When I have to turn my attention away from Mass to answer my 6 year old’s question about where we are going to eat afterward, or get my 8 year old’s attention so he will stop distracting others and himself with his imaginary people made out of his walking fingers; I groan inwardly. Seriously?? This is what you are occupying your mind with? I get it. I am no stranger to these types of distractions. I try my best to bring all I can to the Mass because the more I bring, the more I take away from it. When I find my time taken away from that effort to settle bickering about the inch his brother moved in the pew, the placement of a missalette, or some other minor issue made to be a big one that eats at my patience, I think there has got to be a better way.
At home when this happens the solution is to give them something to do. They need direction, so I give them some. Now, I am simply applying the same concept to Mass. I am not going to bring coloring books or toys. Searching in Microsoft Word Templates I came across this “test”.
I created a simple one page sheet with 4 questions and a place to write the “Reading of the Week”, that our wonderful priest gives the kids to recite at the end of every Mass. The questions are asking what the Readings, Gospel and Homily were about. I expect them to be complete before we kneel for the Eucharistic Prayer.
Just like with a new math skill, it seems hard at first and they pitch a fit about having to practice it. I want them to get into the practice of paying attention and hearing God speak to them. So that, just like with the math, the skill practiced will become second nature.
I offer my support (which actually helps me to focus). I give them every reason to accomplish the goal. Consequences when they don’t do their best, paired with rewards when they do.
My hope is that instead of bringing Christ down to their level, that they will work to rise to His.
There will be (and already have been) some growing pains. The exact same ones that we see at home when they are stubborn and lazy and being expected to do something. This too, will help to build their character.
Boredom is a choice, not something out of our control. There is so much happening, so many ways God is speaking to you, calling to you during Mass. If sitting there thinking about your grocery list or what you need to get done when you leave, I challenge you to join us in trying to rise to His call.