As a Catholic parent, one of my main goals is to get my kids into heaven. And, because I am Catholic I believe that the ordinary way for this to happen is to raise my kids in the faith. In a day and age where the “nones” are on the incline and those professing a belief in any religion are on the decline, “keeping my kids Catholic” is probably a concern of every Catholic parent.
HOWEVER, those little souls that God has entrusted to us, God also gave them their own free will to choose to love Him on their own. So, ultimately, there is no sure-fire formula for keeping our kids Catholic. They have to choose Him on their own. But, what we can do is share our faith with them, give them solid formation, and help them to develop a love for God and an understanding of His plan.
Here are 5 ways to share the faith with your kids in hopes that they will grow up to love and follow God, too.
Y’all. I love the Sacraments. I write about them from time to time. The skinny: Sacraments are outward signs of an inward grace instituted by Christ. They effect grace, they are how we cooperate with grace, and they signify the received graces in a way that is clear to our material human nature. The seven Sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, The Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Holy Matrimony. As parents, it is our duty to have our children baptized as soon as possible after their birth. We will also lead them through their First Reconciliation, First Communion, and very likely their Confirmation. We can encourage them to discern Holy Orders or Holy Matrimony as part of their vocation. And, should they need the Anointing of the Sick in our lifetimes, we can certainly play a role in the reception of that Sacrament as well.
However, it is not enough to have our kids receive the Sacraments. It is absolutely vital that they see us receive the Sacraments, too. And do so with reverence, vigor, and great joy. You can and should teach your children the importance of the Sacraments. And, you can and should take them down to Church to receive them. But, if you aren’t showing them that especially the Eucharist and Reconciliations are the cornerstones of your own lives, you are doing an injustice.
Teach Them to Pray
With littles I start simple and rote: Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Haily Mary, Glory Be, Prayers Before Meals. By elementary school we have moved on to Guardian Angel Prayer, Act of Contrition, The Rosary, The Angelus and Regina Caeli, the Memorare.
Prayer, most simply, is a conversation with God. You can’t very well love and be in relationship with someone that you don’t talk to. How do you teach babies to talk? By repetition until they have a basic understanding of the language. We also encourage our 8-year-old to just talk to God throughout the day and to include in his prayers special intentions for others.
And, just as with the Sacraments, our kids have to see us making prayer part of our regular lives: taking precedence, and being something we do in loving joy and not just obligation.
Introduce them to the Communion of Saints
The Communion of Saints is a beautiful component of our Faith and a loving gift from our God. We have many saints books for children of all ages. We talk about saints on their feast days and add them to our nightly litanies.
When I am feeling especially put-together and ambitious, we even celebrate feast days of saints we have devotion to with themed meals or deserts and very occasionally a special activity.
The saints are examples to us of how to live holy lives in all sorts of circumstances. And they remind us that there is a whole team of people rallying for us in heaven.
Live the Liturgical Year
I love that the Church has seasons and a flow to the year. I love the order and the predictability of it. In a world of chaos the days, weeks, months, and years tick by, and the Church gives us constant in the midst of change.
There are many ways to observe the liturgical year, and my style borrows heavily from traditions of friends and family as well as ideas I have seen on the internet. I do what works for us and what has an impact on the kids.
We started out by attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, observing the liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Triduum, Easter, Ordinary Time) in traditional ways. and making sure to have dessert and say special prayers on our Name Days and Baptism Days (when applicable). Then we began celebrating Solemnities, Marian Feast Days, and the feast days of saints we have devotion to (Saint Rose of Lima, my Confirmation Saint for instance, and Saint Juan Diego and Saint Kateri as Saints who are meaningful for my husband’s Mexican and Native American heritage).
I like to call my liturgical celebrations “Lazy Liturgical Living” because I am no cook and no party thrower. I whip things up last-minute, often with convenience foods when possible. I almost never have a craft. Even coloring sheets got old. So my go-to formula is to make a dish or dessert that I can tie to the saint and liturgical celebration in some way, (or just go with ice cream if all else fails), read about the saint’s life or the season or reason we are celebrating, and add the saint to our bedtime litany. Easy peasy.
Pray FOR Them
Teach them? Yes. In word and in deed. But, above all, entrust them to our Lord. Pray for them unceasingly as Saint Monica prayed for Saint Augustine. But, as I said at the beginning, your kids are all their own people, with their own free will. And, like it or not, they will exercise that will on matters from the trivial to the eternal. But, just as our Father gives us the will to choose, so we must let go of our own children and give them back over to the Father. Give them the foundation and the formation to know the faith, and to love our God. And, let them freely choose Him with their whole hearts. But, never stop praying for them.
What do you think? What are you doing now to keep your kids Catholic? Let me know if I have missed anything!
Copyright 2017 Amanda Torres. This was originally published at In Earthen Vessels.