Posted by: Patrick Collins on Nov 29, 2008
· A single, Catholic parent
· An ex-spouse who is not supportive of (and possibly hostile towards) the children being raised Catholic.
I can practically see all those heads nodding out there! This scenario is much too familiar. We all know that it?s hard enough to keep our kids Catholic under the best of circumstances. So, how do we manage to keep our homes and our children Catholic under THESE circumstances?
Let me start off by saying, I don?t know. That is, I don?t have any absolute answers to that but I have some experience and some hunches that I?d like to share.
First, a little background?
I have four children. When their dad and I separated, they were 15, 13, 10 and 5. I?ve been a single mom for 8 years now. During the separation and divorce, my children?s father grew increasingly hostile towards organized religion ? especially mine. I?m sorry to say that he is all too happy to lure our children away from the church.
I ask again - in this sort of environment, how does a Catholic parent keep the faith visible and ?well? within the home and is it possible to keep it in our kids?
The quick answer is, ?YES?with God ALL things are possible.? And that?s absolutely true. So with that knowledge and inspiration, what we need now are ideas and tactics!
Here are 7 steps that I believe will give our children a good religious foundation and keep their faith in front of them on a daily basis. I truly believe that, with a firm foundation, even if they fall away from the church at some point, they will return eventually. The ideal time to lay that foundation is when they?re young. If your children aren?t all that young anymore, don?t worry. Talk to them about your beliefs, how your faith has helped you and how you want them to have that, too. Then just do your best to implement some or all of the following and any other ideas you have that are particularly suited to YOUR family.
1. Nurture YOUR faith!
You know how you?re instructed just before a plane takes off that if oxygen masks become necessary, put YOURS on before you put one on your child? Well, the same holds true here. If your own faith isn?t strong and healthy, your children will pick up on that. Why would they believe that faith is important and true if they know that you don?t truly believe that? Even if your faith right now is a challenge for you, though, you don?t need to wait until it?s strong again before you follow the rest of these steps. Work on growing your faith right along with working on nurturing your children?s faith. THAT would be a great example to your kids. You would be showing them that you know how important faith is even when you have doubts. So, practice your faith on a daily basis. Make it a part of your life. One word of caution?.let it be natural and relaxed. Don?t make religion something overbearing in everyone?s lives. It should be a pleasant and comforting presence.
2. Have Sacramentals sprinkled throughout your home.
Strategically place holy water fonts in your home. I have one in each of my children?s rooms. It?d be great to keep them filled, too! (something I?m not so good at) Also, hang a crucifix in each child?s room as well as in other rooms of the house. And hanging a picture of Jesus and/or Mary somewhere would be a great reminder of who is important in life. These are subtle reminders to everyone that faith is real and a part of everyday life.
3. Pray with your children.
Say grace before meals and teach your children to pray before every meal whether they?re at home or not. They don?t have to make a big display of it?simply taking a quick and quiet moment to say, ?Thank you, God? in their heads is fine. When you go out to eat, say grace with them then, too, and even make the sign of the cross. Or, at least take a silent moment before YOU start to eat and then make the sign of the cross. Your children will notice.
4. Go to mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening) and on Holy Days of Obligation?NO exceptions for being on vacation or participating in sports!
This alone will impress upon your child that mass IS important and IS an obligation and honoring God in this way comes first. Did you know that it?s a mortal sin to miss mass simply because you don?t want to go or it?s inconvenient? MANY Catholics don?t know this.
Going on vacation?.Before you leave, locate a church or two near to where you?ll be on a Sunday or Holy Day and find out the mass times. You can do this either by calling the hotel where you?ll be staying and asking for this info or go to www.masstimes.org. This is an amazingly helpful site for traveling Catholics! Just put in your destination then a list of churches and mass times magically appears. One word of caution, though. It would be incredible if they could stay on top of ALL that info so I recommend calling the church you decide upon and ask them to confirm their mass times.
Yes, there will be some grumbling when your family hears that mass will be taking up some vacation time, especially if this is a new occurrence. And I wouldn?t be surprised if the loudest grumbling comes from YOU. :0) I know this from experience.
Last spring two of my daughters and I spent a few days at Walt Disney World. Our last day was on a Sunday. The last time we were there (many years ago), a mass was offered right on the grounds, so I thought, no problem! We?ll be able to fit mass in easily and a minimum of time will be spent on that ?excursion.? Wrong! Times have changed and mass is no longer offered on the grounds of WDW. That?s because a shrine has been built nearby for the express purpose of serving all the Catholics visiting WDW! However, I didn?t know this until Sunday morning!
