Monday, July 13, 2009

What I Love About Catholicism: Catholic Children

I know there have been many a discussion about children acting up in Mass or older ones wearing the equivalent of beachwear to church. But yesterday, I witnessed something that is a common sight when I attend our Traditional Latin Mass.

It seems as though the children are a little more on their best behavior during this rite. I suspect it's because they are surrounded by adults who are focused and engaged. Most children follow by example. What they see is usually what they imitate. At yesterday's Mass, I had a lovely family in front of me, five children and their parents. The father sat at one end and the mother on the other. The two youngest, who were the boys, were nearest the father.

I couldn't help but smile as I watched the father demonstrate certain acts to his son and nudged him if he wasn't following. As the father bowed during the part of the prayer, he gently pulled on his son's shirt sleeve to pay attention and do the same. His son, who looked to be around 8 years old, followed suit. All of the children were attentive and respectful, not fidgeting in their seat or otherwise show their boredom.

In our parish, we have a coffee & doughnuts time after Mass and it's a great time to catch up with everyone. Although the children run around together, playing and chattering as little ones do - there is a quick respectful, response if an adult tells them to quiet down.

It caused me to remember the last non-denominational ministry I was involved with and a few unpleasant experiences with some of the children. There is a unique, and in my opinion, unhealthy emphasis on elevating children as "special" because they are the future "Army of God." I support encouraging children, but yet I feel there is a line crossed when children are praised for their yet-to-be-seen potential without first teaching them the basics of discipline and respect. In other words, these children are spiritually spoiled.

They are raised to focus on "holding power" over the enemy but aren't trained on how to handle difficult circumstances. Not everything is "of the devil." Many times, God allows us to experience trials and sufferings so that we may be made more perfect in Christ. Catholic children are taught this. (At least within traditionally Catholic schools.) Catholic children are also taught how to respect the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. Even within the "New Mass," most parents try to train their children to be silent and pay attention to what is occurring at the altar.

When I worked as a church secretary at the non-denominational church, one of the pastors came by for a visit (we had two locations at that time) and brought his two young sons. I love children and took a small break from my work to walk outside to where they were sitting in the car with the windows rolled down. I conversed with them a bit until the older one (who was around six years old) suddenly demanded, "Don't you have some work to do?" I was slightly shocked, but realized his father was pretty demanding himself, so it was understandable he probably overheard those types of questions. However, I was also saddened as I realized there was no way I could share with this pastor what his son said because he would see nothing wrong with it. In fact, children in that ministry were often praised for such boldness.

I can't imagine a Catholic child saying such a thing. And if they did, I feel fairly confident that their parent would be mortified if they heard of it and promptly chasten the child. There is just something about a Catholic child that makes him stand apart. Perhaps its the sacraments, or maybe Catholic schooling. But I believe a large part of it is due to those Catholic parents nudging and prodding their little ones to straighten up and fly right.

This training has many benefits. As I grew older, I could tell when an adult had a good upbringing. They weren't spoiled or self-centered. And very often, they were from Catholic families.

So if you're a parent and you wrestle with your children each week, or even if your children are well-behaved but you wonder if anything is sinking in - trust in the Lord. He is blessing your children in ways you do not know and it will be a legacy they themselves give to their children when they become parents.

God bless you for going to church as a family and God bless our Catholic families!


Michelle Marciniak said...

This was such a beautiful entry, especially when you give us encouragement in the end. My husband and I have nine children, and he sits at one end and I sit at the other, with our children in the middle too. Three of my boys are altar servers and their father and I have become experts at the parental glare when we need the ones on the altar to look more reverent. (They tend to daydream and forget where they are!) As for the ones in the pew, two are teenagers so their only problem, well, maybe just my teenage son, his problem is that he looks bored. But he is going through that stage. He's a sports fanatic and if it ain't sports, he is bored. My two little ones that sit in the pew, well, the four year old is a little tomboy, and she rarely sits. It's sometimes like trying to get a monkey to sit still. But every week I try. My six year old is a princess and sits quite well as does the preteen daughter who just doesn't want to be embarressed. My oldest is in college and joins us occassionally, but I am proud to say, goes on her own when she is away, and does weekly Adoration. Thank you so much for your wonderful words. And you are right, if my children ever spoke to an adult like that, I would be mortified. There would be a red butt and some priveleges taken away, but my children would never speak to an adult like that. I gasped when I read it.God bless you and your writings. I love them!

laurazim said...

I agree--this was a wonderful post. We have 5 children, and though my 13-year-old daughter is a wonderful hand with the little ones, we do have to keep up with encouraging reverence. Our 11-year-old son is our only boy old enough to serve at the altar (his younger brother is 3, and plays Mass all the time in preparation!), and I notice that when he sits with us (unusual, but it does happen from time to time) he has a much harder time paying attention. Must be an 11-year-old boy thing. :)

I am inspired by what I've read here so far, and since I'm in the mood to change things up a little, I'd like to add a link to you on my blogroll. I look forward to reading more!


Anonymous said...

You know what Mary Rose?

Those Catholic children certainly love you right back!! What a great post...

Unknown said...

i just needed to read this today. i am a fool. i just am learning the Faith. I married a Southern Baptist, assuming she would become Catholic b/c her pastor said I was the spiritual leader. We have four kids. I take them to Mass each week. the littlest is just a year old. I took him to Mass this past Sunday even though he was ready for a nap. My wife was out late so I took him to give her some more time to sleep. He was not happy. Ready for his nap. Teeth coming in. The nursery was not an option. So an article like this just gives me a little encouragement. Thanks

Mary Rose said...

I truly appreciated these comments. Only a few in my life know how much I adore children and it blesses me to no end to see families gathered together in church. I know that although I "acted up" myself at times as a child, the importance of attending a weekly church service was instilled during those years. So for all you parents out there, believe me - you are making a difference in your child's life and setting a very fine example. I'll keep you all in my prayers! Hugs to every one of you!