What About Your Children?
When we became Catholic, some of our friends were concerned for the sake of our children. Catholics didn’t have children’s programs – how were we going to raise our children in the Christian faith?
My husband and I chuckle at those ideas now, as we did then when we informed them that the job of raising our children in the faith belongs to us, not a children’s program.
But that realization hasn’t always been a part of our lives. There were many years in which there was a vast disconnect between the life we led at church and the life we lived at home. And our church at that time had a great children’s program.
What Did We Have to Take With Us?
Part of our struggle, I think, was searching for a depth to our faith that we weren’t sure we would find.
But the other part of it was the fact that in Protestant life, our connection to God was, for the most part, limited to the spiritual/emotional realm. Worship was experienced through heartfelt singing, but there was nothing concrete on which to focus our song.
Faith was grown in the context of private prayer, spoken to an unseen God.
It was also grown through reading the Bible, but we were left to the discernment of our own fickle hearts to know what it meant.
Though I first met God and grew to love Jesus in those contexts and settings, it was all, in the end, very … airy.
And then … there was a vast disconnect between the life we led at church and the life we lived at home.
For what did we have to take with us?
Body and Soul
One of the beautiful things about being Catholic is this ever present awareness that we are a composite of both body and soul.
And as such, our worship is not strictly confined to the reflection of the unseen things in the spiritual realm. Instead, our connection to God is facilitated through a variety of means that engage our soul, yes, but also our body and our senses.
We have incense, the rising smoke which reminds us of the direction our prayers are headed and the beautiful aroma that greets us as we enter the church.
We have Confession. We don’t have to ask God to forgive us in a quiet room. And, even if we trust we are forgiven in our hearts, we don’t have to still deal with the fact that God, for all intents and purposes, was silent. We get to hear the words “I forgive you” audibly and spoken by a person who is standing for Jesus.
We have Holy water to remind us of our Baptism.
We have statues of the holy men and women who have gone before us to remind us to train our hearts and minds on living holy lives.
We have the crucifix, an image of the sacrifice our Savior made, not because we worship that image, but because it gives us something upon which to fix our eyes, something to meditate on, to remember the cost, to remember the love.
And we have the Eucharist, which we do worship as it is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Savior. Through Holy Communion we can see God, touch God, taste God, and receive God into our very selves to change and transform us.
You can’t get more concrete than that.
Our family babysitter recently recounted that our oldest daughter told her that our family was “very Catholic. ” It made me smile because my daughter at the age of six already knows that truth, and because I know with a heart full of gratitude that our family is no longer going through the motions, as we were before my conversion and my husband’s reversion to the faith. Our church and home life, and even the life of our kids at our parish school has this beautiful continuity, a continuity I didn’t even know was possible before becoming Catholic.
We have a crucifix in our home.
We have a rosary to guide our prayers.
We have a holy water font.
We have a statue of the Virgin Mary.
We attend Mass and sit, stand and kneel together. We explain to our children the truth concerning our faith and we come home and live those truths in our own lives. My husband and I, for the first time in our marriage, believe the same things.
Raising Our Children in the Faith
There are many wonderful Protestant families who raise strong believing children. And there are many Catholic families who raise children who will one day leave the faith. But if the breathtaking array of tools we have to live our faith and teach it to our families does not make a difference, it is not because there is something amiss with Catholicism. It is because there is something amiss with our hearts.
As a Protestant, I was starving for God, hoping and praying that He truly was there, beyond my fluctuating emotions. As a Catholic, I know He is there, in the Eucharist. I know He is there in Confession. I know He is there in all the tools given to connect our bodies and souls and draw them to God. And it is a privilege to share those tools and teach those truths to our children.