When I was in high school I, like many other Catholics my age, missed Mass on occasion due to sports (in my case, dance) conflicts. I remember one such time when I had a weekend-long workshop and competition in Seattle. My grandma came with my family to watch and when it was time for Mass, they went and I stayed behind in my workshops. I really thought nothing of it until my grandma approached me at the end of the weekend. She wasn't judgemental, however she pointed out to me that I missed Mass and that it really was a big deal. After she talked to me, something in me clicked and, as a result, I haven't missed a Sunday Mass since (well, it doesn't count that I missed on the Sunday morning Avila was born, right at the time our congregation would've been receiving Communion!).
I have heard my fair share of arguments as to why a weekly commitment of Sunday Mass either isn't feasible or isn't necessary. For those who say it isn't necessary, let me give you two points. First of all, it's in the 10 Commandments: You shall honor the Sabbath. Second, and most important, is that if we are to grow our relationship with Christ, what better way to do so than receive Him in the Eucharist each week? (or more if you go to daily Mass!) Some say that religion is a hindrance to a relationship with God, but I say it is a means to make it stronger. Religion, and especially Mass, is there to nurture, to support, and to challenge our faith to deeper levels. Yes, we are called to our own time with Christ everyday, however we are also called to celebrate as Jesus did, how Jesus commanded...Do this in remembrance of me...
For those who find it challenging to make it each week with children or within a busy schedule, we must put life into perspective. Who is it that has given us our beautiful babes? Who is it that has given us the gifts in life that we use as excuses to not worship our Lord? It is the very God who asks just one hour of us to give Him thanks for these gifts and receive His Son so that we might be strengthened for the week ahead. Sometimes we may even be out of town, but the great thing about being Catholic is that Mass is the same everywhere. Michael tells me about his time playing college football when, after a Saturday game whether in town or on the road, he and his buddy Jonathon would wake up early the next morning and go to Mass together. Knowing my husband has shown this commitment makes me feel every more secure in our family.
This isn't to say that with a little one going to Mass isn't a challenge sometimes. Our 9:00am Mass used to fall during Avila's naptime, and many know I am a stickler for naps. But these were the only occasions that I never made an excuse for not going. Sure, we have to wake up a bit earlier than usual, but what would it say to our children if we missed Mass because of naps or because it took too much effort to get there? Another thing we like to do is sit close to the front. Now, I know this might not be possible at times, however, children building the foundation of their faith need to be close to the action. It takes work on our part to make sure we build good habits in our children to be able to be occupied with a book or small toy, but I can see Avila benefiting from our proximity to the Altar already. She stares at the Priest during the homily, because she can see his face and hear his voice. She always looks to the Altar when the bells are rung during the Eucharistic Prayer, and she loves everything to look at in our beautiful church. She even has her We Go to Mass board book that has great illustrations of the different parts of the Mass. We sit her on our lap and flip through as the Mass goes along.
Now that Avila's first nap is a little later, I'm also trying to take her to at least one daily Mass each week. They're only 30 minutes and it is a great habit to start now. I want our children to grow up with love for God and love for His Church. I want them to know the importance and meaning behind going to Mass. And I want to expose them to every opportunity possible to receive God's grace. I know God will bless our commitment to Him, for Christ says:
...seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well