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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wake Up Call

I think I mentioned that I am not a morning person. I've never been a morning person. I was asleep at my desk as a child. For my entire adult life I've had to pretend to be a morning person, which I don't think I could do without drugs. A drug. Caffeine. I'm actually blind until I have a cup of coffee.

My mother gave me coffee as a child. I couldn't eat breakfast food without it. The idea of a glass of milk (which I enjoyed with every other meal) with breakfast caused me to turn up my nose at a slice of toast. That was my breakfast everyday, toast and coffee. I now realize that I wasn't drinking coffee, I was drinking milk and sugar with coffee in it.

Every single morning we tromped off to school, went into our classrooms, then lined up and tromped back out of the school across the street to church and went to Mass. Then we all tromped back over to school and went to the cafeteria and had an Underbrink's Bakery cinnamon roll, because back then you couldn't eat before Communion for several days. No...I'm kidding. Just several hours. The first and pre-First Communion second graders got a free Underbrink's Bakery ride. When we had a free day due to a Holy Day of Obligation, we had to tromp off to Mass from home.

Eventually, we stopped going to Mass first and started going to Mass before lunch instead. Then it was Mass, lunch, recess. I'll come back to this after we take a look at today's question, which has caused quite a bit of discussion:

I have a question which I hope will be short and easy. Maybe you can answer between dusting pews and airing Sister Mary Fiacre. Is everyone else with kids constantly baraged on Sunday mornings by "But I dont want to go to Mass" and "I am tired and I need to sleeeeep" or is that just me? Where did I go wrong? Because the catholic blogging moms (esp the homeschool ones) seem to never mention children who complain about going to Mass, how long Mass lasts and etc.

You call that easy? I think the only thing that stopped us from complaining on all of those cold, cold Midwest mornings was the fact that we were going, no matter what, and there would be pastry at the end.

But let me tell you of my terrible Mass allergy.

I used to get sick at Mass on a daily basis. I was very small, so I don't remember everything about what all went on. I'm pretty sure I had breakfast (toast and coffee) every day before I went to school, so I wasn't sick from being hungry. And when I upchucked at Mass...well, something came up.

Every day.

So at some point, I was the only child allowed to not go to Mass, which I didn't mind one little bit. I was glad to not get sick every day and the Mass was so boring. Still in Latin, with the priest miles away behind the Communion rail, his back to us most of the time. There I stood, sat, knelt, stood, knelt, stood, sat, knelt, with the snow melting off my red rubber boots. If I wasn't paying attention and put my feet on the kneelers when I sat I would then get to kneel in cold sooty water. I do all of that and then I get to throw up, too? Oh boy! Where do I sign up?!

So I sat alone in the first grade room and then met up with everyone for the Underbrink's. Underbrink's is still there, by the way, and still so very, very good. When my parents had their 60th wedding anniversary last September, guess where we got the cake?

I can't think that anyone babysat me, but someone must have. Surely they wouldn't have let a six year old alone for the better part of an hour. But back then no one dreamed of putting a seat belt on a child in a car or making sure the driver was sober. Back then it was actually a sort of manly pride issue. "I can drive!" So maybe I was alone.

I wonder why they didn't just let me leave for school later. Then I could have slept in! Maybe I would have been awake at my desk!

It didn't end there. Periodically, throughout my life, I have simply keeled over at Mass. Usually, I manage to get outside before I pass out. If I get out soon enough, once I hit the outside air, I avoid actually hitting the pavement. But I have hit the pavement.

I'm not suggesting that at this point I ever want to skip Mass. No.

What I am saying is that I am just the wrong person to ask this question. Getting up early and tromping off to Mass was not my idea of a good time when I was a child and I sympathize 100% with your whining children. And look how I turned out! (Except for the fainting from time to time.) As a child, the 10 o'clock Mass made all the difference and so did going at lunch time on school days. By then I was awake, and not blind.

I don't think children should skip Mass. It's the Main Event in Catholic life and the life of the family.

