The local pregnancy helpline my family volunteers with had a crafting event last weekend; folks were invited to craft ornaments that would be sent out to donors. I took my oldest son with me because I know how much he enjoys crafting; I also brought him because I think it’s important he regularly do things that are for others. I was surprised to see the church’s parking lot packed with vehicles, but even more surprised to see the throng of people inside the building working on projects. The space was abuzz with happy chatter, children playing, people working… the sounds of community. Most of the people were putting together blankets (the kind you tie around the edges) for a local charity; we found the group making ornaments and joined in. My son excitedly began smearing glitter glue around and making small talk with the kid sitting next to him. Parents supervised while also working and teenagers went back and forth from minding the younger children and helping with the crafts. Nobody was stressing out about the toddlers running around or babies screaming – it was clear that families were welcome and children were loved. Nobody gave us strange looks for being the obvious outsiders; everybody smiled and was kind.
The good vibes in that space were amazing! Even my son picked up on it and asked if we could start coming to this church on Sundays. If it weren’t almost a 30 minute drive away, we probably would try to attend. As we were leaving we explored more of the building and peeked into the sanctuary; the beauty of Catholic churches still shocks me. I realize some people find aesthetic beauty to be frivolous, but for me, a beautiful space allows me to open myself better and experience the spiritual power found in holy places. My son seemed to be feeling much the same and stood in hushed awe as we took in this place.
As I’ve studied Catholicism, I’ve sensed that the orderliness and predictability of liturgical worship will be a good fit for my son. He struggles horribly with anxiety and a need to be in control/know exactly what is going to happen. He had a meltdown before his birthday that was triggered by his anxiety over not knowing exactly what was going to happen on his birthday and what presents he was getting. The kid does NOT like surprises. A church service like I grew up with, which often included shouting from the pulpit, was relatively unpredictable and would surely send him into fits of anxiety. As I look back on my own experience with those kinds of services (which I attended a minimum of three times a week) I can see that they caused me anxiety as well. Yes, in comparing the two forms of worship, I can wholeheartedly say that liturgy is my preference.
This Sunday, if nobody is sick or otherwise indisposed, I’m going to take the oldest to church and see what he thinks of Sunday school and possibly Mass. He’s expressed a lot of interest in attending some kind of church, and is generally very interested in spirituality, so it feels right to help him embrace that interest. Our local parish is well-respected in the community and the religious education program has high praise from the therapist my son sees, so I don’t have many concerns about my son’s wellbeing or safety. This whole thing is kind of strange still, but discovering the Catholic community has brought a lot of joy into my life and helped me grow spiritually, even if I’m going into this as a ChristoPagan witch. 🙂