ASK FATHER: Adult child living at parents’ home doesn’t want to go to Mass

Family Praying The RosaryFrom a reader…


Our 18 year old says she does not want to go to Mass anymore. She is being home schooled through Seton Home Study and gets A’s in all her religion courses, so she is learning the Catholic faith and well. She just states that she wants to be given the freedom to choose to go to Mass for herself.

Her father and I explain that not only does she have the obligation to go, she has the honor to go, and it is also the matter of being obedient to our wishes while she is still under our roof.

Are we doing any ‘harm’ in forcing her to come to Mass with us? What I mean is, is it wrong for us to force her in the understanding that she has free will and is in most ways, an adult.

Maybe this is the sort of thing that the Synod of Bishops should have talked about.

The conventional wisdom is that forcing Church attendance on the unwilling is counterproductive. Forcing attendance, so it is said, only breeds resentment and, later, wholesale rebellion against the Church. In the same general category as forced attendance is bribed attendance: if you go with us to Mass, we’ll go to breakfast afterwards. Children, after a certain age, should come to see Church attendance not as some mandatory punishment, but as an open invitation and when they come to make the decision themselves to attend, their participation becomes real and they’re able to benefit more from the experience.

Frankly, I’m not entirely convinced that hoi polloi are right on this issue.

We “force” our children to do many things against their will. We force them to brush their teeth, eat their broccoli, clean their rooms, stand up straight, and be polite to Aunt Frieda when she visits. This does not seem universally to lead to lapsed dental care, abhorrence of broccoli, perpetually messy rooms, slouchers and rudeness when they hit adulthood.

Some parents can take things to excess. Some children end up being more rebellious than others. But, on the whole, parents having certain expectations of behavior among their children, especially those children expecting free bed and board at the parental manse, is normal.

When children become adults, or approach adulthood, and balk at the parental expectations, a conversation can ensue. “I see you’re not eating your broccoli, why is that?” “Oh mom, I really hate broccoli, it makes me so gassy. Can we have green beans instead?” or, “Dad, I’m 18 years old, and I really don’t want to go to church anymore.” “Why is that, son?” “Well, mostly it’s because I find the homilies to be lame and pointless, the music is insipid, and the liturgical dance is really contrary to what I’ve learned about the richness of our Catholic heritage.”

Negotiations can ensue.

If an 18 year old, seemingly intelligent and well-catechized child can decide not to attend Mass with the family, she should most definitely be expected to give an account of why she feels she should be free from this parental expectation. She may be going through a very difficult point in her spiritual life and might benefit from a longer conversation, perhaps, with a trusted priest or religious sister.

It’s reasonable for whatever conversation ensues to conclude with the statement,

“We, as your parents, agree that you’re an adult and should be able to make your own decisions. However, as an adult, you need to recognize that you’re still living in our house and are, therefore, under our authority. This is a family that goes to Church on Sundays and Holy Days. As a part of this family, it is our expectation that you will come with us. But first, go clean your room, and write that thank you note to Aunt Frieda for the lovely Christmas sweater she knit for you.”

Perhaps some readers have an experience of this situation and can lend some insight.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. donato2 says:

    My wife and I have two adult children both of whom have, at least in the past, expressed doubt about the Catholic faith (and have spouted general rubbish picked up despite (because of?) 13 years in ostensibly Catholic schools). Our policy is: it is your responsibility to choose what to believe, but our home is a Catholic home and thus if you live in our house, you must live as a Catholic and this means: no drugs, no alcohol, no sex, and Mass attendance on Sundays. I won’t go into details, but I believe/hope this policy is bearing/will bear fruit.

  2. Cantor says:

    My younger sister announced one afternoon when she was 19 that she would no longer be attending Mass with the family. My father got up, gave her a big hug and said, “We’re going to miss you. Where will you be living in case we need to be in touch?”

    She continued attending Mass with the family.

  3. markomalley says:

    For me, it’s a pretty simple matter: “My house, my rules.”

    I don’t have many rules, but one of them is that you will go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation unless you are unable to go (due to sickness, winter storm, etc.). You may opt to go to a different Mass than your mother and I, but you will go to Mass.

    Having said that, this is one reason why I’ve always been very thankful for the 7:30 PM Mass at St Mary Mother of God.

  4. Maxiemom says:

    Growing up, the rule was if you live her, you attend mass. When my son was growing up, the rule was the same. He is now an adult living on his own and continues to attend mass. He has met a wonderful young woman who is also Catholic and their Saturday dates usually begin with mass. I’m sure there was a time he didn’t attend, as there was a time when I was in college that I didn’t, but it didn’t take me long to realize that this was my faith and my heritage and it needed to be part of my life.

  5. roma247 says:

    This is a very tough one…and it is hard to know what is the right answer because there are many variables at play that we are not privy to. It sounds like the young lady in question is well catechized and she may or may not have expressed her reasons, but we certainly don’t know them.

