Summer reminds me of family vacations, which remind me of learning how to pack my suitcase.
I distinctly remember lining up all the essentials — stuffed animals, board games, enough craft supplies for an entire kindergarten class, a small community of Barbies and a tape deck with several cassettes and cramming them into my bags. All packed.
My mother would wisely audit my early attempts. Pulling my suitcase, duffel bags and backpack onto my bed she would point out that perhaps a three-day weekend at grandma’s warranted fewer Barbies and more clean underwear.
She’d explain that even though these were all fun and good things, I needed to pack what was really important — clothes for church, a bar of soap, a bathing suit and jellie shoes for the sprinkler — before I crammed in my entire toy box.
I pouted a bit, but part of becoming an adult is learning that while you can live without six Nancy Drew novels for a three-day trip, you definitely want to have enough clean socks.
It would have been silly for my mom to let me make my own decisions and then wonder why I smelled and didn’t have appropriate attire at Grandma’s house. This was an important part of being an adult that I had to learn from her.
Parents often ask me if they should make their children attend Mass on Sundays when they don’t want to or it conflicts with sporting or school events. I sympathize with the predicament — I’ve observed that parenting is full of forcing kids to do things, and I’m sure after marching your children through homework and chores, it’s tempting to give in on the Mass discussion. Lives are busy, and work, sports and school crowd in on those precious Sunday mornings.
Attending Mass isn’t just a suggestion, though — it’s an obligation. The church doesn’t boss us around for a power trip. Like a good parent, the rules of the church exist to guide us into spiritual maturity. She echoes the words of Christ when He said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53).
It is because of these words of Christ, and the fact that, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “to receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us,” that the church “obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days.”
Food is essential for the life of our bodies and the Eucharist is essential for the life of our soul. No parent would allow their child to simply stop eating.
Despite scheduling conflicts or just plain laziness, it’s important that families keep Mass on Sunday as the first obligation on their calendar.
Just like I was taught to pack my toothbrush and underwear before Barbies and board games, parents can help their youth structure their week to ensure that Mass is the first priority on Sunday — before work, soccer practice or even getting extra sleep.
It’s a necessary part of becoming a mature, happy and holy adult.
Alison Griswold is the youth director at St. Francis by the Sea Church on Hilton Head Island. She writes “Team Catholic” for The Miscellany.