It is always our intent here at Catholic Sistas to provide you with inspiration, guidance, and hope in Christ. Children are the greatest blessings God bestows upon us and it is our role to provide them with a firm foundation in Christ. However, we know that despite all we do for and with our children, sometimes they choose another path. While we cannot guarantee that our children will remain Catholic, and there are times despite our best efforts our children leave the faith, there are certain things we can do to help build that firm foundation in Christ so that they will have faith to return to when they are ready.
Our primary goal as parents is to get our kids to heaven, or at the very least, to give them their best start in that direction. But when faced with the impact our parenting has on our children, and the monumental task of guiding children through this broken world to come out as faithful Catholics, the task is daunting. And even if we check all the boxes that should yield faith-filled children, sometimes children still stray (while we ask St. Monica to help them return!). But there are some things we can do that will equip our children with some good tools that just might keep Christ and His Church at the forefront of their lives, and to make faith-filled choices.
This one is obvious, but so easy to neglect. We must pray independently, with our spouse, and with our kids. Our children must see prayer happen, model it, and participate in it, both with formed prayers such as the Hail Mary or Our Father, as well as with “free-form” praying that is from the heart in praise or pleading. If our children see us praying on our own daily, they will see this as a normal fluid part of life, as natural as changing clothes or brushing teeth. If they see you pray with your spouse, they will see the foundation of marriage is a relationship and unity with God. And most importantly, pray for your children. Pray that God keeps them close and helps to protect them from the grasp of Satan.
Get involved at Church in both attendance and extra activities!
Mass is every Sunday- rain, snow, sleet, hail. Feel like it, don’t feel like it. For many reading this, Mass attendance just isn’t an issue. For very young kids, especially for families with several very small children, sometimes parents need to split up Mass (where one parent goes earlier in the day and the other later in the day to avoid taking the littlest). Do what you need to do for your sanity. But do at least occasionally take your smallest children, and always take your older children.
In addition to Mass attendance, get involved in at least one ministry. This will undoubtedly change as the years offer different life challenges, and will ebb and flow in terms of how involved you are, but have a presence. Having small children dictates that heavy involvement and meetings are just not going to happen. But small acts help tremendously. Bake a pie for the funeral luncheons, offer to stuff envelopes for the parish secretary to reduce her burden, or donate diapers for a diaper drive for moms in need. If you have older children and are more able to get out and do things, then help clean the church, help with set up and cleanup of the funeral luncheons, bring communion to the sick or homebound. Where appropriate, bring along your children so they can see works of mercy in action and participate in loving others as Christ calls us to do. While is it a good goal to have much of this centered in the Church, it is a great idea to expand acts of service to even sources that are not Catholic, such as soup kitchens, general pro-life groups, etc. We are called to love our neighbor whether Catholic or not.
It is also important to puzzle in Adoration into that picture. I have heard many priests speak about their childhood. Out of those who were cradle Catholics, all have mentioned that their family or parents went to Adoration at least once a month. There is something very powerful about sitting in quiet contemplation and prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Get your husband involved in Church!
This article cites a Swiss study that detailed whether a husband or wife (or both) were practicing their religion, and their children’s practicing of religion when they grew up. This study found that when a father is actively practicing a religion, the couple yields a much higher rate of children actively practicing the religion as well, irrespective of whether the mother is religious. Aside from that, it is the man’s role to lead his family to Christ. As such, it is important to make time for him to not only get to Mass, but to also be involved. Whether that is service, attending a men’s group, or starting a dad’s group, he should find something that feeds his faith and demonstrates a love for Jesus that his children can model. Many husbands feel they cannot participate in activities because of the needs at home (lawn maintenance, helping mom, etc); however, it is important and wives need to be supportive and encouraging of the nurturing of our husband’s faith, even if it means the lawn is mowed a few days late.
Have Catholic Friends!
If your friends are practicing Catholics with children, your kids will have Catholic playmates. Having your world framed by your faith is integral to keeping it. Since children have such a small world that contains school, home, and friendships, it is ideal if as much of that contains a Catholic influence as possible. Kids who have friends that think going to Adoration sounds like a good time are more likely to go to Adoration. Since peer influence is incredibly powerful, we have to find ways for this to be positive. It is frustrating for kids to experience religion at home and at church, but to have a non-religious school environment and friends ambivalent about God. While children in that situation certainly still can maintain their faith, it does provide some challenges.
Vocations are an Option!
Most of us probably envision our children growing up, getting married, and having children. Certainly the married vocation is a beautiful one. But many families are quick to disregard the religious life as a reasonable option for their children. Pray as a family for priests and for those discerning callings to the religious life. Go to a convent or seminary for a seminar, Mass, or other activity. If your child shows any interest in the religious life, be positive and encouraging, help them seek out spiritual direction, visit the religious, and encourage them to keep praying and see where God leads them.
While none of these individually or cumulatively will guarantee your children remain Catholic, it sets a great foundation to increase your own faith and provide your children with great opportunities to obtain and keep a strong faith.