    I know if my own children were to come and tell me this, when I was done being shocked out of my shoes, I would have the same sort of policy that the posters above would have: I don’t care what your reasons are, this is your duty, and you will fulfill it.

    That being said, I was once this 18 year old. In fact, I think I was 17. At that time, there were two or three different parishes within driving distance of the West Side of Madison that we would attend at different times, and each of them was horrible in its own particular way. Most were only some mix of bland with dreadful architecture…but one memorable parish in particular made me feel like we were worshipping ourselves…you know the kind: the “music ministers” who act like they run the place, the smug “Aren’t we hip? We have GIRL servers!” feeling that pervades everything…the folks who stomp across the aisle and grab your hand to say the Our Father, whether you want to or not…It was after one of these scarring experiences that I broke the news, and my parents were NOT happy. But I just couldn’t sit through that torture anymore.

    If something like this were the case, and the parents were willing to make a compromise by finding a parish that doesn’t inflict suffering on those who long for something resembling true piety at least once in a while, then I would think that would be an ideal solution. If only we had known that there were alternatives, I would have sought one. But every parish I could find seemed to be more or less the same. I gave up on Catholicism because I couldn’t find it.

    I will pray for this young lady, that she gets the guidance she needs.

  6. Michelle F says:

    I think I can add to this from the other side of the problem….

    My parents were 46 and I was 10 when we had to move in with my maternal grandmother, and we lived with her for 19 months. This wasn’t easy for anyone, but as long as we lived in her house, we lived by her rules – including the ones we didn’t like or agree with (none of her rules were immoral, of course). Following her rules was the reasonable and just thing for us to do because she owned the house. We also had our filial obligations toward her as mother-in-law, mother, and grandmother.

    When I was 19, I lived with one of my aunts for several weeks and I lived by her rules even though I didn’t like or agree with all of them. A few years later, I lived with a friend and her mother for a summer, and I followed the rules of their house.

    Following the rules of the house in which one is staying, whether it’s the house of immediate family, close relatives, or simply friends is part of being a gracious guest no matter how old one may be.

    When it is the house of relatives, filial obligations are an added factor.

    As for the specific problem of not wanting to go to Mass, ask her why she doesn’t want to go to Mass. There must be a specific reason. Once you know the reason, you can try to solve the problem. If it’s a problem with the priest, the quality of the Mass, or someone in the parish, then go somewhere else. If she is doubting or lost her faith, try arranging for her to go on a retreat at a convent with faithful nuns.

    No matter what the problem, however, you are well within your rights as her parents to require her to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation any time she is living in your house – even if it is just for a weekend visit.

  7. Bea says:

    We had a nephew visiting from back east when our children were young.
    He was about 13 years old.
    It was time for getting ready for Mass and he said he didn’t go to Mass.
    This would be a terrible example for our children and I told him, in this house we all go to Mass on Sundays.
    He went. He still doesn’t go where he lives but when he visits he doesn’t come by on Sundays.
    As an adult we were having fish on Friday and he stated he wasn’t into fish.
    I again told him: “In this house we only serve fish on Fridays”. He ate the fish.
    He still visits and holds us in high esteem because we stuck to our beliefs.

    This 18 year old “child” may not like it and go to Mass at the insistence of the parents, but she will have respect for their beliefs, even if she doesn’t show it at the time.
    Also, if parents do not insist it will be on their conscience at a later time that they did not insist.
    The girl, either now or later, will come to her senses and her parents heroic values will have a positive effect in due time, otherwise, she will come to believe: “well, I guess it wasn’t really that important after all.”

  8. Charivari Rob says:

    An 18-year old is to some degree an adult in rights and responsibilities. As your reader said, “..has free will and is in most ways, an adult.”

    That being said, I think there’s a huge difference between your lead-in of “adult child living at parents’ home” (which implies someone who could/should normally be living out in the world (a.k.a. the boomerang child)) and what your reader describes (someone who is still in high school).

    In the situation they describe, I generally believe they wouldn’t be unreasonable in their expectation for her to be a Catholic (including Mass obligation) while they are providing her with home and education (including expectations of her behavior if they send her to (undergraduate) college). She’s still under their formation and care (and sponsorship).

    In the situation you describe, however, I’d generally say it would be unreasonable (and unrealistic) for them to require this. Parents and an emancipated adult child returning to live at home for some reason should have an explicit agreement of financial obligations and an understanding of ground rules (for example – what may and may not be brought into the home). To try to compel behavior in the rest of her life – she’s an adult. They’d be kidding themselves. If they (or she) can’t handle that, then she’s better off if almost any circumstance living someplace else.

  9. Imrahil says:

    Dear donato2, who brought up that “a Catholic house” means “no alcohol”? I doubt the Italians would agree – and that includes the pious ones.

    (Or Bavarians for that matter.)

