I have been called many things in my life: a good soldier, solid worker, a model employee, and even a good husband. Those things are great and admirable, but they fail in comparison to my favorite title: dad. The Lord has blessed my wife and I with four awesome children, but with raising children there is much responsibility.
At this point you are probably thinking that I am stating the obvious. After all, as parents we have to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for our family. These are great responsibilities and should not be minimized, but there is an enormous responsibility not on the above list. As parents we are also called to catechize out children. Let’s be honest about something: the church is losing young people in droves. I was recently listening to the Word on Fire podcast, and in a past episode Bishop Baron said that for every person that enters the church there are six who leave.
Why would someone leave the truth? The answer is quite simple actually. They leave because they do not know that it is the truth. A majority of those who leave the church do so because they have not been taught what the church believes and their questions have not been answered. There are always exceptions, but it comes down to catechesis. In my time as a catechist I have heard familiar comment, “Teaching about the faith is your job. I don’t know where to begin.” The purpose of this article is to give some guidance on where to start.
1. Teach your children about the Mass
The first step in catechizing children is to take them to mass. I mean no offense, but my first year as a catechist I had seventeen students, and only six of them went to mass on a weekly basis. The catechism calls the parents the primary teacher of the faith, and this is also reiterated in scripture several times. Children look to us parents as an example, and if church is not important to us it is very likely it will not be important to them.
When you are at mass tell your children what is going on. Tell them how much scripture is in the Mass, why the priest says what he does during the consecration, and how the Mass is a foretaste of the wedding supper of the lamb that is happening in heaven. There is no filler in Mass and everything is important. The more children know then more they will become engaged.
2. Pray with your children
I have not always been very good at this step. I had the standard objections of “It is too late,” or “I’m too busy.” One evening I said good night to my son and he asked “I would really like for you to pray with me before bed.” I learned something extremely important that night. Your children want you to pray with them. In doing so you become an example of what prayer is to them. Is it a priority for you, or something that we do in a passive way? If it is a priority for you then chances are it will be a priority for them. In establishing a strong prayer life they, and us, understand in a better way just how much Christ loves us.
One is not able to establish a strong relationship without dialogue. It is the same with prayer. There is no communion without dialogue. Prayer helps us establish a stronger bond with God, and that is something that we desperately need to teach our children. We can talk about it until we are blue in the face, but there is no substitution for showing them how to do it. The more we show it, we will talk about its importance more. Our relationship with God will grow as will our relationship with our children.
3. Read Sacred Scripture with your children
Reading scripture with our children may seem like a given, but are we doing it enough. When I say read scripture, I mean picking up the Bible and reading it. This isn’t to say that children’s bibles and picture bibles can’t play an important role, but they should be a complimentary resource.
This will help children develop a deep love and appreciation for Sacred Scripture. This, in turn, will lead to more questions about the Faith that we can answer. This will show the biblical basis for the Catholic Faith and will help them withstand those anti-Catholic objections that will come in the future. When answering these questions it is also important to be honest. If our children ask a question that we do not know the answer to then say so. Then research it and come back with an answer.