I recall a lady’s angry comment at a wedding reception. “From my childhood I felt that church was a waste of my time. I am still angry that my father subjected me to this. It should have been up to me. He still thinks that he was right to bring me to church and has never apologized. Religion should never have been shoved down my throat.”
I must admit in childhood I felt the same way about going to the dentist, the doctor, going to school, or having to eat vegetables. Adults in my family also made me wash, change clothes, brush my teeth, comb my hair and flush the toilet… and wash my hands. Family trips, visits and vacations happened even if I didn’t appreciate the who, what, when, where and why of my required presence. Things my parents knew were essential were not up for discussion. I didn’t always have the newest and best… and I didn’t get all the things I wanted but my parents did everything they could to ensure we had what we needed.
Being Catholic and a member of the church was the most important gift my parents believed they could share with me. Three of my four grandparents are converts to Catholicism. My father is a convert to Catholicism. My parents considered the faith so important, that although my father was half-a-world away on a navy destroyer and my mother had returned to the hospital due to an infection… they both wanted my baptism to go on as scheduled… even though neither of them were able to be there. (Back then baptisms generally happened within two months of birth… a practice I do miss.)
When we are baptized, we become members of God’s family. For what He offers us, eternal life, He isn’t asking that much… especially when you consider all that our brother Jesus has done to make this possible for us.
For Catholics “church” is a family thing. We don’t come to 6 of the 7 sacraments alone. At baptism we come with our godparents. At confirmation we come with our sponsor. At matrimony we come with our spouse. At Eucharist we gather with all of our brothers and sisters. In fact the only sacrament where we are relatively alone, is Reconciliation… but then we are with our brother, a priest, who represents our brother, Jesus, and our family, as well.
For Catholics church/mass is a family thing. You may have heard, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Sunday services are that opportunity for the family, all throughout the world, to gather… to share the same scriptures… to fulfill His command to eat His body and drink His blood. Jesus is the vine and the sacraments are our means of staying connected… remembering our union in the Lord.
We are members of the Body of Christ and Christ is our Head. For the hand or foot to say I don’t need to stay connected with the rest of the body because I feel that “I have a good relationship with Jesus and don’t need to attend services” is to suggest that a hand or foot, cut off from the body will do just fine… and somehow stay “connected” with the head. Yet, living our faith isn’t Jesus and me. It is Jesus through/with and in US. You can’t baptize yourself… you need at least one other. The arm wanting the hand to be present makes sense; otherwise it causes the arm and the entire body pain and loss.
I can understand a child or teen being bored at a family gathering. Who hasn’t felt fidgety and alone visiting a relative in a nursing home or at a graduation service where they seem to be reading a phone directory of strangers? But to say that this time together is a waste suggests that we have somehow been disconnected from the family… perhaps due to a divorce or only one parent making God’s family a priority?
At what point should a child be able to opt out of attending that only meal during the week that they are asked to attend? In my opinion, when they have their own home and are building their own family… at that point they have full responsibility (legal, economic, spiritual) as they are no longer members of your household. But try to make it is a family thing.
By the way, coffee and pastries are available after the 7:30am and 9am Masses this weekend.