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29 June 2007

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Amber

I know what you mean - as an adult convert who has seen so many lukewarm and fallen away Catholics I too wonder how to keep my kids from joining that group.

Statistically speaking, perhaps you are right that it is easier to become a faithful Catholic as a convert rather than a native. There has got to be a way though to make it work for our children though! I think that it can't just be a matter of the head - cramming them full of knowledge about the faith and hoping that's enough. They have to fall in love with the faith and fall in love with Christ - their hearts have to open to him and to his Church. But you can't force love! All you can do is create moments for intimacy and closeness, try your hardest to keep out that which would create obstacles and pray that they are open enough to hear God calling to them. I think too many parents when raising their children in the faith focus too much on the head and not enough on the heart, leaving them with an anemic faith that can't withstand the rigors of puberty and early adulthood. Of course, you can also focus too much on the heart and never help your child foster a love for ordered worship... a recent post by my cousin comes to mind (http://laundryandlullabies.blogspot.com/2007/06/learning-to-walk.html). Who ever thought raising children could be so complicated? *sigh* I had no idea what I was in for when we started down this path!

P.S. I hope this isn't too rambling - I do need to go to bed now. :-) I'm looking forward to your further thoughts on the subject.

Sarahndipity

I'm a cradle Catholic but I've also noticed that many of the people who are strongest in their faith are converts. I think it's easier for cradle Catholics to take their faith for granted. Certain things mean so much more when you discover them for yourself. Also, I think converts tend to be more knowledgeable about the faith, since they had to make an informed decision.

Sarahndipity

Oh, and I agree with Amber that Catholic parents also tend to focus too much on the head and not enough on the heart. When they do that, the faith comes across as merely a set of do's and don'ts. I think I was raised somewhat this way, and it's only by the grace of God that I stayed Catholic, although I still struggle with seeing the faith as primarily a set of do's and don'ts. My brother, unfortunately, has completely fallen away from the faith. I wonder what it is that causes some people to stick with it and others to fall away, even people raised in the exact same environment. My mom has four sisters and she’s the only one who’s still a practicing Catholic.

I’ve heard that spirituality is inherited to a large extent; that there’s a “spiritual gene.” Not sure if this is true, though.

MelanieB

I'm one of 4 children raised in the Catholic faith. Two of us are currently practicing. One of my brothers is nominally Catholic but doesn't attend mass regularly and has kind of lost his way, the other is caught up in a bunch of New Age-y stuff.

Definitely the most important thing a parent can do is live the faith. Part of the problem that you are seeing I think is the result of a whole generation of parents who were badly catechized themselves and and didn't fully understand their faith who then delegated the faith formation of their children to Catholic schools' religious ed programs and to CCD teachers.

My parents never took us to confession, for example. They assumed the school was taking us, I guess. The school assumed the parents were. I made my first confession and then never went back until I was an adult and that was one of the hardest things I ever did.

As Amber suggests, too, parents need to understand that faith is above all relational, it's not a matter of teaching kids facts; but helping them get to know a person. We have to help our children know and love God, not just know about God.


I think also that one area where the Church is really needing improvement is in adult formation and education. We have this sense somehow that when you are confirmed you are done, graduated. You know what you need to know and are through with your education in the faith. But the truth is you've just begun the journey.

We need to work to convince cradle Catholics who think they know and understand their faith to continue a lifelong process of learning and growing, making their faith ever deeper and richer. The Church's store of wisdom is inexhaustible; but so few people know it's even there and that is sad. I doubt one lifetime would be enough for anyone to read all the writings of all the saints and all the doctors of the Church and the early Church fathers, all the papal encyclicals and other magesterial documents and all Biblical commentaries. The Bible itself is an endless font, you can drink from it continuously and never exhaust its riches.

So I think we need to rid ourselves of that attitude of being done. As parents we can model that attitude for our children by letting them see us reading and studying ourselves, sharing with them the new things we learn. My brother- and sister-in-law, for example, listen to books on tape in the car with their kids. The whole family is learning about the faith together.

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