Our most recent bedtime story has been the book Shine: Choices to Make God Smile.
If you know our family in person, and see us out and about, and hear me asking M if he is wanting to, “shine,” this is the reason – for whatever reason, this story really resonated with him!
The book breaks down the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This list is found in Galatians 5:22-23. According to the book, as children achieve these fruits, “God smiles and I shine!” As I read the book to M for the second night in a row, I realized books like this make faith so very simple, and yet have the opportunity to make it so profound.
I was raised in the Church in the 1980s to late-1990s. The time period from about the 1970s through to the new millennium is not quite known for its catechesis of its young Catholics. My parents did what their best, ensuring I went to CCD weekly and received my Sacraments; yet, my knowledge of Church teachings and what it meant to be Catholic is something that didn’t stick when I initially went away to college. I would consider myself having been a cultural Catholic at the time, and nothing more.
While attending various churches and denominational worship services during, and after, college, I felt a pull back to the Catholic church. I decided if I were going to be Catholic, I may as well know what it meant! So, I studied… a lot… and continue to study today.
According to Sherry A. Weddell’s book, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, of those who have left Catholicism in the United States, 71% report they left because they feel, “their spiritual needs were not being met.” This statistic was closely followed by 70% reporting they, “found a religion [they] liked more.” I find the numerous statistics she cites in her opening chapters of her book sobering as a parent.
I fully recognize that someday, my children will be able to choose their spirituality, faith, and religion, all of which are separate entities. They are going to need to know the tenets of their faith as Christians, and the building blocks and rubrics of their religion of Catholicism. As a parent, entrusted with guiding my children, teaching them, and raising them to adulthood, it is my duty to ensure they are given those foundations.
Books such as Shine are all fine and dandy about teaching the foundations. They give the words to the lessons. But, ultimately what will make my children want to be Catholic Christians?
If I just teach them the logic and the reasons behind Church teachings, will it be enough to have them choose the Catholic church?
If I encourage them to go on retreats to ensure they, “meet Jesus,” will that be enough to have them choose the Catholic religion?
I don’t think I can force any true faith or spirituality on my children; ultimately, it will be up to them to define their personal relationship with Christ.
Instead, I must look to my actions and to myself, to see if I am doing this “faith-based parenting,” thing correctly:
~Have I afforded my child every opportunity available to meet Jesus in a spiritual setting? How about in “real life” outside of the walls of a church setting?
~Have I encouraged my children to seek Jesus in their personal lives, through acts of service and through use of prayer?
~Have I tried my hardest to teach my children that the Catholic Church and Her teachings are more than just a set of do’s and don’ts, and more than a set of rules, and instead is a (dare I say, the ultimate?) tool to bring them into the closest relationship with Jesus imaginable?
~Finally, and most importantly, have I shown them, through my parenting actions and as an individual, both the perks of a relationship with Christ, and how to build my relationship with Him? Do my actions make them want to seek and to know Our Lord?
I pray, at the end of my days, I am able to respond in the affirmative to those questions. And, until then, I will continue to ask for St. Monica to keep myself, my husband, and my children in her never-ending litany of prayers.