Help with my soon-to-be stepson attending Mass


#1

Hello everyone,

I’ve been a silent member for app. 6 months and have really enjoyed viewing CAF. The responses I’ve read to the questions are quite informative - especially in the Apologetics forum; it is encouraging to see so many actively and accurately defend our faith. I have learned a lot and hope to continue to deepen my faith through these boards.

On to my question, which I’ll try to make brief:

I am entering into my 1st marriage in a few weeks with a wonderful Catholic woman from my parish, who I actually met through a mutual friend of ours in the Knights of Columbus - imagine that! This is my first marriage and she’s been married before. She has 4 children - one older daughter who is out on her own and 3 boys - 15, 12 and 10. Her former spouse is a cradle Catholic, like me, but is far from the Church. When married to him, my fiancé would endure mocking comments from him and his parents about “how holy she was”. He became more bitter and hateful when my fiancé’s annulment was successfully granted in 2012. He no longer takes his boys to Mass and, we believe, poisons their minds with “anti-Catholic” comments, although ironically, he continues to send all 3 to Catholic schools.

They have shared custody but the boys spend more time with their dad in the house my fiancé formerly shared with him. He is a pretty good dad to them other than his anti-Catholic sentiments, although he is very controlling in all areas of their lives.

When the 2 younger boys are with us we take them to Mass, so at least they are making the Sunday obligation about every other week. The older one refuses to go and tells his Mom “I’m not as Catholic as you”. He seldom comes over to see his mom - as the oldest son, he is the closest to his dad and seems to have many of his personality characteristics.

We are in the process of buying a house which we will be in after we’re married later this month. I want to start with a clean slate and set certain ground rules for the boys while they’re with us, the most obvious one which is that while under our roof, all will observe the Sunday obligation.

I know there are no magic bullets, but we would love to get others’ opinions as to how we should handle this situation. Just for the record, we have met with our pastor, who was helpful. We also try always to set good examples for them: they hear us discussing Mass, Catholic radio programming, etc. and they see us reading Catholic books. Their mom has several bibles, statues and other religious items prominently displayed in her condo, so they know where our loyalties lie! I’m an active member of the KofC and we’re both active members of our parish.

We welcome any and all suggestions - thank you very much in advance!

David


#2

hi david,

glad to hear the good news about your family.

I don’t have children so I’m not sure how good my advice is going to be, but here goes

I’m thinking that your goal is to help your stepchildren increase their faith and grow to love God and the church, correct?

perhaps it is better ot sit them and ask them some questions, especially considering the ages. ask them how they feel about mass, especially the oldest and why he doesn’t want to go. once he explains himself, then maybe you can explain to him mwhat the mass is really about and its significance.

after that, lay your ground rules. if you just say, that they have to go to mass while at your house without really getting in to why it’s important, chances are, they’re going to grow up and reject the faith really quickly.

it seems like they’re already on their way three with what their dad is telling them. also, maybe you can introduce them to kids their own ages at church. is there a youth group at your parish or something they could get involved in? teenagers tend to be a bit more receptive with their peers than their parents sometimes.

hope that helps. i’ll say a prayer for your situation


#3

IMO,
I have 2 children and I feel for you. The only way and it may not work, is to sit him down and confront him as a team. That means you and your wife must be of one mind in this and a little up in his face, sort of 2 against one. Its the only time we could ever get my oldest son to do something he didn’t want and you are going to have to go with him. :wink:


#4

I think it is a perfectly reasonable rule, but if his mother isn’t on board with it, it really isn’t your place to demand it. If your fiance’s son is already reluctant to spend time with his mother, she may not be willing to fight this battle and risk him not coming at all. She should probably speak to her son’s father and remind him of why it’s important for their sons to go to Mass, especially as a family. She may be able to get his help in the matter if she approaches it from that angle. (even if it isn’t an important issue to him, that doesn’t mean he won’t see the value in teaching his son to respect his monther.)


#5

Angell1 and Ed,

Thanks for the suggestions! We will definitely confront them as a team - I agree it’s very important to present a unified front at all times.

It may be tough to get the older one to open up. I don’t have the closest relationship with him and he’s even somewhat distant from his mom (through no fault of hers). He may shut down if confronted. However, when his mom was reading a Catholic article to him which explained the importance of observing the Sunday obligation, he cut her off and said that if it didn’t come from the Catechism, he had no interest in what the article had to say. He may be in for a rude awakening when he hears what the CCC has to say!

We of course want them to grow in their faith and learn to love it as we do. Of course, I can’t say I necessarily “loved” the faith at their age. I attended Mass every week with my family b/c my dad expected us to - we had no choice but to go, but he did impress on us the importance of the observation.

