My wife and I just spent the past weekend in Maryland meeting our newborn son that we are adopting. While the details of that story are terrific, I want to talk about something else from the trip. After taking our new son, Jude home from the hospital, we ended up staying with some very close friends of ours that live in Maryland. Long story short, it may be a few extra days before we can bring him home to Texas.
While we were there, we ended up attending a non-denominational church service with our friends. During the service, I couldn’t help but be whisked back to our past church experiences before we joined the Catholic Church. On the way home, My wife and I ended up talking about some of the quirky little differences we have noticed since becoming Catholic. These are the biggest differences between Catholics and non-Catholics ones we noticed.
How we Pray
I have always found differences in prayer between all the Christian groups fascinating. I was never very good at or comfortable with praying out loud. When I went to a non-denominational Christian School or even as an adult attending Baptist & Evangelical churches, I never felt like there was a structure to it. There seemed to be a lot of words like “Father God,” “Just,” “In Jesus name,” “We come together,”… This makes me laugh when people say Catholic prayers are all the same and aren’t personal. For me, prayer became a lot easier once I started to look into specific Catholic prayers, written prayers, structured prayers. If anything, I learned to pray better that way, making my time in prayer more personal and constructive. I am not saying one does it better than the other. It’s just different.
Looking back, I have always preferred the beauty and artistry of traditional Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, or any other church primarily decorated with stained glass and wood. These days, Evangelical and Protestant churches tend to be in a nice A-frame, metal building. The inside looks more like a sound stage set up for a concert or big performance. Very stripped down and basic, they have their own beauty. Especially when the praise and worship band is on stage. The lights are turned down low in the congregation, and the stage is usually well lit with some sort of blue or purple glow on the back wall. For me, I love the story that is told through the Stations of The Cross, Stained Glass, and general art work that all leads to Jesus on the Cross in the front.
Children in Church
Before we became Catholic, I had never seen so many kids in a church service. Mass is filled with children of all ages. From new-borns to teens, children are involved in Mass. Not only are they in attendance, they also serve during Mass. When we were going to a fairly large Baptist church, kids were usually dropped off at the nursery or Sunday School. We have been to other churches where the kids come down to the front for “children’s time” with the Pastor. After that, they leave for Sunday School or children’s church while the adults stay for the service. I think they are all great options. Personally, we take our kids into the cry room. We want our kids to be involved and present for as much of Mass as possible. They learn best from watching us.
Fellowship and being social
My wife’s biggest complaint in the Catholic Church has always been that there are not enough ways to get involved and/or be social at the church. I think this differs from parish to parish, but it certainly takes longer to get to know people in a Catholic Church. To be fair, my wife Abby expects to be signed up on a couple comities and at least one social ministry after her first visit. Me? I just want to take my time. At the churches we were going to before, everyone always seems to have a clipboard ready to sign you up for something. “Would you like to be one of our 10 directors in the 8-9 year old choir? Or maybe you could help with organizing the Thursday night over 40 singles pot luck dinner.” It doesn’t take long to get to know a few people that way.
Ahhh… The ever so popular “Praise & Worship Team”. The young good looking guy wearing jeans and sandals playing guitar next to the well dressed former jazz musician accompanied by that professional drummer that is in 4 other Christian bands all surrounded by the women in the church that can sing and the jazz musician’s son on keyboards. Not a bad way to start church. But I remember there came a point when I just couldn’t repeat “Holy, Holy, Holy” 100 more times. My wife on the other hand, loves it. For me, give an old Hymn with lyrics I can’t understand.