As some dioceses begin to relax restrictions on public Mass and access to the sacraments, many Knights still struggle watching streamed masses with their family every Sunday.
As leaders of our domestic churches, we should instill in our children good habits of prayer and devotion at Mass. That can be challenging enough in normal circumstances — but when Mass is viewed on the same screen as video games and cartoons, it can feel impossible to get your kids to focus.
We’ve all been there. It’s time for Mass on Sunday and, in proper social-distancing fashion, we gather our family around the TV to stream the liturgy. Things start off fine enough, but by the end of the first reading, we’re trying to keep kids from wandering away to other rooms, taking a nap on the couch or heading to the kitchen for a snack.
Here are four tips to better prepare your children to engage in a live-streamed Mass.
1. Redefine success
This first tip is more a tip for Knights than it is for kids. Before you can set up a good environment for prayer, you have to address the elephant in the room: Streaming Mass is not the same as attending it in person. It’s fundamentally different — and that means that how you approach it will also be fundamentally different.
If you go into your Sunday expecting things to feel like a normal Mass, except in your living room, you will inevitably be disappointed. To avoid disappointment, it’s best to pause and determine how your family can best enter more fully into the Mass.
Maybe that means really focusing on the readings or using the change of environment to really drive home to your kids Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist. Approaching the streamed Mass with a single focus helps redefine success to something manageable. It also allows you to take advantage of this time “up-close” to the altar to really help your kids what is happening every time you go to Mass.
2. Let your kids pick the Mass
There are so many Masses streamed online right now, and there are plenty of reasons to choose one over the other. For many of us, we are used to making that decision ourselves — but if your kids are having difficulty focusing, letting them decide what Mass to stream can be a helpful first step.
Maybe your children really miss seeing your parish priest, or maybe they want to hear hymns like the ones sung in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception broadcasts sponsored by the K of C. Either way, by being included in the decision, your kids have a chance to share their own needs and to talk about what they miss about going to church.
Every week, sit down with your children and ask them which Sunday Mass they would like to stream. Provide a couple of different options to help guide them — like these streamed Masses suggested by the Knights of Columbus — but ultimately let your children make the decision!
3. Read along with the prayers
When it comes to fighting distractions, it helps to engage multiple senses — just think of the rosary, which combines verbal prayers, physical beads and sometimes written reflections to help you focus.
Streamed Masses, unfortunately, lose out on the sensory engagement normally found in church. You can’t smell the incense or see the religious art — making it even harder for children to focus on prayer.
An easy way of adding more sensory engagement is to print out the Mass readings. This allows older children to read along and better focus on the Gospel and stories from the Bible. For younger children, a children’s Bible or prayer card can provide a good visual focus that keeps them engaged with the prayers and the readings.
4. Celebrate Sundays
Just because churches are closed doesn’t mean that you have to go without the post-Mass hospitality — in fact, since days seem to blend together when you’re stuck inside, Sunday treats are even more important than ever to help mark the day as special.
Schedule some special activity after Mass as a way of celebrating Sundays. Special brunches are especially encouraged — after all, what is Mass without a Knights’ pancake breakfast? — as are phone and video calls with other family members and friends.
By scheduling these special activities for Sunday, you give your children something to look forward to and an additional reason to focus well at Mass — plus, you’ll be taking excellent advantage of the extra time with your family.
Share your story of how your council is helping strengthen people’s faith and offering support during this time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in a special bi-weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. Access Knightline’s monthly archives.
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