Sunday, November 8, 2009

Coralling Little Sheep

In her Quick Takes last Friday, Aubrey, over at Laughing All the Way asked of us Catholic moms, particularly of our First Communicants:

"What do you expect of your child at Mass? Aside from being still and quiet, does he pay attention all of the time and seem interested in what is going on?"

I've been thinking about the answer to this question.  It's pertinent to me, and has been for a long time, seeing as we're working on our eighth First Holy Communicant now (Anna).

Second question first: No, honestly, my newly-initiated First Communicants don't pay attention all the time during Mass.  And no,they don't always seem interested in what's going on.

Now the first question:  What do I expect?  I expect them to try to pay attention and be engaged in what's going on.  And I expect them to improve as they grow older.

It's a learning process for all of us, this understanding of the Holy Sacrifice, and, I don't know about you, but I have troubles staying focused all the way through Mass, myself.  If you're an extrovert, if you're an introvert; if you're a parent, if  you're a child, if you're tired, if you're hungry, if you're human -- you'll be tempted to distraction during Mass.  But, if we want to stay focused, and keep pulling ourselves back around to Jesus' iminent and then actual presence on the altar... If we're trying to follow in our missals and are doing our best not to  mentally rearrange the hair of the girl in front of us...  Well, I do believe God sees and appreciates our effort -- and our success as we improve our focus.  We get credit.  Maybe more so the harder we struggle.

But, think about it.  Children, with their high energy and short attention spans, have a greater challenge than we do to avoid wiggling and scratching.  Or playing games with their fingers.  Or making faces at their siblings.  Or ripping kleenex into a million tiny pieces.  Or arranging and rearranging holy cards like they're strategizing a holy poker hand.  But, bless them, it is possible; the little sweethearts really can learn to be still and quiet during Mass. With our diligence.  And they can learn to love the Mass.   By the time they receive their First Communion, children should be expected to try to follow in their little missals as well as they can.  And it's our job, as their parents, to have half an eye on where their brains are so we can gently and lovingly redirect their focus if they fall to woolgathering.  It usually only takes a tap, a smile, and a finger pointed up to the altar to bring them back around. And,while some children almost never need reminding, our gentle persistence will guide the rest of them, and even the fidgetiest among them can be focused and truly assisting at Mass by the time he's ten years old -- twelve at the outside...

 Mom and Dad have prepared the children at home: if the Faith is something a family lives throughout the week, and the Mass is taught to the children, as a subject dearer and more important than the the athletics they play or the hobbies they pursue; if self control and courtesy are the norm in their household; and if Mass-time is connected in their hearts and souls with love, comfort, and peace. It's a long, hard struggle sometimes, but one with eternal benefits.
* I have a lengthier post saved that explains in more detail how we train our children for Mass.  I don't know if it's something of interest or not, though...  What do you think?  It's kinda long.  Maybe I'll put it out there next Sunday?


MightyMom said...

go on and publish it dearie....and then expect my hooligans on your doorstep in approximately 2 years so you can train them up too!!


seriously, I gave up on still long ago. I'm just thrilled when they pay attention to the altar servers moving around. course now that #'s 1 and 2 are in Religious Ed and #3 is in the nursery I find Mass a bit..........dull. And find myself fidgeting mentally. I'm less attentive now than I was back when I had to literally take notes around the todder in my lap (who kept trying to steal my pen) in order to have a clue what the Homily was about. But she'll be too big for the nursery and too small for RE here soon enough. Till then I try to pray when I can't concentrate.

Becky said...

I would like to read it, too. And I agree with MightyMom...I find it harder to concentrate myself now, after being distracted for the last 13 years by little ones. I think in life in general I have lost much of my ability to focus because of the constant interruptions...pretty soon my kids will be telling ME to pay attention! LOL
Lisa, I have followed your blog for a while and you really inspire me by how you manage your large family. I would love to connect with you by email concerning home school and home management, as I think my ship is sinking!! I have baby 6 due any day and am needing some advice from someone who has been there and beyond. If you are willing to write, my email is I didn't see yours available on the blog. Thanks!

Heather said...

Please do, I'm interested!

I know that my oldest, 6, could pay more attention. But she has her 4 and 2 year old siblings to distract her, not to mention the baby. She does good for the most part, I guess I need to keep working at it and be patient. Just like everything else, lol!