The younger boys say that the commandment “Keep holy the Sabbath” means not to work on Sunday and to spend time relaxing with your family, despite what they’ve obviously heard in Catholic grade school. I’m sure this defense is right from their dad, as he seeks justification as to why he doesn’t attend Mass. Deep down, I’m certain they know they should go and simply trying to justify their (and their dad’s) inaction.


#6

Op,
a couple of question to clarify. Are the boys currently attending Catholic School despite their negative feelings for the Church? How often are you getting the children every other weekend? I await your answers before trying to give a response.


#7

YUP, but I will add this regardless:
It’s your house. It’s your duty to take them all to Mass.
Get up, let’s go. I don’t care how much he fusses. If he’s in your care, he’s going.
They’re in Catholic School? They must know that the Mass is important.
Tell them they are coming to Mass with you, and don’t worry about it.
Presenting a “united front” just gives the kids another reason to battle with you. They will associate their new step-mom with arguments. No battle. This is what we do.
It would help if they were enrolled in another form of formation, but unless they are in middle school or high school and can get in a good youth group with some friends, that probably won’t happen.
There’s 2 issues here:

  1. Being adaptable to a new living arrangement, and showing respect for parents.
  2. Being Catholic.
    Don’t mix the 2 together or you make your lives a constant tug or war, and you lose their interest in their faith.
    God bless.

#8

robwar - Yes, their dad sends all 3 to Catholic schools. The younger two will be in 5th and 7th grade and the oldest will be a sophomore at a very good all-boys local Catholic H.S. He pays for their school 100%. I don’t understand his thinking - I’m not sure if their dad merely wants to keep up appearances or ???.

The schedule has been a little off this summer - their mom has had them primarily during the week, but when school starts in a couple of weeks, she will have them every other weekend, so the every other week Mass schedule will resume.

pianistclare - Thanks for your frank suggestions - I personally agree 100%.

Allegra - Your comments are on point. His mom is somewhat reluctant for fear of further rejection by her son, but she also understands and agrees that it is our primary responsibility to get them to Mass, regardless of what goes on in their father’s house. Your suggestion re: soliciting help from their father will unfortunately not work. He never really respected their mother (one of the many problems from their marriage), but worse yet, their boys grew up seeing that he didn’t respect her. I think that’s had an affect on all of them to some degree.

I don’t know how to quote posts - can someone tell me how? Am sure it’s a simple process. It will help me expedite my posts.

Am loving all of the suggestions and can’t wait to share them with my fiancé - Blessings to you all for your support and prayers!


#9

Sorry I got the step=mom step=dad thing backwards…:frowning:
Be assured of our prayers.


#10

I suggest that you not insert a power struggle into your relationship with your stepchildren right out of the gate.

The rule should be their mother’s rule, and it should not be implemented after you marry and move into your home. It should already be the rule that she has on her own. I don’t understand why she is not ensuring the boys all go to Mass with her when they stay with her.

If this is your rule then I suggest you pick your battles wisely. This isn’t one I’d pick were it me.


#11

I am in the same situation as you, but I am the mother. My husband and I are practicing Catholics. My son’s father and stepmother are Catholics who have left the church. They definitely bad mouth the faith. We have custody.

The first thing my husband did was tell my son he would be attending Sunday mass and all the Holy Days of Obligation, until he was 18. After that it would be his own business. He agreed to this.

I try to keep him interested in mass by discussing the homily on the way home. He knows I am going to ask, so he listens so he has something intelligent to say. He’s fifteen by the way.

We belong to a large parish. There is one priest he relates to the most. I accommodate him by going to his masses when possible. However, I tell him what I like about the other priests in the parish…and go to daily mass just to hear their homilies.

I also talk to him about the benefits of Catholicism, as I perceive them. It’s an endless, evolving list. I lay off what I BELIEVE or what he should believe and just tell him how I see faith working in my life and how I see people without faith, struggling.

The hardest thing is to take care not to denigrate his father and stepmother, which causes him pain. I am an enthusiastic Catholic and I focus on that. I talk a lot about the communion of saints and how I feel about it. We talk about the history of church too. Let’s face it. Catholicism is interesting and God will work miracles in your life. I can easily illustrate this on a daily basis.

We’re lucky. We’ve been at this for several years and it’s working. My son now chooses to go to youth group. He recently opted to volunteer for something, following an example we’ve set.

Basically, he sees me get a lot of joy out of being Catholic and he seems to be a deeply moral kid, by his nature.

