Teaching Children about the Mass

This Lent, one of our resolutions is to teach our children more about the Mass. I will share some of my ideas, goals, and purposes. If you are not Catholic, I hope some of these ideas can apply to your family when you go to your  place of worship.

My goals for Lent and my kids are:

  1. Understand that the main reason we attend Mass is to worship God. We love Jesus, and we want to spend time with Him during the powerful prayer of the mass. It’s not about what we “get out of” Mass, but rather what we can give to God during Mass.  I want my children to know that Mass is a time to spend time with God in a special way. I want them to look forward to it and appreciate time at Mass. I hope they find it to be a peaceful and prayerful time that is full of truth, goodness, and beauty. I have no desire for my kids to be “good” at Mass if they will never have a love for God. The top priorities are to know, love, and serve the Lord, and to be happy with Him in Heaven for all eternity. These are big lofty goals for young children, but as an educator, it is good that I know the long term goal. It makes it easier to set short term, attainable goals when there is a long term goal.
  2. I want my children to know the mechanics of Mass better. As a “cradle Catholic,” I remember it took a long time to really know what to expect at mass. The mass is rich in scripture, symbolism, and prayer types. To a child, it can be confusing when you do not know what is happening. I do not fault my parents or church because they did try to teach me; it takes time to learn it.
  3. Teach the children more memorized prayers and responses at Mass. Once you know the Mass parts, it is much easier to worship our Lord. I would like my children to know the responses better to be able to participate more fully. As a child, I remember saying the mass parts “in my head” quietly because I was shy and self-conscience…and no one asked me to say them aloud. I would like my children to learn to say the Mass parts aloud because we are a church family. We want to hear each others’ voices. There is strength in saying prayers aloud at Mass as a community of believers.
  4. Make a “Mass Rules” book. My kids often forget some of the rules at Mass…such as standing up straight, not touching their siblings during Mass, and how to fold their hands or arms in the Communion line. These habits can help a child or adult focus on what’s most important: God. We are working on making a Mass book to remember what can and cannot be done at Mass. We’ll make it into a handwriting, sentence writing, and drawing activity.
  5. Print and assemble Mass books from here: http://circlingjericho.com/?p=884
  6. Read the scripture readings for Sunday in advance. We will read the Sunday Mass readings as a family at dinner time or during story time before bed. Knowing the scripture and discussing it makes it much easier to listen to the scripture readings during Mass.
  7. Make a Mass kit. I want to start to make a “Mass kit” for the kids to use at home to “play Mass” to make it come to life better. We have some items that we have used in the past when the kids are interested, but I would like to make some priest vestments and gather more items into a bag or container that they can pull out. I have a lot of Lenten plans, though, so I do not expect to complete this goal only in Lent. If our Mass kit is complete by Christmas, I will be happy 🙂 I expect it will take time to sew items and look at thrift stores to find special items (e.g., chalice, paten, etc.). Here is one site I saw with some ideas: http://www.catholicmissionaryfamily.com/2013/10/how-to-make-inexpensive-homemade-mass.html
  8. Attend daily Mass more often. My goal is to attend Mass on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and (of course) Sundays. The more the children attend Mass, the easier it is to remember and practice good Mass habits. It can be hard, as a child or adult, to remember what is happening at Mass if you only attend one Sunday per week. The more the children attend Mass, the easier it is to open their hearts to God in prayer. I am not going to be able to attend Mass every day of the week, though. In time, that would be nice, but for now I want to make sure I can achieve this smaller goal of attending  Mass 5 days per week. On Thursdays, we have co-op, and I want to make sure I am prepared and not late. On Saturdays, we often have a lot of housework and grocery shopping to do; this allows us to have a better Sabbath that is more restful and does not include running miscellaneous errands. Our goal for Lent is to attend daily Mass most days of the week.
  9. Read books aloud about Mass, Bible stories, and virtues. We have a pile of religious books and Children’s Bibles near our kitchen table that we are reading every night after dinner.

If you, too, want to help your children develop a deeper prayer experience at Mass, here are some blog posts you might appreciate.

My kids are far from “perfect” when they are at Mass. My oldest, who is in 3rd grade, has a good understanding of the Mass and is prayerful, although she needs to learn more of the responses (and in time, they will become quite natural!). My two youngest have a long ways to go, although I have seen some progress in the last year….just please don’t talk to me about today! During daily Mass, after I received communion and was walking back to our pew, I saw my 4-year-old, who was ahead of me in line, slowly skipping back to her seat and zig-zagging between other people in line, trying to skip on the rectangles on the floor, fully out of my reach. I have no idea what made her decide to do this! It is a teachable moment for next time, though, for her to be more reverent during the walk back to the pew…and I’ll be sure to keep her within an arms length of me during communion next time!

I hope you can keep up the good fight, and “run the good race” during this season of parenting as you educate your children. I encourage you that it is worth it to take the time to teach your children about God. It is worth it to bring your children to church.  Take small steps to teach your children about God, and they will be inspired. We are planting seeds of faith in our children’s hearts.

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