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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Allowing children to miss Sunday Mass is like letting them not brush their teeth, theologian tells Catholic parents


Parents must demand their children attend Mass on Sundays in the same way that they insist on them brushing their teeth or bathing when dirty, an Irish theologian has told Catholics of the Diocese of Shrewsbury.

Fr Oliver Treanor said Catholic parents should not allow children to decide for themselves  whether to go to Mass each week.

Instead, he said it was important for parents to help to instil a “Eucharistic culture” that allowed faith to flourish by both attending Mass every Sunday and by explaining to their children why they went.

He said children should be made to accompany their parents at Mass instead of being given the option to do as they pleased.

Children could be introduced to the faith from the age of three years, he said, adding that “children, in the first five, six or seven years, learn a relationship with Christ and if they don’t get it then it is more difficult later on”.

“It becomes a matter of having to go to Mass on a Sunday,” he said in response to a question from a member of the audience at St Ambrose College, Hale Barns, Cheshire, during the sixth Shrewsbury Diocesan Symposium for the New Evangelisation, where he was the guest speaker.

“There is no room to discuss this,” said Fr Treanor, a priest of the Diocese of Down and Connor and a former Professor of Theology at Maynooth.

“So many parents say today that they don’t want to make them (their children) do what they don’t want to.

“But do you make them brush their teeth, do you make them take a shower when they begin to sweat during adolescence? Oh yes, absolutely.”

“There are certain things you don’t question,” he continued. “Do we not have a duty to God that over-rides how we feel? Bringing children to Mass, but in a warm way and in a firm way, is something we don’t discuss.”

He said good Catholic parents also made the mistake of attempting to teach their children the faith by personal example alone.

“Many young people who don’t go to Mass today have ideal parents who do go to Mass,” said Fr Treanor, whose books include Maelstrom of Love: The Eucharist, Source and Centre of the Sacramental Life.

“Example is prime but sometimes it takes a word to give meaning to the action as well. That was always the case with Jesus. He explained everything that he did.”

“There are some people who learn from example and others who don’t,” he added. “It takes that word to be the cleansing agent of the cleansing action.

“Without the example there is nothing. Without what we are, the words become empty, but without the word the substance of the action can be missed. Teach them in words the things that you have shown them.

“They have to be reminded how to respond and not to take things for granted. I think the two together is a happy marriage.”

Earlier, Fr Treanor explained to his audience how the Incarnation of Christ and his continued presence in the Eucharist was transforming the whole of creation.

He said that Christ was the centre of creation, redemption and of re-creation and that He was present in the Eucharist.

“Christ is the living centre of the universe,” said Fr Treanor. “The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the centre of all meaning, all logos, all logic, all good reason and He is the centre of forgiveness, healing and re-creation.

“He is the principle of the new creation, which is not different from the old creation but is the fulfilment of what went before,” he continued.

“Everything that exists is now transformed because it’s brought back to its original purpose. This purpose is the meaning of things. The transformation that God is bringing about of this universe is a restoration of meaning, of purposefulness and it is in the Eucharist that we find that meaning most clearly.

“The Eucharist is the epitome of all the natural things that God has touched for a sacramental purpose, for bringing us back to himself.”

The symposium ran for two days and also included an address by Fr Treanor on the subject of the Eucharist to an audience in Shrewsbury.

At Mass in St Ambrose College, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury thanked Fr Treanor for his “dedicated work as a theologian, for his generosity to our Diocese, returning for a second time in as many months to help us in this Eucharistic year to prepare for the great Eucharistic congress in Liverpool”.


(Photo by Simon Caldwell)