martes, 18 de julio de 2017

Little by Little--Instilling a Faith Life in Children

Like any parent I have hopes for my kids.  Most notably:

1)  that they grow up to be thoughtful, caring, and compassionate human beings.
2)  that they claim Christianity--any form of Christianity--for their own.
3)  and if they decide to be Catholic--well, that´s just icing on the cake!

But what am I doing to help them turn out this way?


If I want them to be thoughtful, caring, and compassionate human beings, they need to see me being thoughtful, caring, and compassionate.

But I´m human, and I mess up.  I probably mess up most often with them.

So if I know I´ve been wrong, I don´t hesitate to tell them I´m sorry.

They see me reading, they see me writing.  We read together.  We talk about things--politics, religion, social situations, adoption (friends recently adopted two little girls), death, future plans, crazy stories (that´s mostly provided by the five-year-old)--nothing is off-limits.

But writing this down, I´m noticing that we might be falling short on the "compassionate" section.  I'll have to get to work on that and turn some of this talking into action--with something the kids can participate in, too!


If we want our kids to grow up to claim the Catholic faith as their own, we go to mass.  Every week.

However, this last year, our oldest led the charge in getting us to mass regularly.  Our parish has "children's mass" every Sunday at 10:30.  This year, Clara was invited to be one of the angel dancers that stand in front and lead everyone in motions to the songs sung.  She's up there with her best friends, and soaking up the fact that she gets to dance in front of everyone.

I hope she´s soaking up some of the deeper meaning of the mass, too.

But, one step at a time.


Now that the kids are school-aged, they´re also going to catechism every Saturday.  At first, we´d send the kids every other week, and as the school year dragged on, we tapered off our participation when Lent rolled around.


But the teachers keep track of attendance, and last year the kids with the best attendance got prizes.  So, this year, Clara is insisting on going every week.  I´m glad that she´s motivated enough to go.  It helps that her best friends go, too.  

Joey's still in kindergarten.  Sometimes I make him go.  Sometimes, when he says he'd really rather stay home, I let him stay home.

But that ties into Point #4--

Not Shoving It Down Their Throats

I really, really want my kids to have a personal relationship with God.

I really, really want them to be personally motivated to read their Bibles regularly, so they know what they believe and why they believe it.

I really, really want them to develop so many spiritual practices, but I know that one of the best ways of turning them away from religion is to shove it down their throats and beat them over the head with it.

Let's not be counter-productive here.

In the home I was raised in, we went to church regularly, we went to Sunday school regularly, and when we were older we were involved in youth group.  However, we didn´t talk about God much at home, and we rarely prayed together, apart from meals on major holidays.

By the grace of God, as adults, both my brother and I are both practicing Christians--so that approach worked!

But, let's be honest, "shoving it down their throats" goes by a case-by-case basis.  Much like everything else, we need to be attentive to our kids, let them talk, listen to them, understand their perspective, and they´ll be more receptive to being receptive to us.

Memorable Baptism

This is another carryover of my upbringing.  It´s not necessarily the right choice for everyone.  In fact, I´m not even advocating this for others.   It just worked out well in my case, and I´m hoping that will play out equally well in my children's lives, too.

When I was very small, we didn't attend church regularly until I was 4 or 5.  Therefore, I was not baptized as an infant.  Just before we moved across the midwest, my parents decided to get my brother and I baptized.  I was on the older end of 7, so I had to answer for myself whether I believed in God, renounced the Devil, and all that.

While it wasn't my idea to get baptized, I was in agreement with it, and I remember it.  While I didn't understand all the symbolism surrounding the sacrament, I knew that I was spiritually washed clean and officially a child of God.  And it wasn't that I just knew in my head that I was spiritually washed clean.  When the pastor poured the water over my head, I honestly and truly felt clean inside!  It was a great feeling, and I feel blessed that I do actually remember it.

