A catechist wrote to me privately asking for ideas on how to invite parents to start attending Mass with their children. Below is more or less what I suggested she consider including in her talking points:
1) Compliment the parents and thank them (sincerely) for their obvious love for their children and their faith, and for the effort they are making to make it possible for their children to attend your religious education program.
2) Acknowledge that we all have areas we need to grow in our faith, and that we’re all at different points in the spiritual life. Some parents may have an easier time with the Catholic faith than others, and it’s not a contest. The role of the parish is to help each parent and child be the person God made them to be, and that means starting from where you are, wherever that happens to be right now.
3) Affirm for them that the #1 predictor of whether a child remains Catholic as a young adult is whether their parents are disciples. That’s not magic, but it’s the thing that gives your child the best start. If your children are young, now’s the time to build good habits. During the teen years, the onus is on we parents to up our game, not to coast.
4) Explain that your realize there are valid reasons parents miss Mass. You might be picking up their child or teen up after a group Mass because you’ve already attended a different Mass (or have an obligation to another one later in the day). The relative doing carpool for religious education might not even be Catholic. You understand that some parents might also have a serious reason to miss Mass altogether, such as caring for an elderly relative who can’t be left alone, etc. So there’s no Mass police out counting heads.
–> BUT, all that acknowledged, attending Mass with your child is one of the best things you can do for them. Your children will grow in their faith by seeing you worship with them.
5) Many parents are uncomfortable at Mass because they don’t know what to do, they aren’t Catholic themselves, or they have a situation in their life that has made coming to Mass emotionally difficult. Assure parents that even if all they do is come and sit in the back and pray silently, their prayer is powerful and will have a lasting impact on their child or teen.
–> You the parent don’t have to receive communion or know all the lines or have all the answers. God made you the parent, and He doesn’t need you to be perfect in order to show your love and support for your child or teen.
–> An authentic struggle with the faith is something your child and especially your teen needs to see, too. Your child needs to see that even when you don’t have it all together, you keep trying, keep picking yourself up and going back at it.
6) To that end, offer overwhelmed parents a lifeline.
–> If you are the parent with questions or a situation that’s maybe not something you’d like to share with the whole world, but you are looking for some support as you work your way through it, here ___________ is a way to get in touch with someone who can provide a listening ear, some prayer, and even if we don’t have all the answers, we can at least start looking *with* you for those answers.
7) To further welcome the intimidated: Explain that you sometimes use the cheat sheet at Mass too, because dang that new translation. Anyone who’s rusty on the mechanics of the Mass can sit with you and you’ll go through it together. Not a big deal, we all have our things we need to brush up on.
Additional point for parents of teenagers, and yes I use caps lock a little bit because I am sorta shouting here:
Teens act like they need less of us, but really they need MORE of their parents than ever before. Many of the things that teens do to drive us nuts are because they are lonely and hungry for connection. They want to connect with their parents.
So coming to Mass together gives you a little more ground for connecting — you can talk about the sermon, or share your own thoughts on the readings, or just ask open questions and listen to your teen start rambling about something completely unrelated on the drive home. It’s all important.
But the key to unlocking your relationship with your child is MORE PARENT. MORE MORE MORE is what teens want, even when everything they are doing suggests the opposite. And the parent they want is YOU, not the perfect mythical parent someplace else.
So those are my recalcitrant parent talking points. None of them are any good if you’re in scold mode. But if you’re in love with the humans, which you have to be if you want to be a catechist, invite them in!
I’m sure you have other ideas as well. I might mention about Jesus dying to get his arms around you, about how there is nothing you’ve done that is so bad it can’t be forgiven, and about how desperately God is seeking you the parent and longing to be in a relationship with you. For example.
- Pope Francis has a few good thoughts on catechesis, which you can read in the full-text English translation of his latest interview. Fun stuff, readable, worth your minutes.
- Getting the Parent-Church Relationship Right
- Ignorant Kids, Slack Parents, Tepid Culture . . . What’s a Catechist to Do?
Artwork: My brain during Mass. Okay, actually it’s a detail from The Seven Sacraments by Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1440-1445, view 7 – Museum M – Leuven, Belgium, via Wikimedia Commons.