Several years ago, on a blustery winter Sunday morning, my husband and I set out to prepare our three young children for Mass. As is often the case in the winter, all three were suffering from a cold. Nothing serious, sniffles mostly, but none of them were very happy. In the midst of whining and tears, I suggested to my husband that I should stay at home, and he could go to church and pray for the rest of us. His look suggested that he didn’t think my idea was a very good one.
You see, I am a convert to Catholicism. When I grew up, my family didn’t go to church if it was hot or cold or inconvenient. As a result, I had gone for approximately ten years without stepping foot into any church until I married Denny. My comment made perfect sense to my not-quite-Catholic thought process.
His response was straightforward, “If you can’t give up an hour a week, what good is your faith.” What he said made sense. It’s a blessing I had married someone who felt it was worth saying. This was not just a turning point for me, but a defining moment in how we would raise our children.
The first step to answering the question above is simple. Go to church. It sounds simple, but I am shocked at how many families put Mass at the bottom of the weekend to-do list. Then I humbly remember: I was one of them.
How does this affect the faith of your child on a daily basis?
- It sets the tone. The faith of our family takes priority.
- It provides us with a chance to see what God wants from us. You can’t hear the message if you’re not in the pew.
- It helps us teach our children that they are not alone. Faith can be a source of strength in good times and in bad.
While Mass attendance is the first step, the next step involves what you do at home:
- Pray together when you get up, before a meal, at bedtime, and with special intentions.
- Attend Holy Day Masses and Reconciliation.
- Study the Bible, church feasts and the saints.
- Discuss elements of our beliefs: How are we going to act during Lent? Is Christmas the season of giving or getting? How should we treat people who are different from us?
- Include sacramentals and reminders of the Liturgical Calendar in your daily life, things children can see, taste, touch and feel (like an Advent Wreath or a holy water font at the doorway).
- And finally, seek ongoing faith formation as parents. Your children will be led by your example.
Remember, as we raise our children and make sure they attend dance class and soccer practice we should have one prayer: that when dance and soccer have gone away, what remains is faith.
(Debbie Chalik, Coordinator of Children’s Faith Formation, Sacred Heart, West Des Moines)