Surviving the Apocalypse: How We Make It Through Saturday Evening Mass

I love reading peoples suggestions on incorporating and training children to be good and attentive at Mass.  I love the inspiration I get and the feeling that my efforts are one day going to pay off, but I have to let you in on a little secret – for a long time I was doing it wrong.  For us.

Kendra is one of my favorites for straight up, no nonsense advise about kids.  I don’t even do half the stuff she does with her kids – we have different styles, demands on our time, personalities and number of kids so naturally our homes and techniques are going to look different.  But oh have I been trying to live up to her advice when it comes to kids in church.

Some of it has been spot on.  Getting better about regular attendance, dressing nicely, sitting up front, when to take a fussy baby or toddler out and when to lay down the law and tough it out, but try as I might, not all of it has been working for us and then I realized – oh hey, wait a second…that’s not my family!  No matter what I need to be doing what works for us.

We have a unique situation that because of schedules Saturday Vigil is it if we’re all going to go as a family.  There’s one Mass at the perfect time (not too close to when I get off work or too late in the night), but it’s still not ideal.  It’s at 5:15 p.m..  For us this is usually around the time when either all he** is breaking loose or about dinner time, but it’s this or nothing.  On the occasions when we do get a chance to go to a regular Sunday morning Mass I notice that our plan of attack gets to be much different.  11 a.m. Mass and 5 p.m. Mass can be totally different experiences for us just based on things like being well rested and well fed so I’ve finally given in to the idea that I need to alter my expectations for our Vigil Mass.

This is how we survive the apocalypse that can be Saturday Vigil Mass.

1.  Energy 

What Works:  We try to get to church early enough that we have time to run around and cool down. By this point in the day we’ve been playing for hours and the sudden change from active to sitting can be rough. We have a long walk from the car to the front door and I give H. free reign to nicely run around for about five minutes, slowly working our way to the door.  Once we’re inside we ideally have enough time to wind down before things actually get started.  Running around a bit afterwards seems to help as well.

What Doesn’t Work:  Bursting into the church with only a few minutes to go before the processional.  Instant recipe for grumpiness all around.

2.  Food 
What Works:  Oh I still have a love/hate relationship with this, but at the moment since Mass falls right around dinner time we’ve eased up on our no snacks for 3+ rule.  A small – and I mean small – handful of pretzels or goldfish right at the beginning is enough to tide over bloodsugar levels until 6:30.  Note:  We bring just enough that he is usually done before the first readings and he knows that’s it.  
What Doesn’t Work:  Cranky, hungry child. This has made the biggest difference in Mass recently – I want to be a no food after two years old family, but it just doesn’t work for us particularly at night.  Bringing back that small handful of pretzels has really changed everyone’s enjoyment of Mass.  Maybe we’ll be a no snacks after four family.
3.  Stuff
What Works:  No toys.  Nothing that can make noise or leave marks (crayons, pens, etc.)  We have stack of church themed books that we can take.  Books work for us right now; he’s passed the age of “dropping everything is fun” can occupy himself looking at pictures.  Note:  I find it very, very helpful to rid my purse of anything but the bare necessities.  After the Great Toy Car Meltdown on Easter of aught-fourteen when I missed a single toy in my purse I always make sure to double check.
What Doesn’t Work: Anything noisy or not having anything.  
Our Expectations:
Henry is three and a half and while I could go off others generalized age expectations I have to understand him and where he’s at.  He doesn’t have the attention span to last the whole hour plus some so we have some give and take.  We expect him to sit, stand and participate when he can; for him this is things like the Sign of the Peace and greetings, crossing himself, but we’re not to the level of knowing responses.  Other than that he’s expected to sit facing front and be reasonably quiet.  We make sure to point out important parts of the Mass, particularly during the consecration.  Luckily by this time in the evening the snack is long gone and the small stack of books has been looked at and he’s usually pretty attentive when you direct his attention.
And that is how we survive Vigil Mass.  We still have our good days and bad days.  Last week he was content to sit on our laps and watch most of the Mass; this week he managed to ask “Is Church over yet?!” multiple times and always at the quietest times, break one of my rosaries and generally flop around like a wet monkey.

Thanks to toning it down a little on what works for others and focusing on what works for us we have started thriving in Saturday Vigil Mass.  What works for you?

3 thoughts on “Surviving the Apocalypse: How We Make It Through Saturday Evening Mass

  1. You are so right…the Vigil Mass is soooo much different for behavior!!! It's like night and day difference (literally…ha) in how my daughter behaves when we go to morning Mass vs Vigil. My husband's works schedule is different every week so we have to go to whatever Mass works for all of us that week. I always mentally prepare myself for those Vigil Masses!!


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