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Christmas Mass...Bah, Humbug?!

"Help, my child is home from college and tells me he has stopped going to Mass! What should I do?"

This question is the one I get most often when I am speaking or doing a radio call-in show. Sadly, it's common for college-aged young adults to decide while away at school that Mass is no longer important to them. And few are able (or willing) to offer a well-thought-out rationale for their decision. How sad and frustrating for parents that something so important to us seems to have been so carelessly abandoned by our children.

Well-meaning friends shrug and tell us, "Oh, don't worry, he'll come back eventually," but that's not much consolation to the parent who fears for her child's spiritual well-being here and now.

What we need is a strong dose of the Advent virtue HOPE... and a few practical tips for keeping peace on the home front this holiday season.

When a child refuses to attend Mass, prayer is always a loving parent's first recourse. Through regular daily conversation with our loving Father, we are comforted and assured of His love for us and our children. We learn to depend on Him more every day, and trust Him with their future and ours. As a result, we grow in HOPE, which helps to calm our fears and ensures that our dealings with our child are joyful and sincere, not anxious, worried or nagging in tone.

Psalm 141:3 helps me to fight the urge to nag and I pray it often: "Set a guard, Lord, before my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips." My loving husband also reminds me that, "its not what you say but how you say it that matters." God bless his even temperedness!

I also recommend the "golden" 5-1 rule: For every time we mention God, Mass, or Sacraments, we ask at least five times about something that we know matters to our child and listen attentively while he/she tells us about it. This kind of empathic listening protects us from seeming to them like spiritual things are "all we ever talk about".

Finally, its always good to ask ourselves how we think about the Mass. If we truly treasure Mass, attend and participate often, and prayerfully deepen our love of Jesus in the Eucharist it will show in our demeanor and we will find words to naturally encourage our children to attend. Our obvious enthusiasm for the Mass will evangelize them, often without saying much at all. I would refer you to the list of quotes by saints on the beauty of the Mass at the end of Chapter 11 in And So We Pray. I found them very inspiring.

If this coming Christmas season, so full of family traditions, sentimental holiday music and Hallmark movies, actually prompts your son or daughter to talk about his/her reasons for not attending Mass, I have found it very fruitful to listen carefully to what they DO believe. I have seen one of my son's spirituality mature during our friendly, non-threatening conversations about faith, and that consoles me while I wait for him to return to Catholicism. He will, I am sure, because My Lord loves us both beyond our imagining!

May you have a peaceful, blessed Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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