A Case for Daily Mass in Catholic Schools

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My kids are officially back in the swing of school. I know what you’re thinking: WooHoo! Carline drop-off must be the most absolutely magical part of the day! I must admit, watching my kids exit through the automatic sliding minivan doors with the exchange of a kiss, is pretty awesome. (What stay-at-home mom doesn’t crave a few hours of solitude to accomplish the endless household chores before they all frantically pile back in taking their seats in the constant carousel ride of family chaos?) But, believe it or not, the drop-off is not my absolute favorite part of the day. There’s another much more special moment that wins by a long shot!

It comes shortly after morning carline, and quite frankly, its significance kind of snuck up on me. Over time I’ve come to cherish it as the treasured gift from God that I know it to be.

Once my trio is safely ensconced in the womb of the school playground, I pull around and park our Honda “mother ship” nearby. I do a quick check in the rearview. Getting the kids out of the house on time often means sacrificing little luxuries like combing one’s hair or showering. The crisp fall air surrounds me as I bound across the playground to the “gym church.” While our actual church is under construction for a much-needed upgrade, I overlook the make-shift setting of nondescript folding chairs and austere black curtains masking the erstwhile basketball court. I am excited to once again gaze upon a sanctuary with statues and stained glass, but the rudimentary surroundings are not altogether lacking in beauty. Despite the stark, temporary décor, I regularly fix my eyes on something most pleasing, hopeful and dare I say, transcendent?—the moment my kids sidle up next to me and take their seats for the celebration of the Holy Mass.

At my children’s Catholic Classical elementary school, Our Lady of Lourdes of Denver, third graders and older attend Mass every Tuesday through Friday. The younger students take part twice a week. What a joy to see my kids light up with recognition when they spot me as they file in with the other students. I often place my arm around one or the other, giving them a little squeeze. We are the domestic church, contentedly standing in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I hope I never forget the shared glances we exchange in the moments leading up to the priest’s opening prayer. So much is said in our knowing looks, without uttering a single syllable. Whether the morning erupted in a mad rush, an angry huff, or both, which is often the case, it’s no matter. In that moment we are wholly reconciled. The annoying squabbles, the disgruntled feelings, the angry threats of “Get in the car now, or else!”—they seem to melt away.  We leave the perpetual commotion at the door and we enter into a sacred stillness together as a part of His family.

Growing up, I rarely attended daily Mass. At my Catholic school, we trudged across the blacktop “playground” to the church on the few days of the year when a Hoy Day and the school calendar divinely aligned. I’d like to say it was something I looked forward to. But I remember being fairly apathetic about Mass attendance on school days. It meant a rare hour away from the classroom. That was a good thing, but to my young self, Mass felt overwhelmingly institutional and impersonal. Certainly not the way I remember Sunday Mass with my family—squeezed into the pew sporting our heavy winter coats, flanked by my parents and brothers. It was an experience of the senses. I can easily recall my mom’s dulcet singing and smell the spicy fragrance of my dad’s aftershave. And then it was a trip to a neighboring mom-n-pop bakery to pick out a dozen mouth-watering doughnuts.

Attending Mass as a student on Holy Days of Obligation, I was sadly doing just that—fulfilling an obligation. We had to; so we did. There was certainly no anticipation or joy in taking part. And I’m not sure we even discussed in class why the Church recognized the particular day as Holy.  We were not taught the why behind it. I don’t remember ever seeing any parents in the congregation. And if they were present, they were not permitted to sit with their kids. That would be… disordered? unruly? too creepy family-ish? I don’t know. It just was not done.

I am grateful that my parents impressed upon me the primacy of Sunday Mass. They taught me by word and deed that it must be ritualized into my life. Even in the years when my faith seriously waned, I understood the importance of setting aside time for God on Sunday, a grace that eventually led me to a greater appreciation and understanding of Catholicism. For many years though, I mistakenly considered daily Mass as a slightly strange occurrence that existed only for blue hairs who had nothing better to do, and Catholic fanatics. However, when I experienced my ‘reversion’, I began longing for daily Mass, not unlike how as a child I anticipated our visits to the quaint neighborhood doughnut shop with the heavenly sights, smells and tastes. I ached to be there and felt truly blessed to be allowed in. I want that for my kids.

If we are serious about passing on the Christian faith in a meaningful way to the next generation, who I’m told are fleeing like millennials from Facebook, daily mass attendance is a beautiful way to engage their hearts and imaginations. We must instruct them to incorporate a slice of heaven into the drudgery of their daily lives. If you have a nose to smell, God’s fragrance permeates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as we surround the Eucharistic table. I am so blessed to experience, elbow to elbow with my kids, that everlasting moment of Christ’s profound love expressed through His death and resurrection. How beautiful that they witness their teachers and other parents ritualizing the Mass into their daily lives. They see us earnestly striving to reach beyond this life and grasping something eternal.

