I’ve just started taking my 3 boys ( 8,11 and 13) to mass again after a long break because of marriage difficulties and breakup, which caused terrible grief and made it impossible to attend mass without crying. They have all recently received the sacrament of Holy Communion and Reconciliation, and we have attended Mass every week for several months. My problem is they hate to go, tell me its boring and they never listen!( This is just before we leave to go to mass) Their behaviour varies during the service, from good, to downright embarrassing. At other times during the week, they ask questions about the Church, our faith and God, but some questions I just don’t know how to explain to a demanding child. I suspect their athiest father lets his opinions known, but in a subtle fashion. For now I explain to them that I have an obligation to teach them their faith and part of being a Catholic is to attend Mass every week. I want to teach them to love their faith, and regret my own choices in life have made this very difficult. I’m wondering how else I might approach this so I can give them a fighting chance to love God and their faith, while I’m trying to reconnect with my own!
Do you have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? I highly recommend it to help answer their (and YOUR) questions on faith!
Continue doing what you’re doing. Explain that faith must be LIVED - and we go to Mass not for entertainment, but to receive Christ into our lives - very literally in the Eucharist!
Pray that their hearts are softened and they begin to behave better too… but certainly don’t stop going just because of bad behavior. You’re doing good work despite the struggle.
Prayers for you!
Your talking about it like it’s their faith and it isn’t. It’s your faith and it seems like they don’t share it. As a child I remember my Catholic grandparents taking me to mass, I remember thinking it was boring as well and I never wanted to go and now I never do. The more you force it the more they will despise it
I disagree with the jibbler…you should continue taking them to Mass. It is the only way to plant the “mustard seed” that will grow. The Jibbler is correct when he says that “it is your faith”…What Jibbler fails to mention…or comprehend is that it is our duty as parents to pass on our faith to our children. You will probably have a difficult time with the older kids due to the lack of early influence, however better late than never. Always remember…we are called to be faithful…always trying to pass on the truth through faith…we do not need to be successful…only always faithful to trying. DO NOT give up. The work you do with them now might not take off for 10-20-30 of even 60 years.
husband and father of 5
Try going through the readings the whole week before Mass, so they know what they are hearing. Find a video or books on what the Mass is about and the symbols and meaning of the actions. Have the priest over for dinner. Get them involved in the Mass–server training, playing an instrument, reading, greeting anything they might feel comfortable doing. Talk to them about why the Church is important for you and what the faith means to you…keep talking…keep going to Mass…pray for them…
Compendium of the Catechism:
Video The Catholic Mass Revealed
Friendly defender flash cards
When I converted to the Catholic faith and took my two children with me, I explained to them it was important to Mommy that they go with me and learn about loving God and learning how much God loved them, too. (Their father - my husband - had not yet joined the Church, but did later on.) I told them it was important to me that they go with me and behave themselves to make me happy because I knew it made God happy. I also explained that I was doing what God, my Heavenly Father, wanted me to do and I was obeying Him, just as I expected them to obey me.
They were small, but this seemed to make sense to them. They learned to sit quietly even though they were very young and didn’t understand what was happening.
At your children’s ages, I would suggest buying a children’s version of the Catholic Catechism and reading it with them each day, a bit at a time. Then have a question and answer time for them to ask you questions which you can discuss and also look up in the Catechism. Also get them a good children’s Catholic Bible to use. Children can be put off and confused by the adult versions of the Catechism and the Bible. Also consider taking them out to eat at a favorite restaurant after Mass. It isn’t a bad thing to include a little “bribery” for good behavior when you are working with kids at the age yours are! I have taught religion at my Parish and dealt with ages ten through fourteen and found that food was a great way to make friends!
Have you looked into enrolling your boys in your Parish’s religious education program? Or perhaps all of you could attend RCIA together. I have been an RCIA Team member for 6 years and we have had families with children your sons’ ages attend the classes with the parents. It could really help all of you understand your Faith a lot better!
DON’T GIVE UP. This is your duty as a parent to raise them in the faith. Do so with love and respect for their feelings, because just saying “You will go because I say you will!” or getting angry or punishing them will only make it harder for them to grow to love the Church. I know it is very difficult to keep from getting angry when they misbehave and embarrass you during Mass, but to get overly angry will only make it worse for them at their age. Stress that they need to behave in Church the same way you would behave at Grandmother’s home or at the restaurant or at the doctor! Even if they don’t “enjoy” Church yet - your continued respect and patience will eventually win them over! For how can they believe that Church attendance is beautiful and good if it only makes you yell at them?
