Melanie at The Wine Dark Sea posted an excert from a homily by Fr. Martin Fox of St. Boniface Parish in Piqua, Ohio. It was so good I had to post the whole thing.
Today we mark the end of our religious education program until the fall. It’s an opportunity to thank our catechists, who give a lot time, and heart, to help our young people deepen their faith. In the first reading, St. Peter says to the crowd, you didn’t realize who Jesus is—so Peter makes Jesus known to them. That’s the purpose of our religious education program. But I must tell you that what we attempt to do, about an hour a week, for 30-35 weeks a year, is just not enough!
I trust you understand that, parents. But if any parent expects this to carry the weight of your child’s religious education, I must tell you—it doesn’t! It won’t! During the week, our children learn arithmetic, science, history, and they get several hours’ instruction in these subjects, every week! We don’t come anywhere close to that on Sunday morning! Our Sunday morning program presupposes parents are providing the "meat" of that religious instruction at home.
Now, maybe we wonder if our kids need as much religious instruction, as with vocabulary or mathematics, or reading. Look at the world around us. Does it look like an easy place to navigate, in terms of moral choices? I went to a bookstore Monday; you’ve seen, or heard about, what’s out there: books that claim Jesus and Mary Magdalene hooked up, that Jesus didn’t really die on the Cross, or if he did, he wasn’t resurrected; Judas wasn’t a villain, the whole thing was made up.
And you know what? A lot of our Catholics don’t know how to respond!
When folks from other religions come knocking, do you feel confident in responding? And if we can’t explain why we believe, how can we ever do as Christ commanded, in today’s Gospel, to lead others to salvation? So, yes, religious instruction is important; and what the parish provides is not nearly enough. Down the road, we’ll talk further about this: I welcome any thoughts you may have.
In the Gospel, the disciples recognized Jesus "in the breaking of the bread"—This was on that first, Easter Sunday: Luke, who wrote this Gospel, is teaching us about the importance of gathering, every Sunday, at Mass; where we have the same encounter with the Risen Lord. And, we’re doing that right now! I want to encourage and thank you for bringing your children to Mass. I know when they’re infants, they don’t always do well at Mass—as one parent put it, they have "meltdowns"! Sometimes, other sets of eyes turn like laser beams! But let me say this to anyone who is distracted: If you’re distracted at Mass, it’s not the baby’s fault—it’s not the parent’s fault. It’s your fault!
We do our best; yes, it’s considerate to turn our phones to silent; but we can’t turn off babies! But, if you want Mass without these things? Don’t come! Only when this church is empty of people will that happen! So, instead, here’s some practical advice. You’re at Mass, and there’s a noise; Don’t look: don’t think about it; just go right back to praying. I guarantee you’ll forget about it. You know what the true distraction is? Not what happens over there, but here, in our heads! It’s what we start thinking right afterward.
So, parents, don’t hold back from bringing the little ones. If you feel you can’t do both—Mass, and CCD? Then skip CCD and bring them here! They don’t have to get it here—with their heads; they will get it in their hearts. When your children were newborns, did you talk to them? Or, did you wait until they would understand the words? I’m sure you didn’t wait! They "get" it before they "get" it. Your children are never "too young" to be with you; how can they be "too young" to be with Jesus at Mass?
An infant in her father’s arms feels the heartbeat, hears a familiar voice, singing or speaking: that child connects, apart from intellect. And all of us are no more than infants in God’s arms, in our understanding of the reality that happens at Mass! See, our identity as Christians: it’s more than as individuals who believe something about Christ: we are a family. And Sunday Mass is when the family comes together—the whole family. And Jesus is made known to us in the breaking of the Bread.
Since Cecilia was Baptized there has not been a day she has missed mass. At our Church everyone has been wonderful about having a baby everyday at mass. She isn't always perfect through mass. Two days we had to go to a different Church since at our regular parish one priest was on retreat and the other having surgery. Visiting at another nearby Church Cecilia was very fussy and nothing I did would calm her very much. After mass a woman came up to me and proceeded to tell me that she could still hear Cecilia throughout mass. It isn't very easy as a new parent to try to bring your child to mass daily and strive so hard for their little one not to distract anyone from the mass. I must say I didn't feel very comfortable at the Church we visited but it certainly made me appreciate our Church more!