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!