It may sound a little weird, but one of my favorite movie scenes is from New In Town, when Blanche Gunderson, the Minnesotan plant secretary, is driving Lucy Hill around town. Being the town “mom,” Blanche asks Lucy all kinds of questions to find out how to make her feel at home.
But by this time, Lucy, a young up and coming executive from Florida is getting weary of all the “do you scrapbook,” “are you dating,” and “are you a vegetarian” questions, so when Blanche asks, “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” Lucy sighs and replies, “Isn’t that what you’ve been doing?” But Blanche persists and asks, “Have you found Jesus?”
Lucy turns to look at her and deadpans, “Well, I didn’t know he was missing.” Then, seeing the horrified look on Blanche’s face, adds, “It was a joke.”
Blanche stops the car and says, “We don’t much joke about Jesus around here.”
Some people have no trouble talking to others about Jesus or asking if they have been saved. But ask some Catholics to talk about Jesus and we all get a blank look on our faces. Talk about Jesus? Don’t we just pray to Jesus? But if we don’t talk about Jesus, how do you share your faith with your family? Notice I said “share” not evangelize because evangelize seems to be a word that scares everyone! “I don’t know how to evangelize.” “Doesn’t ‘evangelize’ mean going door to door asking people if they have found Jesus?” “I’m not a theologian. I can’t talk to my kids about Church matters.”
The best way for us to “evangelize” or talk about Jesus to our kids is by showing them how important He is in our lives. And while we do need to engage our kids in conversations about the Lord, it doesn’t have to be hard or as uncomfortable as Blanche and Lucy’s discussion.
It starts with bringing them to Mass when they are toddlers and pointing at the cross and whispering, “That is Jesus” and when the priest is holding up the Blessed Sacrament, whispering “That is Jesus too.” It begins in small ways, just like you teach them about the sun and the trees and the colors.
As our children grow in addition to talking we add our example of praying, going to Mass, and participating in other devotions.
“Why are we going to church so much, Dad?”
“Because we go visit people we love a lot, like Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Jo, and Jesus.”
“Why did those people die in that storm?”
“Because this world is not forever, but Heaven is and that’s where we’ll see everyone again.”
Teens need the example we give them going to Mass too as well as talking and listening. When the news is full of violence and hurt, we can help our teens cope by talking about how we trust in God to keep us safe, and how someday we’ll all be together again in Heaven. It’s hard to talk about people dying and getting hurt and answer the most-asked question, “Why doesn’t God stop those things from happening?” That’s when we need to remind them that we live in a natural world, as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, and in a natural world things can happen — like earthquakes and people hurting others because they turn toward evil instead of good.
But God is always right beside us trying to help us get through those things. Quite the opposite of abandoning us, He is there holding our hands carrying us through the natural world of hurts, sorrows, and calamities. If we open ourselves to His love can inspire us to help others in those situations and know God is with them.
The Catholic Church gives us prayers of reassurance, mercy, and forgiveness that help us through those times of doubt and feeling alone. The prayers we teach them are not magic charms that will keep them safe, they help keep their souls centered on the God who helps them not be afraid even when bad things happen.
Copyright 2019 Lisa Simmons