Ask Fr. Jerry

My grandchildren who are in the “tween” years are struggling with wanting to attend Mass. Their response is “no one really speaks to me. I don’t understand what the priests are talking about.” Their friends are attending camps and events at non- denominational churches during the summer that are engaging, and they ask, “Why can’t our religion do those things?” What are the right words to say through this period in their confusing years?

Attending Mass should not be viewed as entertainment; our American culture equates going to Mass with going to a ballgame or going to a movie, expecting to see a performance. That is not the purpose of Mass. If the priest happens to give a good homily or the music happens to be great, all the better. The example I would use is when I attended Mass in Paris, France — I do not speak French, but I still got a lot out of attending Mass.

We attend Mass, first and foremost, to receive the Eucharist. It is truly the presence of Jesus. People should be attracted to see and receive the greatest celebrity of all time — Jesus Christ. We also attend Mass to be a part of the Body of Christ; there is a power in being a part of a community. One of the ways it may be appealing for your grandchildren to go to Mass is if they can sit near some people they know, some of their classmates or friends — that would be a sense of community for them. Let them talk with their friends after Mass. Having a connection with other people such as family and friends helps us to build our relationship with God.

I would also suggest seeing if there is a youth ministry program or a youth minister they can connect with. They may not connect with the priest, but the youth minister might be someone who gives them a spark of faith. The youth ministry program might offer some of the summer experiences, such as a mission trip, as well.

When I was a teenager, I was one of the Catholic kids who attended the non-denominational summer camp, and it was life changing. I was well rooted in my Catholic faith, so I never thought about switching, but that camp gave me a personal faith in Jesus that made me the person I am today.

Encourage your grandchildren to get involved in service projects. Help them to find God within their world. These are great ways to help them to discover their own faith. It is a natural progression of faith for teens to doubt or question their faith; we just need to give them the opportunity to discover faith for themselves.