The Gospel today concludes the account of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand and His subsequent discourse on the “Bread of Life.” We have had the opportunity for 3 of the last 4 weeks to reflect upon a variety of aspects of the Holy Eucharist. Today I would like to mention some of the practical considerations for us when we attend Mass. Since the Mass is the re- presentation of the one sacrifice of Christ, as well as a Sacred Banquet during which we receive the Lord in Holy Communion, it is only fitting that we dress appropriately. Because cultural standards are always changing, it is difficult for many people to know what is proper attire at Mass. Though it isn’t necessary to wear suits and formal wear, still the Mass is a celebration for which we should “dress up”. Priest, deacon, and servers wear special vestments which help to express the dignity of the Mass. The faithful who attend Mass should wear clothing which expresses their respect for God and for each other. Clothing which is normally worn to the beach, or for picnics, or for recreation should generally be seen as inappropriate for Mass. Our culture is a very “casual” culture. We should not allow this attitude of the secular culture to intrude into our sacred worship. Parents have an especially important (and often difficult!) role in ensuring that their children are well prepared for Mass. Remind your children that the care with which they clean and groom themselves is one more way they show their love and respect for God.
Speaking of children, I want to say how important it is that families attend Mass together with their children. Parents of toddlers, you may find your young ones will be more attentive at Mass if you sit closer to the altar. I like to see – and hear – the little children! And I know that our parishioners without young children will be tolerant and understanding with you and your children if they happen to squirm or wiggle a little bit. Even if it is necessary for you to step out to the “cry room” occasionally with an unhappy or crying child, it is important that the little children be a part of the Mass. I am happy to see many of our families already making a habit of sitting up front with their children. I hope all of our families with young children will feel comfortable doing so. I heartily recommend that parents adopt their own family customs which will help establish Sunday as a special day – the Lord’s Day! Some special treat after Mass (presupposing their good behavior during Mass) is a good way to help make Sunday a day they look forward to. Although I discourage the practice of bringing food or toys to Mass, it would be entirely fitting that small children have a soft covered child’s bible or other religious book which they can bring with them to church. I hope these few suggestions will help you and your family at Mass.
May God bless you!