  10. Chiara says:

    Father –

    My husband and I are not parents, unfortunately. However, I do have a lasting memory of something my immigrant Irish grandmother said to me. She had a 3rd Grade education and came to America as a housemaid, but she knew her catechism backwards and forwards and was very faithful.

    One day after school, she asked me how my religion classes were coming along. I was perhaps 8 years old and had recently had my First Communion. I told her everything was fine, but apparently I was not enthusiastic. She sat me down and told me, “It is not enough to take up space in a pew one hour a week, which is little enough God asks of us. You must be willing to live or to die for your Faith.”

    She was a woman of few words, but I knew she meant what she said. She had fled Ireland during the Irish Civil War and had suffered for her Faith.

    Her words are something I carry with me after all these years. I hope it helps others who have children who are considering wandering away from the Church.

    God bless you, Fr. Z, and your readers. Pax et bonum from Susan in Akron

  11. Imrahil says:


    I certainly do not agree to that part of the conventional wisdom described by our reverend host on “bribed attendance”. Bribed attendance is quite legitimate.

    Forced attendance? Don’t know about this.

    After all, the logical conclusion of not forcing attendance is “it’s your decision, and we’ll go and pray to God that he have mercy on you and forgive this sin of yours”, and for any decent child, that is the equivalence of forcing attendance – it’s just a bit more restricting their liberty than if they’d just have said “you must, end of story” and thus at least given them the opportunity to disagree in private.

    In any case, I don’t think an adult child should be forced to go to Church when not forced by Church law (nor a non-adult child on too many occasions). If it is the laudable family practice to go to Church on Wednesday evenings too, because one week is so long… that is something the adult child should not be forced to. The child is an adult. Whatever about making children do things they are obliged to, parents should not force them in what pertains to free decision.

    (This is actually the same reason why I think that, while parents may, perhaps, repress sins, they should not repress innocent pleasures: not even innocent pleasures having bad repute among pious people and disliked by the parents themselves.)

  12. Charles E Flynn says:

    A new resource for parishes:

    A game-plan for bringing your fallen-away child back to the Church.

    There is a one-week introductory sale.

  13. oldconvert says:

    I don’t have children living, unfortunately, but I can remember myself at eighteen – we’ve all been eighteen! This seems to me a perfectly normal reaction, indeed quite mild for that age. The child is spreading her wings, testing her boundaries, that’s all. The clue is in the phrase “she wants to be given the freedom”. A younger child, in a temper, might say, “I’m going to my room because I WANT to, not because you TELL me to.”

    I should say, forcing her to go would be the very worst thing to do. Try explaining to her that, as an adult of course she has the choice, but (again as an adult) she needs to factor in (a) her obligations to the Church, and (b) good manners to the people with whom she is living. Point out that rebellion for the sake of it is pointless and childISH. Then afford her the choice and see how she reacts.

    If this is the first taste of adolescent rebellion these parents have experienced, then as the Western world goes they have been incredibly fortunate!

  14. LarryW2LJ says:

    I have not reached that stage yet. I hope I never will. My children are aged 15 and 14. They have been coming to Mass every Sunday since they were babies. Even during the “difficult” years, we brought them to Mass. If they were in a particularly “excitable” on any given Sunday, either my wife or I would take them to the outer vestibule, but we were in Church as a family.

    My son has been an altar server since the 4th grade. My daughter was in the children’s choir, and now that she is in high school, she is in the adult choir. I am hoping that part of key to keeping them going to Mass as adults is to get them involved while they are young so that they feel engaged and that they are an active members of the Church and not just spectators.

  15. Andrew says:

    Part of the problem could be (might be) and this is something no one seems to take into account – that everyone is “expected” to receive communion these days, and perhaps some, especially at a young age, are not ready to approach the altar. And since they – in good conscience – don’t want to receive, they make an excuse of not wanting to go to Mass.
    When I was a child this was not a problem because a row by row communion line didn’t exist: the pews were spacious and you didn’t obstruct others by staying at your place during communion. Noww, at some parishes they even employ ushers who wave their arms and urge everyone to get up and join the line.
    Not everyone is ready all the time to receive. It should be normal for a sizable part of the congregation to abstain on any given Sunday.

  16. Ages says:

    Thanks for this post, Fr. Z. I wonder if you or other readers could offer suggestions for my situation.

    I have a godson whose father is Protestant. My godson was baptized Protestant as an infant but decided to join the Church with his mother and brother when he was 12. Now he’s 15, and 75% of the time he goes to church with his dad, who was never really in favor of any of this.

    My parish is small. We have lots of young families, thank God, but few teenagers. So my godson prefers to go to his dad’s church where they have a large youth group and more kids his age. (At least that’s the reason he gives.) His dad doesn’t care where he goes to church, and his mother fought for so long for him to be able to convert in the first place, that with some health problems, she has no fight left in her.

