The Importance of Worshiping as a Family

As a child, I went to church every week.  There was no question. We went to Sunday School, which was not offered at the same time as the Sunday liturgy, and then we stayed for the church service.  We were there for at least 2 1/2 hours every Sunday. My parents attended bible study as my brother and I attended Sunday School and then we went to church and sat in the front left pew (I am a creature of habit, you will still find me there every Sunday) as a family.  We dressed in our Sunday best, many times had brunch after church, and started our day focused on Jesus.

I will readily admit there were days that my mom had to drag us to church as we got older.  Sleeping in until noon was a greater priority for my brother and I as we entered High School, but she encouraged us to go nonetheless.  Yes, there were out of town soccer games that would interrupt our going to the later service, but those days, my mom would just wake us up early, go to the early service, and then bring our clothes to change into so we could make it on time.  I am absolutely, 100% sure it was stressful for my mom. We were whining, tired, hungry, bored, lazy kids who didn’t want to be there, but we went. And those Sunday’s formed me into the person I am today. I believe all of that time spent in church eventually led me to search for the Truth which changed my path and brought me to the Catholic church.

Our current church has been going through some changes in children’s programming to enable families to worship together during Mass (elimination of preschool PSR during the Mass).  This past week, as I have had many of my friends calling me, asking me questions, getting angry, and expressing their views of the changes, I have been more acutely aware of the importance of worshiping as a family.  

During Holy Week, my family started the week visiting St.Anthony’s Chapel.  To see my kids interested in the 5,000 relics while at the same time being respectful, reverent, bowing every time they crossed the altar, and speaking in a whisper as they lit candles and sent up prayers for the faithful departed, I was reminded of the holiness that is growing in their hearts through their love of Jesus and the Eucharist (by the way, all of their actions were not prompted, they have simply learned how to act because we are at Mass and they know Jesus is present).

All three of my kids worshiped on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday and they were so good.  Yes, there may have been some arguing in the pew with their sibling, dropping of hymnals, and needing to go to the bathroom during the consecration, but they were there and they heard God’s word and felt his presence even if it didn’t seem like it.

I will never forget Easter Sunday when we were singing the “Alleluia” right before the Gospel reading and I hear this little voice, my five year old’s voice, singing the words as she was coloring.  It was like an angels voice, soft and sweet. That moment made me realize just how much she is learning by being in Mass. She is learning prayers, stories from the bible, and songs that she can recall in times of need, just as I did by learning the Lutheran liturgy in my upbringing, which I never would have done had my parents not taken me every week.  My daughter can’t read, but she is taking part in the most Holy sacrifice of the Mass, and there isn’t a week that goes by when she doesn’t ask “Mom, when can I have the Christ?”.

I look forward to the day she can receive our Lord and Savior; body, blood, soul and divinity.  But before that day comes, I find peace in knowing that no matter how stressful it is for a parent to get their kids to church on time and then expect them to behave, they are learning and growing in a deeper relationship with our Lord and seeds are being planted that will give them hope in the dark days that are yet to come.  

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The Magnificent Burden of Sunday Morning

It is so easy to skip church on Sunday.  All I have to do is reach over, turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.  No more waking the kids up for the 7th day this week.  No more hustling them to eat their breakfast and get into their church clothes so we are at Mass on time.  No more worrying about what other people think of my kids when they are climbing all over the pew, dropping the hymnal, doing the dab in the front row, needing to go potty during the consecration of the Eucharist, or screaming because their sibling pinched them.  No more sweat running down my face as I look around at all of the other people in church with well behaved children or retiree’s with no children glaring at me as if I need to get control of my kids.  It is so much easier for me to just stay home, get up late, make a nice big breakfast (or better yet go out to breakfast), workout, and enjoy one of the only days of the week I have the opportunity to sleep in.

But that is not what Jesus asks us to do.  Look, I get it.  I really do.  I have three kids of varying ages.  My three kids are involved in soccer, choir, horseback riding, Pony Club, golf, and soon to be basketball and baseball.  The kids put up a fuss every Sunday about going, but in the end, they know it isn’t a choice, it is a commitment our family has made to God.  This commitment will hopefully instill the faith and hope that is needed to get us through to our final days where we will stand before God and the door will be opened for us to enter eternity together.

You might be saying to yourself “I never made church a priority and my kids are now older and they won’t want to go” or “My daughter wants to play Division 1 soccer and her games and tournaments fall on Sunday” or “The church we go to doesn’t offer child care/Sunday school during Mass and I have a very active 2 year old who won’t sit still” or any multitude of other excuses for not making church a priority on Sunday.  But let me ask you this, did you know that studies show that children who are not exposed to church have only a 9% chance of going later in life?  Did you know that within two generations your family will not believe in God at all?  That is a scary thought. Much scarier than my 13 year old’s wrath when I wake her up early Sunday morning.

