In-laws are non-practicing Catholics

My husbands family are essentially non-practicing Catholics. They go to Mass when it doesn’t interfere with anything else. His nieces and nephews all make their first communion but then only go to Mass maybe once or twice a year. Our children go at least every Sunday. His parents have a lake house and occasionally everyone spends the weekend there. We are the only family that goes to Mass. My husband always wants to take his nieces and nephews since they rarely go otherwise and also his youngest single sister, who also only goes occasionally. My question is that they always receive communion when they go to mass. Is it my responsibility to make them refrain since they don’t regularly go or is ok that they receive? I don’t want them to feel as if they are being punished for not going to Mass as, in the case of the nieces and nephews, it is not technically their fault.

Also my older children, who are 12, 11, and 8, are starting to notice that this side of the family does not go to Mass. They pester my husbands youngest sister about this a lot. Asking her why she doesn’t go, telling her to go to Mass and confession - kind of like kids who try to get their parents to stop smoking when they learn all about it in school!! She was getting noticeably irritated last night when they were giving her grief over her bad language and not going to confession. She told them that God hears her confession straight up. I just don’t know how to explain this to my kids so they won’t be drawn to their way of life. Obviously, it is easier to go to mass when it is convenient and confess directly to God. They are nice people overall and I don’t want to keep my kids from them. But I always feel like I am some religious freak when we are with them just because Sunday mass is nonnegotiable for our family!! Should I keep my kids from hounding their aunt? How do you address this with kids? My 12 year old son was asking me last night if his aunt was commiting a mortal sin by not going to mass? He was noticeably worried for her. I did not know what to tell him. I told him to pray for her and that it probably wasn’t a mortal sin since she doesn’t believe it is a sin but that only God can judge. But if that is the case, we could use that excuse for everything- mass attendance, birth control, sterilization - nothing is a mortal sin just because we don’t think it is a sin!!!

No, it’s not your responsibility. You are responsible for your own children.

Yes. Your kids need to learn now that it’s not their place to shame family members who have made their own decisions. My mother-in-law has smoked for years but I don’t permit my children to scold her for this choice. That’s not their role in her life. Your husband could have a private conversation with his sister, but your children should be focused on respecting her as their aunt.

It really doesn’t sound like you have much to worry about in terms of your kids deciding to follow your in-laws’ path. If they’re actually nagging their aunt about going to confession and taking communion, it sounds like they’ve been properly and deeply catechized. If your family the only members regularly attending Mass, so be it.

I wish I could answer the part of your question about whether or not your nieces and nephews should go to Communion. You say it isn’t their fault if their parents won’t take them to Mass, which is true. Would you say the kids WANT to go to Mass every Sunday, but their parents won’t take them or are they starting to become indifferent like their parents? I would speak to a trusted priest about this. As for your kids pestering your sister, I think you need to tell them to stop. They are children, after all, and it is not their place to be pestering an adult about moral issues or any issue really. I think it’s safe to say that your sister now knows what Church teaching is and what she should be doing…now it’s up to her to make her own decisions. I would tell your children to pray for their aunt–to pray that she will one day understand why it’s so important to go to Mass. Yes, tell them that missing Mass is grave matter, but only God can judge whether or not this is mortal sin for your sister. Tell your children also that while they should pray for their aunt (and for others who are not following Church teaching), they must try with God’s grace to do what THEY know to be right and let God take care of others.

It sounds as if your children have pestered your family members more than once, you wrote that they pester them “a lot.” I would be happy that your family members have shown restraint, if my nieces and nephews pestered me about anything I would have been far from kind!

Simply tell your children it is bad manners to correct an adult about any behavior. For example, if they see an overweight relative reaching for a second helping of dessert, it is not their place to correct them! I worry that because this is involves your children’s faith life that you have let this continue, thinking it was okay or good for your children to evangelize?

The danger here (as I see it) is not so much your relatives (because they are not your direct responsibility) but that your children may be feeling a sense of spiritual superiority or pride which is not a good thing. You need to face this head on and not waffle or let this slide any longer. It seems since you didn’t know what to say, that things just happened.

