Saturday, December 14, 2013

Query: Do YOU invite non-Catholic kids to Mass?

Just curious. In your experience as Catholics, how often do you invite non-Catholics kids to Mass?

The reason I ask this is that being a Catholic complicates the matter far more than if one were a Protestant.

Of course, it's a matters of degrees, as I always say. Being ANY sort of Christian makes one "bizarre" in today's world. But being a Catholic makes one seem just that much more "bizarre."

As a Protestant, when you invite a neighborhood kid to church with your family, it's not such a big deal. The child isn't confronted with the utterly incomprehensible. He's seen a teacher in a classroom before. He's seen the school principal making speeches at public assemblies. He's joined in with his classmates in singing songs at school. Protestant church services aren't altogether unlike that: people in civilian clothes get up and talk; people sing.

The matter is a bit more complicated for a Catholic. What's that you're doing with your hands with the water before entering the church? What's that you're doing bobbing down on one knee before sitting down? What's this business of kneeling and crossing yourself? Stand now. Sit now. Bow now. Sing now. Recite these words now. What??? I can't have the little wafer like the rest of you?

But the non-Catholic child would STILL have some notion of what this strange to-do is. It's something religious. It involves my being quiet and listening. It involves singing. It involves praying. He's not completely oblivious to these things, even if he's never quite seem them in this particular context.

But now, let's ratchet up the complexities even a bit further. Let's say this neighborhood kid wants to come with you to the Byzantine rite or Tridentine liturgy with your family. How do you prepare him for that! You may as well be taking him to a Druid ceremony with men dressed like Gandalf and carrying magic staffs.

Yes, I know: throughout nearly all of the 2000 some years of the Church, things were really no different. If a young pagan or a young man from a heretical sect wanted to go to church with you, it would be much the same. He would be invited to come to the Mass of the Catechumens (up to the Offertory), and then would be asked to leave the church, because members alone were permitted to remain for the Mass of the Faithful (from the Offertory through Communion).

It wasn't quite like waltzing into your local Baptist church and being made a church member there that day on the spot, after answering a few questions.

Nor was it like inviting a neighborhood boy to the Baptist church where he could participate in the Sunday School class and sit through the church service with his friends and host family without feeling like a second-class citizen.

If this kid comes with you to a Latin Mass parish, what do you do? Will he be able to participate in the CCD class? Depends a lot on the parish. If they have any CCD classes worth their salt, as most Latin Mass parishes seem to, then the kid is going to feel a bit like a fifth wheel, because the class will be at some stage of catechesis that assumes a certain level of familiarity with the Catholic Faith. Even if he's allowed to remain throughout the entire liturgy, he won't be permitted to receive the Eucharist.

I think I can see now why there has been such a self-imposed pressure to make Catholic church services more and more like Protestant ones -- more "user-friendly" for the newcomer, more inviting, more welcoming, more willing to replace substantial doctrinal catechesis with easy-going socializing, more eager to remove the formal and solemn with the free-and-easy ambiance of an open-armed, come-as-you-are Baptist church. I think most Catholics probably find their older traditional ways embarrassing, if they even remember what they are.

So how do you invite the neighborhood kid to come to Mass with you? You tell him what to expect. You don't make it easy. You let him know he may not understand what's going on. You tell him what's expected of him. But if he's genuinely interested, he'll figure it out. In time. All things worth knowing and doing take time. Kids, at least, instinctively seem to know this.


James Joseph said...


What are those?

Wait... do these have anything to do with those mythical tiny humans that used to be procreated in the marital act?

Nope. Haven't seen any of those around here. (At least in New England anyway.)

Flambeaux said...

We don't personally know any non-Catholic children. But quite a few families in our Byzantine Rite Catholic parish have invited friends of their (adolescent) children to Divine Liturgy and, in time, the warmth of the community, the majesty of the liturgy, and action of the Holy Spirit have borne fruit.

I have not seen the same thing happen in the Latin Mass communities I've been a part of over the last 20-odd years.

I do recall many years ago my mother compelling a Buddhist friend of mine to join us in the family recitation of the Rosary come to (Novus Ordo) Mass with us. He was non-plussed but his mother was outraged. I certainly wasn't compelled to join their family devotions when I stayed at their place.