19 Ways to Keep Your Kids Catholic
Passing on the Catholic faith to our kids is a beautiful, but frankly daunting and sometimes scary task. My husband and I pray for our little son every day that he will grow in the Faith. But how do we how if it’s going to stick? Are we doing the right things? I have heard countless stories from parents whose children have walked away from Catholicism. I want my son to love Catholicism as I do. I want him to find the joy, peace, and purpose that comes from a deep relationship with Jesus and his Church.
Whenever I ponder this responsibility, I look to my parents, as I credit them for my love of Catholicism. They lived the Faith in a beautiful and authentic way that was contagious. They brought the Catholic faith into every aspect of their lives. And that resulted in a wholesome, happy childhood—and planted the seeds for making the Faith my own.
What can I actually do to keep my kids Catholic?
That all sounds great in theory, right? But what does it look like practically? Here are an array of spiritual habits and experiences that my parents gifted my siblings and I with throughout my childhood. It looks like a lot, but don’t be overwhelmed.
The lesson is quite simple: They lived the Faith, in everything they did. It was not compartmentalized.
This is going to look different for every family. So I invite you to look through these ideas, and pick one or two that can work for you. Take small steps to move toward a more faith-filled family environment. Little by little, grace will flow. God will never stop fighting for you and with you!
1. Family Prayer Time
Family time was important. We often ate meals together, and we prayed grace together before meals. We prayed the Rosary as a family (and we each led a decade). We read reflections before dinner during special liturgical seasons. We started trips with the Rosary in the car, and we often prayed for others. Our days started with a morning offering, the guardian angel prayer, acts of faith, hope, and love, and reading about the saint of the day.
Sacramentals are signs of our Catholic faith that help dispose us to receiving God’s grace. Our rooms each had a name plaque with the meaning of our names and a Bible verse, a crucifix, a Holy Family holy card, and a saint medal by our beds. My parents bought us each a picture of Jesus and a child when we were babies. I still have all of these. There were also many sacramentals around the house: statues, images, rosaries, piles of holy cards, etc. We wore scapulars and holy medals. I still have my grandmother’s miraculous medal that I wear daily.
3. Personal Prayer Time
I saw my parents have their own personal prayer time. I cannot emphasize enough the power of their witness. Mom read the Bible daily, and she often read spiritual books. Dad doesn’t read a lot beyond his daily devotional, so he listened to books on CD when he traveled for work.
4. Parish and Community Involvement
My parents were actively involved in parish ministries. My dad lectored, my mom helped with funeral ministry, and they both served in a ministry for the mentally impaired. My brothers were altar servers. My mom took us to nursing homes frequently to minister to the elderly. We helped an elderly neighbor with cleaning and landscaping. We each found a way to volunteer as we grew older. My parents are the most generous people I know, always giving of their time, talents, and treasure. I am trying to live up to their example.
5. Reading Scripture
We had children’s Bibles when we were little, and then my parents bought each of us our own special Bible. I can’t remember at exactly what age I received mine, but I have treasured it ever since. It is small, about 8 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and a couple inches thick. The royal blue cover is creased and worn, with the corners curling up. Ink stains mar the the edges of the delicate pages. Highlights and notes fill the pages, a lifetime of sharing my joys, sorrows, pains, and pleasures with the Lord.
6. Liturgical Seasons and Feast Days
We actively participated in liturgical seasons and feast days: annual May crownings, lighting an Advent wreath, building a Nativity scene (Mary and Joseph traveled around the house throughout Advent, we put straw in the manger whenever we did a good deed, and we still read the Christmas story and place all the figures on Christmas Eve), dressing up as a saint for All Saints’ Day, visiting a cemetery for All Souls’ Day, getting ashes on Ash Wednesday (and, of course, eating our fill of packniz and other delicious treats all day on Fat Tuesday), making sacrifices and fasting and abstaining from meat during Lent, attending Mass on all Holy Days.
7. Visiting Shrines
If there was a shrine or holy site within reach, my mom always found it when we traveled. From small missionary churches to beautiful cathedrals, we experienced the universal faith wherever we went. I remember visiting places like the Cross in the Words, the home of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Franciscan University, and the Snowshoe Priest.
8. Sunday Mass
We always made Sunday Mass a priority. No activities, travel, or anything else superseded Sunday Mass. As young children, we had saint books, children’s Bibles, and other spiritual things to focus on. When we received our First Communion, my parents’ gave us books about the Order of the Mass. We continued to learn more and form a deeper understanding, appreciation, and love for the beauty of the Mass as we grew older. This was strengthened by our parent’s active participation in the Mass—they both sang, spoke all the parts for the laity, were reverent and happy to be there, and we were always (insofar as I can remember) on time.
9. Confident Catholicism
I was homeschooled starting in the second grade (attending Catholic school before that) so my mom taught my religion and Church history classes. She also taught us apologetics. All of this gave me confidence to discuss, debate, and live my Faith. This is so important. I highly encourage you to be okay with questions—whether your own or from your kids. If you don’t know the answer, seek it out. Everything the Church teaches has a beautiful truth behind it. Don’t miss out because it seems confusing, antiquated, or difficult.
10. Small Faith Groups
We participated in Catholic girls’ groups and boys’ groups—run by our parents’ and other moms and dads. I was a Little Flower, then in Our Lady’s Roses once I was old enough. We learned more about the Faith with our parents and with our friends, with my sister and I learning about authentic femininity and my brothers masculinity from the saints and other wisdom from the Church.
11. Preparing for Mass
My mother always read the Sunday readings and a brief reflection before Mass. Often it simply was in the car on the way to Mass. And my parents made it a priority to arrive early so we had time to quietly prepare our hearts to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
12. Catholic Radio
My mom had radios on in every room of the house it seemed. I was raised on Dr. Ray (Catholic radio) and the Detroit Tigers! Even when we were on vacation, I can remember hearing the strains of “Gentle Woman” and other Catholic music and talks.
13. Faith as a Choice
My parents talked to us kids about choosing the Faith for ourselves. I remember two things very vividly that my mom told me. First, it can’t just be your parents’ faith; it has to be your faith. You have to make the decision for yourself. And, second, it’s not just a one time decision. It is a daily choice to claim Jesus as your savior.
14. Applying the Faith
We regularly talked about faith and morality. We looked at the messiness of the world, and contrasted that with the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Faith—and we practically applied it to daily life. It impacted our media choices (music, movies, books, radio, TV, other entertainment), and it impacted our lifestyle choices (volunteering, daily activities, activities outside the home, vacations, exercising, etc.).
15. Youth Conferences and Retreats
I had some great experiences of youth conferences and retreats, and I had some rather annoying ones. Simply another piece in the puzzle, another opportunity for grace to work. I have a great love for retreats now.
16. Blessings Before Bed
My mom traced a cross on our foreheads and said a quick prayer over us every night. She still does it to this day.
We went to regular confession, and we attended first Friday Masses and benediction (my favorite growing up!), and then had donuts with other Catholic families.
18. Miracles of Faith
We learned about Marian apparitions (Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, etc.) and healings, Eucharistic miracles, the incorruptibles, etc.
19. Lives of the Saints
In addition to reading about the saint of the day, we watched saint movies and read and wrote reports on saint biographies. Picking our confirmation saints was an exciting time!
I am sure there were many more, but this gives you an idea. I am eternally grateful for the example of faith set by my parents. I count Catholicism as the greatest gift I have ever been given. I hope and pray that I can live a life fully alive in Christ and in his Church so that I, too, might hand the Faith on to my children.