Welcome to this special Thanksgiving week series, "Why the Eucharist Matters [for Families]." Since Eucharist means "thanksgiving", we're going to take some time this week to look at why the Eucharist is essential for healthy family life.
Maria is in that stage. Anyone who has had a baby knows exactly what I'm talking about. She'll be 16 months old this week, and she has absolutely no desire to to sit in one spot for longer than .5 seconds. She's crawling, and has recently started pulling up, cruising, and walking with assistance. The prospect of a half an hour to an hour in a pew? No thank you, Mother and Father.
I was talking with Andrew after Mass a couple weekends ago (a particularly rough one with the baby in question) and we agreed that going through this stage the second time around was much easier than it had been with Therese. It isn't because Maria is better behaved at Mass (she most definitely is not) but it's because...we've survived it once already! We know that this stage will pass, just like every other rough stage of baby and toddlerhood. We also know that, while we can try to help Maria learn how to behave at Mass, there's only so much you can do with a 1 year old. So, you do your best, and you don't stress. With Therese, I think we were so stressed about training her from a young age, that a Mass like the one I'm recalling would have crushed us. We would have been so discouraged! Now, we shrug our shoulders and are like, "Well, we're doing our bit. She'll outgrow this eventually."
So, here's the thing...our family dinners at home are pretty much the same sort of thing. We eat dinner as a family every night (except Saturday, when Andrew and I have a frozen pizza/date night after the girls are in bed), and how dinner goes varies drastically from day to day. Sometimes people are cheerful and calm, but more often than not, someone is yelling to be handed food off our plates, another someone is unhappy because, "No, thank you, Mommy. I don't like that," and Andrew and I can barely get a word in otherwise. Does that mean we're going to quit our family dinners? Are we blaming ourselves because they can be such stinkers at the dinner table? Certainly not! It's just a stage of growth. We know that eating dinner together as a family matters, and so we're willing to stick it out.
Mass matters more than any family dinner.
Guess what? My girls are still the same girls they are at dinner. They are little, and they try their best to be good - but 4 year olds and 1 year olds are still learning. Getting it right is still a struggle.
But Mass is about more than fulfilling our weekly obligation (as important as that is!) and more than training our girls to behave themselves. It is certainly more than a random event we go to.
It is about incorporating them into their other family. The family of the Church. They are, after all, baby sisters of the saints. As Therese says, "God is my Daddy in heaven, and Jesus is my big brother, and Mary is my Mommy in heaven." The saints are her siblings, too! And the Church here on earth, is very much a family, as well.
Our family doesn't skip family dinners until the girls are old enough to behave themselves. We know how important it is for them to know, from a young age, that they belong to something bigger than themselves. That they have a home.
More so than any home we can create, the Church is a home. It is a taste of the home that we are all longing for. What makes Mass so different than any other kind of church service is that Christ is there. What makes a Catholic church so different than any other church is that Jesus is always there! He loves our family so much more than we could ever love each other. And when we are with Him, in the Eucharist, we are more home than we could ever be at any other place in the entire world. It may not always feel that way when we go to Mass, but it is true nonetheless.