Sunday Mass is supposed to be a time of peace and reflection, an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and celebrate Jesus through the gift of the Eucharist.
And, of course, it can be all that. But if you are parents of small children, church can feel more like a game of liturgical hot potato, where you take turns tossing off a squirming child and trying not to be the one left holding the diaper blowout at the sign of peace.
During these awkward times, Mass can seem like a chore. Weary from lack of sleep and overstimulated by too many cartoons, you just may want to take a week off.
Don’t. Keep going, no matter how loudly the kids yell or whether you keep getting the cold fish handshake from the people in front of you. Your marriage will thank you.
I firmly believe our regular Mass attendance has been the glue keeping us together for the past 16 years. It has supported our faith and provided a framework for our family. And much like exercise, I always feel better after I go.
I’m glad to see my own personal experience reflected in the findings of a recent study showing that couples who regularly attend religious services are less likely to divorce. There is something special about the time spent together at church. It is a wonderful commingling of the individual and the group, and it can give us the spiritual strength we need.
In an age where so many things are dividing us — technology, politics, laundry (you know it’s true) — Mass can be a valuable unifier. I say with no sarcasm that weekly Mass is the one hour a week I know I will spend with my husband, albeit with three kids sandwiched between us. But even that physical togetherness is powerful.
At Mass, I feel my husband’s presence next to me, whether it’s the exchange of a knowing look during the homily or the way he casually wraps his arm around my shoulder in the pew. At the end of the Our Father, we squeeze each other’s hand a little harder than we should.
Sitting together during Mass is a weekly reminder that our life is directed by God. Perhaps it’s in the communal experience — seeing other families of different backgrounds and ages and realizing that our family is part of a larger family of Catholics.
Praying together gives my husband and me a shared identity, just like when we established ourselves as a collective unit by registering together in our first parish. We rarely think about it, but each Mass is like our wedding day, when we spoke our vows and shared the Eucharist for the first time as husband and wife.
We continued that with the baptism of our three children. We reaffirm that bond as they receive their other sacraments.
I’ll be honest — going to Mass doesn’t just help when we make it to church on time and the priest offers us a relatable homily. It also helps in those lonely moments, too, when I’m feeling disconnected from my husband or one of us is still stewing over a squabble despite the smiles plastered on our faces.
We can find God in the midst of those trying times as well. Mass provides the critical opportunity for us to look at our lives through the lens of faith.
Parents, keep going to Mass even if you feel like everyone is staring at your crying baby or your toddler who spilled the bag of Cheerios across the pew. (More likely than not, we are remembering somewhat nostalgically how that was us at some point.)
You may not get an hour of undivided attention to speak with God. Your spouse may spend the consecration with a wailing baby in the vestibule. Maybe your only prayer will be saying, “Amen,” when you receive Communion.
That is enough.
(By Kelly Bothum, a freelance writer and a mother of three.)