Here's my advice, for what it's worth. Let them whine. Don't answer their whining and don't punish them. Just get everybody ready for Mass and go.

Like this:

Do we have to go to Mass?

You: Yes, we're all going.

Child: I don't want to go.

We're all going. Start getting ready. Where are your shoes?

Child: I'm tired. I want to sleep.

You: We're all going. Let's get ready.

And on and on like that.
Hum a merry tune to yourself and stay cheerful. Find some great pastry afterward. Enlist the help of the Pillsbury dough boy.

We've also been discussing children at Mass in general. I have quite a lot to say about that.


PraiseDivineMercy said...

All I can say is 12:30 pm mass was the answer when I was younger. My grandma let me sleep in until ten and we would all have lunch after mass.

I went to Latin mass yesterday and was amazed at the good behavior of some of the children around me. The mass started at 12 pm though. ^_^

MAB said...

I did not want to go to Mass as a child because I did not understand the Mass! It was in English. It was the '70s. In the "new catechesis" tried out then, we did not learn what the Mass actually was. I have an aunt who is a sister, and she did try, long distance, to help me, but she was written off as "religious."

Also, I learned "religion" one period a day in school, and that was it. There was no reinforcement of religion in the home. There was no reinforcement of religion throughout the school day. It became a "subject" like English or Math.

I now have two boys, nine and three. My three-year-old just sat all the way through Mass for the first time last Sunday, and quietly. Now it is time to start bringing him to daily Mass, once in a while. My nine-year-old loves Mass. He will walk three blocks to Mass alone on a weekday. He loves to serve Mass. He has never, since making his First Communion at age seven, said that he did not want to attend a Sunday Mass.

What am I doing differently? I teach my children about the faith at home using good, quality materials (remember the Baltimore Catechism?). The faith is reinforced daily at home (morning and evening prayers, crucifixes in every room, statues, home altars, the Rosary, celebrating saint days, discussing the Sunday Gospel and homily, etc.). We try to live our lives every day aware that we are Christians. You do not have to be homeschoolers to do this, either. Parents can instruct their children in the faith and make a Catholic home for them, whatever school they attend.

Are my children perfect? No! They argue, throw things when they are mad, disobey, like any other children. But we keep trying, day after day.

Anonymous said...

Somebody really ought to look into this fainting-and-throwing-up-at-Mass phenomenon. My husband used to almost pass out regularly as an altar boy, and now my daughter says she gets dizzy and nauseous.

My googling leads me to believe that it has to do with standing or kneeling very still, which makes the blood pool up in your legs, which causes low blood-volume in your heart.

This problem is made much worse if you're a bit dehydrated. So the solution isn't to eat before Mass, but to drink plenty of water.

Michelle said...

Homeschool mom of 6 whiny kids here. I'd like to think I'm doing everything possible to impart to them the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith every moment of every day. And yet, they still complain about having to go to Mass. I simply say that it is a mortal sin, and nobody under my guidance and supervision would be permitted to commit a mortal sin. I've also been known to say things like, "Do you think I want to take 6 whiny kids to Mass? I don't write the rules, I just obey them."

I've actually been happy the last few weeks because illness has required my husband and I to attend separate Masses in order to keep one or another sick kid at home. This has meant no Mass with a two-year old - yahoo! Otherwise, I spend all my time in church giving dirty looks, whispering threats in children's ears, or standing in the vestibule with the toddler. After Mass, people say my kids were SOOO well behaved, by which I assume that I managed to keep them quiet enough to not distract others from the Mass, since I certainly don't consider them well behaved.

And then I go home and take a nap.

Anonymous said...

Having been in the trenches myself, with children ranging in age from 16 to 2, I can say it's easier with the younger children once I got the older ones to understand that Mass is one of those non-negotiable things they have to live with, like brushing their teeth or helping with the dishes. The older ones gave up whining and the younger ones just see Mass as part of what we do.

