There’s a family that goes to our parish that has 4 little girls who wear veils, but the mother didn’t for the longest time. The girls had initiated the whole thing on their own. The parents were supportive. After a number of months, the mother started doing the same. They are very prayerful at Mass and don’t ever bring it up unless asked. In this instance, the children influenced the mother, and that was beautiful to see.
I think people just naturally notice certain things, and it is not necessarily bad. For example, we have 4 boys. While larger families are not completely foreign to our parish, it is rare enough to draw attention. Add to that the fact that ours are (so far) all boys, and you get stares (usually of admiration, based on the comments we get after Mass). Also, we stress Mass ettiquette and good behavior, the boys know how to pay attention and not get unruly. This also draws comments of encouragement.
Now, how should we respond to this? We could say, “Bringing the whole clan to Mass is distracting, and people should be paying attention to the Mass, not our mob of boys. We are going to do a split shift and go to separate Masses with two boys each.” That’s just silly.
We are social creatures, and therefore we notice other people. Also, we are naturally drawn to that which is out of the ordinary. But here’s the key: we tend to linger on those things that intrigue us. While the Mass SHOULD intrigue us, it is easy to understand how todays Mass-goers can easily fall into boredom. The reality of the mystery unfolding before us is sometimes obscured by the banal music, minimalist decor, and over-focus on humanitarian concerns (that’s all for another thread). With all of this mediocrity, it seems entirely natural to notice and linger upon a veiled lady in the congregation. Why? The veil implies mystery, and we are not used to seeing that at Mass…and we secretly crave mystery because we know that there is an invisible reality out there that we are destined for. As for our boys, people are intrigued as to what would possess a couple to have 4 kids. But then they are further intrigued when they see that the boys are well-behaved and are praying at Mass. That then causes them to adopt a positive attitude towards the whole thing. We see our children as opportunities to co-create Christians that God loves and wants to have with Him forever. It is a sacrifice, no doubt, but a child is so much more special than material possessions. My hope is that they will start looking at children in a more positive light than what the secular culture portrays children as: burdens.
Is it bad that people are noticing this? No. It is part of social behavior. But we have to realize that our society is headed down a path of destruction as it continually points itself away from God. Having visible signs in social situations that point TOWARD God is countercultural…but it is sorely needed.