Fathering at Mass

| Vincenzo Randazzo | August 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

I remember how the church I grew up in did not have statues or artwork or anything really interesting to look at, so as a small child I would kind of rotate between watching the ceiling fans and playing with my brother, or I would lean on my Dad and just doze off. On the other hand, a friend who grew up attending a beautiful church said that he would observe the stained glass, often from his father’s arms, during the whole liturgy.

Now he has his own children, and he was telling me how difficult it is to pay attention on Sundays because he’s split between his little ones. What’s a father to do?

Two recent studies comparing cognitive skills in children and adults found that while adults are better than children at remembering concepts they were told to focus on, they do it at the expense of remembering secondary things. In contrast, it was found that while children often forgot what they were told to pay attention to, they would more often than adults have a better understanding of seemingly unimportant things in the information presented.

In short, children notice things that adults don’t catch. But that’s obvious, isn’t it?

This explains why I saw a little boy at Mass rub his hands together eagerly as if trying to warm them. I thought, “He must be excited about something.” But then I saw that he was watching someone — his mother putting on hand sanitizer with all of the other extraordinary ministers of holy Communion before they would receive the vessels for distribution. This child helped me see something I hadn’t ever really noticed — when the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is held high by the priest, there are often a few people flanking the altar, rubbing their hands together with sanitizer.

That’s the sort of thing a child notices.

Another friend who has a few kids told me that he will tell his son at every Mass to watch the priest’s hands. I think this is a beautiful practice, and it is something his son is bound to remember when he recalls his relationship with his father. It is a simple thing a child can do, and a simple way a father can love his child. My friend said his son watched the priest’s hands at the elevation during consecration.

He also mentioned, with a smile, that his son noticed the priest constantly turning on and off his microphone.

And that’s the point. The little things to which children pay attention are often unimportant, but their attention to details — so to speak — can often be the foundation for something more substantial. Even St. Paul says, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.”

It’s obvious we cannot expect a child to engage in the Mass fully, but the father can engage while the child observes him. The child watches when you cross your head, lips and heart at the Gospel. The child watches when you make the Sign of the Cross and also, unfortunately, when you rub your hands with sanitizer at the Agnus Dei.

It is a father’s job to ensure that placed in his children’s view is always something true, good or beautiful, so even if they don’t understand it, his children will still end up somewhere better than where they started.

Randazzo is an evangelization manager in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and director of development at St. Stephen in Minneapolis.

Tags: , ,

Category: Catholic Watchmen