As parents, what we need to do is teach our children to love and serve God through their Catholic faith. Why? It is our God-given responsibility. How? Learn all we can about our Catholic faith and teach it to our children at their age level, adding fuller explanations as they grow older.
Finally, we must put our teachings into practice at home. If we want our children to go to confession, we should go. If we want our children to pray, we need to pray with them.
To run from this responsibility means we fail to perform our God-given duty. If we try to convince ourselves we have enough faith so our children could make do with the same level of understanding, we again inadequately accomplish our task. Religious education classes and Catholic schools are supplements, but not the primary care givers of our children. Remember Pope John Paul II said, “the family is the first school of virtues…”
I believe it was my God-given responsibility that nagged at me to learn about my religion. I suggest getting into the habit of reading about the Catholic faith. History books, apologetics, conversion testimonials and stories about saints are a rich source of knowledge and inspiration. I recommend getting a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As you grow in your faith, there will be many questions you want answered and so much more you will want to learn. The Catechism will be an important reference if it is not already.
In addition, Catholic literature for children is increasing in popularity. Older books are being republished and new books are coming out all the time. You can begin reading Catholic Bible stories and lives of the saints’ stories when your children are just toddlers. If you make up stories with your children, consider putting guardian angels in the cast of characters or have a main character stop to pray for guidance.
It’s easy to teach Catholic truths to young children but teenagers sometimes “tune out.” One technique I found helpful in this situation is to challenge them on their ability to defend Roman Catholicism. For instance, ask them why they go to confession when in 1 Timothy it says there shall be no mediator between God and man, but Jesus? Why go to a mere man, the priest, to confess sins instead of going directly to Jesus? Ask your teenager to justify praying to Mary in view of the same passage in 1 Timothy. If there is a scandal in the Church in the news, ask your child how he can defend being Catholic in view of the scandal. How could this be Christ’s Church?
As I grew in understanding of my faith, the responsibility to teach my children felt more like a privilege. What a joy to be chosen by God to guide our young ones in the knowledge and love of God and foster a desire in them to be with Him forever in heaven.
Recall the story (Matt. 19:16-30) of the rich man who approached Christ with the desire to improve himself even further than following the Ten Commandments: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. “…And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last and the last will be first.”
Jesus firmly tells us that we must put God at the center of our lives, but He promises us that the rewards will be great. God has chosen us to lead our children to Him for everlasting joy. God demands complete faithfulness. We must not compromise our religious faith and practice to worldly pleasures and concerns. Through prayer and faith in God’s loving guidance, He leads us to Himself:
“Therefore, from the day we heard this, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:9-14).
This article was excerpted from Catholic Truths for Our Children: A Guide for Parents (Scepter Publishers).
Copyright © 2013, Patti Maguire Armstrong