When I was in third grade, I didn’t like going to Mass. This didn’t matter to my parents, though; I was still expected to go. So when I spent the night at my friend’s house one weekend, I finagled a way to miss Sunday Mass. It’s the only time in my life I ever skipped Mass. Why was it so memorable? Because when my mom found out, she was so disappointed that I had deceived them to miss out on the beauty and depth of the Faith! It is still a vivid memory today, 16 years later.
When I was in sixth grade, my dad quit his job to open a Catholic bookstore in my hometown. This required my mom to start working full-time until business picked up at the store. Together my parents embarked on a journey to follow God’s will for them. It required a lot of sacrifice on a daily basis. Why is that so memorable? Because today, living on my own and providing for myself, I am learning to appreciate a little bit more what their sacrifice entailed.
When I was in tenth grade, I fell in love with the Faith and started going to Mass whenever I could. Eventually my dad started going to daily Mass with me, and it became a habit for him, too. Even now when I go home to visit, my dad asks me if I want to go to Mass with him. Why is that so memorable? Because now that I am in the “working world” I have begun to realize how few people are able to make the sacrifice to attend daily Mass.
The point I am trying to make by sharing these experiences is that the best way to help your children stay strong in their faith is to live your faith and lead by example. To instill in your children a strong Catholic faith you must live and breathe it yourself. Catholicism is not merely a label. Catholicism is a way of life, a worldview, a lens through which we see all things. It is the path to freedom, the straight and narrow road that leads us home. But most of all, it is a relationship with the One who died for our sins. If your kids see you living a radical relationship with Jesus Christ, chances are high that they will also embrace the faith.
It was incredibly formative for me to see my parents living out the Christian life everyday, especially during the difficult times. They demonstrated that faith requires struggle and sacrifice. They also showed me that the rewards of peace, love, and joy that come with living your faith are truly fulfilling and satisfying.
I would like to share a quote from St. Mary Joseph Rossello that encourages me to genuinely live my faith, especially as I work with middle school and high school students:
Good example is the most efficacious apostolate. You must be as lighted lanterns and shine like brilliant chandeliers among men. By your good example and your words, animate others to know and love God.
(Maggie Peiffer, Former Youth Minister at St. Mary of Nazareth Parish, Des Moines)