Each week, we go to Mass as a family. And after Mass, I sometimes wonder if going to Mass was even worth the time, because most of it felt like we were corralling kittens! Here are some awesome tips and tricks to prepare and get the most out of weekly Mass.
1. Get the readings
Yes, pre-homework. While the kids are napping on Thursday or Friday during the week, look up the weekly readings at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings and read them before Mass. At least you will know what the Homily will be about. Or get any one of the great apps available on iOS and Android devices.
2. Study the Mass
Again, some homework, but there are some really awesome studies about the Mass and why we do the things we do during each part of the Mass. When you know these things, it will bring deeper meaning to each movement of the priest or word that is said.
3. Start with a prayer
Call upon the Holy Spirit to help you stay calm as you gather everyone and get ready to go. There is nothing worse than heading to Mass stressed, angry, and looking like a hot mess.
4. Get ready early
We have been bringing our kids to Mass for seventeen years now, but for some reason, each week, it is a surprise to them when we say it’s time to go! Anyone else out there have this problem?
So, we start at least two hours before Mass starts (or the night before if you go Sunday morning) getting the diaper bag full, picking out outfits, whatever it takes the family to get ready to go.
5. Get there early
Sounds counter-intuitive, but if you arrive early to Mass, you can get the good parking spot, get the choice of your own pew, take the kids to the bathroom (at least you can try), and say a prayer before Mass starts.
6. Try sitting up front
Ugh, so to put your entire family on display?!? No, but who wants to stare at other peoples backside the entire hour? Get at your kids level and see what they see and you’ll see why they don’t understand what’s going on. If you sit up front you can quietly explain what is going on to them and point out what the priest is doing. Something to consider.
7. Get the (quiet) entertainment out
Again, sounds counter-intuitive, but young kids just can’t sit still the entire time—and standing, kneeling and sitting don’t count. Our parish provides small bags of books for kids to borrow during Mass, or you can bring some of your own faith related books. There are also some quiet faith based stuffed animals or rosaries for young kids to hold and play with quietly.
8. Take them out, but bring them back
Sometimes kids will act up and there is nothing you can do but take them out. If you take the kids out and let them play in the back, and don’t bring them back into Church, they will figure out that if they act out they can get out of “this” so they can play. Instead, once they calm down bring them right back in, don’t let them play in the back, and even if they are very young, explain why we have to go back in.
9. It still counts!
Yes, if all else fails, and you end up staying the entire time outside of Church trying to calm your crying child, God knows and understands your intention going to Church to be with Him. Just keep going, it will get easier . . . someday.
Bonus tip: Cry rooms
Our church doesn’t have an actual ‘cry room’ (although now they use the family room with a video feed of Mass), but I have seen several when visiting other churches. I don’t like them and never really used them. Either the other parents would let their kids do whatever they wanted, and I couldn’t hear the Mass anyway, or there might be someone in there who is childless and just wants to observe the Mass by themselves, and will give you a dirty look when you bring your kids into an otherwise empty cry room (yes, this happened). I say avoid the cry room, and stick with showing your kids the proper way to participate at Mass, teach them there are times to play, and times to pray.