Sunday, October 28, 2012

What's the Secret to Raising Faith-Filled Kids?

Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. -- James Baldwin

The Secret
In my experience, growing faith-filled kids starts with us. Being a faith-filled parent or teacher ourselves gives us a better chance at raising faith-filled kids. 

Think of it this way: I couldn't possibly teach someone to pilot an airplane. I'm not a pilot. I couldn't train someone as an opera singer. Anyone who knows me knows that I can't carry a tune with a bucket! Even if I could, it would take a lifetime of study to be able to teach someone else the art of opera.

Therefore, to grow faith-filled kids we need to be experienced and knowledgeable in the ways of our faith.

Now don't panic yet! There is good news in all of this!

The Good News
First, God does much of the work for us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. If I had to train an opera singer, I'd be out of luck. The Holy Spirit is not going to gift me with knowledge of opera singing! On the other hand, the Holy Spirit has gifted us with faith, and the Spirit strengthens that faith when we pray.

Second, we're not just talking about head knowledge of faith, which can take time to learn. Our faith in Christ has an important, personal, heart component that each and every one of us is ready to share right now. Each of us knows how Christ has moved in our lives-- through a conversion of heart, through a special loved one's example of faith, through a difficult illness or loss, through blessings-- this personal experience of Christ's love is how God stepped into each of our lives. No one knows the story better, and no one can share it and the feelings that go along with it better!

Third, since so much of faith is the human response to the movement of God inside of us (Catechism of the Catholic Church 166)-- each of us can be learning more about our faith while we are sharing our story with our children/students. 

In fact, our timing is perfect! The pope recently declared this the "Year of Faith." (See my recent post here..) This year is a great opportunity to grow in knowledge of the faith we profess, so that we can better share it with our children.

To be sure, there is much more that goes into raising faith-filled kids, but this is an important starting point. Wherever you are right now in your personal faith journey, you have everything you need to begin!

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Suffering Servant

Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many. (Is. 53:10)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,but one who has similarly been tested in every way. (Heb. 4:15)

Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. (Mk. 10:43)

Suffering is the central idea in this Sunday's readings. More than one Catholic sitting in Mass this weekend may have thought, "Wait a minute . . . isn't being a Catholic Christian about joy, peace, and other warm, fuzzy feelings?"

Didn't See That Coming
Here at the beginning of the Year of Faith, we believers are confronted with the reality of the Christian life: that Christ calls us not only to live a life of suffering, but also to make use of that suffering.

Christ himself is referred to as the "suffering servant" in Isaiah, and our redemption was gained through his suffering and death on the cross.  Many of the apostles suffered and were martyred, and lots of saints earned the title through heroic suffering in the name of God. Along those lines, a few weeks ago I wrote about suffering and its power to shape us into the people God desires us to be. (Don't Give Up)  

Time for Reflection
If we're going to grow faith-filled kids, this is one big, important aspect of being a believer that we'd better get straight right from the start! Consider taking some time to reflect on your own suffering, and how you respond to it in your life. (If there's one thing of which I'm certain, it's that anyone reading this is suffering . . . you're human, after all.)

What is causing your suffering?
How have you responded to it in the past?
If you haven't already done so, can you offer it to Christ?

Like my elementary school principal, Sister Marianita used to say, "Offer it up!" As for the warm, fuzzy feelings . . . it's not hopeless. By making use of our suffering and drawing closer to Christ, we experience a deeper joy than anything we could have found without Him. And that, my friends, is what will translate to our children and students, setting them on fire with faith in a God who can transform suffering into joy. God Bless You!

Photo credit: Christopher JL via photopin cc

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Back or Rise Up?

When struggle, battle & sacrifice are demanded the majority complain & clamor for going back to Egypt or spiritual slavery.-- Fulton Sheen

Archbishop Fulton Sheen points out how some people don't respond well to struggles and challenges. He compared us to the Israelites in the Old Testament, who when confronted with the prospect of dying in the desert, groaned and complained to Moses that they were "better off" in Egypt as pharaoh's slaves.

Parents and teachers might say they've heard similar groaning and complaining from their children and students, who back away when confronted with a challenge. Kids attempt all kinds of excuses-- 

"I can't do it."
"I'm no good at this."
"I'll never get it done."
"I'll never pass this test."
"Everyone else is better than me."
"It's too hard for me."

It's easier to fall back on old excuses and to live under the tyranny of past failures than it is to rise up to the challenge and overcome it. (I believe sometimes we adults do the same thing!) But how do we assist our children and students in overcoming this negative attitude? 

As with all things, it helps to start by casting the problem in a spiritual light. Start with prayer. Say, "Let's take a second to ask God to be a part of this challenge. With his power supporting you, anything is possible!" (Phil. 4:13)

Then, remind the child of the different ways God has provided for him or her in the past. Cite examples of God's goodness and care in the child's life.

Realize that lack of perseverance and an unwillingness to try are vices for which fortitude, the virtue that "strengthens the resolve to . . . overcome obstacles in the moral life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1808), is the answer. Assist the child in breaking the task into smaller, more achievable steps. Remember to thank God at each small success, as you build the child's sense of competency upon the foundation of his or her creation in God's image.

 Photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What Is the "Year of Faith"?

Something BIG is happening in our Church.

Not just our parish church, but in our global Church. 

In his apostolic letter Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI announced that October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013 would be the "Year of Faith." This kind of thing doesn't happen very often, so it's a great opportunity for all of us!

Beginning this Thursday, we have a chance to make the faith we profess an even greater reality in our lives, and in the lives of our children and/or students.

There are many ways to grow in faith, but one of the most important is to use the intellect that God gave us to learn more about our beliefs. The pope has encouraged us to open the "door of faith" by praying, reading, and studying our faith more in the upcoming year.

The bishops of the United States suggest two very important activities for the Year of Faith: reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and studying the documents of Vatican II. You also can find more about the Year of Faith here:

Year of Faith website (Vatican)
Year of Faith website (U.S.C.C.B.)
Read the Catechism in a Year
Year of Faith Resources