And now, after Easter, when the priest sprinkles us all with water before mass, reminding us to remember our baptism, I love that I literally DO remember mine!

Sometimes I wonder if some of the draw for Catholics to turn to other denominations is that (in some churches) they´re encouraged to get baptized again.  It's a sacrament filled with such symbolism (in Protestant traditions--as Catholics, we tend to take things both  symbolically AND literally!).  But, either way, it's so important and so loaded with meaning that I wonder if some don't get re-baptized in other traditions just so they can remember experiencing the beauty of being baptized.

Now, don't get me wrong--I believe that infant baptism is just fine and dandy.  (OK, for full disclosure, I used to be strenuously opposed to it, now I´m OK with it, and just last week I found myself defending the practice of infant baptism to my Jehovah's Witness friend.  So I guess I've been fully converted!)  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1250 beautifully states, "the sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism.  The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth."

Oh, I feel the weight of that statement!

Full disclosure--my kids are still not baptized.

My husband and I agreed that we want them to decide for themselves.  I do feel some guilt about not baptizing them as babies.  But it's a gamble that I'm hoping will pay off in the long run.

After all, nothing has been more precious so far than hearing my son decide that he does want to get baptized.
        "Why do you want to get baptized?"

        "Because I love Jesus, and he told us to get baptized."

(I promise, he came up with that response on his own!  Isn't that the most wonderful and profound thing that he's ever said?)

I'm so excited that next Easter, my son will be able to remember his baptism, too--not just figuratively, but literally!  And I hope that experience will stick with him, that feeling of being washed clean and being accepted, so that when other opportunities or doubts or antipathy arise, he'll have that experience to remember and cling to.

My daughter, on the other hand, will be entering 3rd grade this next year.  In our parish, kids receive First Communion when they're in third grade.  Her friends will be doing their First Communions.  But Clara is aware that, unlike her friends, she has to get baptized first.  She's got her godmother all picked out.  She's been eyeing those gorgeous, white dresses for awhile.

But she still hasn't made a commitment one way or another about getting baptized yet.

And we've let her know that's perfectly fine.  She can always get baptized and receive First Communion the following year, or three years later, or whenever she decides she's ready.  She knows it's her choice, and we'll respect her decision if she chooses not to.

Peer pressure may pay a powerful factor here.  That may be a good thing, it may not.  I want her to both be baptized and receive First Communion for the right reasons.  She knows the decision is up to her.  And she usually makes good decisions.

Whatever she decides, she will be required to attend catechism until she finishes junior high, though!

What's Next?

My kids are 8, 5, and 1.  We've all still got a lot of growing to do.  We've all got a lot of learning to do.

It's mid-July, and we're still working our way through our Lenten prayer chain. (But, we are still working on it!)

We often forget to pray before meals.  But something is rubbing off, as about once a week, my son reminds us to pray before meals.

As the second-grader was borrowing my Bible for catechism this last year, we'll buy her a Bible of her own this summer--a REAL Bible, not one of the kiddie picture-Bibles!  It being summer, and we're not bogged down with homework, it would probably be good if we read our way through a Gospel together, too.

Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions.  I've been involved in a Bible study for years, with women of all ages.  When we're off on tangents, the comments that stick with me the most are from the moms that regret not instilling an active faith life in their children while they were young.  I take their laments to heart.

So I´ll do what I can now.

This month, the Catholic Women Bloggers Network is blog hopping with the theme "What I Am Doing Now In the Hope of Keeping My Kids Catholic".

1 comentario :

Beautiful Camouflaged Mess dijo...

I love your honesty in this piece. And, definitely recommend reading Chiara's post in this blog hop! Thank you for sharing your take on your approach to raising your children as Christians, with the hope that they choose Catholicism.

What I love about blogging, but also Catholic blogs, is how it highlights the journey every one of us (as individuals) are on! We all aren't at the same place - spiritually speaking. And, in my eyes, that is beautiful.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!