That’s right, I would rather raise a dumb saint than a brilliant sinner. Why? Because I am raising my children to be heaven-bound. Obviously there were many great saints who were brilliant, and intelligence and holiness are not mutually exclusive. As parents we should certainly help our children strive for excellence in education. However, the salvation of their immortal souls should be our PRIMARY aim. I will do whatever is in my power (through God’s grace, of course), to be certain that my children will thrive in this secular world. So how? How is it possible to raise children to be heaven-bound you ask?
When my first born was placed in my arms for the first time, fifteen years ago, it was both the happiest and the scariest moment of my entire life. No other joy in this world compared to the joy I felt at that very moment. At that moment, it dawned on me that I was personally responsible for taking care of this brand-new life. No other fear in this world compared to the fear I felt at that very moment. Forty-eight hours later, as I sat in the wheelchair and the nurse placed my little bundle of joy in my arms and waved good-bye, my heart sank for a second and I thought, “How on earth am I going to do this?” As I walked in the doors of our home, my concern turned to prayer and I said, “Help Lord, I don’t know what to do!” I felt the ginormous responsibility. My prayer was not necessarily for the physical needs of that tiny infant; my worry was more for the spiritual needs of my son. How was I, a sinner, going to do this incredible task of raising a child…a heaven-bound child?
On Valentine’s Day of this year, this son of ours turned fifteen years old. How did that happen? (time flies) I often complain that, “he is a mess!” Why? Well, I have to constantly remind him to finish his school work, clean his room, pick up his plate, you name it…he is super forgetful and a bit immature in many ways. When I call my mother to complain about him, she always does a great job of reminding me that her first born grandson is “a really good boy.” She is right. He is a great young man, a very generous human being, he is kind, and gentle, yet strong when needed. He is brave and valiant: truly a gentleman in the making. He loves modestly dressed young ladies, believes in sex only as part of marriage, wants to go to college, get married and have six kids (his words). He has really great friends, most he has met either at church or at homeschool groups we’ve attended. What does he spend his time on? He loves music, playing instruments and finding new songs to play on either his piano, keyboard, accordion, guitar, or violin. Okay, maybe he’s not so bad.. he’s not perfect, of course; no human is. But he is definitely a better teenager than I was. 😉 Last year he made his Confirmation and selected Saint Giuseppe Cupertino as his Patron Saint. As part of his preparation, I had him write an essay explaining the life of the saint and why he had selected him. At the end of his report, my dear teenage son stated that he rather be “a dumb saint like Saint Giuseppe rather than be a brilliant sinner.” This stuck with me and I think he’s kinda brilliant for saying it.
So, what are we doing to ensure that this young man, and the rest of our children, are focused on heaven? Here’s a little recipe we have done in our home (an ever evolving list, I might add):
1. Our child is a gift from God. Remember that your marriage belongs to God and your children do also. God expects you to do a good job of raising that child. Daily dedicate your child to the Lord and thank Him for allowing you to parent this child.
2. Our child needs discipline. Each child is different, and they don’t come with a training manual do they? Ask God to help you, to give you the wisdom you need to surrender daily to God in disciplining your children.
3. Our child needs us to be a good example. Children copy what they see. They need to see your faith in action, that the words you say to them also apply to you. Children rebel against hypocritical parents; this happens when we do not do what they know we are supposed to do.
4. Our child needs a solid faith life, a domestic church. From very little, children need to see that God has a part in your home. Just dropping them off at Faith Formation or the local Catholic school is not enough! Children needs to see the Catholic faith being practiced at home, when they wake, at each meal, before going to bed. When things are rough, show them your trust in God. Be a prayerful family. Start with praying at meals, add the rosary at night, start small and add more prayer time each week. Our children need us to follow the precepts and teachings of the Catholic Church. Go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
5. Our children need to learn to think of God the moment they awaken. Teach them from very young, to develop a conversation with God through their day. A simple, “good morning, Lord, thank you for another day!” is so much better than totally ignoring Him.
6. Our children need to see that our hearts are filled with joy when it comes to God. They also need to know they are loved and a gift from God. This should be done daily, verbally, and by our actions towards them. They should see us model our trust in God.
7. Our children need our time. Daily and regularly spend time with them one-on-one to get to know them. Listen to them, even when they are being silly. Laugh a lot with them. Do not forget to say you are sorry when something goes wrong between the two of you. Build your relationship with your child.
8. Our children need Fathers. We teach our children to turn to God, their Father in heaven, in good times and in bad. In the basic catechism it says we were made to worship, serve, and know God. One of the best ways is to have a good relationship with their own daddy on earth. A good marriage with lots of love and respect is important for our children. Like Saint Francis de Sales said, “In marriage there is communication of life, work, goods, affection, and indissoluble fidelity and therefore married friendship is true, holy friendship.”
9. Our children need us to be aware of their surroundings. This means being alert to dangers around them such as seeing and hearing all the different medias within our home (TV, computers, tablets, music, etc.). Thought they need privacy, we also need to check out what is in their rooms.
10. Our children need to see us serving God. Volunteer at Church in whatever you are capable in doing, even if it’s just sweeping the basement after families gather after Mass, but involve your children. Teach them to have a servant’s heart.
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a basic guideline of things we as parents can do within our unique situations to ensure that our children are heaven-bound. Keep in mind that having a sense of humor and picking your battles will help with this parenting journey. Make sure you keep yourselves in a consent state of grace, receive the Sacraments and go to Confession often. Always include God in your parenting, ask Him to give you the wisdom you need to make sure that you are doing His Holy Will with this child. Lastly, make your child’s guardian angel your best friend. Ask his guardian angel to protect and watch over your child daily.