On the way, they've also learned to love the Mass. I agree that good catechesis is necessary and it has to start at home. I love the Baltimore Catechism, but my children do not, so your mileage may vary on that one, but there are some excellent materials out there that are faithfull to the Magisterium. The Church teaches that we're the primary teachers of our children, so it's up to us parents to set the stage for this and if the parish doesn't help much, we have to do all the work, since it's our responsibility anyway.

Part of the education is taking the 2yo out of the church with some frequency as she gets so obnoxious that she disturbs folks. She loves to be in the church, but she wants to run up and down the aisles and rip up the books. She wants to be in the church but doesn't want to do what it takes to be in the church. (There's an analogy for us all in that.) When she's three, she will be developmentally ready to sit mostly still and mostly quiet. We can already stay in the church for probably 90% of the Mass and I've even heard the whole Homily two or three times in a row, now.

Anonymous said...

I've always been -curious- about some parents I've known who "don't make their kids attend Mass on Sunday". They seem to give up on their parental rights to insist that their children do as they say as soon as the kid, at around the age of 14 says, "I don't get anything out of Mass, it's boring..." yadda yadda.

My kid - as long as he lived in our house - went to Mass with us. And he didn't leave the house until he was around 22 years old. He didn't care for it, but sometimes he'd comment about the homily or this or that - and he even went to Holy Communion once in awhile (if we'd gone to Confession recently - which is also something we'd tell him he had to do with us as long as he lived in our house...)

That being said, lunch after Mass at Denny's is sort of a perk for them - and us. Pizza on Confession Saturdays too.

I don't care to go to Mass on Sunday mornings either - because 99% of the time I'm not in total appreciation of the mystery that is the Eucharist. I'm a human being more than a mystic.

I go to Mass because #1 - it's a rule of the Church and #2 - I believe in God and trust my Church to know what we should be doing and #3 - I never know when I'll receive some sort of interior consolation. It's happened, but it's rare.

And mostly, what's an hour?

It's the least we can do for the God who made us.

As far as little kids in Mass are concerned - they're a pain in the ass at the grocery store sometimes and what's the difference? Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Some children seem more predisposed by temperment to like church. Among my 7 children I've seen both extremes. The one who is happy to go to Mass even more than he has to, is also the one who is interested in ESP, astral projection and doing magic. He is attracted to both postive and negative spirituality. In some ways, the one who just doesn't like going to church is easier to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Abigail, I think you're on to something there! I used to faint regularly at mass, and when I had morning sickness there was never a time when I didn't at least desparately want to run out and throw up in the bushes. I would select my seat according to how close it was to the nearest exit and NOBODY was coercing me into sliding down the pew to make room for latecomers.

I also think there is a relationship between lack of sleep and nausia as well, since everyone in my house feels like throwing up if they wake up too early. Maybe it has something to do with which part of the sleep cycle they are forced out of.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in with abigail and monica ... my daughter has this fainting syndrome ... it usually happens when she is overheated and/or dehydrated. Making her drink a full glass of water before we leave for Mass and sitting on the end of a pew, preferably near a window or door, seems to keep it at bay. I also can experience this, though I have found that by keeping my legs moving when we are standing (think shifting my weight from leg to leg), I can keep it at bay -- probably distracting for the people in the pew behind us, but not nearly as distracting as a fainting episode! I've also found that those horrible all-standing-no-kneeling type Masses are the absolute worst for causing this syndrome.

Tienne said...

I used to faint at Mass, too. It was definitely a standing/kneeling thing. Going to a chiropractor helped realign my back so it wasn't pinching nerves and stopping blood flow when I knelt or stood for a long time.

I used to hate hate HATE taking my son to Mass (he's 4 1/2) because he would complain the whole time, bother the baby, drape himself across three pews, lie under the pews, run out into the aisle, etc etc etc. Once when I was pregnant and he wouldn't stop talking, I actually left Mass during the Homily and sat in the car and cried and screamed for 15 minutes because I was so frustrated with him.