If it is at all possible, I think you also need to have a private talk with your ex-husband about the children’s attitudes to see if he will respect your desire to have the children go with you to Mass. I know it may be a difficult subject to discuss with him, but it would be worth the attempt.
The biggest challenge will be to keep this subject from becoming an attempt to “get the kids on your side” when it comes to the difference between your belief and that of your ex-husband. So be careful that you do not present the attendance at Church as a condition of your love to the kids. Your boys are old enough to understand that you and your ex have different ideas about things.
One of the previous responders said that you are talking about this like it is their faith and that it is not, that it is your faith….That is incorrect. If your boys have been baptized and received the Sacraments (as you stated they have) it *** IS *** their faith! Now they need to have an understanding of this faith and how to hold it in their hearts with love and joy!
I hope I have given you some hope and some good ideas. I will keep you in my prayers! I thank God that you are taking the boys to Church with you! God bless you!
In addition to some good recommendations from others, I would also suggest getting a book about the Mass for children and MagnifiKids, which is a Mass guide/activity book published by the same people who do Magnificat for adults. MagnifiKids walks the kids through the Mass, including the weekly readings, and has suggestions for prayers, things to think, about, etc on each page.
I just curious if anyone with children has NOT had an issue similar to what the OP has?
I know growing up there was about as much chance of us kids getting up and walking around naked all day as there was of us not going to church on Sunday, but we still complained about going. Just was we complained about eating vegetables, going to school or our bed time.
Fr. John Riccardo from the Detroit Diocese has a variety of “podcasts” or “audio files” posted on his parish website. My boys who are approximately the ages of your children listen to his talks when they are with me in the car. He is easy to listen to. You can record any of his talks to a cd or just listen on your computer. There is no fee or charge. Here is the link to “What Happens at Mass”
Listen to it yourself and if you think it will help with your children turn it into a cd and listen to it with them in the car.
Are they enrolled in your parish CCD program? They will be with kids their own age and you can consult with the teacher for any qustions that come up. I would insist that they attend Mass as long as they are living with you and are under age; after that they can make their own decision.
If it makes you feel any better, my daughter who is a cradle catholic still complains that Mass is boring. She’s 11 going on 30. Over the summer she sang with the contemporary music group and that seemed to help her, as she was more involved in the service.
One other thought, when my daughter was little we used to sit in the FRONT ROW so that she could see what was going on. Seeing what the priest is doing during the service helped her to understand better and things really started to click when she was studying for First Holy Communion.
I agree with everyone else that it is your duty and to not give up. I second the recommendations for a copy of the catechism, children’s bible. There are a vast amount of books available for assistance. www.catholicsupply.com allows you to order items online if you don’t have a catholic book store nearby.
Best of luck and God bless you and your boys.
I recommend purchasing a copy of “The Faith Explained” by Fr. Leo Trese. Read it yourself and use it to answer their questions. It is the best book I ever read for understanding what we believe and explaining this. The Catechism is great, but it was written for Bishops. It is a fairly difficult read, but The Faith Explained is in language that is easy to comprehend and really gets the message across.
Ok, first off, I would recommend getting the Teen Catechism. I can’t remember who it is by, but I have looked at one and it is good for answering kids questions. A 2nd suggestion would be to look into whether your church has a Squires group that is associated with the Knights of Columbus. It is for boys ages 10 - 18. This might help if they are around other boys their age who look positively on the church and mass.
Now, for what I did to nip this in the bud with my kids. When mine where younger and giving me hassles about behaving in church when I knew that they were old enough to know better, I had finally had ENOUGH! My solution, and it worked, was to go to mass again the next day…at 6:30 am, and to keep going each day until they would behave. Daily masses are only about 30 minutes. So, they are much shorter. My point was that they needed to behave and if they didn’t then they would go each and every day until they did. If they behaved on Sunday at Mass, then they wouldn’t have to go until the next Sunday. That 1st Monday, I had 3 kids with me at 6:30 Mass, Tuesday, 2 kids, Wednesday, 1 kid, and Thursday, slept in. The next Monday, 2 kids, Tuesday, 1 kid, and Wednesday, slept in. The 3rd week, no one went to daily Mass.
Now for those of you who will think that this is a bad idea and/or wrong, my 2nd child who was the one who went all of those days because he just wouldn’t be good, is the same child who when it came time for his 1st Communion year just HAD to go to daily Mass. He would beg to go. That is when he decided that he wants to be a priest. He has said this now for almost 4 years and still asks to go to a daily mass at least once or twice a week!
