By Colleen Pressprich
As parents, we know that we are the primary educators of our children in the Catholic faith. Just as we are responsible for making sure they eat balanced meals and get enough sleep, we are obligated to take them to mass each Sunday.
But, as every parent knows, that’s not always an easy thing.
Convincing a child to sit quietly for an hour is no small feat, especially when it’s compounded by the feeling that all eyes are on you with every small sound or movement. And while I can’t promise you that these tips will guarantee smooth sailing every time for your family at church, they have been hugely helpful in making mass far less stressful for our family each week.
Play mass outside of mass
Maria Montessori is most well known for the schools around the world that bear her name, but she was also a devout Catholic who wrote a beautiful book on the mass for children. In it, she advocates teaching children about the mass outside of church because this will allow them to engage during it. She says that if we spend mass offering explanations, we cheat our children out of experiencing the beauty and mystery of it. I have found this to be sound advice. My kids pay much closer attention when they know what’s going on.
To that end, we play mass at home.
Playing mass, where my kids act out the parts of the mass, allows me the opportunity to teach them church vocabulary in a way that doesn’t feel like school.
There are many different ways to do this. You can purchase a child-sized mass set for your kids to play with or DIY your own from thrift store finds. We’ve done both over the years and they are still some of the most used toys on our shelf.
And Brother Francis has a new church play set that is perfect for this! It has 28 wooden pieces including the priest, deacon, altar servers, and all of the sacred vessels used during mass. The box even doubles as a Church. It is absolutely adorable.
Sit in the Front Row
This one might sound a little counterintuitive, but if you want your kids to be more engaged during mass, you’re going to want to sit front and center.
When my kids can see what’s going on, they are much more likely to engage, so we always sit in the first or second pew. I do make sure we are on the end though, just in case the baby or toddler needs to be taken out.
Make a Mass Bag
At our house, we have a colorful tote bag that is only for mass. Inside it has everything we need to keep little hands, minds, and hearts engaged during the service. I rotate out what’s inside every month or so, but it always has the following inside it:
Sometimes I’ll add a rosary pop-it or a small saint doll. If we have any Catholic stickers, I’ll toss those in as well.
Because this bag is just for when we go to church, the items in it stay new and interesting to my kids. When they start to get squirrely during mass, I’ll pull something out for them to use.
Attending mass with them is one of the most important things any of us can do for our kids. I hope that these three tips have given you some ideas for ways to make it easier for your family.
Colleen Pressprich is the author of Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children and The Women Doctors of the Church. She lives with her husband and children in Michigan where they love everything about spring, summer, and fall, and hate the winter. You can find more of her writing at elevatortoheaven.com.