children head to the bathroom to brush their teeth. I help them get changed. I assist in putting shoes and coats on. We walk to the car together and get everyone buckled. We pull out of the garage on time, in order to get to Church a few minutes early. We might talk about the Scripture reading, or listen to praise and worship music. When we arrive at Church we park the car and walk in as the bells begin. As we enter Church we say hello to the greeter and hold the door open for the folks coming in behind us. Then we find a pew with ample space and listen to the announcements. We try our best to focus during the Scripture readings and homily, speaking quietly with the children when necessary. Then, for the rest of Mass, disaster strikes. As we try to get the kids to stop playing tag in the pew and tight-rope walking on kneeler, we strain to pay attention.
My point is that none of this really matters. Of course we all strive to prepare well for Mass with children. But sometimes the best laid plans still end in crying infants and screaming toddlers. As I consider why our family attends Mass together I keep coming back to Hebrews 10:25: “We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another.” It is so easy to become discouraged when taking our family to Mass, to worry about every little thing, to rush around and be frenzied. But when we let ourselves become harried it is harder to focus on what truly matters. What is most important? So this is me, encouraging you. You want to know how to take your kids to Mass? Just do it.