Scott and I were invited to speak on the daunting topic of how to keep your kids Catholic. Since we haven’t yet actually “kept” any kids Catholic, it called for a lot of thought about the things we do, what we hope for, and what we’ve seen succeed in other families.
First, I posed a question: Do you believe in heaven and hell? There should be an obvious answer, but times being what they are, many Catholics will say that they believe in heaven, but not really in hell.
Well, if you don’t believe in hell then there is no point in working to keep your kids Catholic. But if you do, then it’s time to stop and really think about what that means. If there really are places of eternal joy and eternal sorrow, then what else on earth matters more? Nothing. We work hard to save for our kids’ education, to get to soccer practice on time, to set a good example in work ethic, but none of these can compare in any way to the necessity of intentionally forming a child in the faith.
Catholics are called to make our homes a Domestic Church.
Catholics are called to make our homes a “Domestic Church.” This is where our families learn what it means to be a child of God. But without an intentional game plan it’s nothing more than sentiment. Ultimately, our children have free will and will make their own path, but what they learn as a child will be their foundation. This job, to build a domestic church within our homes whatever the outcome, is the task God sets before parents and grandparents. THE task.
Making faith real
So, that all being said, here are a few suggestions to make the faith real in the heart of a child.
1. Pray. If your family does not pray together daily, it is the first thing that must change. This doesn’t mean suddenly praying the rosary every night. A simple Morning Offering at breakfast will change everything. But your kids should come to expect it. They should catch us praying and reading Scripture on our own, and have the opportunity to talk about their faith, both the joys and the struggles.
2. Make your home sacramental. A crucifix should be prominent, and kids should have them in their rooms. Use candles at prayer time. Children love candles, and having them lit during prayer makes such a difference. They will see that those times with God are set apart, and moments of beauty.
3. Celebrate sacraments! Has grace truly been poured out upon our children? Yes! Acknowledge it and rejoice for them. Our family celebrates the kids’ baptism anniversaries with ice cream, and the lighting of their baptism candle.
4. Become liturgical. There are so many great books and websites that offer crafts, stories, and videos for the different liturgical seasons and feast days. But you must be intentional. Start checking out Pinterest walls. (pinterest.com/colleenforlife)
5. Make a family pilgrimage. Not everyone can take their kids to Rome, but anyone reading this can make their way to Westminster Abbey in Mission. Let the kids find the Marian shrine at the bottom of the hill, then head over to the lookout.
6. Teach your kids to give. I was taught to tithe as a child, and it helped me in many ways, mostly by giving me the sense that I truly was a needed part of the Church and a member in my own right. Find ways to help at a food bank or charity.
7. Read as a family, and give your children good books. Good books! (A Mother’s List of Books by G.W. Arnold)
8. Teach them devotion to Mary and the saints. There are so many books, videos, and audio stories that bring the saints to life and which a child will cling to and remember. A child should have a favourite saint before confirmation comes along. One good book about a saint can give your child a devotion to someone in heaven. A child should know that is their destiny – sainthood. (Check out Formed.org)
9. Go to the Catholic bookstore. Then buy stuff.
10. Invite priests and religious into your home! And let them be at home there. A fancy meal with fine china is lovely, but nothing is more beautiful than seeing my kids laugh with a priest as they pass along the pizza box. Make that “unknown man at the altar” known. Let your children meet with the tenderness of a religious sister. Get your boys serving at the altar. They can only be drawn closer to Christ because of it.
11. Be a home of joy. We must know how very grave our faith is. But we must first know that this gift of salvation is the pearl of great price, the cause of all joy, and the heritage we pass on with hope to the souls entrusted to us. Catholics must laugh, sing, and joke. We must see beauty, and create it.
Our lives, in the flesh, will be the greatest witness.
Colleen Roy’s 11 suggestions to make faith real in the heart of a child:
2. Make your home sacramental
3. Celebrate sacraments
4. Become liturgical
5. Make a family pilgrimage
6. Teach your kids to give
7. Read as a family
8. Teach them devotion to Mary and the saints
9. Go to the Catholic bookstore, then buy stuff
10. Invite priests and religious into your home
11. Be a home of joy