The statistics are sobering. According to a study published in 2015 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University:
- Only 22 percent of Catholic parents are attending Mass weekly or more often.
- 68 percent of Catholic parents don’t have their children enrolled in any form of Catholic religious education.
- Only 66 percent of Catholic parents say it is “very” important to them that their children celebrate their first Communion.
- 61 percent say it is “very” important that their child be confirmed.
- 85 percent of parents say they believe in heaven while 72 percent believe in hell. The majority also believe in the Church’s teachings.
So why is that 78 percent of Catholic families are not attending Mass weekly?
The study didn’t explore this but there are likely a variety of reasons that parents are choosing to skip Mass. If one parent doesn’t wish to go, or it seems too difficult to bring the kids, or other obligations exist, it can feel impossible to make it to Mass. But raising your children in the Catholic faith should be a priority.
Skipping Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is considered a mortal sin if you are physically able to attend. If you miss Mass, the Church requires that you receive the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation before going to Holy Communion again.
Quoting canon law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass [Canon, 1247].” “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day [Canon 1248 §1].” (CCC, 2180).
The importance of God’s forgiveness
Go to confession as a family now that your child is able to participate. Confessing your sins and receiving forgiveness can help you deal with past mistakes and move forward with your life. You will receive graces that help you become holier and take a step closer to heaven. Your children will also become aware of God’s mercy.
Keep holy the Sabbath
It’s right there in the Ten Commandments that your children are learning. Keeping the Lord’s Day holy is part of being Catholic. There are a variety of Mass times available so that everyone has the opportunity to attend.
“Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Deuteronomy 5:12). “The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord” (Exodus 31:15). (CCC, 2189)
Feed their souls
There’s a necessary focus on feeding children’s minds and bodies, but it’s equally important to feed their souls. The primary role of Catholic parents is to teach their children about being Catholic and to lead their children to heaven. Time in this world will end; the next world is eternal. Heaven is the goal.
The Pew Research Center found that 79 percent of former Catholics leave the church before age 23. It’s a parent’s duty to try and prevent that from happening.
The institution of Sunday helps all “to be allowed sufficient rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.” (CCC, 2194).
‘Let the children come to me’
Unfortunately, there can be people at Mass who are less than welcoming to children. Your children should be at Mass and so should you. While the lady showing you dirty looks from two rows up might make it seem like your kids are causing a ruckus, don’t let her intimidate you. Children are the future of the Church and should be welcomed and expected at Mass. If they don’t attend, they won’t see Mass as something that is for them. Jesus said:
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14).
A child’s first time receiving the sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation and Holy Communion should not be one-time occasions. It’s about more than a fancy suit or a pretty dress. It’s about the graces they receive and the path they will walk in life on their way to eternity.