    I have expressed my opinion as his godfather, but it resulted in hurt feelings. I don’t know how my godson is going to grow into a faithful adult in this kind of environment. His older brother—who is very pious—is of the “don’t force him, it will only make him resentful” opinion. Well, *I* was raised that you always, always go to church, unless you’re vomiting.

    I pray to Our Lady frequently to intervene, but when his mother and brother walk into church without my godson along, every Sunday I just feel sick. I don’t think there is much more I can say to convince anyone.

  17. Marine Mom says:

    O Jesus, only begotten Son of the Eternal Father, well-beloved Son of the Blessed Virgin and foster Child of St Joseph, we most fervently implore Thee, through Mary Thine ever-blessed Mother and St Joseph Thy foster father, take our children under thy special charge and enclose them in the love of Thy Sacred Heart. They are the children of Thy Father in Heaven, created after His own image; they are Thy possession, for Thou hast purchased them with Thy Precious; they are temples of the Holy Spirit, who sanctified them in Baptism and implanted in their hearts the virtues of faith, hope and charity. O most loving Jesus, rule and guide them, that they may live according to the holy Catholic Faith, that they may not waver in their confidence in Thee and that they ever remain faithful to Thy love. O Mary, Blessed Mother of Jesus, grant to our children a place in thy pure materna heart! Spread over them thy mantle when danger threatens their in once; keep them firm when they are about to stray from the path of virtue; and should they have the misfortune of falling into mortal sin, oh, then raise them up again, reconcile them with thy Divine Son and restore them to Santifying Grace. And thou, O holy foster father St Joseph, do not a onion our children! Protect them from all the dangers of soul and body. O dear parents of the holy Child Jesus! Intercede for us parents also, that we may bring up our children in the love and the fear of God and one day attain with them the Beatific Vision. Amen

  18. momoften says:

    It has to be house rules. There is a always that chance she will stop going to church irregardless, but if you let one house rule go, others will follow. The most important thing she has to realize above anything that you have to take your promise to God as a parent that you will raise her and educate her in the Catholic faith. Although she is eighteen, she is not independent yet. And, as such~you will still continue to guide her and there will have to be house rules because you care for her and only want the best for her. Your goal as a parent is always to want heaven for the soul of your daughter God has entrusted to you as a parent. Pray for her.

  19. Marine Mom says:

    Sorry for the typos with the prayer

  20. AVL says:

    At the age of 18 your daughter is an adult by legal standards. But i18 is an arbitrary age in which you become an “adult”. Is she really an adult by real world standards? Does she hold a job? Does she pay her own bills, buy her own clothes and food? Does she demonstrate maturity, virtues and exercise restraint in her decision making? If the answer is no, then she is still a child.

    When I was 18 years old I was a legal adult but I didn’t hold a job, wasn’t responsible in any fashion whatsoever, and in truth, I was still very much a child. I think most 18 year old are still children. My parents at that time allowed me to make decisions as an adult, and while I may have been insisting on that privilege, had they pushed back on me I would have understood they still knew better than I did! They weren’t doing me any favors.

    Something more is at play here, not just her wanting to make her own decisions about the faith. Explore that with her. Start praying a family Rosary if you don’t already. Its not that you have to come down on her like a drill sergeant but as others have mentioned, have her go on retreat, or have her start spiritual direction with a religious sister. Make sure the Mass she attends is one that she likes. Discuss what time and where she would prefer, and take it into consideration for where you will go to Mass. And you all go as a family. The family unity is critical here. If its a Life Teen Mass she prefers and you hate it, go with her as a family and then go to your TLM Mass before or after so you can feel like you’ve actually attended a Mass, hehe.

    Ok final point – If she wanted to jump in shark infested waters because she needed to feel like it was HER decision to jump, would you let her? Of course not. Because you would know how dangerous that is. Adult decision-making would be the least of your worries. Same with Mass. The devil is upon her, and her pride is perhaps being tempted here. The devil is upon you as well, so do not falter, do not back down, do not give in to discouragement. Her very soul is at stake. Fight like Hell – Satan sure is, so you better too! Saint Michael, defend this family in battle!

  21. Lucas says:

    I’m going to go against the grain here, but, yeah, being “forced” to go to Church when I was 18-19 really pushed me away. Of course, I came back(And with a vengeance) but I think if I wasn’t forced it would have been less time away.

    My parents were pretty forceful about it and again, maybe if they weren’t so bad about it I would have still gone. Also, they insisted on going to a 6:30AM Mass, which was something I was absolutely not thrilled with.

    Like most parenting things, I’m going to cross that bridge when I get there.

    “Dear donato2, who brought up that “a Catholic house” means “no alcohol”? I doubt the Italians would agree – and that includes the pious ones.

    (Or Bavarians for that matter.)”