So many of us view church as a burden.  The burden of getting up early.  The burden of having to explain to the coach why Mass is more important than a soccer game.  The burden of chasing our kids around the church.  The burden of sometimes dragging our teens kicking and screaming out of bed.  The burden of listening to a homily or music that we don’t like while at Mass.

This Holy Week we remember that Jesus died for us.  He died a horrible brutal death to save us from our sinfulness.  Every time he was kicked, spit upon, beaten, scourged, and chastised that was you and me.  Every single one of those blows has our names on them.  That is burden.

The burden that Jesus Christ carried to the cross is unfathomable.  All of my sins.  The sins of the world.  The people He loved then, turning their backs on Him.  The people He loves now, continuing to turn their backs on Him.  Don’t turn your back on Him.  Respond to his love.  Keep the Sabbath Holy.  Instead of using the words “It’s Sunday, we have to go to church”, use the words “It’s Sunday, we GET to go to church”.  And, most importantly, we GET to receive Jesus body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist.

In closing, I wanted to leave you with this reflection that I read yesterday in the Magnificat.  May this Easter bring you back to the Church to experience God’s love in the most intimate gift He left here on earth, the Eucharist.

Our Last Communion –  “He dipped the morsel, then took it and gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot.” —John 13:26

At Saturday’s Easter Vigil and in the next two months, many people, especially children, will be celebrating their First Communions. This will be the first time they receive the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. These First Communions will be among the greatest events in their lives.

Yet what about your last Communion? Will it rightly be called “Viaticum,” meaning “on the way with Jesus” to heaven? Or will it be like the Last Supper when Jesus gave “the bit of food” to Judas (Jn 13:26)? “Immediately after, Satan entered his heart” (Jn 13:27). Will your last Communion be months or years before your death, or moments before your death and entry into heaven? Is Communion “kid’s stuff” for you, or the center and heartbeat of your daily life?

Tomorrow, we will celebrate throughout the world Holy Thursday, the day of the first Communion of all time. Make a new first Communion on Holy Thursday — the first time you’ve ever loved the Lord so much. If you continue and grow in the first love (see Rv 2:4) of this new first Communion, your last Communion will be a Holy Communion of love leading to heaven.

 

 

 

What if?

Since converting to Catholicism, there have been times when I wanted to leave my parish.  The reasons for wanting to leave have included the music at Mass wasn’t great, the curriculum for the Parish School of Religion (PSR) was less than inspiring, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) was boring, and the leadership of our parish was making decisions I didn’t agree with.  

But leaving was impossible, not because there aren’t numerous other churches in the town where I live and not because I wouldn’t love to sleep in on Sunday morning and not because I don’t have friends whose kids would love to welcome my kids to their Sunday school.  I could never leave the Catholic Church because Jesus is there.  Jesus is there, body, blood, soul and divinity.

The source and summit of the Catholic faith is the Eucharist, the body and blood of our Lord, which is consecrated during the sacrifice of the Mass and distributed to Catholics during communion.  Eucharist means “thanksgiving” or to “give thanks” which is exactly what we are called to do as we approach the altar to receive Jesus during communion.

I am convinced the people who are leaving the Catholic Church do not believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, because if they did, how could they leave?  After having opened my heart to the truth found in scripture and tradition, the Eucharist has this magnetic pull on my heart.  It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.  I literally feel pulled to the church, I feel pulled to sit with Jesus in the sanctuary or in the Mercy Chapel during Adoration.  I need Him.  I need to be there with Him.  

When I first entered the doors of St. Joan of Arc after realizing God was calling me to convert, my heart felt at rest, completely at peace.  The feeling of “I’m home” is the only way to describe it.  I believe this is because Jesus isn’t only present in spirit, He is present, FULLY present, in the Eucharist.  

I have been healed spiritually, emotionally, and physically by the mere presence of the Eucharist and by trusting in the mercy and grace God extends to those who faithfully receive Him.  I have seen men, women and children brought to their knees in His presence.   Even if your mind can’t comprehend that this tiny piece of bread could be Jesus’ body, your soul can.  Your soul knows, and if you open your heart and free your soul to accept the truth, your faith will soar to heights you never thought possible.

The next time you are at Mass and you witness the consecration of the Blessed Sacrament, ask yourself, “What if?”.  What if it really is Jesus?  What if Jesus left this most intimate gift to be with us here in this life?  What if this gift would provide the grace needed to sustain a holy life?  What if this gift could change the world?  I believe it can.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” – John 6:51 – The Bread of Life Discourse, John 6:22-71

“I desire but this one grace, and long to be consumed like a burning candle in His holy Presence every moment of the life that remains to me. For that I would be willing, I think, to suffer all the pains imaginable till judgment day, if only I should not have to leave His sacred presence. My only motive would be to be consumed in honoring Him and to acknowledge that burning love He shows us in this wonderful Sacrament. Here His love holds Him captive till the end of time. It is of this one can truly say, ‘Love triumphs, love enjoys, Love finds in God its joys.'” – St. Margaret Mary

“The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time that you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven, and will help bring about an everlasting peace on earth.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta