A faith based on emotion is destined to fail, because it relies on a human feeling for connection to God. Feelings can never be sustained.
Therefore, the best thing a Catholic parent can do for their children is make sure they have a sacramental relationship with the faith, because that connects us to God through his eternal divine graces.
Growing up Catholic, my faith has always extended beyond simple belief. The traditions of the church revolving around the sacraments afforded me a tangible way to express my faith as well as receive God’s graces during the different phases of my faith journey.
- Too many people look at faith for what they can get from it, instead of what God wants from them.
- They are more concerned on how it makes them feel as opposed to whether it is pushing them to holiness.
- They focus more on a personal relationship with Jesus, inadvertently elevating themselves to God’s level, instead of treating God as the creator of all things and having a proper, respectful fear of the Lord.
Catholics, in particular, also have allowed the faith to become a family tradition, a cultural event, instead of a belief structure.
- They get married in the church, but never attend again until they have kids.
- They baptize their kids because their parents did it.
- They never attend Mass, but drop their kids off for Confirmation classes.
Being Catholic is not a check list or attendance sheet. Catholicism is a belief structure that is either adhered to or not. There are no individual versions of Catholicism. There is no Jim’s Catholicism where abortion is okay and Jane’s version where contraception can be used.
You can’t be 98% Catholic. The word “optional” does not exist in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
I’ve seen too many family and friends drift from the faith because of the above expectations they placed on it, finding even their own personalized versions of Catholicism less than compelling, and the primary reason for this is because they never had a sacramental relationship with the faith.
If you really understand the Eucharist, then no priest, family member, friend, co-worker or spouse would keep you from Mass, because Christ is physically present at each and every one. If Jesus were to show up in your driveway, would anyone in the world keep you from running to him? If you understand the Eucharist, then the same would apply to Mass.
If you understand the effect of sin and how it separates us from God, you would embrace the sacrament of Confession, because it not only absolves you of your sins and dispenses God’s graces to protect you, but is designed to make you more holy every time you attend.
If you understand the sacrament of Baptism, as a parent you would understand that you are on the moral hook for your child’s upbringing in the faith. You would make sure you were the best possible example of being a Catholic so that your children could see it every day.
If you understand the sacrament of Confirmation, where your child is not only committing to living a Catholic life, but is also called to defend that faith, you would invest a lot more time making sure they knew it and lived it.
If you understand the sacrament of Marriage, you would understand God’s relationship with the church far better, grasping the sacrificial nature of the God’s love for us and how that ties into the expectation of how you express your love to your spouse. Divorce rates would plummet.
If you understand the sacrament of Holy Orders, you would comprehend the value of the various religious orders, especially the priests, who make the perfect sacrifice of the Mass on our behalf and provide the other sacraments to us, that feed us and help us grow in faith.
If you understand the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, you would know that there is always a path back to God, until our last breath, and that God can help us overcome both physical and spiritual sickness.
If you raise your children understanding the sacraments, why they are there and how they play into their faith journey, nourishing them, strengthening them, on their path to Heaven, they would never leave the faith.
Why would they? What can anyone offer that is more valuable and necessary to their eternal soul than God’s gifts of the sacraments?
God calls us to take the hard and narrow road and has given us these sacraments to help us on the journey. Know them. Teach them.
Your children will thank you for eternity.