    I know right? Starting at a young age, I always had a bit of wine with dinner. And guess what? Because I always had access to it at the house I never felt the need to get rip roaring drunk. Which didn’t happen until I was in my mid 20s and was more of a accident than anything else. (Didn’t realize how strong a certain beer was)

  22. marytoo says:

    I was this girl, along with my siblings. My mother agreed that when we turned 18 Mass attendance was up to us. It took us all at least a decade to return (one still hasn’t), 10 years of floundering around untethered. My mother’s decision was a bad one. So, yes, I think she should be forced to go. She can decline Church attendance when she is out of the house but right now her parents need to hold fast. Giving her this kind of “freedom” won’t guarantee she will soon decide to go back; in fact, once the habit of sleeping in on Sunday mornings takes hold it is a hard one to break.

    I know that back then I felt our parish was full of phonies who didn’t practice the faith outside of Mass (in my teenage mind). I was introverted and melancholic. We were poor and many were wealthy and I had to go to school with their children, who were spoiled and stuck up (in my teenage mind). Also the liturgy was absolutely banal (truly). If those are the problems maybe finding a parish with potential friends/a beautiful liturgy might help. And lots of discussion on what it means to be Catholic and on what God asks of us, what is and isn’t our decision, and mostly on what that often misused and misunderstood word “freedom” really means to Catholics.

  23. chantgirl says:

    If she has younger children at home, the parent must think of the domino effect that will occur when an older child doesn’t want to go to Mass and is allowed to stay home. Will, the younger ones, who may look up to the older sister, want to imitate her behavior?

    She may be doubting her faith. A sensitive, empathic child who learns of the uglier side of human nature ( watches the news, reads enough history- the rape of nanking comes to mind), will have a great struggle to understand why God allows such horrific suffering, and will wonder if God is not really omnipotent, or if He really cares, or if perhaps He does not exist at all. Or she may be having trouble living the Church’s moral law, whether or not she believes in Christ and His Church or not. In my opinion these are the two biggest obstacles for most teenagers to retain the faith through their college years: either they are having trouble understanding and accepting that God allows suffering, or they are having trouble with the moral requirements of the Church.

    Make sure the daughter knows that she is not expected to receive Communion at Mass. That will give her some space to work through her difficulty.

  24. AVL says:

    I just had another thought…. take this issue to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Daily, if you can manage it even if only for 10-15 minutes at a time. Go to confession, fast, and pray for wisdom to handle this as well as for your daughter’s receptiveness. While you are going through this challenge with your daughter, cozy up to Jesus just as close as you can. He won’t fail you.

  25. Mrs. Amen says:

    My parents, devout Protestants, required weekly church attendance. I balked at going as a young adult living in their home. I had my reasons why I didn’t want to go: I wanted to sleep in (I worked approximately 100-110 hours a week at an investment bank at the time doing mergers & acquisitions…so legitimately tired, I didn’t like their church because the loud music hurt my ears and I felt like it was all for show anyhow). My parents told me firmly, “you do not have to go with us, you do not have to attend our church, but you do have to go to a Sunday service. We can’t wait to hear about the sermon wherever you decide to attend!” I chose to attend a local Catholic Church where I had been longing to go for years. This was the first step in leading me home to the Catholic Church. Perhaps the child wishes to attend a different mass, a different parish, a TLM or a NO. Perhaps she wants to establish herself on her own at a parish instead of being “so and so’s daughter” with all the expectations attached. It is worth discussion with her, but a firm & gentle approach worked well with me.

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Imrahil – I think donato02’s “no alcohol” rule is talking about the under-21 contingent. Catholics are usually obliged by the laws of the Church to abide by the laws of their countries and states, unless those laws are immoral. So asking the kids not to drink until it’s legal would be a Catholic thing to do.

    (Of course, there are Catholics who live in states where parents can serve alcohol to their children, or who engage in a little civil disobedience on that point; and there’s nothing wrong or un-Catholic with that, either.)

    It may also be a case where there is alcoholism in the family, in which case it would be prudent and Catholic to keep from drinking.

  27. donato2 says:

    Imrahil, I was referring to binge drinking but on top of that 21 is the minimum legal age (both my kids are under 21), although we are not opposed to wine or beer with meals.

  28. donato2 says:

    I missed Suburbanbanshee’s comment when I posted my response to Imrahil. Suburbanbanshee’s understanding is exactly what I meant. Although we are not opposed to wine and beer with meals, I agree that we should abide by the laws — in our case, the issue has not arisen because neither of our kids wants wine or beer with dinner. (When I was growing up we were allowed beer and wine with dinner notwithstanding the liquor laws. Once when my brother and I tried to order beer in a restaurant but were denied because under age, my father (a Catholic but not a strict one) told the waitress: “No, it’s ok they are my sons.” The waitress did not share the assumption that there is a familial exception to the age requirement in the liquor laws.)