I just kept taking him and it got better. Thank God.

Anonymous said...

Taking your little ones to daily Mass a few times a week really helps. 7 days is too long apart to reinforce the desired behavior. Daily Mass is also shorter, less distracting (no music or long homily), and the usual crowd is grandparently types who may be willing to help.

I've got 6 kids and with the first few I would get mad, give dirty looks, etc when trying to get them to be perfect at Mass. It works for getting outward obedience, but for getting kids that want to go to Mass...not so much! It took a while for God to change my attitude, but it made a huge difference for the kids.

They still have to behave, but now I try to catch them being good and when they slip up, I try to gently say, "Pay attention to Jesus again." or "Fold your hands again." with a smile to let them know they have been doing it right and encourage them. With the younger (5 and down) I try to explain as much as I can what is going on.

Are they perfect? Well, we have an occasional day like Monday, when the toddler escaped over the pew and the 10 year old brought him back by dragging him by his feet... But, most of the time, they have good body prayer (posture), pay attention to the priest and say the prayers. And the three older ones (who can receive Jesus)have asked to go every day.

Michelle said...

Wendy, I was exaggerating for the sake of humor.

Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

Sister, I'm hoping to return to the Gem City Friday afternoon from where I'll return Saturday afternoon.

If all works out, I'll eat a cinnamon roll for you :)

Anonymous said...

Back in grad school one of my professors took an informal survey of how many cups of coffee his students drank per day. I was the "winner" that semester at 26 cups. He said that his all-time coffee addict was a nun who drank 33 cups a day!

Coffee is very high in antioxidants and low in calories so unless you have GERD or something (like me-- sob!) enjoy every drop.

The cinnamon roll, on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

For all the fainting kids out there--I am a choir teacher and have to remind all my students not to lock their knees when they are on the risers or they will pass out. So start telling your kids to keep their knees slightly bent and it might help!

Anonymous said...

When I was a boy, my Mom and I would get up early and go to the 6:30 am Mass many Summer weekday mornings. Often there would only be 10-20 people there, but I loved getting up early and still do. On those long-ago sunny summer mornings Father McGraine would often look out from the little door at the side of the alter and see if any altar boys were out front, and then he'd see me and motion for me to come back and serve Mass. I loved serving Mass, but I had a different problem--I ALWAYS got sick at Midnight Mass. Always!

Sparki said...

My kids have all complained about going to Mass at one time or another.

When they say, "I'm too tired," then I tell them they can take a nap afterwards and I would move their Saturday night bedtime forward an hour next week.

When they say, "I don't want to," I say, "Well, JESUS wants you to, and He's the Boss, so we're all going. Besides He knows you don't want to go, so if you do go and you behave properly, He'll notice that you've made a good sacrifice for Him, and He won't forget."

When they say, "It's boring," I used the tired old adage that I used to hate hearing from my fourth-grade teacher: "Mass is not boring for people who are smart enough to pay attention," and then I challenge them to remember something from one of the readings and/or Father's homily (depending on the age of the child), noting that they will be duly rewarded if they can discuss it with us after Mass. (Usually Hershey kisses.)

The younger ones still complain from time to time, and they are making up fun new things to complain about, such as "It's too loud when they ring the bells." (which is answered with, "You have my permission to cover your ears during the bell-ringing) and "It's too cold in Church" (which is remedied with a second sweater).

Anonymous said...

Choir teacher- you are soooo right. I've watched kids fall at concerts from locking their knees. My son did it in church once.
I get sick from the incense. I have to leave the church otherwise I'm going to require a trip to the hospital. Crowds and pregnancy- I couldn't breath. Had to sit where there was air movement.

Anonymous said...

I can certainly relate to this one. I'm 67 and remember well the days of fasting from midnight. That's why we always had Mass early. Most people still didn't go to communion. I wonder if people who claim to be dedicated to the antiquated ritual are also dedicated to the strict fast.

Anonymous said...

