Today Lisa Hendey posted an article at "Faith and Family Life" entitled Catechetical Etiquette. She would like to create a list of expected behaviors, which catechists can pass along to students.
Last weekend we skipped our (nearly) weekly trip to McDonalds after Mass because I felt the deportment of our children had been ... well, unseemly. Growling at other children on their way back from giving Father their gifts. Refusing to shake hands at the sign of peace. Whispering about what we were going to do after Mass during the prayer of consecration.
True, they had remained in their seats and listened attentively (for them) when I went forward to do the reading, and had followed along in the hymnal during all the hymns. Still, I thought they could do better.
Then again, I had to acknowledge how far they had come. There was a time when it would have been imprudent to allow Sarah out of arm's reach even for a moment, to bring Father the can of soup for the homeless shelter. A time when it was all I could do not to bring a tranquilizer dart in the diaper bag to regain control over my three-year-old son when he started flicking Cheerios onto the floor and diving on them like grenades.
But just as I was pondering whether my expectations were overly high, I overheard a mom admonishing her five-year-old for crossing his arms and looking grumpy during the homily. He had been right behind me, and I hadn't heard a peep out of him the entire service. Even so, he got no donut that week.
What are the MBS required to avoid the raised-eyebrow brigade Mass? Different families have different expectations, but here are a few points to get the conversation started:
* Dress to show respect. You are going to spend time with God. Think "Sunday dinner with Grandma" (or someone else you respect), not "Showtime at the Apollo." Minimize distractions (jangly jewelry or fussy accessories, no electronics of any kind).
* Remember that our bodies reflect what is in our hearts. When we genuflect as we enter the pew, it is to recognize that we serve the King of Kings. We cross ourselves with holy water as we enter and leave the church, and again (without the water) at the beginning and end of Mass to remind ourselves of our baptism, our "birthday" in the Church. When we stand and sit, sing or pray aloud, hear the bells or smell the incense, we use all our senses to worship our Creator. It is not enough to just "go through the motions." If it's all just for "show," it does not honor God.
* Come expecting to hear from God. If you can, get there a little early to prepare yourself. Light a candle if you wish. Kneel down before the service begins and commit that hour to God, inviting Him to speak to your heart. The message might come from a song, a line in the reading, a story in the homily ... or some other way. But if you come expecting to hear from God, He will never disappoint you.
* Be mindful of how your behavior affects others ... either leading them closer to God, or farther away. Whispering, poking a sibling, scowling, fidgeting, and thumping the kneelers are all examples of distractions to avoid. If you are finding it hard to concentrate, tell God about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and calm you. He will. Ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She will.
* If you're not sure what to do, just follow the people in front of you or on either side of you. You can find the words to the prayers in the front of the hymnal. Everyone has a job to do in church, if everything is going to go smoothly and in order. Young children can sit quietly ... but the bigger kids get to pray and sing with the grown-ups!
* Shh... Jesus is here! Jesus whispers to us in the readings, and gives Himself to us in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine. During those times especially, we need to pay close attention ... We are never closer to heaven as when we receive the life of Jesus in the Eucharist. If you listen very closely, you can hear the angels in heaven bursting into song at that moment, rushing down to carry the intentions of our hearts straight to the throne of God. If you need to ask God something, that is the best time of all to make your request!
* Mass is not over until the priest leaves the sanctuary AND the music stops. Don't cut your worship short just to be the first out of the parking lot. God has been waiting all week to spend some time with you ... Don't cut your visit short. You never know what blessing is in store!
* If you find yourself at church during the week, why not stop by and say hello to Jesus in the tabernacle, or light a candle? Tell Him how your week is going. Stop and breathe, and whisper a little prayer if you're having a particularly good or bad week. The Lord Jesus loves you, and looks forward to your visit!
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