Yes, I'm Still Catholic
Yes, I’m Still Catholic - Thanks to the Secret All Parents Should Know
I was sitting across from my new spiritual director, running through my personal, professional, and spiritual history. When I told him the name of my home diocese, he raised his eyebrows and quipped, “And you’re still Catholic?”
Apparently my diocese’ unfortunate reputation preceded me. I laughed, because it is true. While it has made some progress, it was not exactly the most orthodox region to grow up in. My fervor for the Faith found little fuel in the spiritually impoverished landscape of the diocese, schools, and parishes.
So how did I end up so passionately, faithfully, and unequivocally Catholic? This is something I have reflected on quite a bit. Working in Catholic media, I often hear parents grieving that their adult child has left the Catholic Church, whether by drifting away or because of anger, doubt, or rebellion. Now, with a child of my own, it is even more important to me to answer this question.
How Do You Pass the Faith on to Your Kids?
How do you help your children fall in love with Jesus and his Church? How do you help them understand that Catholicism truly is the best way to live, and the surest path to happiness and lasting joy?
You live it.
It’s easier said than done, but that’s the honest-to-goodness secret to keeping your kids Catholic: you live Catholicism wholeheartedly.
I am not Catholic because of the efforts of Catholic school, Sunday school, CCD, youth group, Life Teen, Edge, Franciscan retreats, or the like. While these can all be good experiences, they are nowhere near enough on their own. If parents do not take their faith seriously, and make it a priority in everything, then why would their kids? Going to Mass on Sundays, and even a few hours here and there in different ministries, is necessary, but it is not enough.
Please know that I am not discouraging Catholic school or youth group attendance. It is good and potentially very powerful to have Catholicism reinforced by peers and adult role models, but these must be just that: a reinforcement.
A charismatic youth leader, a knowledgeable teacher, or even your child’s best friend do not yield the amount of influence that a parent does. Parents are, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, the primary educators of their children.
I am Catholic, in large measure, because of my parents. My mother and father lived the Faith. It penetrated every aspect of their lives, and I saw their authentic witness. When you strive to become fully alive in Jesus, the love, joy, peace, purpose, and passion that comes from that is contagious. I saw Catholicism authentically and fully lived, and I wanted it.
3 Steps to Keeping Your Kids Catholic
How did my parents do it? You can sum it up in three steps:
Love God – I regularly witnessed my parents spending time in personal prayer, reading the Bible, studying the Faith, and serving our parish and community. Parents obviously loving God is the foundation. It has to be first in everything. Deepen love for Jesus and his Church. Build the relationship, through prayer, Scripture, study, and parish involvement. We cannot hope to pass on a love that we do not have. Setting this example, daily, moment by moment, is absolutely essential to working for our children’s salvation—not to mention our own.
Love each other – My parent’s love for each other was no secret in our household. Physical touch, quality time, verbal affirmation, acts of service, gift giving—I grew up watching my parents love and respect one another. Their relationship was not perfect (and it’s still not), but they took their mission to challenge and encourage one another on the path to heaven seriously. One of the best things we can do for our kids is to love our spouse unabashedly, modeling Christ’s sacrificial love for his bride, the Church. Set an example for the incredible plan that God has for man and women in your family. Let us live a healthy, wholesome, joyful, respectful, loving relationship and show our children what true happiness in following God together looks like.
Love your kids – Yes, loving our children is the last step. Without steps 1 and 2 in good order in our lives, the way we love our kids can be led by the world rather than God. Neglecting our personal relationship with God and his Church, and neglecting our relationship with our spouse, will only hurt our kids. Love God, love each other, love your kids. Let grace work, because it will.
“Pray, hope, and don't worry.” – St. Padre Pio
Raising our children is a beautiful, but oftentimes daunting, responsibility. We want good things for our children. We want them to be happy, whole, and thriving in every aspect of their lives. And, honestly a lot of the time, we don’t even know if we’re doing it anywhere close to right, especially when it comes to the Faith.
I have witnessed multiple family members abandon Catholicism. The pain was excruciating. I cannot imagine the pain of seeing my own child leave the Faith. All I know is with God all things are possible. And we can never give up hope. The witness that you have given and continue to give is more powerful than you know. Keep praying, keep loving, and trust that God is working in your life and theirs. No matter what.
I want to leave you with two things. First, if you have never read about the life of St. Monica, I encourage you to do so. She is an incredible example of never giving up hope that one’s child can come to the Faith.
Second, I encourage you to pray this prayer of Thomas Merton. It has been a great comfort and reassurance to me in times of confusion.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.