My son fainted from the incense once, too. Unfortunately, he was holding the thurible, kneeling in front of the altar. He just kind of melted halfway through the Eucharistic prayer. The hot metal burning his arm woke him up. He's not so into making clouds and clouds waft out now.

Here's a good line: "Oh, dear, are you too tired for doughnuts after Mass? If you're too tired to stand/kneel/pray the Our Father, then we can go home right after Mass instead of going to Krispy Kreme, so you can get a nap."

Kristen said...

As a homeschool mom with a brood that includes a couple of boys with mild autism, I had to share a couple of funny stories about how much they consider the Mass an assault on their senses...and I am thinking that they are more normal than autistic about that:

I talk one son into going to the 7 AM Mass because it usually was shorter. He sees deacon So-n-so processing in, and turns to me and says (very loudly!) "Oh, no, it's Deacon So-n-so! He does the long homilies. You said this would be the short Mass!)

Another time, Easter Sunday, brood in front row (why did we do that? stupid...) anyway. The rendition of "Christ the Lord is Risen today...ahhhahhhhahhhahhhahhhahhhleh-loooooo-ya" was so slow and out of key on the very loud speakers...that my autistic son bolted into the main aisle, hands over both ears, and pushed past the incoming procession... y'know... the singing really was that bad! Who could blame him?

Since I am a convert, and it is still miraculous to me that it's Jesus on that altar, I dont' mind that they hate the parts I hate too. Sr. has the right idea-- just stoutly remind the brood that it's Sunday and not negotiable, get in the car...

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a funny thing I read somewhere. A woman told her son that if he made too much noise, then Father would be distracted and would have to start all over again. I don't know if that one worked, but it is fun to tell the kids!

Anonymous said...

I can still see, in my mind, the elderly lady who frowned and muttered loudly, "So distracting!Disrespectful!" as I hauled my noisy, bouncy two-year-old out of Mass one day. I still get embarassed thinking about it--until I remember that that particular kid has grown into the most reverent and faith-filled of our three sons. Maybe that's my reward for not taking the easy way out and staying home with him!

Laura said...

I am a Catholic school teacher and I am happy to say that my students have good attitudes about attending Mass on a school day...mmmm do you think it's because they get to miss math? Overall, there behavior is good- unfortunately too many of them do not have to go to Mass every Sunday...they have sports. Yeesh.

Anonymous said...

My kids were nuts this morning at Mass. They were reasonably quiet, so I wasn't looking. Well, then the deacon starts turning colors trying not to laugh and I realize my kids (in the front row) are LICKING EACH OTHER'S FEET. Which progressed to a fit of the giggles right after the Lord's Prayer, and happily, instead of getting mad, I caught the giggles too and we just didn't worry about it. It was the school Mass anyway, so no one was getting discombobulated and several people found it contagious in a good way.

Which reminds me to suggest that those with squirrely kids might find school Mass a good environment to practice in. Adults know that interesting things sometimes happen, and the homily is geared to the younger audience.


Anonymous said...

My kids were nuts this morning at Mass. They were reasonably quiet, so I wasn't looking. Well, then the deacon starts turning colors trying not to laugh and I realize my kids (in the front row) are LICKING EACH OTHER'S FEET. Which progressed to a fit of the giggles right after the Lord's Prayer, and happily, instead of getting mad, I caught the giggles too and we just didn't worry about it. It was the school Mass anyway, so no one was getting discombobulated and several people found it contagious in a good way.

Which reminds me to suggest that those with squirrely kids might find school Mass a good environment to practice in. Adults know that interesting things sometimes happen, and the homily is geared to the younger audience.


La Bibliotecaria Laura said...

I don't think children are obligated to attend Mass until they reach the age of reason-- seven years-old.

St. Therese didn't attend Mass until she was five years-old. She turned out alright.

Sure, attending Mass with your family is a nice lovely thing. It is a good thing for a Catholic family. But it isn't a mortal sin for my three year-old to attend mass every once in awhile and not every Sunday.