If you are divorced and the parent of children you may be facing a difficult road when it comes to handling Sunday Mass. Most children of divorced parents find themselves in an arrangement whereby they spend alternate weekends with the other parent. This arrangement, though considered in the best interest for the children, may make it difficult to orchestrate getting to Mass on a weekly basis. With a little creativity and prayer, it doesn’t have to be impossible.
I happened to be lucky in this regard. My former husband and I made the conscious choice to raise our daughters Catholic. When I had to meet with my lawyer to discuss visitation arrangements, I made a point to tell her about this decision we had made together. I also told her I expected my former spouse—regardless of his own inclinations—to honor this arrangement on behalf of our children. I found that being specific in my expectations was helpful—not only for Mass attendance, but in other areas too.
My lawyer helped me to write this specific expectation into our visitation agreement: she included a statement requiring that my former husband take our daughters to weekly Mass. He was required to sign off on this as part of our agreement. I don’t know if this is a common request during these types of visitation negotiations but since my lawyer gave me the green light on it, I thought it important to share. Don’t be afraid to ask for everything that is in your children’s best interest—spiritual development included.
If you and your former spouse will be living near one another, it is also an option to work out Mass attendance by having the Mass-going parent stop to pick up the children and then return them after Mass. There are many people out there who insist that each parent should have full autonomy over what happens during their individual times with their children. I feel however, that if at all possible,the children should be able to count on as much of the same continuity as before.
If you always went to Mass, that should continue to be a staple in your children’s life. If mom or dad object to taking them and you can work out a driving schedule that is satisfactory, this is what should be done. What matters here is getting the children to Mass, not who does it or how.
Depending upon the new living arrangements it is also possible to ask a family member or close family friend to bring your children with them when they go to weekly Mass. An important point to remember is that you may need to be flexible—your children may end up going to a completely different parish than the one they are used to. If this happens in your case, try to make it a point to attend that same parish at different times when you can. This way the priests and parishioners will see you as well as your former spouse. If the situation warrants, help your children and your former spouse find a new parish where your children will be comfortable. Maybe they can attend the same parish as their new friends on the block or with their cousins.
As easy as it may be to dismiss Mass attendance as “another argument I just don’t want to have,” I truly believe that if you put Mass attendance on the top of your list of priorities for your children, God will help you to find a way to make that happen.
Remember too that though weekly attendance is obligatory for all those who have received first Communion, our God is one of Mercy—and this Mercy must be poured out on all those who aren’t old enough to get themselves to Mass. Remember to pray and do the best you can to keep God first—one day both God and your children will thank you for it.