Want to Advise (or Lecture) a Parent?

It is with some trepidation that I ask these two questions, steeling myself for getting lectured.

But let me give the context, first.

The Context

I’ve been in the Church all of six months thus far (I was an evangelical, with no particular denominational opinions, until the last four years or so). My wife did not enter the church with me. Feeling the need to present a “united front” in matters of faith to my children, I take my wife and kids to their usual (evangelical) church each Sunday, but go to Mass on my own most of the time. My older children (7 and 4) have attended Mass with me only on two occasions.

They were reasonably well-behaved, I think. My eldest is unable either to whisper or to gauge appropriate speaking-volume, and tends habitually to ask whatever question is on her mind, topical or otherwise, as soon as the thought crosses her mind. This made me cringe self-consciously, but folks around me took little notice and seemed unperturbed.

I would like my kids to be with me at Mass more often.

First Question

When they come to Mass with me, what should I expect of my kids? That they pray when the adults are praying, kneel when the adults are kneeling, and listen attentively? That seems dubious in the extreme for a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, and if my wife comes along with the one-year-old, fuggedaboudit.

I ask this question here because I don’t know any Catholics who are parents of kids my age; indeed, I know very few Catholics apart from the RCIA director and the priest, because I “read myself into the Church” pretty much on my own.

So tell me: Is it reasonable for my seven- and four-year olds to be sitting reading the Bible or a child’s devotional book during most of it, and drawing pictures? That, if I recall, is what I did during adult worship services when I was a boy. But it’s been well over three decades, so I don’t remember exactly. (And that was a Baptist church.)

Or should I have stricter expectations of them?

I can see the value in instilling some self-discipline: “Learn to endure adult stuff that seems boring to you with good graces.” But I also would hate for them to develop a dread of church.

Second Question

On a related note: Do you have any recommendations about how to get my kids more interested in what’s going on at Mass? The gospel is an exciting thing, and Eucharist is its summit, this side of eternity…but somehow Mass seems designed for its excitement to take place in the mind of an adult believer, not out where a kid can experience it.

(In particular, when I see Mass through my kids’ eyes, I find myself wishing that Catholics would sing with the fervor of the evangelicals I grew up with. That’s Jesus there, on the altar! We are before the throne of grace: You’d think it was worth singing about. King David would know how to react to such a gift: Read Psalm 150 or 2 Samuel 6! But the cultural norm for congregational singing at Mass seems, rather, to have been patterned after Michael daughter of Saul.)

Anyway, in lieu of them picking up any visible excitement in other parishoners, I need some other way to engage my kids; some way for them to viscerally “get” the importance and excitement of the Word and the Eucharist.

Any suggestions on that?

By

Cord Hamrick is a husband and father of three, raised an evangelical Christian in Southern Baptist churches. After years of lurking, questioning, and eventually opining in the Catholic blogosphere, he was received into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil, 2010. Cord is a sometime church musician, former praise-and-worship bandleader, frequent songwriter and arranger, occasional guitar teacher, and -- because one really must somehow pay the bills -- a developer of web-based software applications. He lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and three kids.

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