SHOULD PRE-SCHOOLERS BE FORCED TO GO TO DAILY MASS?
Mary Kay Clark
Mary Kay Clark responds to a question presented by a member on CRNET.
We are homeschooling and try to go to daily mass several times a week. The problem is our 4 year old, Luke, has lately taken to asking when awakened, "Do we have to go to church today?" If the answer is yes he cries and says he hates going to church.
The others do not complain. And we all think the day goes much better after being to morning Mass. But, it breaks my heart to hear Luke be so against going to Mass. Should be leave him home with one of the older children, but then that child won't be able to go? Or should we back off on daily Mass until Luke is older? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
From Mary Kay Clark:
You asked for suggestions regarding your four-year-old boy who does not want to go to Mass with you every day. He says he "hates going to Mass."
First you need to consider the nature of a four-year-old boy. He "hates" his peas, and he "hates" his little sister when she throws a toy at him or tears up his picture. It is not unusual for a young child to freely toss around the word hate.
Nor is it unusual for a young child to cry in misery at all his terrible problems, like putting on matching socks and wearing his hat outside in the freezing weather.
A young child's cries and shouts of hate should generally be disregarded. If anything should be done, it is to teach him not to cry and shout, which is usually accomplished by not giving in to his antics. Giving in encourages him to try it again and again to get his way.
Words like "hate" should be explained as being inappropriate for a Christian child. Needless to say, this should be explained in calm moments. It can be the basis for a catechism lesson.
In addition, whenever such language is used, the child should be reminded that such language makes Jesus unhappy, that his guardian angel must be covering his ears, that in fact, such words are a sin if they are meant. Of course, at four, they are not meant, but if left to continue, it can become a serious situation in the soul of the child and in the family.
After these preliminary remarks, we need to think about you as Mother. "It breaks my heart to hear Luke be so against going to Mass." Luke is not against going to Mass any more than he is against wearing his hat or eating his peas. It is just a discomfort he does not like. He has no deep feelings about this at all. You must be careful and try not to take these childish statements as is they were from an adult.
Daily Mass is a blessing for you and the others in the family. Some of the blessings can not be measured. Some of the fruits you can see now, many you will see later.
My suggestion is that you continue your wonderful grace-filled daily practice, and don't allow the cries and shouts of your four-year-old dissuade you from doing what is best for you and your family. And for him.
Another suggestion which comes from Dr. Mark Lowery in Texas. He goes over the rules and has the children practice the rules for church at home. On the way to church in the car, they review the rules.
Another suggestion is to purchase some books written for children about the Mass. Maybe once a week, review thoroughly the meaning of Mass. On the way to Mass in the car, quickly review the meaning of Mass. Take along a book for your boy to look at which explains the Mass.
When the kids are young, keep the little one on your lap, explaining what is happening. Explain about all the angels in adoration around the altar. Keep him close to you. Even when everyone is standing, you can sit on the pew with him to explain and have him say with you the Our Father. Though you may feel at the end of Mass you did not get as much out of it as you would have liked, you need to spend this time teaching your children.
As your child learns to read, move your finger along the lines as the priest says the prayers. You can ask Father to let you borrow a Missalette to use at home before Mass. Explain each feastday, why the priest is wearing the color.
Have a special field trip to the church on an afternoon, and point out the statues and pictures. Give some catechism on the stained glass windows, if you have them. A Church is like a little bit of heaven in its surroundings. Lighting the candles, saying the stations after Mass, saying the Rosary after Mass, all these things encourage children.
Here in Front Royal, every day the church is filled with home schooling families and LOADS of kids. Plenty of altar boys! And the kids say the rosary. On Saturdays, the boys say the first half of the prayers, the girls the second half.
And each day the Mass celebrates a saint's feast or a holy day. Today is the feast of the Presentation, and what a day for a procession and the blessing of candles. And Father has his candles ready with a pink ribbon to bless the throats tomorrow.
The Mass and the feasts and the church itself are all so rich in our Catholic culture and heritage — How can kids not love it?
Pray and pray and pray for all your children, that they will come to love Jesus so much, to love the Mass so much, that for all their lives they will continue to attend daily Mass and receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in Holy Communion. May they come to feel as you do, that a day begun without Jesus is not a day at all.
Regards, Mary Kay Clark