Want your kids to stay Catholic? Put it into practice

Many reading this post may know that, during our last 2 years in Columbia, I was committed to a Holy Hour every Thursday night at Our Lady of the Hills Catholic Church. During the last year or so, Allie had been accompanying me. Indeed, while she didn’t always stay awake, Adoration became one of the highlights of her week. As soon as she found out it was Thursday, she’d start asking, “Is it time yet?” “Who’s taking me this week? Mommy or Daddy?”

She’s also been going to Carmelite meetings with me from time to time, since her first communion, because I’ve been hoping to get her inducted into the Brown Scapular Confraternity (not to be confused with vestment in the formal Brown Scapular of the Order).

For a while, we’ve considered moving to either Augusta (a long time target on our list of places we’d like to live in an ideal situation) or Greenville, because of the fantastic parishes both towns have. This past Monday, we visited Greenville, and got to see the famous St. Mary’s Church for All Saints and hear the famous Fr. Jay Scott Newman. I even got to meet Fr. Newman for a few minutes after Mass.

However, we’ve also recently moved to the Augusta area. While we’re actually on the South Carolina side, since that’s the reason we moved here, we’re joining Most Holy Trinity parish and splitting our time between there and St. Ignatios of Antioch, which is a combination Byzantine/former Anglican parish that is sort of a mission of Holy Trinity. This is truly an amazing area for Catholicism. In addition to those great parishes, there are three parishes in a half hour radius with perpetual adoration (Our Lady of Peace, our geographic parish; St. Mary on the Hill in Augusta; and St. Mary in Aiken).

There are tons of daily masses within minutes of our new home, and tons of devotions. Given my attraction to the Eastern liturgies, I’ve been attending 5:30 Vespers at St. Ignatios whenever possible, and I”ve been bringing the kids along, and the people there are super nice.

At first, the kids felt it was rather strange, but they quickly grew to like it. It amazes me how, when Father is present and censes the congregation, the kids seem to settle down as soon as they’ve been blessed with the incense.

This evening, I had planned to run some errands, including dropping off our rent check, on the way to Vespers.

I’d had to take two trips back to Columbia with the other kids, and Gianna’s been home the past couple days with Mary.

So I asked her if she wanted to go with me, partly so she could get a treat. As it turned out, our landlord was coming by to pick up some of his stuff he left behind, so he said he’d just get the check here. That altered my plans.

Gianna said, “Daddy, I have a problem. I’d kind of like to go to church with you. And I’d like of like a treat. But, I’d also like to stay home, because we’ve been doing so many trips and stuff, and I’ve been eating Halloween candy all week, so I really don’t need a treat. And the noodles Mommy made are really good, and I’d rather just have those. But I’m afraid you’ll be sad that I don’t want to have a treat with you, and I’m afraid God will be sad if I don’t go to church.”
I said, “Would you like to stay home and have noodles and then go to church with me?”

[As it happened, I took the minivan so I didn’t “waste gas,” but I forgot to bring the GPS, couldn’t find St. Ignatios, got totally on the wrong track, so we went to one of the perpetual Adoration chapels instead].

How many six year olds understand going to church not as a boring obligation but as something you do because it would hurt God’s feelings if you don’t???

A friend of mine who’s a homeschooling, homesteading mom and whose kids know more about canon law and liturgical norms than the average priest was saying to me on Facebook recently how, now that her eldest are adults and married and starting their own families, her friends who used to criticize her for being such a “strict” and “repressive” parent are saying, “What did you do right and we did wrong, that our kids are all falling away from the Church and yours aren’t?”

I don’t even think it takes being strict so much as building a spiritual life in one’s kids, and not just limiting it to “Did you go to Mass on Sunday.”

This all ties in with another grace of the Spirit. Everyone knows I’m no fan of Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, but he deserves a lot of praise for officially implementing the Catholics Come Home program in this diocese!

They had an information session at Holy Trinity’s adult religious ed program yesterday, and there was a lot of talk about how “overly strict” parents supposedly drive their kids away from the Church, and how to get adult offspring to stay Catholic or return to the Church without being “judgemental” or whatever.

Of course, the latter part is poppycock–the strictest Catholic parents I know are the ones who have the most stable adult offspring. It’s not strictness that drives kids away from their parents’ faiths; it’s hypocrisy. It’s not the “Don’t do this” that makes kids leave the Church. It’s the “Don’t do this, but I’ll do it” or “Don’t do this, but if you do, I’ll look the other way.”

While I bit my tongue on that one, I *did* contribute that the most important way to help people, particularly our family members, is to encourage them to practice devotions and develop their spirituality (I cited St. Teresa of Avila and St. Louis de Montfort in this regard).

Anyway, it was a very interesting conversation with Gianna, especially in the light of that meeting.


4 responses to “Want your kids to stay Catholic? Put it into practice

  1. The key is to find a devotion that the children themselves are enthusiastic about. My 6-year-old daughter loves to pray the rosary, will join me any time I ask, and will even try praying it on her own. My 4-year-old son doesn’t like to pray at all, but he loves the Stations of the Cross. When I take my daughter to CCD on Wed night, I take my son up to the Church while we’re waiting. We pray the Stations of the Cross together, light a candle for someone, then walk around looking at the statuary, and talking about the Saints. He loves this, and looks forward to it every week. We make him say his prayers before meals and at bedtime, and of course we all attend Mass, but when it comes to private devotions, parents need to just present different kinds of opportunities, and let their kids follow whichever ones suit them best.

  2. Exactly! Which is the point I was getting at but forgot. Parents don’t practice the devotions themselves, so their kids have nothing to pick up on, or else they *do* practice, and leave the kids out (because they’re “too young,” or “can’t behave,” or whatever).

    The folks at Vespers are super nice, and are like, “Our parish is so older skewed, we’re happy to see little kids making noise!”

  3. My family didn’t “do devotions” . What we did instead, though, that worked just as well, was SERVICE. Altar serving, eucharistic ministers once we were confirmed, liturgical assistants, kept us going to Mass. Knights of Columbus volunteering opportunities (I had so many I didn’t even JOIN KofC until I was 37- my brother and father kept me involved) kept us Catholic In Between Sundays.

    Even when I went off on that normal cradle-catholic-period-of-college-doubt, I was the sensitive old-age guy; my personal comparative theology wanderings didn’t even mess with any religious sect less than 1000 years old.

  4. Ted, issues of “lay participation at Mass” aside, participating as altar servers and EMCs at least is deeper involvement in the liturgy.

    But service without prayer is like meditation without content.

    My wife and I have often discussed this question, how liberal Catholics can be so good with service yet bad with spirituality and theology. On the mission trips she went on in college, she says they never prayed together except at Mass, not even your basic pseudo-Protestant Charismatic “made up prayers,” and certainly not any formal devotions.

    Bl. Teresa said it’s impossible to perform works of service without being grounded in Eucharistic adoration. What results without it is, at best, liberation theology.

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