December 12, 2016

 

It’s a contentious issue, loaded with potential for passive-aggressive exchanges- how do you and your family handle Mass attendance when visiting relatives that don’t understand your faith?  There are several possible scenarios out there- Christians of good will who think it’s more important to stay home with family instead of going to Church on Christmas, fallen-away Catholics who are bitter at the Church and look down on those who still go, and even well-meaning family members who’ve packed the schedule so full that you don’t know how you’ll be able escape to Mass without incident.  So here’s the question:

How have you learned to set your schedule when visiting non-Catholic family so that you’re able to have a quality visit, and yet still be able to get to Mass or other liturgies?

Here’s what some of our members and readers had to share on the topic:

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“When I would visit my protestant brother, I simply located the parish nearest to his home (via masstimes.org) and our family went to the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. My brother and his family were very understanding. Over the span of many visits, it became our parish away from home and is now our permanent parish since my family has moved back to my home town. I’m thankful that there was no visible tension during our visits and our need to attend Mass was respected.”

HD, via Facebook

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“When we first converted, we would attend a Mass at a time that would meet our obligation, and also allow us to attend a service with our Protestant family as well.

On the rare occasions that their church received communion, we abstained.

Several years later, with the kids older, our family has come to expect that Sunday morning everyone goes their own way and meets up afterward. But in the early days, we ‘double dipped.'”

Timothy Putnam, host, Outside the Walls Radio Show

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“I like the idea of being matter of fact and not making a spectacle. A firm statement of intent goes a long way. I found early on that if I just put it out there (“we’re thinking about going to the 8:30 Mass…”) people didn’t think we were really that serious about it. Saying something more like “we’re PLANNING on going to the 8:30 Mass” lets people know it’s really important to us, and doesn’t leave ambiguity. I’ve found that if people understand it’s important to you, even if they don’t understand why, they’re more respectful about it.”

Matt Swaim, Communications Coordinator, The Coming Home Network International

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“I always notify ahead of time to those that we are visiting that we will be going to Mass (and give the time). I never request special favors, like holding breakfast until our return, or even that other events not take place. We will catch up. After a couple of times, I’ve found that these same friends or family accept that this will be the norm of our visits and out of love, we are always respected.”

Mary Lou, via Facebook

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If you have something to add, please share in the comments!  For those who are new to the Catholic faith, practical issues like this one can be especially nerve-wracking.  Let’s help each other as we try to live our faith in a way that not only enriches us personally, but also serves as a loving witness to those looking in from the outside!

  • Steve Cornillaud

    I’ll be doing just that with my family this Christmas. We are visiting my southern baptist anti-Catholic parents who typically sneer or awkwardly raise eyebrows with any mention of the Catholic faith. They’d much prefer we go with them to their praise and worship bible service where they are very popular, lead ministries and teach bible study. We handle it simply and matter of factly. We don’t make a spectacle of any of it. We simply inform them ahead of time of our intentions to go to Mass; we say it in a tone that says there’s no debate about it, it’s what we do, and that’s that. It has gotten easier over the years, and they don’t make much of it anymore. I even look forward to the kids saying their very Catholic prayers at night in the presence of grandparents. Not to cause a stir or start an argument, but just to give them something to think about, seeing their young grandchildren devoutly summoning saints, angels, and the Holy Family as they thank God for their day and ask for protection through the night. I like to think that they’re befuddled as to how these kids can seem so close to Jesus while being Catholic. 🙂

    • Matt Swaim

      I like the idea of being matter of fact and not making a spectacle. A firm statement of intent goes a long way. I found early on that if I just put it out there (“we’re thinking about going to the 8:30 Mass…”) people didn’t think we were really that serious about it. Saying something more like “we’re PLANNING on going to the 8:30 Mass” lets people know it’s really important to us, and doesn’t leave ambiguity. I’ve found that if people understand it’s important to you, even if they don’t understand why, they’re more respectful about it.

      • Steve Cornillaud

        Spot on. No ambiguity. Just a charitable, matter of fact statement in a kind but clear tone. It’s very important to be courageous and confident in your faith, never compromising that for the sake of niceness and “getting along”. And if you can’t do it with loved ones, even those who disagree, then how can we be courageous with the rest of the world?

  • Brittany Goins

    My situation might be a bit different, but I agree with the below comments. I am a cradle Catholic married to an independent, fundamentalist Baptist, so I have experienced this when celebrating with my in-laws. Well, sometimes I experience on any given Sunday from my husband, depending on his mood and whether or not my going to Mass effects our schedule. Like I said earlier, just let everyone know in a matter of fact manner and move on. The first few years they would give me a hard time and try to argue about theology but now it is just accepted and expected.