I have been in your shoes it is very hard. I have seen my own children worry about their relatives and we have had MANY talks about the subject. It was a great teaching moment to encourage them that they have received the GIFT of faith from God! I had to do this a lot as I could see pride sneaking in. Your children seem close to thinking they are better than their aunt and that is not healthy.

As for taking the relative’s children to Mass, remember if they are not in a state of mortal sin they are welcome to receive! A child that has the trauma of being neglected by their parents in spiritual matters is not in a state of mortal sin as I see it.

As a mom it bothers me that your kids are being rude to their relatives. That’s a major no-go at my house. My kids know better, and the first time they would have been caught violating basic manners would definitely be the last time.

If you invite your in laws then expect they will be receiving communion. If it bothers you then you shouldn’t invite them.

The best way to counter this is to love your in-laws and treat them graciously. Keep inviting them to Mass but don’t nag and instruct your kids not to scold them. At the right moment, a well-measured word might help them understand what you’re trying to get them to learn, but PLEASE don’t press the issue.

I agree with this answer for the most part. However, I did not see anything wrong with the behavior of the OP’s children. They were not being rude to the aunt for showing concern for her and chiding her for her bad language. Sometimes children can get through to others better than the adults especially if their concern is genuine. Perhaps the children could use a little guidance on how to better express themselves or maybe to ease up a little, but they did nothing wrong.

bitterhope: 'As a mom it bothers me that your kids are being rude to their relatives. That’s a major no-go at my house. My kids know better, and the first time they would have been caught violating basic manners would definitely be the last time. ’

You must be very careful there. Admonishing the sinner and instructing the ignorant are spiritual works of mercy and to refrain from practising them when there is reason to believe they will benefit someone, because it is ‘bad manners’, would be a sin of human respect.

gracepoole: My mother-in-law has smoked for years but I don’t permit my children to scold her for this choice. That’s not their role in her life. Your husband could have a private conversation with his sister, but your children should be focused on respecting her as their aunt.

Leaving others in their sin is deeply uncharitable. Missing Mass is a mortal sin and doing so when you have children makes it an especially grave sin of scandal. It is not neccessarily disrepectful to admonish an elder or superior, and it seems the children are doing this out of love. We must be very careful not to put respect for human feelings before repect for the precepts of the Church.

Cathmomof6, I have only just read this post, after replying to your other one. I see I was right, your in-laws have allowed their children to believe lies to justify their sins- namely, that we may just confess directly to God. Your son’s aunt is definitely commiting a mortal sin if she has no just reason to miss Mass. We must inform our consciences with the teachings of the Church and failure to do so makes us culpable, so if this Catholic woman is not attending Mass without just cause then she is a manifest sinner. Just be honest with your children.

You are spot-on! However I believe we disagree on the best approach of admonishing in order to “benefit someone.”

This is an excellent teaching opportunity for this family on the proper and charitable way to correct someone. If my children noticed an adults sins (and they did many times) I instructed them to pray for that person, and that I would talk to them one-on-one. My children were encouraged to admonish and instruct their peers though!

The goal here, as I see it, is not just to admonish the sinner, the goal here is to actually influence these people to go back to Mass. Being chastised by a child doesn’t seem like the best way to me, and the aunt was getting noticeably irritated. I wouldn’t recommend this kind of approach with an adult or a child actually. To publically shame someone isn’t usually a good evangelization tool. Most importantly is that the children who are from a faith-filled family don’t get a sense of spiritual superiority that is a dangerous thing. Just my two cents, God bless.

I don’t think it is ever alright for a child to annoy adults, no matter what their intentions are. It’s also never ok for people to be holier than thou–it’s an automatic turn off, not an evangelization tool. It’s also not a smart idea to tell people things they already know you believe but they don’t believe it themselves. If I were telling someone the importance of confession and they countered that they only need to confess to God then there is no point in continuing the “discussion” unless they are wanting to understand your point through questions or you are wanting to understand them through questions. No way should a child ever be engaging in such discussions with adults, especially since it appears that the adult didn’t say anything about Mass, confession or the Church until pushed to the point if annoyance.

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