What Parents Should Know
Understanding several things will assist Catholic parents to navigate the exciting world of raising their children well. First, parents should know that the world, generally, will not support their efforts to raise their children in the Catholic faith. That’s not being negative. It’s stating a fact, which is also nothing new. Since the time Jesus walked the earth Christian beliefs and Christians themselves have been persecuted. We have to arm ourselves with a joyful demeanor and live the Christian live fully without expecting it to be easy or to be applauded. The world will frequently contradict our desires to be modest, chaste, kind, generous, patient, temperate, and holy. We must be modest, chaste, kind, generous, patient, temperate and holy anyway. The world will tell us to chase materialism, earthly goods, fame, power, “success”. We must reject that and reach for higher goals, and teach our children to do the same. We have to look forward to being revolutionaries, of sorts, radically living in peace, for Christ. And recall, revolutionaries, don’t essentially have support groups.
Yes, there may be pockets here and there of support, of like-minded people who are striving to raise their children the way that we are, and finding these folks will be blessed relief and consolation like cold water is to a thirsty soul. Indeed, we should seek out like-minded parents to network and brainstorm with them, but we must not expect to rely on them in all cases, at all times. God alone will be our perfect strength as we seek to do His will, well, in our families.
Second, parents should also understand that children learn far more from example than preaching or formal lessons. The best way we can raise good Catholic children is to be good Catholic people ourselves. Children learn temperance by seeing us model that. They learn kindness of speech by seeing that exemplified in us. They understand to love the Mass and sacraments when we love the Mass and sacraments and bring them with us to experience them. We don’t need to preach to the children the relevance of praying the rosary, in as much as sharing stories and the Church’s guidance in this regard is good. We have to give them little plastic rosaries when they are just toddlers and snuggle with them on our laps as we recite the mysteries and pray this prayer ourselves. Our Catholic faith must be completely integrated in our lives, both for our own good and so our children can absorb it.
Third, parents should know that perseverance is crucial because suffering often comes with the territory of raising children. This can be hard to understand when one in the midst of it, particularly at the start. We might initially address child-raising like we have other ‘projects’- We make a plan. We give our best efforts. We expect instant positive results because we have tried so difficult and done our research. Yet, raising good Catholic children is not like any other “project”. It takes more time, more faith, more trust than anything else we have ever done. Oftentimes circumstances arise in child-rearing that push us to the very core of ourselves and elicit suffering, sometimes great suffering. This is perfectly normal. You see, God molds us as we mold our children. These are “growing pains”, of sorts. The progress toward holiness, in fact, should be a family endeavor. If we stay close to Him we have nothing to fear and are assured of “success”, in His time, in His way.
What Parents Should Do
There is no formula for raising good Catholic children into good Catholic adults, but we can use a strategy that many parents have discovered and which really isn’t that complicated. It is best remembered by thinking of the seven Rs: Receive, Read, Remember, Remain, Rely, Rejoice, Relax.
–Receive the sacraments soon and frequently
This cannot be said enough. Baptize babies immediately. If Aunt Martha can’t make it for two months to see the baby, go ahead and throw the baptismal party when it’s convenient for her, but don’t postpone the sacrament to fit her or anyone’s schedule. It is crucial that the child receive his baptism as soon as possible after birth. It is less crucial that mom is up for visitors, and more important that the baby enter the Church. On a similar note, make a family confession date every single month. Some families like to go out for ice cream afterwards or plan another little treat. The sacrament of confession is critical for the spiritual growth of everyone. We wouldn’t dream of going months without showering, which cleanses our bodies, so why should we consider going more than a month without Confession, which cleanses our souls? Lastly, we should take the children to Mass more than once a week on Sunday. An entire book can be written why, but suffice it to say here they will grow spiritually, understand how to better behave and we mothers will reap rewards as well.
– Read To Your Child
Start with simple toddler bible stories when they are small, then move on to other Catholic board books and short stories which teach the Faith in simple terms. Incorporate these into evening story time. As your child grows older, add the “real” bible, the catechism, enriching words from all sources. Take the time to teach your children simple apologetics. The complexity of the apologetics books chosen can grow with your child’s age and wisdom. Snuggling on the sofa with a good book and your child can be bonding like few things are, and will help your child grow in Faith if you choose the right reading.
–Remember that you are not alone
Your spouse is your partner in raising your child in the Faith. Daddies offer perspectives and wisdom that mommies can’t, simply because they are men and we are not. Be a team player and be open to your spouse’s ideas and suggestions.
–Rely on God’s Good Graces
Have confidence in Him.
Be grateful. Enjoy each moment, each stage and yes, each challenge. As we strive to raise our children well we will see personal growth too. God is so good.
Give yourself a break when you need one, and find ways to spiritually re-charge. Go to a bible study at your parish alone, take time for personal prayer, or meet a like-minded friend for lunch and exchange of ideas. Try hard but don’t expect perfection right off the bat. If you misbehave, forgive yourself and get up and try again. Remember a fool sits enjoying a mud puddle, but an equal fool may recognize his situation yet sits and laments his fate in the puddle without trying to get out. A wise person discovers when she is deep “in the mud”, gets up, wipes herself off (Confession) and tries again, careful to avoid the puddle the next time. An eighth “R” might also be to recognize that “success” is not measured by external cues alone. God works in mysterious ways in the deep recesses of the human soul. He is working on our children as He is working on us. Trust Him.