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How Can I Pass On My Faith To My Children?

Author: Cathy Stayne

Picture: Taniadimas

How Can I Pass On My Faith To My Children?

Cathy Stayne, who is passionate about children’s ministry, underlines the importance of forming children in their faith from a young age.

It is said that children have an instinctive capacity to respond to our Creator (K.Tamminen, Finland) and that childhood spiritual experiences are crucial. For example, when adults are asked what was their most important spiritual experience, they normally choose a childhood memory (Robinson, 1983, pg 11). This may be different in the Charismatic Renewal where it can be more normal for adults to have had a powerful conversion.

Become Like A Child

In Matthew 18:1-4, when the disciples are arguing as to who is the greatest, Jesus placed a child in the middle of them and says we are to humble ourselves and become like a child. Along with humility, other qualities that we value that children so often demonstrate include the ability to hope, being open to the new, recognition of mystery, awe and wonder.

Children seem naturally curious, can be very grateful and can recognise the importance of relationship and forgiveness, trust and fun (Nolland, 2005, p731). All qualities we would hope to foster both in ourselves and in the children we are responsible for.

Values

Some intellectuals seem to think that children should be allowed to make up their own minds about their faith and their spirituality without any guidance. The child, they suggest, should be free to knit its own spiritual jumper out of its experience, and only then look around among the various religions on offer to see which, if any, suits it.

I would question this. Do we do this about anything else? About bedtimes, bathing, cleaning teeth/ seeing the dentist and having immunisations? In fact, it could seem that we would be neglectful if these things were not being done adequately.

Vatican II taught that we have the right to bring up our children in accordance with the family’s own traditions and religious and cultural values (Christian Family 3 section 46) which is also affirmed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child: “The convention respects the rights and duties of parents in providing religious and moral guidance to their children”. (14) (www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest

Full Of Questions

We hear, watch, do and hence understand the symbols of our own faith. Why do we bless ourselves with holy water when we enter a church? Why do we genuflect? Why is there a perpetual light above/ beside the Tabernacle?

Children can be full of questions and it is good to spend time explaining and showing them how to and why we do these things. We could also start our own family traditions; maybe the children of the family making desserts on birthdays or for Sunday lunch?

In your own parish, look at what you do during Advent to prepare for Christmas, or maybe on one of the other great feasts? At Cor et Lumen Christi, for example, we celebrate a Night of Light on the vigil of All Saints, rather than focusing on Halloween with its emphasis on ghouls and witches. If you’re short of ideas, maybe ask the children!

Faith Is A Gift

Obviously, as children mature, they will question and examine the faith they have been brought up in, but if they are not taught anything how can they even know what is available? Maybe talk to your children about your own conversion experience and how faith is a gift.

If we feel we need a refresher course, perhaps read over Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia- The Joy of Love: An Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family. It has an encouraging and challenging section on Passing on the Faith (section 287-290) which is well worth a read: www.vatican.va

Copyright Cathy Stayne 2017

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