How to get more out of Mass

Admit it: Mass is not always a prayerful experience for parents. Simply arriving at Mass on time with the family bathed and dressed is a triumph. Parents of toddlers have committed to an hour of wriggle containment; parents of teens may have started their morning with a debate on why Mass is necessary. Probably half the parents in the church had to find a lost article of clothing for a child that morning; maybe another quarter had to send a child in to change for wearing something inappropriate. And most parents also broke up an argument in the car on the way there.Perhaps upon seeing families, ushers should say “Congratulations!” rather than “Welcome.”

So what draws us to Mass when the couch is comfortable, the TV is on, and the kids would rather stay in their pajamas?

The reasons families attend Mass are diverse as families themselves, but among those families who make it to Mass on a weekly basis, the main answer is prayer. Sunday Mass is an opportunity to set aside time to be centered on God. It can be an opportunity to be filled for the week ahead.

Sheila, mother of two teens and two young grade schoolers, says, “The time I find to be most prayerful is just before Mass starts, when we first enter our pew and I kneel to say a prayer of greeting to God. It gives me an opportunity to consciously shut out the outside world and turn my thoughts to more spiritual things.”

Andrea, a mother of two teens, says that while she does not agree with every teaching of the church, her faith propels her to weekly Sunday Mass. She is able to separate her feelings about the church and its fumbles from her relationship with God.

“When the bread and wine are raised at offertory, I also raise in prayer myself, those I pray for, and the earth,” she says. “I pray that as these elements are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, I am likewise transformed into the embodiment of Jesus in the world.”

Anne, a mother of five, agrees that it is the consecration where she feels the most prayerful—and it’s this sense of God’s presence she wants to pass on to her kids. “I find the most moving part of the Mass is the consecration. When my children were younger, I let them fidget in the pew, but at the consecration, I would let them know that this is the most precious part. I’d tell them to kneel and be still,” she says.

For Moe, a mother of four, a simple sentence inspires her each week. “My most prayerful moment is when we say, ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.’ It’s amazing how that sentence can prepare me to receive Christ and feel as though I am worthy to receive Christ,” she says.

Pam, a mother of young teens, is most often moved when there is an infant baptism at Mass. “If seeing a new baby isn’t proof of God’s goodness, I am not sure what is,” she says. “My girls look over to me to see if I have tears in my eyes, and I always do.”

Children’s different ages sometimes determine when a parent feels the most prayerful. “Before I had kids, my most prayerful time at Mass was the quiet after communion,” says Stephanie, a mother of three children under 3. “But now that’s changed. When everyone is quiet and the homily is being preached or the readings are being proclaimed, I’m so busy trying to make sure the kids are quiet that I don’t get to enjoy those moments or get everything out of them that I can. However, when everyone is singing, the kids are happy—they can make some noise and I can sing with them and have a truly prayerful moment.”

Molly, a mother of three, also focuses on the songs but for a different reason. “There are times when the choir sings a song that I sang every day at grade school Mass, then again in the high school church choir, and now my children sing it at their grade school Mass,” she says. “We are joined together in song that day, but also in shared history. It is through the song that I feel connected to my family, with the other Catholics in our church, and over time in the Catholic tradition.”

Congratulations. You made it to Mass. Wherever in the liturgy you find your prayerful moment, may it give you grace during the week ahead.

—by Annemarie Scobey  from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.

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