Here a few family Mass rules I have observed from wonderful families.
- They dress up.
Dressing up is not easy with children, but we find it indispensable. It makes a big impact, driving home everyone’s comprehending that Mass is special.
They tell the kids: We wouldn’t meet with the queen of England wearing just anything; nor should we simply dress normally to meet with the king of heaven and earth.
- They train the leader.
Mostly one child, often the oldest (or the oldest “little one” with teens and small children), sets the tone for the others. They ensure this one understands what is expected.
They tell the kids: “Your little brothers and sisters will act exactly like you do at Mass, so it’s your job to direct them on how it’s done.”
- They sit where the children can see.
Their logic is that kids can’t listen to what they can’t see, so they find the best angle possible. This requires coming early — and it means being willing to sit in the often unused front pew, where children truly have a “ringside” view.
They tell the kids: Christ is truly present in the tabernacle, and he comes again at the consecration. That makes each Mass a miniature Christmas or Easter. They want to be as close to Christ as possible — in short, they want to receive him in communion.
- We review behavior rules.
They remind the kids what our expectations are each time we go to Mass. They also give specific expectations for various ages. The 11-year-old has to remember the Gospel. The 7-year-old has to shake hands. The 5-year-old has to sit still. Everyone must keep their eyes on the priest during the consecration!
They tell the kids: “You have to sit still, kneel, or stand at all times. No crawling, no changing seats.” And the all-important: “Obey right away; especially in public; especially at Mass.”
- They always go, and never make excuses.
Parents have many excuses for skipping Sunday Mass: “We were up too late last night to go to Mass. We have to travel this weekend so we can’t go to Mass. We’re too late now anyway so we might as well not go.”
But when kids hear these excuses, they often make them their lifetime motto: “It’s OK to skip Mass when things aren’t perfect.”
They tell the kids: If a friend threw himself on a grenade for us saying, “Remember me each Sunday!” we would do it. Before he died for us, Christ said to remember him with Mass (see Luke 22:14–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26).