Mystery and celebration are intimately tied together in our experience of the Mass. Each time we attend Mass we seek to live; we seek to experience; we seek to celebrate. Yet often we find ourselves distracted during the Mass by our thoughts turning toward our to do list, our worries, or the people around us. Moreover, as soon as we leave the church, we tend to close our experience of the Mass the moment we close the doors of the church.
How can we train our focus toward Jesus during the Mass? How can we prolong the experience of the Eucharist for ourselves and our children? How can we keep this celebration alive in our hearts and flame the fire of our love for Jesus the Good Shepherd? The church has a centuries old practice called mystagogy which is intended to do this very thing. In the second century when catechumens were preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation, the bishops did not do catechesis on the rite beforehand. They believed the sacraments needed to be lived in order to be understood, so after catechumens celebrated the sacraments of initiation they received mystagogical catechesis. They would come together in the following weeks and recall the moments of the rite. They wondered over the questions: What have you seen? What have you experienced? What have you sensed? In this way, they deepened their understanding of what was already lived. They remained with the celebration and flamed the fires of their love for Jesus in the Eucharist.
Sofia uses this practice in many of the works in the atrium. The Mystery of Faith is one such example.* We can engage in this same practice of mystagogy with our children after each celebration of the Mass. Explain to your children that you would like to engage in the ancient practice of mystagogy after the Mass and that in order to do this they need to pay special attention to what they see, hear, experience, and sense. As you continue this practice from week to week, you could also chose as a family to focus particularly on certain elements of the rite. One Sunday you may choose to hone in on the Liturgy of the Eucharist, another the Liturgy of the Word, another you could watch the gestures of the Mass, and so on. Going into the Mass with a renewed focus will help everyone’s attention to remain in the moment. Then as you ride home from Mass or at the dinner table that day take turns reflecting together on the following questions:
What did you see?
What did you hear?
What did you sense?
What did you experience?
The more you engage in this practice, the better you will become at it. I think you will be surprised at the responses you get. We determined to start this practice in our own family. The first week, it took a bit of drawing out to get my children to respond. My older children noticed the people around them, but when asked what he saw my five year old exclaimed, “The Holy Spirit!”
*See Sofia Cavalletti’s Religious Potential of the Child 6 to 12 Years Old, p. 69.
If you are looking to be inspired regarding the mystery of the Mass, I would recommend viewing The Veil Removed a beautifully done video about the coming together of Heaven and Earth which occurs during the Mass. This will certainly help spur conversations on the Mass with your children.