Holiday Catholicism

When it comes to church and children, it really is suffer the little children.

Holiday Catholics ... it is the season, right?

My mom hated that term growing up, but it was a true occurrence. According to Urban Dictionary, it means those who go to Mass only on Easter and Christmas.

“They take all the good seats and overcrowd the parking lot,” reads the entry.

(“Jesus’ Homedog” wrote that entry, for what it’s worth.)

But the past religious weekend reminded me of something my husband and I have failed to fully address during the past five years: going to church. We were both born and raised Catholic. We just aren’t very good Catholics.

To start, we had our son approximately two years before we got married. While we still attended Pre-Cana, we just giggled through the parts where they asked if you’d “willingly accept children into your lives.” Finally, something we had covered.

But when those ultimate religious holidays roll around, so, too, does the conversation: Should we make our children go to church? So far, the verdict has been an apparent “no.” We don’t get to Mass too often. We aren’t even overly concerned about the holidays.

But, when we sit and discuss it, we feel like it is something that should be a part of our children’s lives. We had them each baptized. We intend to raise them with Catholic beliefs, for the most part.

But, as an adult, there are so many things I don’t agree with that the church teaches as part of its structure. We overall think the general ideas make sense, and we want our children to have some faith. We are just arguing about some of that fine print.

For example, when my son attended Catholic school for pre-K, I had some issue that the school decided to conduct a dedicated Mass, held during school hours, just for the children to pray for aborted babies throughout the world who never had the chance to be born.

I’m not going to debate the semantics of the Roe vs. Wade verdict here, but I will say I have some issue about taking a 4- or 5-year-old to pray for abortion. I’m not ready to explain sex, let alone abortion, just yet. Lord have mercy!

This is where it gets messy. How do you let your children know the ideals of a religion if you don’t, per se, agree with all of its teachings?

To add to the discussion, and what we cannot come to a conclusion on, is Mass itself. Our church doesn’t have a crying room, as so many Catholic churches do. They don’t celebrate a children’s Mass and then quietly allow them to disperse to the nursery.

Instead, they expect that children sit there, attentively, and listen to an hour-plus sermon. I think what I hate most about taking small children to church is the evil looks. For a place that is supposed to be about forgiveness and loving thy neighbor, people at church certainly aren’t too understanding if your 3-year-old starts kicking the pew or dumps her Goldfish along the aisle.

My parents took us to church, almost always. We hated to go. My sister and I sat and counted ladies’ hats. We made faces at each other. Sometimes, we opened the bulletin and circled letters, playing games like finding all of the A's on the page, since we were forbidden to take a word puzzle or game.

Sure, we were supposed to be paying attention. We were supposed to sing the hymns and listen to the homily to learn that life lesson. But, we more often poked at each other and counted how many stern looks we could get from Mom.

In short, my concern is that I don’t think, at 3 and 5, my kids would get much out of attending Mass just yet. They can seldom wait for dinner to come to the table at a restaurant, so forget about saying their prayers.

We feel like our son should start CCD next year so he can complete the requirements for Holy Communion. We just haven’t enrolled. I think the only thing more hypocritical than Holiday Catholics are those that take their kids to CCD, but never themselves go to Mass.

So, for now, we are waiting. Maybe in another year or two, they will be more attentive children, able to pay attention for an hour.

It could just be me who is hesitating, though. Maybe that’s honestly just my excuse so I can stay home, sleep in and never miss a Sunday kickoff.


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