My wife and I are deeply thankful for the wonderful gift of our children, conferred to us by the grace of God. As a consequence of this blessing, we embrace the weighty responsibility entrusted to us; it is our sacred duty to actively nurture, educate, and pass on the invaluable legacy of a lived faith to our beloved children. Our approach encompasses an interplay between living and knowing the faith, each playing a crucial role: leading by example, regular attendance at Mass and Reconciliation, fostering a rich prayer life, family dialogue on faith matters, and Catechesis/Scripture.
One of the Saints I greatly admire is St. John Henry Newman, a remarkable figure who underwent a conversion to Catholicism. He in part devoted himself to exploring how we come to a place of certitude on matters of faith. Summarizing without delving into his extensive writings, we can highlight two pathways to understanding or accepting something: one, by acknowledging its truth based on knowledge; the other, by embracing its truth through personal experience. Consider the heart of a martyr — he doesn’t sacrifice for an abstract idea but for a profound, experienced truth, a deep relationship acknowledged from within. As a father, my approach aligns with this principle: strive to understand first, then guide towards embracing the experiential truth (sometimes both happen at the same time).
For instance, this principal manifests notably in the relationship between sacramental preparation and the sacrament itself. Children first learn about the sacrament’s significance, yet full understanding often crystallizes as they actively participate in the sacramental experience. Understanding what the sacrament entails is crucial, but engaging in the sacrament itself reinforces and deepens their comprehension acquired through catechesis. Therefore, when children witness their parents faithfully fulfilling their obligations by attending Mass and Reconciliation as prescribed, it serves as a powerful example of how we ought to live our Faith. This demonstration reveals, in action, the true essence of our priorities, leaving a lasting impression on our children about what truly matters. Put differently, while children will likely hear from the Church the importance of caring for the poor, witnessing their own parents actively demonstrating concern for the less fortunate significantly reinforces this message and communicates a bequeathed experiential knowledge.
Guiding our children in prayer is a cherished responsibility we are fortunate to undertake as parents. From offering prayers before and after meals to establishing a daily family prayer routine or incorporating a regular Rosary session and dedicating time for family Adoration each week, these practices instill the invaluable habit of prayer. By setting an example and teaching prayers encompassing adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication, we aid our children in reflecting on their day, recognizing God’s presence, and understanding their reliance on Him in their daily lives. We not only impart the action of prayer but also cultivate the internal disposition and mental exercises crucial for nurturing a continuously deepening and enriching prayer life.
Engaging in family discussions about matters of faith provides a platform for parents to delve into the practical application of faith in their own lives. Dinner time serves as an opportune moment for genuine and meaningful conversations about our beliefs, Catechesis, and Scripture. What aspects of the liturgy resonate with you? Have you experienced a Latin Mass? Sharing thoughts on receiving the Holy Eucharist—on the tongue or in the hand? Reflecting on Father’s homily? In my family, dinner discussions often revolve around our individual preferences and perspectives on matters of faith. Just as our Catholic faith is multifaceted, so are our children’s views on faith matters. These conversations help our children recognize that we, as parents, internalize our faith beyond mere obligations, infusing depth and personal connection into our beliefs. It humanizes and gives depth to the various facets of our faith for them.
In our journey as parents, we cherish the responsibility and privilege of nurturing our children’s faith. We wholeheartedly embrace the duty to guide, educate, and impart the legacy of a lived faith, navigating a path where knowing and experiencing intertwine. Inspired by the wisdom of St. John Henry Newman, we strive to both comprehend and embrace the experiential truth, seeking to instill this principle within our family’s spiritual journey. Our approach intertwines knowledge and lived experience, from sacramental preparation leading to the profound sacramental experience to fostering a rich prayer life and engaging in genuine family dialogues on faith. Through these intentional practices, we aspire to leave an enduring imprint, guiding our children toward a heartfelt and personal connection with their faith. It’s in these shared moments, conversations, and actions that the intricate tapestry of our Catholic faith finds vibrant life within our family’s story.
Jeremy Lezniak — SFA Theologians Guild Member