Monday, August 30, 2010

My Child CHOOSES to come to Mass!

Occasionally I hear parents bragging about the fact that they let their children decide for themselves whether or not they want to come to Mass. The rationale for such a parenting move follows shortly after - "In two years they are going to be on their own anyways, I want them to learn to decide for themselves." This is often assumed by all listening to be the default enlightened position.

Let's think about the logic for a minute, though. First of all, there is the issue that missing Mass is a mortal sin. No one lets their kid play with a revolver and then expect to be congratulated for being a fantastic and truly forward thinking parent.

Secondly, how about letting them decide for themselves...when it is time for them to decide for themselves? They are going to be on their own at the age of 18 (most likely) - let them choose then. No parent stops the development process in any other area prematurely to help prepare them for adulthood...when they are still developing.

There are two scenarios that can happen when a parent lets their kids decide about going to Mass:
1) A kid chooses to go to Mass on their own at age 16. This is great, but that kid being forced to go to Mass wouldn't change their decision when they made it to college - so they would still go to Mass when they move on from home.

2) A kid doesn't choose to go to Mass on their own at age 16. This kid is in mortal sin, the parents are complicit in that sin, and the kid is doing something that they will just continue to do after they leave home. What if that extra 2 years of development and being made to go to Church is what turns that kid into an authentic, church-going Catholic? What if they hear, in those two years of subjected, eye-rolling Mass attending, a homily that changes their life? Even if being made to go to Mass doesn't change the kid's life, and they decide, at 18, to stop going to Mass on their own, there has been nothing lost by making them go to Mass from ages 16-18 because they were not going to end up going to Mass at age 18 anyways.

Either way, the only logical choice is to keep the kids going to Church, and to make that a non-negotiable.

Instead of being truly forward thinking, parents who let their kids choose whether or not they want to go to Mass probably just don't want to deal with the hassle of getting tough on them and getting them out of bed. Growing up in the Hollowell home, we never had to pay rent or anything like that, even when we came home from college. However, my parents were firm on one thing, "if you are staying in this house, on Sunday you will be going to Mass." I thank God everyday for that mandate, and I never mourn the fact that I lost out on being a completely actualized, completely independent, and completely informed Mass attendee at the age of 16.