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Mar 08, 2020 906 Toney Thomas,
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What Every Parent Needs to Know: PASSING ON FAITH IS A MUST!

Facing a Dilemma

Many couples today are perplexed by a fundamental question. Is it essential to introduce faith in Jesus Christ to my little child? More precisely, is transferring faith necessary? The influx of secularism creates a further dilemma. Should we bring up our children in our own faith? Why not leave it to the children to choose their own faith and way of life? Before we consider the question more deeply, wisdom directs us to look to the natural world.

A crow protects its nest and feeds its chick until it can fend for itself. A calf suckles from its mother until it can survive entirely on grass. Not only do crows and cows teach their young how to feed, but they also introduce their little ones to social norms.

So what makes humans different? Has God not given us the ability to think and exercise free will? Then how could anyone leave their young children drifting without physical or moral direction? If animals and birds teach their young to follow their ways so they can avoid danger and receive nourishment, humans—created in the image and likeness of God—have an even greater responsibility to nurture our children to do the same. This is critical, not just for their lives on Earth but for their eternal destiny. Christian parents are called to help develop their children’s God-given gifts so that they can reach their fullest potential and serve God and neighbor.

Responsible Parenting

The Church is unequivocal in its teachings, reminding us that “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and benevolent service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues” [“Catechism of the Catholic Church” (“CCC”), 2223]. Moreover, parents have a moral responsibility to give good example to their children. By their example, children should see and learn how to subordinate material and impulsive desires to interior and spiritual ones. Further, “Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith, of which they are the first heralds for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church” (“CCC,” 2225).

Whose example can we follow? When we have the exemplary case of the Holy Family of Nazareth, should we look any further? In the Scripture, we see that the child Jesus “grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52). Jesus learned from the daily witness of His Blessed Mother Mary and foster father, Saint Joseph. Their simple prayerful lives—carrying out religious duties like visiting the temple and memorization of scriptures—shaped His life.

Sowing the Seeds of Faith

From our own experience, praying grace together at meals was a simple way to plant the tiny seeds of faith. Calling on our guardian angels and Saint Michael the Archangel to guide and protect us on the way to school helped to foster trust and faith in our little ones. It is easy to practice such simple acts of faith, yet their fruits are abundant, just like the seeds that fell into the fertile soil (Matthew13:1-23).

What a child has not received from home is almost impossible to gather as richly from another source. Although others may complement what is lacking, the fullness of life comes from a proper orientation of faith within the family. A prayerful family environment teaches a child to trust, to hope, to feel secure, to give and to know where to seek support when needed. Even when they are just listening to the family pray in the church or at home, a child learns how to pray and recognizes that sense of unity in faith we share.

Modern psychology has thrown a lot of new light on how a person develops mentally. Most of this development occurs between conception and the age of six years. The thoughts and feelings experienced by a mother during her pregnancy affects the child’s development. A child who learns to pray within the family (the primary school of virtue) and is also raised in communion with the Church naturally grows up to have a sense of belonging, hope and trust. Therein lies the significance and necessity of family prayer. The pressures of modern life sometimes make it all too convenient to avoid gathering together for evening prayer. However, in a day there are plenty of opportunities for a family to pray and give thanks to our Creator. Prayer before meals is a good opportunity to teach our children the value of gratitude.

Just Passing on Faith is Enough?

It is therefore critical that faith transfer starts in the family. The Church, the school and the wider community add to the beliefs a child has gained from the family. Pope Saint John Paul II testified that the sight of his own father kneeling to pray the rosary in the middle of the night powerfully aroused his faith. He is a notable example of a saint in our own times, showing us the strength and fruit of faith developed in the family. Is it enough to just pass on our Christian faith? Parents must continue to pray for their children without fail, like Job of the Old Testament. Fearing that his children may have sinned after their days of celebration, he offered sacrifices for them. The prayers and offerings of Saint Monica of Hippo gave the Church Saint Augustine, a doctor and father in faith. The choice is ours. Do not be afraid. Keep the faith and share it with your children, so that you may all run the race to the end together and receive the crown reserved for the righteous.

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Toney Thomas

Toney Thomas is a lay catechist who has served the church, especially the young people, through his active involvement in various ministries over the years. He lives with his family in Dublin, Ireland.

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