Although I am not a parent, I have been an educator in Catholic Schools for over 20 years. I offer a few suggestions and reminders for the parents of today's children.
What is the role of parents in the Christian sense? Parents are considered the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. When a child is brought to the Church for baptism, we initially remind parents of their duty to bring their children up in the practice of the faith. Parents are supposed to teach their children to love God and their neighbor.
How do parents fulfill this duty? Here are a few practical suggestions:
1. Pray with your children. Children should be taught certain formal prayers by their parents (Our Father, Hail Mary, Act of Contrition, Grace before Meals, etc.) Not only should they learn these basic prayers, but they should be taught to develop a spiritual relationship with God. We all need to talk (and to listen) to God. There are times when this can be done routinely in the home—especially when the family gathers around the dinner table and before going to bed.
2. Take your children to Mass weekly. There is no prayer greater than the Mass itself and we all have an obligation to worship God by going to Church. This does not mean that I drop my kids off at the Church each week but that I set the proper example for them by going myself. “Do as I say and not as I do” never made any sense to me as I am sure that it does not for most children. Christ loved us enough to die for us. Do I love him enough to worship him each week?
3. Take your children to confession regularly. Not only should parents use the sacrament regularly themselves, but they should see to it that children are given the opportunity to receive the forgiveness and grace of the Sacrament of Penance. A child needs to see the value of this sacrament reinforced by the fact that parents use the sacrament regularly. By showing them that we are not perfect (I think they might figure that out rather quickly!) and that we need the mercy and forgiveness of God ourselves, it helps them to understand the concept of being accountable for our actions and that when we sin, there is forgiveness through Christ.
4. Be sure that your children are enrolled in and attend a religious instruction program. Catholic school or religious instruction classes (C.C.D.) are meant to supplement and reinforce that which is taught in the home. It is never meant as a substitution for the parents’ role as first teachers of their children.
5. Continually try to learn more about the faith. Education is life-long. We should never stop trying to find out more about our faith and also to be able to explain what we believe. If our children have questions, are we able to give them an intelligent answer that is doctrinally sound? “Go ask your mother” or “I don’t know much about that stuff” never really satisfies anyone’s intellectual curiosity, does it?
Remember that as a parent, if I create and bring a child into this world with an immortal soul, then I should do everything that I can to be sure that my child will be in Heaven with God for all eternity!
It is my duty and obligation as a Christian parent.
Fr. Ed Namiotka