By Mariana Kelly
Having a basic understanding of any given topic is a key element in participation and a general interest in the subject at hand. With this in mind, why have so many of us wondered why we cannot get our children to listen and participate in Mass as we would like? It comes down to this – they cannot love and respect what they do not know and understand.
For explanations sake, I will compare it to watching sport. Personally, I have little focus or interest in the sport that I am watching if I have no understanding of what is going on. I will sit there blankly, often bored, and eventually will find something else to fill my attention. However, when I know the history of a sport, know the rules of the game and can anticipate what may come next, I am fully engaged! I immerse myself in the environment and atmosphere of the game and those around me. I participate with cheering and calling out. I feel the importance of each kick, goal or whatever it may be. I want to go, and I want to watch the game.
Now, I will adamantly state there is no comparison in beauty, sacredness or significance between the Holy Mass and a sporting event, but the analogy still stands. When I understand what the sport is – understanding what is happening and why – I am focused, interested, and participate in a manner which is appropriate. So too with Mass, when your children are taught what is happening and why they should act with reverence it will be much easier for them to participate and be engaged in the greatest gift we have been given.
While we are still attending Mass from home, this is an opportune time to teach our children about it. Without the rush to get ready or arrive on time, with out the worry of disturbing others if we whispers to our children to explain what is happening – right now we can take this opportunity to instruct and explain before, during and after the Mass.
You may like to read and discuss the readings of the day so you can answer any questions they may have. This way they may get a little more out of the homily by already have a better understanding of the readings.
Share with them what Mass is – that it is the re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Review the main parts of the Mass:
Click here for a short illustrated video which summarise these two main parts.
It is helpful to give your children age appropriate Mass booklets so they can follow along the Mass. Ones which include simple explanations of what is going on and why this is included in the Mass are very helpful. (These resources are readily available online, at Catholic bookstores or at your church’s Piety Stall). Encourage them to participate in the responses and hymns – even children from a very young age can begin to learn the prayers and responses we say at Mass (eg. the Sign of the Cross, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia and the Our Father). Speak to your children about what is happening in each part of the Mass eg. During the readings and homily, “now we will listen to the word of God in the Gospel and hear Father speak to us about it” or, during the consecration, “this is the most important and sacred part of the Mass, when the bread and wine that we see turn into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ”. Emphasise that this is a time of prayer and petition. A time to give our whole selves to adoring and reverencing our God who loves us so much. The He is there with us really and truly present.
Once Mass has finished talk about what they understood from the homily or if there was something that happened during Mass they didn’t understand. Kids naturally imitate what they see and experience so you may use this as an opportunity to encourage your younger children to play Mass at home – this will reinforce the lessons you have been giving about the different parts of the Mass, the signs and symbolism, the items and features that are used in the celebration of Mass (tabernacle, chalice, vestments etc) and allow them to practice how they should behave during this time.
While it takes practice to find your rhythm in teaching the Mass and instructing as we attend it each week, it will be well worth it to see your children actively participate in this beautiful gift. Again, make the most of the opportunity of having Mass from home – create a sacred space while watching Mass, model what you expect from them and help them focus with resources and instructing them through each of the parts of Mass.
Resources for Younger Children: