Done by Aime, sx
It was in the midst of a research on the mysticism of Karl Rahner that I came across this question voiced by a teenager who, to my view, was quite serious about it: “At what age is no longer acceptable to attend mass?”
I do not remember what the respondent, a priest, said to our friend, but I kept wrestling with such a question and wondered what I would have answered if I were asked such a question.
In the area where we have mass every Saturday, only few youth attend the mass, and a hundred just pass by, as the chapel is just by a small street. I do not include the adults, men and women who also pass by the chapel, some sign themselves with the sign of the Cross and continue their way. I also know that many of them go to mass in other places, but still I can hold that some do not. Have they attained the canonical age to stop going to mass?
Unlike many for whom such a question would be of no relevance, either because they are convinced already about the value of going to mass, or because they have stop anyway, our friend had another interest altogether. It is just that he was tired of bringing every Sunday his grandmother, who was already 95 years-old, to mass.
The grandmother had a great devotion for the mass that, even on days when she woke up with some health malaise, she would insist to be accompanied by all means to mass. The family had tried to convince her, to no avail, to watch the mass on TV. The problem was that the one who was to bring her to mass always was her grandchild. This brought our friend to ask if he could be helped in any way. Maybe if the grandma will know that she already attained the canonical age to stop attending the mass, she would stop.
Is there any canonical age at which it is no longer admissible to attend mass?
Supposed there was! To be a bit dramatic, it would involve a long debate, possibly even a conflict of generations… at least for some. With the schools having classes even on Sundays, the day of the Lord, perhaps some will say that it should be by 16 years of age, so that one can study hard, be the best student, get many medals, then after he or she can restart going to mass…or maybe after receiving the sacrament of confirmation, as some analysts say that to many it has become a “sacrament of dismissal from the Church”.
Also, with many people getting too busy with work and the like, some may think that by the time one gets a work, that is the early or mid twenties, one’s work becomes one’s mass. But I guess that those who have no work, but who spend hours drinking, watching TV, sleeping, standing by, would argue differently. Those with Children (in their thirties) would hold on taking care of their babies and the list may be long. At the end of the debate, we will still go back to the same question: At what age is no longer acceptable to attend mass?”
The truth is that there is no age at which one is expected to stop going to mass. Even at one’s death, the Christian Community is always ready to accompany the departed with a mass. At the death anniversary, a thanksgiving mass is celebrated and the memory of departed is brought to the front once more. Soon it will be November and people will be visiting their loved ones in the cemeteries and pray for them.
So, as I continued my research on the mysticism, and as I was still grappling with the hard thoughts of Karl Rahner, I came across some important lines of his. I understood that the mass is about love, not the love of the mass in itself, but the one for whom one sets a time, the one that we encounter in the mass: God. For many this love needs to be discovered, for others re-discovered, still for others kindled. As the traditional cultural and social structures that supported religious observance like the mass and other devotions shrink, if a person doesn’t have a deep personal experience of the reality of God’s love, there will be little left to hold him or her to a conventional practice of the faith. For Karl Rahner, the Christian of the future will have to be definitely a mystic or not a Christian at all. Perhaps the grandmother of our friend is the incarnation of that Christian of tomorrow. But will our friend be that Christian of tomorrow, when his grandmother will have gone into eternity? Or to make it personal as well, will I be that Christian of tomorrow?