Parents should ‘make it known’ to children ‘in word and deed that our faith is the most important part of our life’
By Bob Hunt
June is the month for graduations and weddings, so it’s a natural time for parents to reflect with pride on their children’s accomplishments. It’s a good time, too, to consider how we as Catholic parents are doing in raising our children in the faith. The Church provides many opportunities and resources for the education and formation of children, so much so that it may be tempting for us parents to forget that the primary responsibility for the faith formation of a child belongs to us.
Is it important to me that my children be Catholic? Do I want my children to have a relationship with Christ and His Church? If the answer to that question is no, you can stop reading now. This article isn’t for you. But, if the answer is yes, if it’s your desire that your children experience the joy, comfort, and power of God’s saving grace won for us by Christ and poured out to us through the sacraments of the Church, then I have a few recommendations for how we can increase the likelihood (notice I said, “increase the likelihood”—there are no guarantees!) that the children we bring to church will grow up to be adults who continue to live the faith of our fathers after they’ve flown from the nest.
Here are five recommendations for every Catholic family:
- Attend Mass every Sunday and holy day. Yes, every Sunday and every holy day. Our relationship with God is central to our lives and necessary for our salvation. We cannot have a relationship with someone with whom we have little contact. For Catholics, contact with God means Mass on Sundays. Holy days are important because they often fall during the week, requiring an extra bit of sacrifice to attend. As such, attending holy days offers a witness to our children of the priority of the faith even when practicing is not so convenient.
- Pray together as a family. Father Patrick Peyton, the Rosary Priest, was famous for coining the phrase “The family that prays together stays together.” For many Catholic families, family prayer is limited to grace over meals. Even recited slowly, it only takes about nine seconds. I think most of us realize that nine seconds of family prayer isn’t going to prepare our children for living the faith in the modern world. Family prayer doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as reading the Gospel of the day and offering the prayers of the Church together. However you do it, pray together as a family.
- Study the faith. We don’t have to be experts or theologians, but it is important that our children know that we take the faith seriously and that we can help them answer basic questions about the faith. Being available to our children for questions about the faith can have the added benefit of increasing communication with them on other aspects of life, building a relationship where your children feel comfortable talking with you about anything.
- Go to confession. You know we need to, anyway, and doing so will set a great example for your children. The life of the sacraments is essential to Catholic life. While you’re at it, make sure your children are baptized and confirmed and, if your marriage is not consecrated in the Church, speak with your priest about arranging for that. The sacraments are the ordinary ways God pours out His grace to us. God can touch our lives in many ways, but in the sacraments we know He does so, so there’s that extra level of confidence that we have encountered God here.
- Find some way to serve. Both individually and as a family, service helps kids realize that life is not all about them and that our lives are more joyful and meaningful when lived for others. Love begins at home, but it’s not meant to stay there. Service projects don’t have to be world-changing or involve extraordinary time commitments, but it’s important to do something. Parishes often have multiple opportunities to serve. Get involved for the sake of others.
The most important thing we parents can do for the faith formation of our children is make it known to them in word and deed that our faith is the most important part of our life. St. Paul encouraged the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It should be our goal as Catholic parents to be able to say the same to our children.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.