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In his latest post, 'Coercion', the great Fr. Ray Blake raises a number of questions about how Catholics who fall short of or deny aspects of Catholic teaching/practice, should be encouraged to live fully their Catholic Faith. Such encouragement, as the title of his post suggests, might involve a degree of insistence on the part of those who have authority over those subject to such authority.
I won't presume to comment on all the examples Fr. Ray gives, just the first one, because it falls within my sphere as a Catholic mother, to have authority and responsibility, jointly with my husband, for our children.
So, this is the question posed:
"Should a parent insist his child goes to Mass? Obviously if child is seven but what about seventeen?"
Catholics believe that the Sacrifice of the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC1324). The action of the Holy Spirit during the Mass confers graces on those who are open to receiving them.
At every Mass, we, His creatures, are united with the ultimate sacrifice, the Sacrifice of God the Son, on Calvary. His life for our salvation.
At every Mass, Heaven touches earth and we are in the presence of Almighty God who loves us with a love which knows no bounds.
At every Mass, Jesus, the Son of God, desires to be united with us through our reception (in a state of grace) of Holy Communion.
Attending Mass is not an action done in isolation from living the Catholic life, as if being a Catholic only counts for one hour of the week. It is from the Mass that we receive the help we need to meet those difficulties, problems, challenges and crosses that He permits, before we meet Him next.
Perhaps we have a tendency to regard the gifts that the Lord would give us through the Mass as optional. Well, it is true that they are optional in the sense that we are not forced to receive them. God knocks at the door, we open the door, or leave it shut. But they are not optional in this sense: that God only gives us what we need to live a faithful life in an unfaithful world.By ourselves, we cannot live this life in preparation for the next life, the life of heaven, without His help. We are simply too weak.We need His help. The Mass, summit and source of Christian life, is where He chooses to give us this life giving help. We could think of it as kind of a spiritual life-support system.
On the particular question of a teenager who doesn't want to go to Mass...dare I say it....the trick is to not allow dissent to develop to a point where the teenager believes with confidence that he doesn't need the Mass.
Start early, no child is too young (and no teenager too old), to receive the gifts and graces available at the Mass.
Be the devout Mass attender that you want to encourage your children to be, explain the Mass to them (not during Mass) before, and after.
If necessary, (how can I put this delicately?) find a Mass which is offered in a most dignified way, and where the homilies do not patronise, tell us how wonderful we are, but challenge us to be the saints God wants us to be.
Have a strong prayer life at home. Daily prayer is essential, Organise things so the children have experience of leading family prayer. Make sure they are all involved in the daily prayer, let it become a habit. Remember Grace before and after meals. Don't think that you can't introduce spiritual topics during meals, of course you can! Encourage your children to join in the conversation.
Be vigilant about the influences in your child's life: friends, school, social media, books.Don't be afraid to insist that the book/film/website is unsuitable, but explain why.
Take care that your young children understand the importance of being sorry for wrongdoing, (receive their apologies gracefully), and when they are old enough, the primary importance of the great sacrament of Confession. Keeping your children close to the sacraments is as important as doing the same for yourself.
Use the saints!
Have some good quality spiritual reading at home, read it yourself and pass it on to your children.
Make sure to teach your children that everything they receive, including life itself, is a gift from God, who gives because He loves.
Back to the stroppy teenager; he needs to understand that when tempted to omit doing something which God through the Church, and through the legitimate authority of his parents, asks of him (going to Mass), such a refusal without a just cause i.e. illness, would be a kind of disobedience, and it would be sinful.
Yes, the 'S' word.
Sometimes you have to call a spade, a spade. To deliberately avoid Mass on Sunday is sinful. There, I've said it, but the Church said it first.
What would you do to avoid your child falling into a sinful habit such as Mass avoidance?
Happy Birthday St. Teresa of Avila!
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