Our men's prayer group at St. Joseph's in Columbia, SC (after saying Morning Prayer) has been reading and discussing Steve Wood's (www.dads.org) book, Christian Fatherhood. The subject of 'keeping the Faith' as it concerns teens and college-age sons and daughters has come up in the past and again this week. For some reason many Catholics seem to expect their children to fall away from the Faith - but (because of their Catholic upbringing) expect that they will return to the Faith when they get married and have children.
Personally, (and I said this on Tuesday morning), I am astonished at these expectations. While I realize my children have free will, and that I won't be able to force them to embrace the Faith on their own, and that some of my children (Dear God, please preserve them!) may lose the Faith - in general I expect them to embrace the Faith and to live it - even in college when they are away from home. Why do I expect this about my own children?
1. Children will tend to rise or fall to your expectations. Your expectations are written in your actions and attitudes as well as your words.
2. If you create a Catholic culture in your home, your children will start to love Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament and love the Faith at a young age. You can't just make them memorize the 10 Commandments and the Baltimore Catechism (although they need to do this too); the Catholic culture in your home must be filled with joy in celebration of feasts, and with solemness in the penitential seasons. A child will soon realize - even if unconsciously - that God, through the Faith provides for the needs of man through all times and seasons of life. They will come to understand that one cannot live without God and that He deserves worship. (Misguided Youth Group leaders try to "minister" to youth with crazy innovations to try to prove that the Faith is "cool" or "fun" or try to make the Faith an emotional experience only. These things do not last. Young people are not deceived. They want something authentic. )
3. As your child gets older you give them responsibilities and freedom appropriate to their age and personality. It would be foolish to expect a child who is not mature for their age and is not well-grounded in their Faith (by this I mean more formation than is provided in even the best Catholic schools and/or CCD programs) to keep in faith in college if you shuffle them off to a college with co-ed dorms, no curfews, lax alcohol rules, professors who are hostile to the Faith, etc. etc. A child's first long term experience away from home should be a guided one with rules, and mentors, etc. in an environment with encourages the Faith - not one that is hostile. (Unfortunately few 'Catholic' colleges meet this criteria.) The child can still reject the Faith, and some will. But as parents, we have the obligation to stack the chips in their favor instead of throwing our children to wolves!
I make no claims about my own parenting skills. I see the beautiful young lady my oldest daughter is - and I know it is God's grace in spite of my faults. But despite my faults as a parent (Mrs. Curley doesn't have any - and if she did I wouldn't dare publish it) at least we have tried to create a Catholic culture at home along with the more formal formation and instruction in the Faith.
(We pray today for our Holy Father, that he may recover and persevere in his mission.)
From the small holding in Bethune...
Oremus pro invicem!