Monday, July 7, 2014

Getting ready for Mass

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to Mass we go...  How many of you spend your Sunday mornings hustling people out of bed, getting them into decent clothes and fed, rushed into the car and often end up racing into Mass as the priest is heading up the aisle. Kids are fighting in the car and parents are yelling. Ugh. It's no wonder we enter Mass worked up and no one gets much out of it. What are some things your family can start doing to make Sundays more prayerful and less hectic?

First of all, look at the day/time you're attending Mass. Would Saturday evening be less hectic? Is Sunday morning the most ideal? Don't feel guilty about that Last Chance Mass on Sunday night if it works well with your household's schedule. We all get attached to "our" Mass, but with children you need to be flexible. If you're attending in the morning, these suggestions may make the morning easier:

  • Laying out clothes the night before (Have an extra outfit in mind if you have a potty-training toddler or a baby who's likely to spit up on you on your way out the door.)
  • Having a simple, continental breakfast before Mass as opposed to cooking a large meal (Especially if it's fruit and granola bars or something you can set out the night before, it should make the morning easier.)
  • Earlier bedtimes on Saturday night
  • Baths/showers before bed Saturday as opposed to in the morning
  • Moving the clocks ahead 10-15 minutes to give yourself that extra cushion
Whenever you go to Mass, plan to arrive 15-20 minutes early. This give you a buffer when you have delays getting out the door. It also provides time to hit the bathrooms when you arrive at Mass. Insist on this either just before leaving home and/or just before walking into church. It's not a 100% guarantee, but it may cut down on bathroom trips during Mass. 

What does your typical drive or walk to Mass look like? If driving, find some soothing music (classical? Gregorian chant?) to help calm everyone's nerves. Insist that the ride or walk to Mass be quiet and/or have discussions about Mass. As you get into the car or leave the house, remind everyone to let go of the other cares of the day: no yelling, no fighting, and no asking about going for pizza after Mass. What are things you are thankful for this week? What intentions does your family want to hold in prayer at Mass? Most importantly, what gifts are you bringing to God today? Perhaps, use an app such as Laudate to read the readings, or at least the gospel, on the way and discuss it. If you use a tool such as my Liturgical Reflections to better understand the readings, have the kids use those in the car (as opposed to during Mass). 

Do not let your children bring toys, blankets, books, etc. into the car unless they are for Mass use. Consider having a bag for each child containing a rosary, children's bible, and/or children's missalette- only the few items they may need to aid in prayer- that you distribute in the car en route to Mass. This way, they know that only those items are permissible once inside. If the car is filled with toys, dolls, juice boxes, and rattles you can guarantee someone will pitch a fit about not being able to bring that item into church with them. If they need those items for going somewhere after Mass, pack them in the trunk and keep them out of sight. 

By arriving 15-20 minutes early, you can quietly get out the wiggles in a calm way. Visit a statue or light a candle before Mass. Do you have a separate Adoration Chapel? Have someone pick seats while the little ones go say a prayer in front of Jesus. Let them continue using Liturgical Reflections in the pew or reading a children's bible, provided they know it gets put away once Mass begins. If the hymns are posted, look them up before Mass. Encourage older siblings to quietly read from the children's bible or missalette to the younger ones. 

Create a system where the kids pick seats at Mass- perhaps having a rotating basis so each child takes turns. Giving everyone a say might make them more agreeable. Most young kids don't like the back- they prefer the front so they can see everything. Give them this chance. You might be surprised that they will step up their behavior so as to enjoy the privilege of sitting where they want. 

It might seem tougher to keep children quiet/still at Mass longer, but I've found the opposite to be true. That extra few minutes in church before Mass can calm and relax everyone, making the Mass experience more pleasant for you and those around you. What Mass routines has your family created that help all to enjoy the experience?

UPDATE (7/12/14):

Acquaintance, Katie Choudhary, is CGS catetchist at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet, IL. On Facebook this morning, Katie posted: Do you recognize anything from today's Gospel? Preparing the children for mass is an awesome gift we can give them. It helps them focus their attention as they hear key phrases they remember from when you read it earlier together! We sit in the recliner and read the Gospel (from our NRSV bible) on Sunday morning before mass. They sit on my lap and I read it straight out of the bible to them. Some days it works better than others and sometimes I cut it short. Today's Gospel was a PERFECT one ! I ended right before Jesus started to explain why He uses parables to teach. 


Thanks, Katie, for this perfect example of how preparing children for Mass can lead to the fruits of their faith. Children show a deep understanding of theology, when given the chance/resources. My Liturgical Reflections are for parents who don't feel capable/confident in guiding their children in this way and/or children who haven't experienced CGS. In CGS, kids learn to be open to hearing complex scripture stories and exploring them through their own "free art". Katie's calling to read sacred scripture with her children is her own and not inspired by my suggestion, but I want you to witness the beauty of like-minded thinking parents/catechists. 


  1. I've gone to mass on Sunday evenings for almost 10 years and I LOVE IT. I love ending my weekend with mass. I'm not a morning person so I hate getting up early for mass (yes even the 11am or noon mass is a struggle sometimes). I hate that they call this mass the "last chance mass" in such a negative way like it's a bad time to go...obviously the churches have that mass for a reason and it shouldn't matter when you go to mass as long as you go.

  2. I have a number of friends who feel guilty about attending Mass Sunday nights. Some people (not myself) say it's putting God off until the last possible minute. My goal was to lessen guilt because many people were raised without Sunday evenings as an option. Now that it's offered as a cultural norm, not everyone feels it's right. Silly, I agree.

    Thanks for reading!!