November 25, 2011

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Want faith-filled children? Take them to Mass

Sean GallagherThanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday.

Its roots go back to the first days on this land of some of our first settlers. And it is a holiday that tempers a typically American attitude—to take pride in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

Thanksgiving encourages us to give thanks for the help we have received from other people and, especially, from God.

Thanksgiving can also be a quintessential holiday for Catholic Americans since the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving,” is at the heart of our faith.

But this year, we have special reason to value this day on which families and friends gather to share a meal and give thanks.

It is because on this weekend after Thanksgiving, Catholics across this country will be using a new translation of the prayers we pray at Mass.

Over the past year, pastors and religious educators have been encouraging us to see this moment as a chance to grow in our love and understanding of the Eucharist.

That is good advice for us as individuals and as parish communities. But it is also a great opportunity for families as well.

No matter how well organized a parish’s efforts might be in its catechetical efforts surrounding the implementation of the new Mass translation, it will always rest on the foundation of faith laid within the life of our families.

There are all kinds of ways that parents can plant seeds of faith in their children—from teaching them their prayers and helping them learn Church doctrine to fostering in them a desire to do good and avoid evil.

But regular attendance at Sunday Mass is absolutely vital. When children go to Mass with their parents, they receive grace to nurture all other aspects of their lives of faith.

And a good portion of that grace comes through children simply seeing their parents pray and value prayer enough that they make sacrifices to do so.

I saw my own parents do that in a special way when I was a young boy, and it made such an impression on me that I still remember it vividly to this day.

It happened when my family and I attended a wedding of a cousin in northern Indiana. The reception went on well into a Saturday night.

It would have been easy for my parents to choose to sleep in the next morning and skip Sunday Mass, especially since we were scheduled to drive from there to Detroit for a family vacation.

Instead, they made sure that we got up early so we could all go to Sunday Mass.

I now have a family of my own. And although taking our young, rambunctious boys to Mass can be challenging, my wife, Cindy, and I are dedicated to doing so each Sunday.

That practice, in itself, can reap great dividends in our children’s lives of faith.

In this time when a new translation of the Mass will begin to be used, children may very well ask their parents questions about it.

Parents can get some basic information to help their children learn about the new words that we are praying at Mass by logging on to or by viewing informative videos about the new translation at

At this time when our attention will be drawn in a special way to giving thanks at Mass, let us pray that the Eucharist will be more and more at the root of the life of all Catholic families. †

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