So, we Catholics observe not only the “old” law of the Ten Commandments, but we also observe the “new” law of the church, the Body of Christ on earth. We believe that Sunday liturgy is the public work of the people in which the parish community gathers to worship the Lord. We offer to God all that has happened in our week: our joys, our sorrows, our sinfulness. The Lord takes all, forgives us as needed, transforms our humble offering, and returns to us heavenly food: the most precious body and blood of Jesus. We leave church instructed in the living Word, and refreshed, and renewed with bread for the journey of our lives. The celebration of the Eucharist is the central, unifying action of our faith. This is what your daughter missed.
This experience has provided your family with a “teachable moment” in which all of you can grow more deeply into your Catholic faith. It is an opportunity for the family to ponder some important questions: Why have we chosen to be Catholic and not another Christian denomination? What is the importance of Sunday Mass in our lives? Is Sunday Mass important enough that we would require our daughter to be home from her friend’s in time to attend Mass with our family? Or, if that was not possible, that we would require her to attend a Sunday evening Mass once she returned home? Are our choices reflecting our beliefs?
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Perhaps this is a time for your family to re-examine what Sunday and “Sabbath time” mean in your lives. Here are some suggestions:
- Keep holy the Lord’s day! Starting with Mass, make Sunday a family day as much as possible. Avoid running errands, doing homework or household chores. Choose instead a family outing to a park, museum or a walk in the woods. When at home, turn off the TV and computer and enjoy quiet reading, peaceful music or relaxing hobbies.
- Set the table for Sunday breakfast or brunch, do food prep, and lay out “church clothes” the night before so Sunday morning is not rushed and hectic.
- Share the Sunday Scriptures together. (Go to www.paulistpress.com to find my series: Journeying with Mark, Journeying with Matthew, Journeying with Luke, meant to be kept in the glove box of the car and read on the way to Mass.)
- Consider a special Sunday supper with candlelight, the good dishes, a tablecloth and flowers. Invite grandparents or others to extend the family circle.
- When traveling or on vacation, call ahead or go online to find the location of a Catholic church and its Mass times. Worshiping in a Catholic church, wherever you are, is a powerful experience of the unity of the Body of Christ.
The story is told that after the French Revolution, the government in France tried to destroy religion. One plan was to replace the Christian week with a 10-day cycle. The plan failed. Farmers objected, claiming that their horses knew when it was Sunday and wouldn’t pull the plows. So France went back to the Sabbath rest on the seventh day. It’s debatable whom to credit: the farmers or the horses. But horse sense supports the third commandment’s Sabbath observance. (adapted from Jeff Keefe)
In your daughter’s missing Mass, God, who works through the very human, ordinary stuff of our everyday lives, has given your family a gift: an occasion to discuss, reflect and renew your beliefs in your Catholic tradition. God is interested in our growth, our expansion, our awareness of the divine life that is in us and all around us, every day and especially, as we pause on Sundays, to set aside the daily busyness, to be fed and refreshed in the Lord. May God continue to bless your family with awareness of his love for you!
(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke,” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)