Monday, April 12, 2010

Give Your Kids a Foundation of Faith

Known By Name
Give Your Kids a Foundation of Faith

by Jake Frost

Once I was in Cologne, Germany, with my wife. While there, we attended mass at a neat old Medieval church, all stone and stained glass, columns and carvings.

I wasn’t prepared for how confusing it would be. I’ve been going to church my whole life and thought, how different can mass be in Germany? Things started well enough. Music played, the priest processed down the center aisle, and everyone started singing. They were singing in German, so I didn’t know the words, but I could hum along. A lot like back home.

Then things went haywire. Everyone else sat down, and we were left sticking out like a sore thumb, the only two people standing in the whole church. We took our seats— just as everyone else stood up. The rest of the mass everyone else stood or sat or kneeled in unison, following cues we couldn’t understand, while we were always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Everyone else recited prayers together in a language we didn’t know. And you can’t hum along to prayers. It’s disconcerting to be in a crowd of people all chanting the same thing when you don’t know the words.

But when the priest began the liturgy of the Eucharist, things made sense again. I knew where we were and what was happening. As on the road to Emmaus, understanding came in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-31). I had the same sense as when the Lord told us in Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.”

I did belong here. As a stranger in a strange land, I had a moment of feeling at home.

It’s a great thing about faith. Even to the ends of the earth, Jesus told us, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

It’s a beautiful blessing. The Lord calls us by name, the Lord knows us, He loves us, and He is with us.

Now that I’m a parent and charged with tending a little corner of the domestic Church, I need to impart that knowledge to my children. As parents, our primary responsibility is to introduce our children to God. There are many things we have to do for our kids: keep them clean and fed, develop their minds and physical abilities, teach manners, discipline, energy, a positive can-do attitude.

Parents have the task of meeting their kids’ temporal needs today, while equipping them to meet their own needs tomorrow – to give them fish as we teach them to fish. The spiritual is the most important, both for their temporal well-being and their eternal destiny.

Introducing our children to God begins at home. Making our home a place of welcome, peace, and truth, gives our children a foundation for a life of peace and truth. We fill them with love now, as a first experience of God’s love. Our kids can begin to know God through His own Word by our reading them Scripture, at dinner or as part of family prayer time.

Prayer, the family rosary is a great way to bring kids into the faith, and to give them the power and support of prayer in their lives. Participation in the life of the Church, by attending Mass, marching for life, and observing in our home the liturgical calendar—giving up candy during Lent, lighting candles through Advent, eating fish on Fridays.

More than anything, we must live the life of faith ourselves. The seeds we plant take root when our kids see us read the Bible, pray, fast, give alms, be truthful, and model for them all that we want them to learn.

Life will take our children many places, perhaps far away, and everyone faces times of trial and confusion. But if we can give them the bedrock of faith, they will always know that they too are called by name, known by God, and loved by Him.

— Jake Frost is a lawyer and writer who lives near the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minn. with his wife and children. He comes from a large family in a small Midwest town and writes for Catholic publications around the country.

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