Catholic parents face many tough topics to address with their children, however, Sunday Mass should really not be one of them. As Brennan approaches three (!) he is not only more observant but also more vocal about what he sees in daily life. Of course, this does not stop once we enter Mass. Dr. Marshall talks briefly about catechizing our children in holiness and I would be remiss to say that most New Order Masses are able to do so.
The definition of the verb catechize is simply, “to give religious instruction in a specific manner”. Of course, we have a Catechism book to help us adults along, but how do we pass that along to our kids? It is well known that children learn best by observation—and they certainly let us know all they’ve picked up (and sometimes at very inconvenient times!) With this logic, our Mass practices should reflect what we want our kids to get out of the Mass. If our attitude, dress, and behavior is garbage, we should expect nothing less than our children to act like garbage.
When we enter church, our family begins by a prayer, usually the Rosary, in our pews. Since attending Latin Mass, we have also begun to pray after Mass as well (we like the St. Michael Prayer, Memorare, or a simple prayer of Thanksgiving for the gift of the Eucharist). Apparently praying in Church is just a really crazy idea because no one in New Order parishes really does this—but instead sit on cell phones, sip on coffee, or mosey around from pew to pew chatting with friends. While I enjoy all three of the aforementioned activities, they are grossly inappropriate in the sanctuary before and immediately following Mass. I know from my Baptist days that this is commonplace in non-Catholic Churches which is totally okay. Why? They are not preparing their hearts and minds for the literal consumption of the Body and Blood of Christ (hence, the sacrifice of the Mass). We try our best to keep the boys focused on prayer, but it is no easy task when everyone is loudly talking about a sports game or weekly plans.
I am the first to admit that I gave my mom a ton of grief about what to wear to Mass. While not intentionally trying to be immodest, my ripped jeans and Sublime tee shirts of high school years left much to be desired. The way we dress for any given event shows how much thought and effort we are putting into the event itself. Liam and I are not the dress-up type of folks, but we always make sure to wear dresses, khakis, collared shirts, suit jackets, etc because in a way, we are going to a feast! Of course, God loves to welcome us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us where we are. God deserves our best–to include how we dress! By watching us dress up (and dress them up) for Mass, our boys are learning that where we are going is worth celebrating and worth paying attention to.
While perhaps behavior before and after Mass can be argued, I think (hope) we can all agree on behavior during Mass. Most adults seem to be able to muddle through but someone really needs to put a memo out on acceptable behavior in children. How can I explain to my toddler that your seven-year-old is eating a full meal in the next pew over? Or why your tween is continually “sneaking” texts to her friends while loudly complaining about the homily length? Or your nine-year-old is laying completely down on the pew asleep? This is in no way an attack on the crying baby, teething (or potty training!) toddler, or developmentally disabled child. I live with the first two and know plenty of parents with a special needs’ kiddo and oddly enough, all three can make it through Mass with minimal intervention. Poor behavior is fully the fault of the parents, who allow it because it is the parent who is setting the example that Mass doesn’t warrant behavior any different than how you’d act at McDonald’s or lounging around on the couch at home.
Now of course, individual behaviors are not the fault of the New Order Mass itself, but the atmosphere is certainly created and enforced by the parish council, priest, and even the sanctuary itself (this can be a whole other post). When you walk into a Latin Mass, you are greeted with reverence because reverence is the rule, not the exception. It is sad that modern Catholic parishes have seem to have gotten that flip-flopped. Liam and I fully understand that we can only control our actions, and for that reason we strive to attend Latin Mass over New Order Mass as much as possible. We will be joining a Latin Mass parish once we move to Kansas, despite the 40-minute drive because the Eucharist is more than goldfish and soccer jerseys, and our kids deserve to see reverence modeled and not mocked.