Based on the number of Catholic mommy Facebook groups I belong to, I know that no matter the age of your child and the circumstance of your life, there is nothing easy about bringing your family to Mass. I’d even venture to bet that because of the insanity that is 2020, and the break in our usual routines due to the Coronavirus, this task is now more difficult than ever.
Multiple times a week, I see a post from another mother, looking for support, wisdom, and practical advice in dealing with the difficulties of bringing their children to Church. Every time I see it, I empathize completely. I only have one child: a squirmy, bold, two-year-old daughter, and most Masses feel like a combination of a wrestling match and a rodeo.
Emotionally, Mass has not been the same for me since having this child and that is really difficult. However, I also know that my emotions change nothing about the objective truth of what is taking place. Thus, when I read these posts, the only advice that surfaces within my exhausted mommy brain is, “bring them to Mass, anyway…” and at first, that may seem kind of heartless.
Do It Anyway
There’s a fairly famous poem entitled “Do It Anyway” that was written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta. It’s a beautiful testament to the reason one should always do the right thing amidst the everyday difficulties faced by everyone in every society in every generation. Though it was definitely because of the Missionaries of Charity that this poem became so well known, most likely, Mother Teresa and her sisters are not the original source. They merely adapted it to have a more spiritual tone.
It is the sentiment of this poem that rings through my heart and mind when I read of the struggles parents face in bringing little hearts for which they are responsible to the Eucharistic Table. Thus, I thought an additional adaption of the original poem might be especially encouraging for moms (and dads) who find themselves deep within this struggle.
Bring Your Kids to Mass Anyway
When your family has a late Saturday night, everyone will move slowly Sunday morning, be unable to locate clean Mass clothes and whine about having to go. Rally the troops, wear whatever is most presentable, and bring your kids to Mass anyway.
Sometimes their hair won’t be brushed, their socks won’t match, and the only outfit you can get your five-year-old to actually put on his naked body is his old halloween costume. Let the kids look a bit disheveled, unkept, and festive, and bring your kids to Mass anyway.
Toddlers are often restless and resistant to small confined spaces for extended periods of time; they’ll climb up and down and all around and make multiple attempts to escape and race up the main aisle. Contain them as best you can and bring your kids to Mass anyway.
Siblings often have to be strategically placed within the pew and bribed with the promise of a donut afterwards to keep them from mischief and misbehavior for a solid hour. Strategize, bribe, and bring your kids to Mass anyway.
Teenagers are often doubtful, defiant and unwilling to go to a Mass that they “don’t get anything out of;” they’ll follow along, go through the motions, and possibly pout before, during, and after. Bring your sullen teenagers to Mass anyway.
Someone in the congregation will usually feel the need to comment on the size of your family; it may be too big by society’s standards, or it may be too small by “Catholic” standards. Bring your family—whatever size it is—to Mass anyway.
The woman in front of you will scoff at you, as you have (in her eyes) done some form of parenting wrong (it could be nursing your infant, correcting mild-misbehavior of your eight-year-old, or allowing your teenage son with intellectual disabilities to complete his Catholic activity pad). She’ll “graciously” remind you that there is a cry room for such behavior and possibly make you angry or embarrassed. Ignore the opinion of others and keep bringing your kids to Mass anyway.
At some point in parenthood, one of your children will have an emotional meltdown during the Eucharistic prayer and you will quickly scoop her up and hustle her to the back in the hopes you didn’t disrupt things for too long… only to have your pastor scold you after Mass for being irreverent during the most sacred part of the Liturgy. Trust your own intentions, forgive Father, and bring your kids to Mass anyway.
At times you’ll wonder if it’s all really worth it, because Mass is always a battle, and even though you believe whole-heartedly in what’s taking place, most of the time you’re so worn and distracted, it feels as though you yourself haven’t gotten anything out of Mass. Lean on Truth, push through clouded emotions, and bring yourself and your kids to Mass anyway.
Once (or twice, or multiple times) you may leave Mass in tears, because raising kids in the Faith is so hard, and you may not be getting much support from fellow parishioners, the pastor, or even your spouse. Remember that the Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and bring your kids to Mass anyway.
In the end, you’ll stand before our loving and merciful God, and you’ll see it was never even about you and them. It was always between you and God anyway.
Negligence vs. Heroism
Saint Therese of Lisieux once said that what often appears to be negligence to the human eye is actually viewed by God as an act of heroism. She said this in response to judgmental sisters who were questioning the lack of action of another sister. God had given Therese insight into this same sister’s heart and suffering. Thus Therese knew that “Sister X” was truly giving her all to God through her work, even though it looked like negligence, laziness, and incapability to the rest of the convent.
As a mother, this understanding provides such great comfort and encouragement. When my daughter misbehaves at Mass, and people look around (or don’t, but still make faces) it can be incredibly disheartening and discouraging. Sometimes it even makes me question my parenting methods. However, this wisdom from the Little Flower helps me redirect my focus to the right place: myself before God. And there, God sees every parent who struggles through the difficulties of bringing their children to Mass as a hero engaged in a great battle: a battle for souls.
So, to all my fellow parents out there fighting the good fight, do whatever you have to do to get your family to Mass. You are a hero. And what happens at Mass is not about what anyone else thinks of you or your family, anyway.
Does anyone else struggle with bringing your kids to Mass? Let us know in the comments—we’re here to encourage you!