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Sep 22, 2021 93 Father Joseph Gill, USA
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Q&A: How to Instill Faith in My Children?

Question: I have two young children, and I worry about how to keep them in the Faith. In our world that seems to be growing more secular by the year, is there any way I can instill the Catholic Faith so deeply within them that they will stay Catholic as they grow older?

This is indeed a difficult situation for so many parents, as our culture is often openly hostile to our Catholic Faith. How to keep them Catholic when it seems that the deck is stacked against them?

Part of the challenge is that God’s grace is a mystery. A hundred people can hear the same talk or homily, and for some it will change their lives and others will find it boring and meaningless. In my own family, I have a brother who identifies himself as an atheist—both a priest and an atheist from the same family, with the same parents and upbringing! So, we must acknowledge that grace is a mystery—but we are also convinced that God loves your children more than you ever could, and He is doing everything possible to win their hearts and lead them to salvation.

With that said, there are some things that parents can do to help kids encounter Christ and stay faithful to Him. Although I do not have children, I have worked with thousands of kids and teens over the past seventeen years of youth ministry, and I have seen a few successful strategies that families employ to keep their kids faithful.

First, make Sunday Mass a non-negotiable. I remember my parents taking us to Mass on vacation, and they would never allow one of our sports games to interfere with Mass. The Mass-going example of a father on his children is especially critical. There’s an adage that says, “If a mother goes to Mass the children will go to Mass, but if a father goes to Mass the grandchildren will go to Mass.” My dad used to make special trips to our boy scout campouts to take me and my brother to Mass, and then return us back to the campsite when Mass was over! It made a huge impact on me and it taught me that nothing, absolutely nothing, came between us and Sunday Mass. That was the real cornerstone of our family. If you are ever on vacation, you can visit www.masstimes.org which lists all the Masses in the entire world—so whether you are in Paris or Buenos Aires or Disney World, you can still find a Sunday Mass!

Second, pray together as a family. My family used to pray the Rosary on the way to Mass, and we had special devotions around the Advent Wreath. We would attend Stations of the Cross together during Lent, and my parents took us to Eucharistic Adoration frequently. Although there were times I complained about being dragged into these things, they also introduced me to a personal relationship with Christ, one that has stayed strong to this day.

Also, never forget to pray and fast for your kids—daily!

Third, keep sin out of your home. If you allow your kids to have a smartphone, put a filter on it. Make sure the TV shows and movies they watch, the music they listen to, and the books they read are wholesome. Although your kids may complain, parents should be more concerned about their kids’ eternal happiness than a quick temporary pleasure of watching a bad movie!

Another good thing to do is to make your home a sanctuary. Fill it with crucifixes, holy pictures, statues of the Saints, and books about the Faith. The old adage is true: “Out of sight, out of mind.” The more we can call to mind eternal realities, the more we will stay faithful to them.

Fifth, surround your kids with a good Catholic community, both peers and adults. They need good friends who have similar values, so perhaps have them join a youth group or go to a Catholic summer camp. They also need adult mentors who love the Faith, so befriend other good Catholic families. Invite your parish priest over for dinner. Get together for a party with other parishioners. When I was younger, my father sometimes took me to his men’s group on Saturday mornings, and I will never forget the impact of seeing these men—men I knew and respected and liked, who were plumbers and lawyers and sports coaches—praying and singing and passionate about Jesus. It made me realize that it was cool and normal to have faith in the Lord!

A related question is where to send your child to school. The answer is quite simple: who is changing whom? If your child goes to school and brings the light of Christ there, then it is a good environment. But if your child starts to adopt the values of the world, then perhaps it is time to switch schools. Sadly, many Catholic schools do not provide a truly Christ-centered environment, so be careful even if you choose Catholic schools.

Finally, the best and most effective way to pass the faith on to children is to be a parent who is seeking the Lord in their own personal life! My father has always prayed the daily Rosary from before I was born, and both my parents comfortably discussed their faith life at home. I could see them studying the Faith on their own, reading books about Saints or spirituality. As the old saying goes, “Faith is more caught than taught”—and our actions speak louder than words. That does not mean we are perfect, but we do have to be sincere in seeking the face of the Lord in our own hearts.

None of these are guarantees, of course, as our kids have free will and are able to choose whether or not to follow the Lord. But in doing these things, we are giving them the foundation, and allowing God the opportunity to win their hearts. It is His grace alone that keeps kids Catholic—we are only conduits of that grace! Never forget that as much as you love your children, God loves them infinitely more—and desires their salvation!

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Father Joseph Gill

Father Joseph Gill is a high school chaplain and serves in parish ministry. He is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Gill has published several albums of Christian rock music (available on iTunes). His debut novel, “Days of Grace” is available on amazon.com.

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