  29. Imrahil says:

    Dear Banshee,

    ahah. I was talking in the abstract, and in view of the situation where an a bit older child comes home… also, forgive me to say so, but the dear Donato did not sound as if he was just about the legal age.

    So asking the kids not to drink until it’s legal would be a Catholic thing to do. Of course, there are Catholics […] who engage in a little civil disobedience on that point; and there’s nothing wrong or un-Catholic with that, either.

    Nicely phrased. :-) (It’s 16/beer, 18/wine around here, btw.)

    Dear Ages,

    if you suffer the thoughts of one without any experience on the matter…

    for good or ill, it is not disallowed under present Church discipline to attend the services of non-Catholics. They do not, of course, satisfy the Sunday obligation.

    So, I’d suggest him to go to the Saturday Evening Mass for the obligation, and meet with his mates on Sunday.

    If he had passed through a German military service, I’d just say “you know, duty is duty and liquor is liquor”.

    Generally for the personal record, as I couldn’t refrain from giving some musings: I can’t talk about how to understand teenagers testing their liberty by breaking out of family routine, and hence “I don’t want to go to Church”. I did break out of family routine and use my liberty myself (among other things) – a liberty which, to be fair, never was contested – but not by not going to Church, but by going to Church.

  30. Ferde Rombola says:

    A child reluctant to go to Mass on Sunday should be made aware that deliberately missing Mass on Sunday is a serious sin, and that allowing such a child to skip Mass on Sunday is also a serious sin for the adult with authority over the child. (No quibbling, please. An 18 year old is still a child.)
    Questions for the child: “Are you suggesting I should be complicit in your sin and thereby sin myself? Should I risk eternal life with God because you don’t want to go to Mass on Sunday? Should you?”

  31. priests wife says:

    This is a matter of respect. When I was in university, I cantored the 7:30 Mass. I lived at home during school. I stayed and attended the 9 AM with my parents and siblings. Years later, I was months from 27 and living with my paents for a few months before I got married. I was marrying a Byzantine Catholic seminary graduate- so changing my canonical status to Byzantine-rite. I was involved as possible with the local (meaning- an hour away) Byzantine mission. I also joined my parents at their Roman-rite parish for Sundays- not to fulfill my obligation, I had done that at the Byzantine mission. I was in their house- I respect them by joining them at Mass. your mileage may vary….

  32. Imrahil says:

    Dear Donato,

    thanks for the clarification.

    Forgive me – that’s a cultural thing, of course – but when I hear “no alcohol”, what I understand is, well, “no alcohol”. ;-)

  33. APX says:

    “Imrahil – I think donato02’s “no alcohol” rule is talking about the under-21 contingent. Catholics are usually obliged by the laws of the Church to abide by the laws of their countries and states, unless those laws are immoral. So asking the kids not to drink until it’s legal would be a Catholic thing to do.”

    What are the actual drinking laws for each state? While in Canada the legal drinking age is either 18 or 19, in a number of provinces parents/legal guardians are permitted by law to give alcohol to their children under their direct supervision. My parents decided that I was old enough to start drinking alcohol when I was preparing to for First Communion. I was permitted about an ounce of wine at supper on special occasions. As I got older, I was permitted more. I learned moderation. it wasn’t this forbidden fruit as it was for many of my classmates.

  34. a catechist says:

    I’m in the minority here, I see. When I didn’t want to go to Mass when I was 17, my parents didn’t force me 7 that was completely the right thing to do in my case. What I needed was a priest or other well-educated Catholic I could talk to, but that was not available–I needed Anselm of Canterbury in high school!! Making me go, when very real intellectual struggles weren’t addressed, would have reinforced the sense my questions had no answers.

    When I got to college, I went at least twice a week, because I encountered Catholics who took the intellectual tradition seriously, and priests who preached to the intellectually hungry.

    But the ONLY Catholics who I’ve known while they stopped going to Mass and mostly rejected the Church had been forced to go “as long as you’re under my roof….” Forced attendance had been poison to them, and they dropped Mass attendance ASAP.

  35. mysticalrose says:

    For centuries (millennia even?) one could pretty much presume that children would follow the practices of their parents, and that the parents, in turn, would follow their forbears. Not our times . . . now it is a challenge to get even a homeschooler to keep the faith. Sigh. Is anyone else depressed by this?

  36. Rachel K says:

    Dear Donato2- no alcohol?? Or sex?? Where did you get your children from then?!!

    On a serious note, I agree with Charivari Rob, this is an adult we are talking about here, they may not yet own their own home, but even the Catechism has words about the respect due from a parent to an emancipated adult child. A young person in such a situation should listen to the wisdom of the parents, but the parents have to leave the young adult to choose to go to Mass freely. Coercion does not work and is always counterproductive. A kindly heart to heart about the faith would do much more good. Perhaps she has legitimate concerns or questions about the faith/parish/homilies/ world issues and moral disorder which are distressing her.
    I also think we should not measure the faith of our young people by their Mass attendance. This is not always a good litmus txt of their faith, I know that may seem weird to some older readers here, but I think we need to accept how difficult the world is for iur young people these times that we live in. Confusion is sown everywhere.

