CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
This is a big weekend for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Not only are we celebrating Pentecost, but it will also be the first opportunity that most of us have had to attend public Mass in person since the third Sunday in Lent.
We’ve been longing to return to the pews, but some of us have also had a nagging anxiety in the back (or maybe right smack in the forefront) of our minds: our kids are going to be so, so badly behaved after two months of TV Mass.
“So many moms I’ve been talking with tell me they’re lucky if they even have Mass playing in the background while the kids are eating, in their pajamas, with a mess everywhere and pandemonium,” said Mary Mueller, director of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “Even moms who usually go to 8 a.m. Mass are nervous about getting their kids back into the routine, not being in their pajamas.”
Here are a few things to remember if you’re feeling uncertain about how this weekend is going to go.
We’re all in the same boat.
You’ve heard it countless times over the last two months, but this time it really is true. Your kids aren’t the only ones who have been isolated. They’re not the only ones whose routine has been disrupted. Every family at your parish is bringing a vanful of cooped-up, stressed-out kids, and even if they don’t seem to be struggling the same way you are, at the very least they understand. You won’t get any judging looks this Sunday.
“I think it’s going to be a reality check both for the fear factor for all of us, coming out of quarantine, but also regarding the behavior of our children,” said Mueller. She has had many conversations with priests about the issue, and she offered this takeaway: “They know that the kids that are there are going to be crazy. They’ve heard from so many families who are afraid. If everyone’s afraid, and we’re all in this together, everyone is going to be understanding.”
This is what we’ve been waiting for and praying for. It will be easy to let our stress and uncertainty detract from the experience if we get too caught up in it. But remember that you’re doing what God asks of you: showing up, trying your best.
Don’t be afraid to reach out.
You might be curious about how much space your family will have, how you will maintain social distancing practices if you need to remove a child from Mass, and if you should bring any of your own sanitary products. Complying with the guidelines and recommendations will look different at each parish. Your parish will likely be posting relevant information on their website, Facebook pages or in parish-wide emails, but if there is anything unclear that you are concerned about, the parish office will likely be able to answer your questions.
Just remember to be patient and understanding — the staff members are in uncharted territory just like the rest of us.
It sounds simple, but as with everything else in life, prayer is usually the answer. Give over the experience to the hands of the Blessed Mother and ask that she pray for the Lord to touch the hearts of your children during Mass.
Remember the dispensation is there if you need it.
“Taking the dispensation is completely valid. There is so much fear surrounding all of this, and there’s so much uncertainty,” said Mueller. She also said that several families she has spoken with have decided to stagger their attendance at first, with one parent attending with the older kids while the other parent stays home with the younger ones and attends a later Mass.
Discuss it as a family.
Even if you decide the children won’t be coming with you, have a conversation with them about the return of Mass. “Start to talk to them about how mom’s going to Mass, and this is what that means, and next week you might come with mom,” said Mueller. “Set them up for success with the conversations surrounding what mom and dad are doing and why it’s important that they’re doing this.”
Commemorate the day somehow.
This is a big day, and one that your kids will probably remember all their lives — the time they didn’t go to church for what seemed like forever, and finally returned. Do something to make it special — have something fun for breakfast, take a family photo in your Sunday best, or say a rosary of thanksgiving at the end of the day.