A Parent’s Perspective
I was speaking to a young Catholic father recently about the difficulties and challenges he faces in trying to pass on the Faith to his four young children. He was feeling a bit overwhelmed and ill-equipped for the job, wondering how he could be more proactive and involved.
He’s feeling the increasing pressure in recent months as he struggles to juggle his career, household and family commitments. “What’s a Catholic parent to do these days?” he asked in exasperation.
Many parents are finding it even more of a hurdle as the work world, school world and family life all compete for the same space”
He felt that his children’s spiritual and faith development were at risk of being pushed to one side or being put into a lesser category of something that he and his wife could attend to at some later stage. He was feeling a bit guilty knowing that if parents don’t carve out a specific space in each day that’s devoted to God, it just won’t happen. Many parents are finding it even more of a hurdle as the work world, school world and family life all compete for the same space. It’s a wonderful development for mothers and fathers that they now have the new flexibility to work from home but strict boundaries need to be drawn up to stop the demands of their jobs or other commitments from interfering with their primary role of raising their children to know and love God.
When it comes to helping his children to love God and deepen their knowledge of their Christian faith, I think this young dad ended up answering his own questions about what to do. It’s based on a bit of advice that applies in all areas of life and is often presented by some guru or other. It simply involves getting back to basics. Just take a deep breath, forget the worry and stress of the day and focus on what can be done now, today, in the available time that you have.
You don’t need to reach your destination immediately as it’s a lifelong journey to holiness, not only for our children but for each and every one of us. God is our loving father, not a stern, punitive distant power who’s waiting for us to mess up. Even the smallest toddler can understand that simple concept of a loving father who cares for us through all the ups and downs of life, even during scary pandemics when everything seems so different. The father I was chatting to recalled the words of Jesus telling us that “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” and reminded himself that being a good Catholic father doesn’t have to be so difficult. In fact, it’s a great source of joy to be the leading light in your child’s life and to have been given such a key role.
In the task of fanning the flames of faith in our children, we can turn to St Joseph, an ordinary man who was entrusted with the extraordinary task of being a loving father to Jesus. He can teach us the true values we need to stay close to Jesus and Mary and how to follow his example in cooperating with God’s plan in how we teach our children. In this ‘Year of St Joseph’, what better saint to unite ourselves to.
Pope Francis referred to him as “The carpenter of Nazareth” who was able to “turn a problem into a possibility by trusting in divine providence”.
I highly recommend that parents invest in the YOUCAT for Kids, a Catholic Catechism for parents and children. In the very beginning of this great book, it explains that believing in God means “I put all my trust in the one who loves me the most”. To pass on our love of God, we must let our children see how we love and trust him. We need to pray and to teach our children to pray. It doesn’t have to be a long session; start with 10 minutes at the table, maybe after dinner while everyone is there. Children follow our example so let them see us saying our morning and night prayers; turning off the mobile phone and reading the Bible; going to Mass and Confession and trying to grow in virtue.
A great incentive to look into is exploring the lives of the saints and encouraging children to emulate their favourite ones”
Most of all, make God a part of every day and focus on the fact that in the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “We are only Christians if we encounter Christ.” We do that when we pray, read about Jesus in the Gospels and take an active part in the liturgical life of the Church which is centred on the Holy Eucharist and the sacraments. It’s difficult at the moment but, when the opportunity arises, bring children to Mass even when they’re small. Take them into the church for visits and get involved with parish and Catholic events that are family orientated. All children love to light a candle and pray for their special requests and the lovely older churches usually have beautiful shrines and statues of the better-known saints. A great incentive to look into is exploring the lives of the saints and encouraging children to emulate their favourite ones. How we, as parents, conduct our own lives is the greatest influence of all in our children’s formative years. It may seem like too great a responsibility at times but it’s a privilege and a great treasure to be honoured with helping to give our children the greatest gift they will ever have.