Yesterday morning, I attended a special conference at my parish. It began with a Low Mass in Latin and then had several sessions with a visiting priest talking about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration and the relationship with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I was only able to be present for part of it, but what I heard was good.
Before Mass started in the morning, a family passed by and quietly genuflected before entering a pew. The couple looked to be in their mid-thirties and were shuffling a small boy while the wife was holding a young baby boy in her arms. I watched as the father knelt and prayed while the mother tended to the baby. Something about this image of a family attending church together struck me as profound but I wasn't sure why.
It occurred to me then how rarely those who attend non-denominational churches do so as a complete family. First, many people who attend a non-denominational church are either divorced or young and unmarried. There are very few older people present, the bulk of the congregation mostly being comprised of those between the ages of 20-50.
Non-denominational churches will separate families so that children receive a church experience more suited to their needs. At least, that's the common story. After worship, children are usually dismissed so the adults can hear the sermon without distraction. Still, the families are apart.
Catholicism is remarkably different in its strong dedication to continuity in its beliefs. Catholicism is world-renowned for being pro-life. Not only do Catholics fight for the rights of the unborn, but for the rights of older people to continue to live, even in the midst of failing health. And Catholicism defends the sanctity of the family like no other church I've ever seen. This battle to protect the family is reflected in its respect and encouragement to keep families together during a church service.
I remember when I was a little girl and wasn't particularly keen about attending Mass. However, my father insisted we all attend church and my brother and I wouldn't think of trying to avoid going to church as long as we were living with our parents. Although my brother is estranged from Catholicism, he does attend church and brings his family. I give credit to my father for this. He set the example by showing us there is value in weekly church attendance.
There was something very holy about that family I saw yesterday morning. I know they are setting the same example my father and mother did when we were young. I was reminded of Scripture that says to raise children to respect others, most especially God. I am so grateful to Catholicism for acknowledging that the family is where the Christian soldier starts their training.