Should you make your children go to church? | Shutterstock

When a child or teen refuses to go to Mass, it’s hard to know what to do.

Making children (especially teenagers) come to Sunday Mass is not always an easy thing to do. There are times when you wonder whether it’s really necessary to make them go to church.

We might claim that we should force our children to do whatever we think is good for them, or, at the other end of the spectrum, we can claim that forcing them is not a good idea since the love of God presupposes a freedom of choice. The actual answer, however, is often more nuanced and respectful of circumstances.

Mass is a communion of love

A child cannot necessarily know what is good for him. In the same way that we make them eat so they can survive and be healthy, we must help them undertake certain actions to experience their faith. 

Some may protest and say, “Don’t people primarily gather for a Mass for the sake of love? What is the point in forcing a child to go to Mass?” It is absolutely true that the Eucharist is a communion of love, but it is also true that real love grows in faithfulness and faithfulness presupposes that we don’t depend on our momentary feelings and desires. Any married couples can tell you this.

To help a child become faithful

Making children go to Mass helps them to faithfully respond to the love of God.  It teaches them that the Christian life is not advanced by whims and emotions. It is to invite them to discover that the kind of love we have for God cannot be measured by what we feel but by our humble faithfulness. But we must temper this with respecting what may be going on with our particular child as we try to help them grow in faith.

Christine Ponsard

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