“My parents made me be Catholic. I had no choice and that’s wrong. Why do my parents think this is ok?”
I know this young man’s parents; they are good upstanding people, not leaders of a cult. They chose to baptize and raise their sons Catholic. They are cradle Catholics who desire to provide their sons a loving and faith-filled life, one from which they have flourished.
So why the harsh words and accusation? Answer: he was a typical 17-year-old boy! Have you heard these words from your teen? Maybe you posed the same question to your parents.
The key to responding to this situation is to remain calm. As teens transition from the carefree days of elementary school to years of fast paced physical, social, emotional and spiritual growth they are often quick to judge a parent’s intention. Remaining calm is not necessarily a parent’s first reaction to being questioned about the choice of raising a child in a faith and church community. However, this is what I strongly advise. It allows us as parents to find out exactly what is driving the teen’s question.
An obvious answer to the question is, “because I was raised that way.” Honestly this is the primary reason we raise children the way do – it’s what we know and are comfortable with. This is a great opportunity to investigate the religious traditions in your life. My suggestion is to take the challenge and look at your family history, then analyze why you have chosen to continue to practice Catholicism.
A good place to start is with your own parents. Because faith can be intensively personal you may need to tell family members that you are simply tracing your family history in regards to religion. Wonderful discoveries can be made in regard to immigration, conversion and marriage; all factors that affect our faith. We also have to be accepting of the response, “I don’t know why, but that’s how I was raised.” (Sound familiar?)
If we honestly evaluate how we came to be Catholic, more than often it was because of a choice that our parents made. As I explained to this young man, we desire the best for our children and therefore choose to raise them in our faith. We baptize them in the faith, enroll them in Religious Education or Catholic Schools and have them receive the Sacraments of the Church. None of this is done with bad intention. We simply desire the best for our children and the gift of faith is an incredibly important part of who we are.
“Be not afraid” when this question arises. It is our opportunity to share our Catholic identity and learn about our faith. Seek additional family members to share with your teen. Our faith is to be shared!
(Diane Thierer ,forner Religious Education Director, Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Parish)