“Are you a Catholic?” I read the question from my pen-pal’s second letter. The short honest answer was “No.” but I knew that she was Catholic and that her religion was an important part of her life. The truth was that I was basically an un-churched Southern Baptist. When I was growing up we only went to church when someone died or got married. My dad spent every Sunday fishing for largemouth bass on Lake Gaston. I guess my mom could have taken us kids to church while dad fished, but she did not. I did believe in Jesus and I believed I was a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness and I accepted that the Bible was the inspired Word of God, but I had not bothered to read it much. I liked my pen-pal and I wanted to get to know her better, so I decided to start attending the local Catholic Church to learn more about her faith.
I had also started attending different Protestant churches to learn about them. The term I heard back then was “church shopping”. I was attending a Pentecostal church and young adult Bible study group at the time I received the aforementioned letter. My interest in Bible study was not completely spiritual there were several ladies in the group that were attractive and I was looking for a wife. I felt it was better to look for a wife in a church than a bar, but actually I was looking both places. Some guys play the field; I played the field, the dugouts and the first 3 rows of the stadium.
Anyway for a time I attended both churches. At the Catholic Church I went to there was a bulletin for a gathering of their young adult group at a park it said BYOB, bring your own beer, I was intrigued. The Pentecostal group did not like that I drank the occasional beer or twelve. I fit in better with the Catholic young adult group and started going to their weekly Bible study. I also started attending Inquiry Class to learn more about the beliefs, doctrines, history and practices of the Catholic Church. At some point I decided I wanted to become Catholic and I entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). I was not crazy about the name because I was already a Christian and just wanted to become a Catholic Christian. My point is I went through learning process and made an informed decision on what I felt was best for me personally.
When I traveled to the Philippines to meet my pen-pal, Holy Week was just beginning. We celebrated Palm Sunday Mass together with her family in Bohol. We also visited the grave of my soon to be wife’s father who had recently passed. We lit candles and prayed together for her dad. Every meal before we ate we prayed thanking God for what we were about to receive. I know it may seem like a small thing but it is something I did not do before and something I always do now. The day after I returned from my first trip to the Philippines I was baptized, confirmed and received first communion at the Easter Vigil which made me officially a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
My wife and I got married at the same church I was attending on December 7, 2002 and we have celebrated Mass together almost every Sunday since whether we are in the US or the Philippines. Our first son was baptized at our church in Raleigh, NC by the priest who married us and our second son was baptized at the church in Bohol, Philippines where my wife’s mother attends. We very much value and enjoy worshipping God as a family. As the saying goes, “The family that prays together stays together.”
One Sunday several years ago at our church in Raleigh, NC, I noticed the older brother of my best friend from elementary school in the church with his wife and 4 kids. I knew that the man’s family was from India and he like my best grade school friend had been raised in the Hindu faith. I observed my old best friend’s brother on many Sundays as he and his family sat directly across the church and they were in my natural field of vision. One Sunday we were picking our kids up from the daycare the church ran for kids under 4 years old during Mass and I asked the guy how long he had been Catholic. He told me he was not Catholic which surprised me since he came with his family every Sunday to Mass and fully participated although I had never seen him take Holy Communion which he shouldn’t since he isn’t Catholic. I found myself gaining a great deal of respect for my childhood friend’s older brother for taking the time and effort to worship with his family even though he personally did not believe in their faith.
On the other side of the worshipping together coin, I was talking to a teenager. Her mom was Methodist and her dad was Presbyterian. She said one Sunday she would go with her mom to church and the next she would go with her dad to church. Her parents were not divorced or separated. Now I don’t know the differences between these two denominations’ beliefs, but I am pretty sure they are not so great that this family could not choose a common church. If it were me I would want to worship together, but I realize that not all people value the same things and that is good otherwise life would be boring.
This article is not about whether a family worships at a church, synague, mosque, temple, etc. It is about the value of worshipping together as a family and I wrote it to give the readers something to think about and possibly discuss/debate not to tell anyone how to live their life. My parents were excellent parents and I feel they did a great job raising me even though we did not worship together as a family. My wife also in my opinion had excellent parents and they did worship together as a family. My wife and I decided to worship as a family because in our opinion it is good idea for us. If others choose not to worship together as a family I do not believe they are bad just that they are making a different choice than my wife and I. Different ain’t bad just different. I think I have expressed my thoughts well in the article, but if I have not I am open to questions. I would like to know how others feel on this topic. If you have any comment pro or con you would like to leave I would like to read them.