I remember a thought I had during my son’s Confirmation Mass several year ago. The church was packed with friends and family of those being Confirmed. The bishop did a wonderful job explaining to the young people the tremendous gift of our Catholic faith and the responsibility they had to use this gift in their daily lives. As I watched Bishop Zarama anoint each forehead with chrism oil and say their chosen saint’s name, a thought occurred to me.
What if many of the young people, and possibly their parents as well, were mistakenly viewing Confirmation as a graduation ceremony instead of an important milestone in their continuing journey as Catholics and followers of Christ?
Would they follow the disturbing trend among Catholic youth of the last several years and gradually fall away from the practice of their Catholic faith? Would they enter their college years spiritually ill-equipped to withstand the secular onslaught that often confronts them during one of the most formative periods of their lives?
As startling as these questions should be to readers of this post, it should be even more startling to recognize that parents can prevent this from happening. Why do many Catholic teens drift away from the Church after Confirmation (if not before)? They may not be seeing good examples at home. As painful as it may be to admit, we may not be modeling and teaching the Catholic faith to our children. The excuses we may offer about being too busy, or “that is what PSR (Parish School of Religion) is for” or “I pay good money for my kids to go to Catholic school” may seem logical, but they don’t hold water. Do we all realize that our vocation as parents is to get our families to Heaven? This calling requires us to make sure our children know their Catholic faith and live it far beyond Confirmation.
“Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.” (CCC 2226)
A Challenging Checklist
Are we on the right track in our homes? How would we really know? Perhaps this checklist might help:
- Do we pray with our kids every evening, over all meals and on any other occasion where it is merited?
- Do we ever take our kids to pray with us in Eucharistic adoration?
- Do we seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother or the saints when we are experiencing difficulties or when we pray for others? Have we taught our children to do the same?
- Do we ever pray the Rosary as a family?
- Do we experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a family? Do we go often?
- Do our children see us excited about going to Mass? Do we take Mass seriously and help them understand the importance?
- Do we talk about our faith when we are together, perhaps over a meal or when we are going somewhere?
- Do we read the lives of the saints and study scripture with our children?
- Do we show the light of Christ to our children (and everyone else)? Do we make the way to Christ and the Catholic Church look more inviting because of our actions?
This is a challenging list and I found it very convicting to answer the questions. Yet, we must know at some level, the vital importance of truly living our faith and taking seriously the responsibility of preparing our children to always be true to their Catholic faith and helping them attain Heaven. We are all made for Heaven and not this world, but we often act like the secular world is all we care about.
You, Me, our Children and the Catholic Faith
Ok, we see the problem and we own much of it. What do we do? Let’s start by saying “yes” to the questions above. This will be a great leap forward in helping our children and ourselves experience and live our Catholic faith. What else? Here are six additional actions:
- Pray. Imagine the impression we will make on our children when they see us on our knees in prayer with them every night. Pray together over meals and make a point of bringing our kids into the prayers we are hopefully saying for challenging problems at work or our health or for other people. Let them know we can’t do this alone and we have the opportunity to pray to God for help and the saints and the Blessed Mother for their intercession. Let them know they are never alone!
- Set the Example. Do we make our Catholic Faith look desirable? Do we reflect joy to others? Are we sharing the light of Christ in the world? Our biggest challenge and the most effective way we can truly help our young people passionately embrace the Faith is if they see us do the same.
- Engage. Participate in parish life as a family. Join ministries in which our kids can participate. Go to bible studies, conferences and hear Catholic speakers with our children when they are old enough to understand.
- Evangelize our Children. “Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.” (CCC 2225)
- Be Humble, Learn Together. It is ok to admit we don’t know something! We may not feel adequate to the task of teaching our children about our Catholic faith, but we can all learn together. Imagine our children experiencing our example of humility in stating we don’t know all the answers, but we would like to learn with them. Initiate in our kids a lifetime desire to learn and grow in our spiritual lives which can begin in our own homes…today.
- Don’t Allow Surrogate Parents to Take Over. It is easy with the multitude of technology pacifiers around to allow TV, the Internet and video games to serve as “surrogate parents” for our children so we can have some down time. Our down time is important, but every minute they absorb this drivel is time we could be spending with them, sharing and teaching them about what is important. What ever happened to just being together as a family? Reading a book? Family dinner? Going for a walk together?
The word confirmation comes from the Latin cōnfirmāre, meaning to make firm or to strengthen. The Sacrament of Confirmation gives the strength of the Holy Spirit and strengthens our choice to be Christians. We are committing through Confirmation to act as Christ’s disciples. This is not a graduation or completion of something, but one of the most important days of their lives which signifies that an important door has been opened for them. Will they be prepared (by us) for what awaits them. Will they have the courage and commitment to walk through the door?
Maybe you are thinking about having a family or maybe you have younger children. You could even be a grandparent worried about your grandchildren. You could also be one of the parents, like me, who watch their teenagers get confirmed and are worried about getting them to Heaven.
Let’s not allow our children to be a statistic. While they live in our homes we have every opportunity to shape and mold them into faith-filled young adults who are focused on the right priorities. They will follow our example and grow up to be much like us when they have families of their own.
The question for us to ponder is this, “Will this example be a good thing or a bad thing?”
Image credit: “Chair of St. Peter” (detail) by Dnalor 01, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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