Sunday, 10 December 2017 17:50

5 Simple Ways to Increase the Faith Life of Children

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The title of this article sounds a bit like a Pinterest board; I must admit!  But the purpose of the title is quite the contrary.  In today’s media saturated world, laden with images of “perfection”, it is easy to for one to become downtrodden when comparing his or her reality with what is presented online.  Often times the picture perfect portrayals on blogs, websites, and social media discourage those trying to accomplish a particular goal or feat simply because what they produce never quite turns out as beautifully as what they saw online.  Unfortunately, even when it comes to faith-related topics, one can succumb to this perfection paralysis.

Let me give an example – an exaggerated one maybe – but examples often help.  Sue is a busy Catholic mom of 4 who is wanting to find a way to increase her children’s understanding and participation in the liturgical season of Advent.  So she does what most well intentioned persons with internet access would do-she jumps online in search of some ideas.  She types in the search engine “Advent crafts for kids” and immediately a plentitude of beautiful images pop up in her browser– perfectly crafted homemade Advent wreaths, breathtakingly beautiful Jesse tree ornaments, and pictures of immaculately dressed children joyfully focused on constructing a massive Advent calendar made from their adorable handprints which are perfectly traced and cut out without a single error.  You get the point.

So what does Sue do?  She settles on “the best DIY Advent Calendar for Kids” because of course, the title alone assures her of its worth and potential.  Sue makes her supply list, dashes to the store, and returns home ready for the next day when she will attempt this project with her children.  Only, it does not go so well.  Sue’s “best DIY Advent Calendar for Kids” project turns into one of those dreaded internet “fails”.  One child turns all of his handprints into turkeys since Thanksgiving is still fresh on his mind, another child insists on using green and red marker instead of the liturgically appropriate purple and pink, the tween is bored with the idea of even making the calendar and the toddler manages to scribble with permanent marker on the beautifully Christmas paper wrapped foam core board Sue prepared for the background.  In the end Sue is tired, discouraged, and not quite sure if she’s accomplished her purpose at all-to increase her children’s understanding of and participation in Advent.

So what’s the point here?  The takeaway is not that one should not attempt any number of the wonderful ideas out there that seek to supplement the Catholic faith.  There is much good out there to be gained.  But here is the point:  there are simple things we can do to benefit the faith life of our family TODAY.  These are ways that don’t involve a trip to the store or hours of prep work.  Sometimes we can let such projects get in the way of truly living the faith in the home.  We must ask ourselves what our purpose is in choosing the activities and projects we select and also assess if those things truly lead us to those goals.  Often times it is the simple, daily actions that we purposefully do that leave the indelible mark of faith on our children more than anything.  These are tried and true ways to help each child achieve the end goal which is sanctity!

So here is a simple list, though not exhaustive, of things we can do right now to benefit the spiritual life of our children:

1.    Pray!  Incorporate prayer throughout the entire day.  Begin the day with a morning offering and prayers.  Allow your children to offer prayer requests so all can pray together for the needs of everyone.  Include Scripture reading as this is a way we can pray and a way for us to hear God.  Always pray at mealtimes-before a meal and after a meal in thanksgiving.  Include praying the holy rosary in your family schedule.  It will never be time lost but only time well spent!  Try to pray it when everyone in the family is present.  Don’t forget spontaneous prayer!  Are your children having a bad day?  Encourage them to stop and say a prayer sharing with the Lord from the heart. Do they need help with an important task?  They can pray to their patron saint or Our Lady to intercede on their behalf.  Did something good happen to someone today?  Stop and pray as a family, offering thanks to God for the good things that all come from Him!  In these ways we are teaching our children that God is constantly present, that the saints are always there to advocate for us, and that Our Lady is a constant maternal guide in our lives-not just on Sundays!

2.    Re-decorate!  Ok, so not exactly, but here I am referring to arranging your space to better facilitate the life of faith.  Is there a spot in your home where you can create a prayer spot, a “little oratory” of sorts?  Place holy images there, icons, saint cards, and prayer aids like booklets and written prayers.  Make sure to include a crucifix and a Bible.  This would be a great place for community prayer-morning prayers, the rosary, and such.  Also place these types of things in other areas of the home where people may be inclined to pray.  An example is a basket with some prayer cards, saint stories, and rosaries by children’s beds or in the living room where someone may sit for a while.  Another great location is the kitchen table.  The idea here is to help recall to mind the need to pray and to help lead everyone to do so.

3.    Celebrate!  The Catholic faith is a faith of feast days and festivities, solemnities and seasons.  We should take full advantage of these and teach our children the importance of them.  You can read the saint of the day stories to your children, celebrate the feast days of saints that are close to your family’s heart, and incorporate the practice of different devotions and prayers associated with liturgical seasons.  Don’t forget to especially honor Our Lady on her different feast days as well!  Some ideas for celebrations are simple things such as having your children pick flowers to place in front of Our Lady’s statue or image, creating your dinner menu to reflect the special day (such as Mexican food on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe), or even having your children draw and color decorations or pictures that reflect something from the life of the saint of that day.

4.    Participate!  There are so many avenues we have through Holy Mother Church that help us to grow in holiness.  How wonderful it is that we have the opportunity to receive Jesus in the Eucharist daily!  Try to incorporate daily Mass attendance when possible.  Even if you start with just adding it in one day a week, this will make a difference in the life of your family.  Another idea is to make it a priority to attend daily Mass on important days in your family such as birthdays and anniversaries as a way to give thanksgiving to God.   Attendance at adoration provides invaluable graces that enable everyone to grow closer to the Lord, from the youngest member of your family to the oldest.  Do not neglect frequent confessions and schedule them regularly as a family.  The sacraments give us many graces to live the life of faith. 

5.    Live the Faith!  This may sound simple, but it cannot be underestimated.  We must live the faith in front of our children.  We parents need to allow our children to see us put our faith life in action.  It is good for our children to see us doing things such as praying, reading Scripture, or reading a good spiritual book.  Although it is nice to do these things in silence and solitude, it is also good to allow ourselves to be in visible places so that our children see us and learn that this is what normal Catholic men and women do.  It is said that Saint John Paul the II grew up in Poland during at time which there was a “normalcy of faith”. This obviously had a tremendous impact on him.  We should give our children a normalcy of faith in their home.  We should strive to see every moment through the eyes of faith and help our children to do the same.  Even the simplest of moments-like an evening walk as a family after dinner-can be a moment used to recognize the goodness of God and His creation around us. 

These five simple ideas are just a few ways we can help our children to grow in faith and increase in holiness.  They do not take a long supply list, or days of preparation work, or result in an artistic craft that can be displayed on a mantle or tabletop.  However, by putting these ideas into place in our homes, they do indeed have the potential to create a beautiful handiwork of God in the souls of our children.

Monica MartinezMonica is a married mother of 6 who is an enthusiastic convert to the Catholic Church and a lay member of the Home of the Mother. For many years she was a teacher and counselor in the public school system but now she labors with love in her home teaching and counseling the hearts of her own children.