Recently we celebrated the feast of the Holy Family when the lectionary readings included two different portraits of children growing into their role as prophets. It’s in those sacred words where we hear the Scriptures underline how important faith is to children and more so how important it is for us adults to be good examples of faith to them. It cannot be do as I say, not as I do … because we know only too well that regardless of what we say, children will mimic our actions more than our words.
The resemblance of the biblical stories of Samuel and Jesus is not accidental. Both stories feature a childless woman, a prayer answered in the temple, and a boy dedicated to God’s service from before his birth. And both Jesus and Samuel demonstrate, even in their childhood, an uncommon aptitude for their roles of prophet, priest, and teacher: Jesus astonishes in the temple, while Samuel hears God’s call at a time when the word of the Lord was rare. Despite their precociousness, Samuel and Jesus are still just children, only partway along the process of maturation and still learning how to take on their roles in faith.
What does this say about us? What do the stories tell us about our children? And about our responsibility to our children? How can we better prepare our children not only to understand our faith, but to take serious roles in promoting and protecting it?
- If we want our children to have a faith that influences the way they live their lives — and the critical life decisions they make — then in our homes we need to be modeling faith first through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
- If we are to unleash the Gospel and reinvigorate our Church, then it must start with the domestic church — more commonly known as the family – with your family and my family living out our faith in our homes.
- If the example of the Holy Family is to manifest itself in our daily lives, then we need to work harder to make our families holy, and not simply surrender to the holy cards that show Jesus, Mary and Joseph at this time of the year.
While there is no perfect formula to make a family holy, some good practices include:
- Making Sunday a day for intentionally spending time together, coming to Mass, sharing meals together and recommitting to receiving the sacraments with one another;
- While priests, deacons and religious educators play an important role in teaching the faith, parents are the key to determining whether children will continue to practice the faith as adults – not by sitting in the classrooms of schools, but by living in the classrooms of life – in your kitchen, family room, and den.
- Quite simply, want to make your family holy – pray together – pray the Rosary – read the Bible, even the children’s bible, say the traditional Church prayers. There is no doubt that if children see prayer is something important to parents and adults, then they are more likely to follow. It’s leading by good example.
- Finally, leading by example also means seeking out other Catholic families with whom to socialize after Mass or at parish or other functions, and creating a culture where prayer and talking about Jesus is a normal thing to do outside of – not just inside the Church.
The Scriptures show us two different children growing into their roles as prophets. We have those children in our midst today too. That children are the prophetic voices should not surprise us. The issues of our world have a disproportionate impact on the young and schools and the media have made our children keenly aware of the challenges we face. And we know that children are not afraid to speak up!
As we begin 2019, my prayer is that this year all our families will grow in faith. We have dedicated many resources to serve you in that regard. Please take advantage of all that our parish offers. In a world that’s filled with many challenges, let’s prepare our children with the tools of faith – by word and example.
Many blessings to you! Happy New Year!