You wonderful moms with babies and spirited toddlers are rolling your eyes right now. I remember the days when Mass with little ones felt like a severe form of mortification. Don’t be disheartened that they squirm, chatter, and even scream. Find a vibrant, truly pro-life parish, where the sounds of little kids are welcomed and celebrated. And try to remember that it’s only a season. The fidgeting will subside someday. With deep wistfulness, I realize the days I am able to attend daily mass with my kids will eventually pass. Until then, I’m clinging to all the beauty and goodness that it brings. I pray that it will remain emblazoned on my heart and theirs and that it sets them on fire for our Lord. I encourage all parents to speak to their principals about the importance of daily mass. If we want to raise whole individuals who are striving for sainthood, let’s pack our churches daily. We must experience the source and summit of our faith as a loving family, which naturally includes lots of noisy, precious children.

photo by: Robert Cheaib

17 thoughts on “A Case for Daily Mass in Catholic Schools”

  1. This was wonderful. Getting better with each blog. Hope to hear you on radio regarding this soon

    In grade school we went every day. In high school once a week

    Parents never attended with us. Back then in both grade school and highschhol we had a high regard for the priests and nuns. I don’t think that is the case as much anymore for most

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  2. Mary Jo:
    My Catholic grade school had daily Mass (until eventually a priest arrived that took Mondays off). Even with the time taken daily for Mass, the school routinely had most of the top ten kids in the high school graduating classes. Our school represented about 1/5 of the total of each high school graduating class, but had most of the top students. On a side note, we also had monthly Confession instead of the more common Advent/Lent option that many schools use today. I am not saying it had any impact on grades, but time spent on faith did not seem to take away from academics.

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  3. We grew up with daily mass (pre-Vatican2). The students would file quietly into church after their school bus dropped them off. I was totally shocked to discover that my children did not have the same expectations in their Catholic grade school. I actually had to argue a case to have the school bring them to mass on Hoky Days of Obligation.

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    1. Therese, I think you are right about the timing. There seemed to be a real pull away from daily Mass attendance in schools in the 70’s through the 90’s. I’m hoping the pendulum has begun to swing back! Good for you for arguing for more Masses!

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  4. My first 5 years in our parish school we had daily Mass–those were the idealized TLM days. Over 1,000 kids in our school, grs. K-8. How many are still faithful Catholics from my class of 127 who graduated from 8th gr.? I doubt that I need all the fingers on one hand to count them! None of us understood the Latin, the constant choreography of the many altar boys got real boring, real fast to little kids. They taught us some chant, which also was boring when you don’t understand what you’re “chanting.” In 6th gr., we got a 180-degree shock to guitar, hootnanny Masses. Those didn’t go over any better. We’d make fun of the goofy songs by singing them with different lyrics on the playground. I never left the Church, & became a daily Mass-goer in 9th gr. when I’d join a friend in going to the evening Mass. Many times during high school I couldn’t get there, but I’m now 61 & continued to go to daily Mass whenever possible until Meniere’s Disease made it impossible for me to tolerate the screaming babies who’d be there every so often. I can’t risk being hit by high-pitched sounds, so I’m now an outcast Catholic. Believe everything the Church teaches, but can’t handle the constant criticism for asking for silent Masses without young children. One parish in our archdiocese of 200+ parishes offers a silent Sunday Mass for people like me. Most of the nearly 100 people who come don’t require a quiet Mass because of a physical illness. Many say it’s the first time in many years that they could HEAR the entire Mass since we don’t have screaming kids! That says a lot about what the Church considers important–screaming kids, not enabling proper worship of God for parishioners.

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    1. Sue, your health situation definitely gives pause for thought. A silent mass sounds like a great idea! I don’t advocate for screaming kids at mass. When kids begin crying, good parents should move them out until they settle. But most moms are doing their best and it’s important to not prohibit folks from coming to mass especially because they have small children. That’s when most of us really require more graces. I appreciate your point of view! Thanks.

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  5. If your children are attending a Catholic school where they get to Mass that often, that is really good.

    Does this school you speak of have “The Walls”? The first is a wall with pictures of each and every religious who has ever taught there: priests, nuns, brothers, consecrated virgins. Am I leaving anybody out? The second wall is of all the graduates who went on to become religious. What did they look like in the 5th grade?

    I’m a convert. I read of daily Mass Catholics shortly after converting, in the obituary for Eunice Kennedy Shriver. I remember thinking that must be something. I don’t make it daily, but I try. Just think, at daily Mass, at every Mass, the priest picks up a piece of bread, and when he sets it down it is the consecrated Body of Christ. Wow. And at every Mass we are joined by the hosts of Heaven, all the angels and saints. Even the Blessed Mother. Double Wow.

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    1. Wow and double wow is right! What a great comment. Thanks, Douglas. Converts like yourself really invigorate my own faith. We do not have the wall that you mentioned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get one soon. I think the graces of daily mass will lead to many vocations.

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  6. I teach at an all boys school with an all male faculty. It is not a parish school, but we have a chaplain and daily Mass (and confession all day), which I am grateful to be able to attend.

    I see a lot of mothers at daily Mass, from those who only have one teenage boy to those who have lots (one friend of mine—my oldest son’s godmother—has seven boys and her oldest just turned 9!).

    You can tell that it already takes a certain effort for a woman to come to Mass in an environment like that, and our liturgies, usually without instrumental music but with solemn choral music, foster a lot of moments of quiet that are ideal for making moms and their loud little boys and babies feel like unwelcome intruders.

    You are not. You are most welcome. I hope our moms know that, and I think they do.

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  7. At Jesuit HS in Tampa FL we have 2 N.O. Masses a day 7:30 and lunch period. Monday Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 a Traditional Latin Mass is Offered. Once a Month we have an all school N.O. High Mass with choir orchestra and a dozen altar boys

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    1. That sounds wonderful. I would have loved to have Mass available in high school! We had a chapel, but no tabernacle for Jesus. My kids’ school’s principal recently told me that since she instituted daily Mass she has witnessed a change in the student body. She calls it a great “anti-bullying policy.” I couldn’t agree more. Daily Mass can help change the culture at a school.

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  8. Great column.
    In the classroom, we learn by repeating the lessons – ie. Math and Spelling. Should we not devote as much effort for our faith by attending daily Mass?

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