Now, if we?d had a car, this still wouldn?t have been too much of a problem. However, we were going to need to take a taxi (MORE money spent). And who knew how long it would take to get back after mass? I absolutely agonized over whether or not to attend mass that day. I tried to rationalize not going but, in the end, I couldn?t. It was Sunday and it WAS in our power to get to mass. I didn?t have a valid reason for not going. So, after much grumbling from me (as silently as possible), I arranged for a taxi and off we went.
The shrine was gorgeous and we even ended up taking a few extra minutes to visit their gift shop after mass. Yes, we missed out on a couple hours of play on our last day of vacation, and that hurt. BUT, my children were taught a valuable lesson about God and our faith coming first and I was able to relax and really enjoy the rest of the time we DID have to play, because I wasn?t feeling guilty. (ah yes, that good, old Catholic guilt that keeps us in line. :0)) AND, we all witnessed how our faith is so important to so many Catholics that a shrine needed to be built near WDW!! That?s awesome.
What about sports? My daughter is on a volleyball team and their games are almost always played on Sunday (arghhhh). We plan ahead for which masses will work and if there?s no way around having a conflict, then mass always wins out! I told her this would be the rule before the season started and, yes, she has missed one game so far. What with being able to choose between masses on Saturday evenings, Sunday mornings AND Sunday evenings, though, this really shouldn?t be a problem. But that?s with just one child participating in a sport. Granted, if you have several children with games to be played on the weekend, then getting to mass will be more of a challenge. The kids might need to take turns now and then missing out on games. OR, you (the parent) might need to go to more than one mass in order to make sure each child gets there. Just think how holy you?ll be. :0)
Okay, what about when your child is spending the weekend with their other parent? This could be a definite problem if their visitation goes all the way up to Sunday night (AFTER the last mass has ended). In this case, I recommend making sure that when your child is with YOU on the weekend, then all the above rules apply. Mass comes first. Explain to them that their other parent doesn?t feel the way you do about religion and since they?re too young to get to mass on their own, they aren?t committing a sin by missing mass on those weekends. If/when they?re old enough to get themselves to mass and they have transportation that doesn?t require the other parent, then impress upon them that they need to get themselves to mass. I know this is tricky, especially if your ex-spouse is hostile towards religion and/or your child doesn?t see the point of going to mass. Just do your best ? that?s all God asks.
5. Sprinkle your conversations with mentions of God and your faith whenever possible?in a natural, non-aggressive way.
Show through your regular conversations that faith is really a part of you. When you see something beautiful, like a flower, mountains, a sunset?comment on the fact that God made some amazing things for us to enjoy. When I see or learn about something very strange (i.e. those fish that have their own little lanterns because they live so deep in the ocean where it?s pitch black), I?ll mention what a great imagination God has.
When your child is worried about a test?suggest they ask their guardian angel to help them. Or, if they?re having trouble with a friend, suggest they ask God for help.
6. Take time on a regular basis (at least once/week) to teach your children their religion.
If your children don?t attend a Catholic school, send them to catechism if you can work it into your schedules. If you can?t, then be sure to teach them yourself at home (when the parent actually takes the time to do so, I firmly believe this is a better option than catechism classes anyway). Most parishes support parents who choose to do this and will provide you with materials. Be sure to ask the religious education director at your parish if this is all right to do in years when your child will be receiving First Communion or Confirmation. Again, most parishes support this but in these particular years, there are probably extra meetings and requirements that will need to be taken into account.
One more thing, if you don?t particularly like the materials they provide you with, you can get your own online or at a local Catholic store. There is so much from which to choose.
I like to spend some time reading to my daughter from books about saints (there?s a GREAT series for reading to younger children that was written by Mary Fabyan Windeatt). My 13 year old is a bit too old for this series so I?m reading ?My Life with the Saints? by Father James Martin with her. I really like this because he?s so down to earth, funny and he talks about his own life and the doubts he had when he was younger. I think this makes the message he?s sending easy to relate to as well as interesting. We spend other ?religion times? going over facts such as that one about missing mass being a mortal sin. In this way, I hope to make our time ?doing religion? enjoyable AND informative.
7. Don?t be anxious!
Perhaps this should have been point #1?.AND point # 7. God tells us in the bible not to be anxious about life and we should take this to heart. He is there, always ready to help us. Relax and trust God. (He has your back!)
8. One last thing?.
Yep, 7 just weren?t enough.
Ask the Holy Spirit for the help you need (strength, wisdom, perseverance, patience?.).
Be always gentle and patient with your children (and with yourself!). Guiding with love, patience and by example are THE best ways to influence children?or anyone for that matter.
God bless you in your efforts to remain faithful to him and in bringing your children to him. This is not easy stuff but it?s the most worthwhile endeavor there is.
By the way, if you found something useful in this article, please take a minute to visit the rest of the blog. And if you have the time, please leave a comment!