Watching the events of the last few weeks unfold, I have been struck anew by how many former Catholics there are in the news media. None of them have a clue about what it means to be Catholic. That, coupled with this post at 8 Kids and a Business, got me thinking about how to keep our kids Catholic. I decided to create a list.
Please note: my children are still preteens, so I cannot say, “It worked for us.” But I have done some research on the matter, and observed other Catholic families. I’ve often wondered how my husband and his siblings all remained good Catholics, while some of my siblings did not. I almost left the Church myself in my 20s. I also know that a parent can do everything right, and his children can still choose to leave the Church. We have freewill. This list is not meant for pointing fingers or accusing other parents of failing. It’s meant to help those who are raising their kids now and want to do the best they can.
1. Model the behavior you want to see in your kids.
This is key. Kids copy their parents’ behavior, both good and bad. If you aren’t striving to follow Christ, they probably won’t either. The other tips hinge on this one.
2. Have an open heart.
I’ve written about openness before. Have you rejected any of the Church’s teachings? Are you already dreading what Pope Francis might do? Do you listen when your kids talk, and try to understand where they are coming from? Can they trust you to love them, no matter what?
3. Teach your kids the faith.
Don’t expect Catholic school or religious ed to do this for you. You and your spouse are your children’s first teachers of the faith. Your kids need to know the history of the Church, what She teaches, and why. They need to know the differences between Catholics and other Christians, and the wonder of the Sacraments. Teach them Who founded the Church, and what He promised. Befriend the saints. Celebrate the Church’s feasts. Let the faith influence every area of your life.
4. Teach them to pray and pray with them.
The Guardian Angel Prayer is great, but it’s not enough. Teach them to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary. Teach them mental prayer. Take 30 minutes out of your day to spend alone with Christ. Make sure your children know you do this. Over time, help them do the same.
5. Read and study the Bible together.
Some Christians think Catholics don’t read the Bible. Don’t let your kids prove them right. Read the Bible as a family. Talk about difficult passages. Explain how the Bible came about and its proper place in Christian life. Don’t stop with children’s Bible stories. Study more advanced material together as your children mature.
6. Teach your kids how to think.
Teach basic logic and critical thinking skills. Discuss current events and politics (but don’t equate any political party with the Church). Write letters to the editor and encourage your children to do the same. Read C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and G.K. Chesterton together.
7. Be humble and genuine.
Don’t judge others, especially your spouse or kids. Take the whole family to Confession often. Apologize when you discipline too harshly, wrongly accuse, or yell. Admit your mistakes. Don’t let your children think you’re a hypocrite.
8. Spend time with your kids–especially you dads.
Moms naturally spend time with their kids–or at least feel guilty for not doing so. But absent or distant dads can drive kids away from God the Father. Put God and your family before work and entertainment. Say “I love you” every day. Children don’t recognize your job as a service to the family. They want you to come to their sports events and performances. They long for one-to-one chats.
9. Know when to protect and when to let go.
Don’t show your little ones violent movies. Keep them off the internet unless you are supervising. Help them choose their friends. As they get older, slowly give them more freedom, but only as they show responsibility. Don’t expect them to act like adults without you’re teaching them how. Give them all the skills they need to live on their own before they go to college.
10. Give them good Catholic mentors besides yourselves.
Grandparents can be lifesavers. In their absence, uncles, aunts, and godparents can love and teach your children. Give them someone to go to when they are scared to speak to you or when rebellion threatens. Don’t be their only model of Christian adulthood–even if you are a saint.
Share with us: Do you have grown children? What worked or failed for you? How are you raising your kids now to keep them Catholic?
13 thoughts on “10 Ways to keep your kids Catholic”
Connie, these are all wonderful suggestions and thanks for the link. At the visitation prior to my dad’s funeral 4 years ago, a priest friend led all the mourners in the Rosary. Afterwards, a friend of my parents remarked how wonderful it was to see my husband, rosary in hand, surrounded by our children. She rightly said that it’s more important for children to see their dad praying than their mom since everyone expects moms to pray but not necessarily dads. Our pastor has said the same thing. I think family prayer is the foundation of all we do as Catholic parents trying to raise Catholic children.