Um…if they were sick and they didn’t want to take the medicine that would save their lives wouldn’t you do whatever it took to get it in them?
We are all sick with sin. And in danger for our lives.
CCD is a great idea. Youth Group if your parish has one for older kids. Our parish has a mass on Sunday eveing at 5:30 that the teens do the readings, are the choir and musicians, are the ushers…etc And it is packed with families and young people.
Stacy, my prayers are with you.
You’ve gotten some great suggestions. Breakfast or lunch out after Mass–or even stopping for donuts on the way home really helps. We did that on and off for years when ours where those ages.
Helping them be ready for Mass by knowing what the readings are going to be is great. A protestant friend of mine had her kids take sermon notes, which I copied a bit by asking the kids to try and notice every time Father said “_________” a word I picked out based on the readings. Sometimes he’d say it often during the homily. Sometimes, it would be on a totally different topic and he’d never say that word at all!
A kid’s missal (or Magnifikids which is great) will also help them follow along during all part of Mass. It also has all the prayers and responses so they will always know what to say.
I double-second the idea of getting a catechism of some kind to help you answer their questions during the week. Maybe the official CCC for you and a kids/teen version for them. Amy Welborn’s “Prove it” series would also be good especially for your oldest. If you don’t have a Bible, be sure to get a Catholic version. The New American is the version used in the lectionary, so that makes it a good choice, although I don’t prefer the translations.
Getting them involved with other Catholic kids is important. They probably knows Catholic kids from school, sports, ect but don’t realize it. Sign them up for CCD, youth groups, choir, altar servers, Jr Knights, whatever your parish offers that they’d be interested in. CCD is the most important since they will hear about why the church believes as it does and what all these traditions are to back up everything you are teaching at home.
Finally, and most importantly, always pray for them. Ask them to pray for you also!
What it sounds to me like they need is a positive male role-model in the faith. If possible I’d see if there are men in the parish willing to help each in their faith formation…especially college-aged males, who would be just “too cool”. I’d go so far as to have you all sit together during Mass…with your sons and their “sponsors” so that they have less of a chance to misbehave and look forward to it. If you go to saturday or 11 or 12 mass on Sunday go out for pizza aferword. Give them something to look forward to, keep it fun and upbeat. Perhaps find a parish that dosn’t sing those stupid 70’s hymns (chant or the more modern songs are MUCH better).
Get them deeply involved in church activities…again you may need to find a parish. “Adopt” and older couple or person who’s stuck at home, work a food drive.
In a sence jibbler is correct…if your faith is all about going to Mass on Sunday then it will be detrimental to your kids and it will make them hate and rebel against Mass.
And perhaps, you could even take them one at a time…even if that means going 3 times and getting a sitter. I’m sure with the divorce they lack individual attention…which isn’t your fault at all…but a problem of the brokenness.
Thankyou all so much- everyone has helped with ideas and suggestions which I’ll be trying out. I know there is a dangar of having them rebel if I push too much, so engaging them more in the parish is a great idea. Good for me too! Also thankyou for yor kindness and understanding, it’s very easy for me to beat myself up and wish circumstances were different, but they’re not. It’s great to know we’re part of a larger, loving community.
you are doing the very best thing you could be doing to show them how to deal with the sorrows of life, Mass and the sacraments, and above all keep taking them no matter how much they complain. Also continue to enroll them in CCD or whatever other religious education your parish has for school aged children. If they are asking questions it shows they want this, and in any case is part of your obligation. Also take whatever classes are offered for parents, or for adults of the parish. The more you know, the better able you will be to help them. And simply joining such a group will be helpful to you during this stressful period of life.
I think you are probably right that the children, especially if they are boys, will react negatively to any anti-Catholic or anti-religious talk from their father, in fact, the older they get the more likely they are to follow the father’s manner of living. That is something that may cause you much suffering but if you make sure they get a good grounding in childhood, and continue to pray for them, they may surprise you later.
If you ever get the opportunity to have your kids participate in a retreat or program put on by the youth from net ministries don’t hesitate to do it. There is a Net ministries here in the United States, and there is a Net ministries in Australia: netministries.com.au/?/index
Our family had the pleasure of hosting some of the young men and women on a net team here in the states when they were in our area. They were all well catechized in the faith, and had a dramatic positive impacts on many of the kids they came into contact with, including my own. They were excellent role models.