  37. muerknz says:

    While this case is talking about an 18 year old, we had a similar issue with out son who was 14. He didn’t want to attend Mass. When I asked why his response was “I go to Catholic school, all the people there are Catholic, but none of them go to Mass, so why should I have to?”

    Anyway we had a bit of a chat and we talked it out and he’s come to Mass with us ever since without a fuss, but it goes to show how kids will do what they see. Mass attendance for us was the norm, but not for his Catholic friends. So many Catholics are Catholic in name, they attend at Christmas and Easter, get their kids the sacraments of initiation, but that’s it. They aren’t living their faith on a daily basis. It’s sad.

  38. Former Altar Boy says:

    I like the response from the father who lovingly asked his daughter where she would be living! haha However, as to house rules, I knew a good woman, a devout Baptist, who enforced this rule. On Sunday you were invited to go to church with her, or to attend a church of your choosing, but you could not remain in the house. She allowed visitors to stay in the house when she was gone any other time but NOT on Sundays! Whatever their decision, her guests did learn that some families believed in keeping the Lord’s Day holy.

  39. TWF says:

    I was on the flip side. As a teen raised in an Evangelical home. I began studying Catholicism. By 17, I was convicted to join the Holy Catholic Church. It broke my grandparents hearts, upset my parents, and caused great pain all around. I was required, as a matter of house rules, to continue to attend the Protestant service every Sunday. Thankfully I got to mass Saturday night thanks to a Catholic great-uncle. Both my grandmothers bore great anger towards him on that account for a time. Thankfully a decade later everyone has mellowed out and my parents, while not yet Catholic, have gone Lutheran. (Which trust me was a huge step…liturgy, sacramental theology, the communion of Saints…).

  40. Cafea Fruor says:

    Really, I think so much of it has to do with knowing the individual kid. For some kids, forcing/begging/pleading/bribery might very well work. For others, that may just make them run faster and harder. You have to know how each child might react, rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, my siblings and I are all in our 30s now. Both of my sisters are fallen away from the Church. One is married (legally, but not according to the Church), and when she and her husband were living together before the wedding, my parents told them, “We’d love to have you over for holidays and all, but you will sleep in separate rooms, or you can get a hotel. Your pick.” So they chose to sleep in separate beds because visiting my folks was more important to them (and they couldn’t really afford travel + a hotel), and they said, “Fair enough. Your house, your rules.” My other sister, on the other hand, now that she is living with her boyfriend, says, “That’s so alienating!! I just won’t come home if we have to sleep in separate beds.” Two women, raised in the same family, with entirely different reactions to the same rule. Then there’s my brother, who’s also fallen away but phlegmatically responds, “Meh. Whatever.”

    The problem with an 18-year-old is that, while they technically have the option of living somewhere else, they in effect really don’t, since what 18-year-old can afford to do so? I think if I had a kid in this situation, if I thought this would work with that kid, I’d probably try to hit them in the pocketbook with an ultimatum and say, “Well, it’s like this: You’re an adult now and need to contribute to the household if you want to live here. Your rent here is $X per month (X being just a little out of their reach) if you want to stay here and not go to Mass. But if you choose to go to Mass with us, which is so much more important than money, we’ll give you a Y% (Y being something significant) discount off that rent.” And maybe point out to them that the discount they’re getting by opting for Mass is WAY more lucrative than an hour of work; say, “Well, dear, if you go to Mass, that’s an hour of your time. The discount of $250/month means each Sunday Mass gets you $62.50 off. You’d have to work an entire day to earn that much after taxes, so would you rather spend an hour at Mass, or an entire day at work to make up the difference?” Make it seem like they’re winning by saying yes. Of course, they’re winning in that they’d be present at the Holy Sacrifice, but if they’re not on board yet with the faith side, I’d try to get them to feel at least some sort of personal benefit in going, and then God, who can work incredible wonders, can work with their presence and purify their intentions so they later see the real benefit.

    I never left the Church myself, but I think most 18-year-olds, facing their very little funds in an increasingly expensive world, would then opt for Mass attendance with the discount, even if a little grudgingly. But it’s also a little more feasible for an 18-year-old than the ultimatum of living there or not, since they might not be even remotely able to live on their own — the end result being that the choice may seem a little more like a realistic choice to them and less of a feeling-cornered-by-my-parents sort of situation. And making the choice more within their reach, then it might help them feel a little more like an adult decision and less like a parents-vs.-kid decision.

  41. Phil_NL says:

    We’re talking about an 18 year old. An adult. While surely some 18 year olds behave like 13 (or 10, or 7, as the mood takes them), that tends to be the exception, rather than the rule. If a well-cathechized 18 year old is disinclined to go to Mass, chances are there is something much more profound going on than mere obtuseness.