I’d not give up, that’s for sure. I think the best thing you can do for your child is baptize them Catholic. He knows I love him, so he can figure it out from there.

Oh! He’s also obligated to go to confession, but I tell him why - you don’t want this stuff weighing on your soul.

Last, I tell him that I realize he may leave the church when he leaves home. And I tell he’ll probably outlive me, and if he ever gets to missing me, he can always go to mass. “Because you know I’ll be hanging around, forever…”

This brings us both some comfort. We are the body of Christ, and this is true no matter what.


#12

They are not your children so stay out of this. If their mother does not enforce any rules about going to mass it is not your place to do it. It also is not your house alone, it’s yours and your spouse’s house but they are her children. You are only a step-father and the children have two parents who take an active role in their lives. Your wife, their mother, is not even the custodial parent. They live with their father and he sets the rules. It is up to you to follow them. If you harass his children you may find that they will not be spending any Sundays at your house. They already hear all the Catholic rules and regulations at school they don’t need any lectures from you.


#13

One other thing I should add . . . one of the posters suggested getting the boys involved with youth groups, other Catholic boys their age, etc. It is difficult for me to communicate how influential their dad is in their lives. In the past, he has ridiculed priests and some of the parishioners at our church (behind their back, of course), and I’m guessing the boys have had at least some exposure to these comments, especially in the last couple of years, since the divorce and annulment. My fiancé says he used to say to her, while they were married, that he would probably not be going to Mass if not for her. Thanks to her, they at least attended Mass as a family, up until the divorce in 2011. He has also commented that he doesn’t trust anyone who is “too holy” (whatever that means!), and after Joe 1st met me a couple of years ago, he told his mom that he doesn’t trust anyone who is too holy . . . wonder where he heard that? :smiley:

I got off on a tangent . . . the bottom line is that their dad is very controlling for many of their activities. My fiancé says that all of her oldest son’s friends belong to a great youth group at our church which meets weekly. They’ve invited her son on countless occasions to join them but he has always declined. Our guess is that is coming from their dad, but I’m concerned that his hatred for the Church is also permeating his son’s views. Her oldest son stopped serving as an alter server in 8th grade and her middle son has never served. Again, this is due to their dad.

The bottom line is that, although the boys all have peers which are active in the Church, their dad either keeps the reins tight on them or has colored their perception of these groups.

I think we’re fighting Satan himself! :slapfight:


#14

OP,
1ke gave you wise advice here. You are stepping over line here as an incoming step dad to boys that are teenagers and preteens. Since all of them are going to Catholic Schools, they are not being short changed in exposure to the Catholic Church and I would imagine that they do attend school Mass and received sacraments such as confession. Most altar servers do quit after 8th grade and even though the younger boy doesn’t want to, you can’t force him into it. From my observation of altar serving through the years, the child has to have an interest in it themselves. My oldest son didn’t want to serve until his younger brother started. You are barking up the wrong tree here. Likewise many kids that attend Catholic school, sometimes are the hardest to get involved in youth groups type activities simply because they had it all day at the school. Attending a Catholic school mean that they are certainly interacting with other Catholic youth and I am sure they have Catholic friends. I am not sure when you future wife has them, why there is this battle about attending Mass with her and now with you stepping in trying to draw battle lines over attendance. The best you both can do is that when they are with you and her, they will attend Mass with you and that is simple as that. You are not going to control whether they want to or not or if they complain. You also need to stop calling their father an agent of Satan and just be supportive of the relationship they have with him which according to you is close. These children are probably still upset about their parents divorce, they are being bounced between two homes and now with their mom marrying you another added adult to deal with. There is a saying to pick your battle wisely. If you want to influence these boys towards the faith, from what you shared, you need to back it off, be supportive and don’t make religion another holy war with them.


#15

I agree with this.


#16

I advise you to stop making statements like that because eventually one of the children will hear you and they will resent you and even hate you. You will end up driving a wedge further between them and their mother. It’s clear that you don’t have a high opinon of your wife’ ex. That’s fine. You don’t have to be the best of friends. Your wife, however, has an obligation to work with this man to raise their children. You can be part of the solution by encouraging positive family interaction, supporting your wife in communicating her concerns and desires to her former husband, and expecting your step sons to respect both of their parents.

My parents were divorced when I was six and while they surely aren’t perfect people, they did get the parenting as a team part right. We grew up with both of our parents in our lives, family dinners and celebrations that included our whole family (parents, step-parents, step-siblings, etc), and at my wedding, my mother and father danced together and celebrated that despite the unfortunate fact that they failed at their marriage, they didn’t fail at parenting together.


closed #17

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