Welcome to the next installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email KRISTA to submit your question.
My child doesn’t like going to Mass. How can I help him/her to love and appreciate it? How important is my child’s attire for Mass? Should I just be glad that he/she is going with me?
– Grumbling Mass Goer
Dearest Grumbling Mass Goer,
Every Saturday, at 3:30 p.m., my siblings and I grumbled our way into my dad’s pick up truck for the 4:00 vigil Mass. It didn’t matter what else we were doing, we were going to Mass. We left parties early more times than I can count. I did not appreciate this as a kid. My siblings and I dragged our feet every week, protesting with complaints and half hearted (at best) effort at dressing appropriately for the occasion.
I should mention that I was an altar server, on a serving “crew” that was often called upon for funeral and wedding Masses. I went to a summer camp for Catholic youth every year, had a holy water font in my room, and regularly rearranged and organized the bookshelf that held my sacramentals and spiritual books. I only ever got in trouble at school three times. Once was for refusing to take off a purity ring that was “against dress code”, and once for “skipping art class” because I stayed in the sanctuary for a few minutes to pray after serving the 8:30 am Mass. Our principal laughed and apologized for giving me the two days of detention she was obligated to dole out.
I loved Jesus and had a deep devotion to our Holy Mother. I loved being Catholic, and yet I absolutely hated going to Mass. However, that didn’t last forever. I did not attend Mass during my college years unless I was visiting home. In my early twenties, I wasn’t so sure there was a good God at all. I was working on a master’s degree before I started going to Mass occasionally on my own, and slowly came back to the faith as an adult. If I’m being completely honest with you, I still don’t always love and appreciate the Mass the way it deserves to be loved and appreciated, even though I still walk through the doors every Saturday evening. All too often, attending Mass is another thing to do, not the source and summit of my happiness.
So, yes, celebrate the fact that she is going with you! Every time her butt is next to you in the pew is a win. As a kid, my dad’s devotion to getting us to Mass was annoying. As an adult, I’m in awe of his faithfulness and beyond grateful for the example he set for us. It was his actions, not his words that taught us the importance of going to Mass.
I’m sure you know the parable of the ten virgins, right? All ten of them went out to await the arrival of the bridegroom. The wise ones brought their lamps and extra oil while the foolish ones brought only their lamps. Scripture says the bridegroom was delayed and the foolish virgins asked the wise virgins for some of their extra oil. The parable says that the wise virgins basically said “get your own.”
I always thought that was harsh until it was explained to me this way. The bridegroom is Jesus, and the oil is our relationship with Him. We can’t give anyone our relationship with Jesus. They need to cultivate their own relationship with Him in their own way and their own time. You are doing the best thing you can by providing your daughter access to the sacred. Rest easy, mama. Jesus is pursuing your baby’s heart every moment of every day and He will never stop pursuing her. Her relationship with the Lord and with the mass will almost certainly look different than yours, and that’s exactly how it should be. Your desire for her to love the mass is good. Continue to surrender the logistics at the foot of the cross, trusting that we serve a God who holds back no good gifts from His children and the ultimate gift is Himself.