Children grow and their faith needs to mature with them
Antoní Gaudí dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the construction of the Church of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. He defined the interior space as a forest of stone, with leaning columns which divide like the branches of a tree to support the vaults and ceilings.
At the peaks of the windows, there are stone baskets, which contain brightly-colored sculptured fruits. The church depicts images of the sacred breaking through into the everyday world. It is a magnificent fusion of engineering, art and faith.
Christian faith is often depicted as a tree. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the roots and the fruits represent the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives can be seen as we grow in faith and develop special qualities and attitudes. The Church identifies these qualities and attitudes as the fruits of the Holy Spirit. St Paul reminds us of the effects of the Holy Spirit, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal: 5:22).
The Sacrament of Confirmation presents a challenge for your child, for the family and for the parish community. How can faith be experienced as credible and authentic? How do we encourage our children to be followers of Christ, living his message simply and sincerely?
The Acts of the Apostles presents us with insight into the radical way that the early Christians lived. They shared what they had, they gave to those in need, and they gathered together to ‘break the bread’ and to give praise to God. This way of living demonstrated the fruits of the Holy Spirit and was a powerful witness of their faith in Christ. They could not have sustained this way of community living without the gift of the Holy Spirit at work within them.
They gathered together, they shared their faith, and they were nourished and renewed in the Holy Spirit.
As a parent you still have a big influence on your child’s growing faith and attitude to life. You can encourage your child to be aware of the fruits of the Holy Spirit by talking to them about the effects that their attitudes and actions can have on others. You know your own child and you can see their giftedness and their shortcomings. You are in the best position to identify and encourage their gifts, which will allow their fruits to be visible.
Fruits are evident when you see your child being kind to their brothers or sisters or being patient with an elderly relative or when you hear about the acts of goodness and thoughtfulness from teachers or others. Like all fruits, some grow to their full potential while others deteriorate and wither away.
The abundance and variety of fruit is dependent on how we have used the gifts God has given to us already. The fruits of the Spirit need time and nourishment and the right environment to grow and develop.
This involves encouraging your child to put aside time for prayer, listening to the readings at Mass on Sundays, and paying attention to what is going on in their lives and in the world around them.
This is a process of discernment or listening to the Holy Spirit which helps you to orientate your child’s life to Christ. The Holy Spirit brings change and transformation into our lives. Your children grow and change and their faith needs to mature with them. Children bring you through many changes in your parenting. All your plans and hopes do not always turn out they way you would like. The challenge for you is to allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of your children and to resist being in control and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide them. Pope Francis speaking to young people at a Confirmation ceremony in Rome last March said:
“The Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him…and inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us!”
Gaudí worked for years to express the relationship between the creator and the created, between faith and life. His work is a testimony to how he used his own gifts and confirmed that the Holy Spirit was at work in his life.
The Holy Spirit is at work in your child bringing all their gifts to fruition. They will be fruitful and give expression to their faith in Christ in their own time and in their own way. Christianity has to be seen in actions. Pope Francis is leading the way by attempting to live simply.
This is the litmus test for a truly authentic Christian life. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are manifested by the witness of our lives, a witness that is often without words.