    In such a situation (a spiritual rough patch seems the minimum), treating anyone like an 11 year old is bound to make problems worse, rather than better. (“you’ll do this because you live under my roof” is not an argument. It’s extortion, with the implicit threat of kicking a child out or at least souring relations. It also lacks logic. Surely you have a moral right to prohibit things under your roof that are morally unsound, but Mass attandance is in the realm of omission, not commission, and doesn’t relate to your home. I fail to see how the parents would be damaged by it, other than worrying. Besides, the primary responsibility for his or her spiritual welfare lies with the child, and has/should have been there for years already. From confirmation onwards, roughly) And to top it up, an 18 year old probably can stand being treated like 11 a lot worse than a 22 year old.

    Much better would be to figure out what’s the matter. Everyone has rough patches, hickups. In fact, if I were one of the parents, I’d change tack: ‘OK, you won’t go to Mass because of me asking. That pains me, but you’re an adult. But you know it’s an obligation to God. Wouldn’t you want to talk this over with Fr XYZ, or …?” After all, this isn’t about the parents. And God knows, it’s easy after a sin to think ‘well, that one is going to be a small one compared to….’

    In all, perhaps the parents should start sorting it out soon. That kid is soon going to college or, failling that, land a job. Leverage over the decisions that person takes is going to disappear rapidly. Leverage over how he or she thinks, and trying to steer that towards a rock-solid, happy Catholic way of thinking, might not be gone yet – and will endure a whole lot longer.

  42. johnmann says:

    I stopped attending Mass at 18 and didn’t return for years. In general, there isn’t much support for Catholic young adult, especially outside college campuses and even on campuses where Catholic organizations don’t want to seem too pushy. This is a shame because it’s a transitional age where lifetime religious observance is often made or broken and the Church is one of those rare institutions with the resources to provide support.

    I’m not sure anything would have worked for me at 18 but being plugged in to a social network of practicing Catholic young adults couldn’t have hurt.

  43. Ave Crux says:

    I’ve read many, though not all responses and haven’t seen mentioned something that’s very basic.

    This is really not at all about *our* house rules. There is a Commandment “Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath….”, and a Commandment of the Church that we must attend Mass.

    It’s quite simple: “No one in our household will disobey God or the Church in so grave a matter. This is not something you decide whether or not you want to do as an adult while living here. Those who live here will honor God and His Church. No one here has any authority or liberty to pass on that. Period.”

    This transfers the opposition from child and parent to child and God. Let them stop placing the “blame” on the parents and accept responsibility for whether they are essentially saying they don’t want to obey God. If that’s the case, they can leave the home. We won’t allow such disrespect toward God. Let them accept the full burden of their “adulthood” then.

    All of this can be said and done with love and reason.

    We have posted in our home in two places that beautiful Scripture: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

  44. Ave Crux says:

    I’ve read many, though not all responses and haven’t seen mentioned something that’s very basic.

    This is really not at all about *our* house rules. There is a Commandment “Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath….”, and a Commandment of the Church that we must attend Mass.

    It’s quite simple: “No one in our household will disobey God or the Church in so grave a matter. This is not something you decide whether or not you want to do as an adult while living here. Those who live here will honor God and His Church. No one here has any authority or liberty to pass on that. Period.”

    This transfers the opposition from child and parent to child and God. Let them stop placing the “blame” on the parents and accept responsibility for whether they are essentially saying they don’t want to obey God. If that’s the case, they can leave the home. We won’t allow such disrespect toward God. Let them accept the full burden of their “adulthood” then.

    All of this can be said and done with love and reason.

    We have posted in our home in two places that beautiful Scripture: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

  45. Seaton Home Study isn’t exactly a bastion of liberal blather. There are a lot of good influences there. This really begs the question for more information and family communication on home life, school environment, attitudes, gossip, severity/laxity, overall example, influences of television, bad friends, interior prayer life.

    St John Bosco adamantly warned repeatedly on the powerful influence of bad friends. Ultimately this is where I failed spectacularly with my own son.

    A Catholic who questions and accepts the Faith is stronger than one who simply goes along with the crowd. But teenagers are led to be especially rebellious and resentful today – its expected behavior unfortunately.

    Having ‘suffered’ myself from a severe trad upbringing that took years to synthesis and re-orient I can honestly say that envy and pride are really super-sneaky sins that apply to everyone: parents, children, trads, moderates and progressives. Growth in the interior prayer life and a LOT of reading of very old Catholic works helped me.

    These are tough times – though I believe easier than we had it in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, we are less oblivious about the enemy and have more hindsight now. The implacable devil is after all good families. Pray that crucial Rosary together without fail. Make the 9 First Fridays of Reparation.

    My heart goes out to this family – wish this wasn’t such a common problem.

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