Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on December 18, 2019 as: Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans: Why Take Your Kids to Sunday Mass?
Okay, so picture this: the car’s digital clock reads 9:27 A.M. and you’re thinking to yourself, “Awesome, maybe we’ll actually make it to Mass on time this week… finally!” (Keep in mind that you only live two minutes away from your parish.) So, you and your wife scramble to get your three kids out of the car and into the church before the entrance hymn begins.
Luckily, you made it on time. You think to yourself, “Please, let us get through at least the first part of the Mass without me having to drag one of my children out!”
Let the Shenanigans Begin
But of course, that’s too much to ask for.
Two minutes into the first reading, your 18-month-old son starts to lose focus and wants to make a run for it. The granola bar and sippy cup of water you gave him weren’t enough to keep him occupied, so you’re stuck holding a squirming, twisting toddler and sweating bullets.
It’s a battle you know you’re not going to win, so you leave your oldest son in the pew by himself for a few minutes until your wife comes back—she had to take your daughter out for a bathroom break five minutes into the liturgy!
As you’re struggling to keep your sanity, you wonder why you even bother bringing your kids to Mass. People stare at you as if you have an extraterrestrial being dancing behind them in the pew. “My kids are insane!” you lament to yourself. However, despite the enormous “inconvenience” and “stress” it brings, there are three reasons why you refuse to stop bringing your kids to Mass.
Where You Experience Truth
First of all, you go to Mass because it’s true. Your wife once gave the shortest apologetic statement in history when someone asked her why she converted to Catholicism: “Because it’s true!” Your faith may not be as strong as hers, but you know that you continue to go to Mass on Sundays because it’s a tradition that started with the Apostles—the first friends and followers of Christ—2,000 years ago. Plus, you can’t deny the fact that you need the gift of the Eucharist. Truth is not always easy, but without it, you’re nothing. And let’s face it, humans crave the truth and the Catholic Church provides the truest explanation for the wonders and strangeness of reality.
Eucharist is the Source and Summit
The second reason you refuse to give up on bringing your kids to Mass is because the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1324 states, “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.” You’re willing to deal with the difficulties of bringing young children to church because the peak of the Catholic faith is found in the Mass.
You Find Peace in the Mass
The third and final reason is that the Mass provides you with peace. You’ve heard a Catholic priest describe the liturgy as a theological GPS that orients us back to the correct path when we fall away. My main role as a father is getting my children to Heaven.
According to the Catholic Church, “The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society” (CCC 2207).
How may I expect my children to love God if I did not establish a habit to visit the Divine Presence and rest in His grace? How do I lead my family on the path of true freedom if I do not experience freedom myself?
Where You Can Visit God
The answers are incredibly simple—visit God and visit frequently! My father was [and still is] an amazing example of holiness. He is patient, slow to anger, and consistent in his faith. Looking by at how he accomplished the tremendous feat of raising my siblings and I, I realized that the biggest constant is his life [besides my mom] was the Eucharist. God fed my own biological father through this sacrament.
The Holy Spirit increased my father’s inherent gift of patience to a profound and loving level—I need to follow that example. My youngest child still has not called me “daddy” nor even uttered the word! Somedays I struggle to cope with this developmental delay. I noticed that my 18 month old will immediately fold his hands in prayer when I begin the Prayer Before Meals blessing. Seeing those little fingers crossed together humbled me. This small act has made me prouder than anything else. Life is not about how smart, or beautiful, or successful you are. Life is about love and truth. The Holy Spirit sent me a reminder through the person of my toddler.