Great point. My husband does this so naturally, as does my dad, that I forget that it’s uncommon.
Good post, Connie. I have a different perspective, though.
As a young mother I never considered it my responsibility to “keep my kids Catholic.” The thought never crossed my mind. However, I did consider it my responsibility to raise my children Catholic. Among your ten suggestions, I believe I intentionally did many of the things you have listed.
I have never considered it parental failure when a child leaves the Catholic faith for another faith or for no faith. I feel very sad when I hear parents whose children have left the Church blame themselves or ask, “Where did we go wrong?” It’s their children who went “wrong,” not the parents (assuming they did their best). God gives everyone the grace they need to follow His way. When anyone reaches the “age of reason” they are responsible for their own choices within the limits of their maturity and will have to answer to God for them.
I think the title for this post might also be ” Suggestions for How to Raise a Catholic Child.”
You make some valid points. Maybe this type of thinking is more common in Gen-X’rs and younger. We tend to think everything depends on us. I personally feel more comfortable with the thought that I am in control of my children’s futures. However, much of that is an illusion, and I thank you for reminding me! God is in control, so we just do our best. You’re right: this post is really about how to be a good Catholic parent.
These are great Connie. I have a three and a half year old and this is one of my biggest concerns.
Thanks, Manny. Mine too. We can only do our best, then trust God.
I found your blog from Teresa at Desert Heart. As a convert who left the Church for seven years, my biggest suggestion would be to also pray for them daily (which is something I need to do myself). We converted, and all the practices of the Church were, I felt, crammed down my throat. The rosary, Mass, holy days, etc. It was suffocating. I left, and only came back (slowly) after meeting my future husband (in a bar!) who had been raised from a large Catholic family. A dear friend of mine has 10 children, and her eldest son is currently in Rome in seminary. She has a second son who graduated last year and is applying to our local diocese. I asked her what helped them discern this vocation, and have such a strong faith. She said Adoration. I have to agree with this because Adoration is what got me back as well. There is never too much time in front of Our Lord, and He can touch hearts, and woo them, and help them see the beauty of His love and His Church in a way that, a lot of times…even with the best of intentions, humans can fall short. It is lovely to see good and holy Catholic families together..praying. Loving. I know for myself, back then, it wouldn’t have made a difference. God had to penetrate my heart Himself.
Welcome, Jen. Wow, that’s really a different perspective. I always think of converts as being so committed to the faith. So, did your family (i.e., parents) convert when you were still living at home? I can see how that could be a kind of culture shock–overwhelming. I think it’s easy to fall into the attitude that we have to practice all the good devotions regularly. That’s neither possible nor advisable.
Having just gotten back from Adoration, I like your suggestion on that one! My kids haven’t gone to Adoration much yet. We hope to do more of that as they get older. But praying for them is something everyone can do every day.
Great ideas! Though in my family and my wife’s family, there are no catholics. MY wife’s family is all protestant or secular/non-religious and my family is pagan or non-religious or dissenting “catholic”. So we don’t have any catholic role models in our family to help influence our children in a positive way. It gets lonely sometimes not having a catholic “world” around us.
Thanks for commenting, Tom. Sorry that you do not have a Catholic support group. That does make it tough. Prayer and trust will be your best friends.
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Thank you, Connie. Let us not forget the value of sacrifice, intentional sacrifice, for our children, especially to bolster them in spiritual combat. Also, praying specifically for them to develop a relationship with their guardian angels to help them draw closer to Our Lord. After all, they behold Him and guard us simultaneously if I am not mistaken.
I pray daily to their guardian angels as well , and their friends’ since my children are older:
A Mother’s Prayer to the Guardian Angels of her children
I humbly salute you, O you faithful, heavenly Friends of my children! I give you heartfelt thanks for all the love and goodness you show them. At some future day I shall, with thanks more worthy than I can now give, repay your care for them, and before the whole heavenly court acknowledge their indebtedness to your guidance and protection. Continue to watch over them. Provide for all their needs of body and soul. Pray, likewise, for me, for my husband, and my whole family, that we may all one day rejoice in your blessed company.
God Bless you!
Great suggestions, OLE.