Life, Church, The Faith, Culture

Raising Kids to Know That Faith Is More Than A Class

I had only been Catholic for a few months when I entered my first year on staff with FOCUS. Coming off a year of sifting through apologetics and Scripture, of meeting with Catholic and Protestant missionaries to wrestle with the truth, I knew the importance of two things: having a relationship with Christ and understanding why I believe what I believed — of having both faith and reason in my walk with Him.

As I led students in Bible study that year, the most common question I heard from Catholic students was, “How do you have a relationship with Christ?” They explained that, being raised in a Catholic school, they were tempted to see faith as a religion class and a Sunday obligation.

Now, years later and with kids of my own in Catholic school, this is my biggest fear: that my kids will think that faith is a school subject rather than a relationship. I’m afraid that, in their eyes, faith will be reduced to a checkmark and getting an “A”  in a class rather than knowing and being known by the One who made them and loves them more than they can imagine.

As parents, it’s tempting to let Catholic school handle the faith formation part of parenting — to let their religion teachers teach them how to pray and why we believe what we believe. Much of that is because we as parents and adults are still figuring out the faith as well.

But if faith is simply something kids hear about in second period and CCD, they will never understand the beauty, depth and gift of knowing Jesus.

When I was in high school, my mom and I were baptized in the backyard pool of one of the members of our church. As we both grew in our faith, I saw her carve out time every day to read Scripture before bed, on family trips and in the hotel room during soccer tournaments. To this day, I try do the same.

Our influence as parents is far greater than any class our children could take. Faith done well is more than a class, Sunday service or a cross hung on your necklace. It is a continual conversation with God. Sometimes that conversation comes easy; other times it is difficult — and our kids need to see that.

This year, my oldest is in first grade, and she is already teaching me things she learns in religion class. For All Saints Day, she wanted to dress up as and teach the class about St. Clare of Assisi.

While I had heard of St. Clare, my convert self knew nothing about her story. St. Clare lived a simple life of self-discipline, seclusion and poverty. She and the sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house and kept silent most of the time. Their lives consisted of manual labor and prayer — yet they were happy because God was close to them. When soldiers came to attack her city, St. Clare, though ill, met them with the Blessed Sacrament and prayed on her knees for God to save the sisters. The attackers were terrified and fled Assisi without harming anyone.

I would have never learned this heroic woman’s story had I not sat down and researched with my daughter that day. As I helped her write two sentences on her notecard to read to the school, I realized the importance of learning about the faith with our kids. I realized the strength that looking to the saints and role models gone before us can teach us.

“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become.”
St. Clare of Assisi

Regardless of how we were raised or what type of classes we took, none of us have God completely figured out. Maybe we can model Christ’s forgiveness by saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” And model His unconditional love by saying, “I love you no matter what you do.” And model His sacrifice by dying to ourselves a bit more and putting others first.

Maybe we can speak truth to our kids with Scripture, tell them something cool we read in a spiritual book or discuss a Church teaching we’re trying to understand.

Maybe having the humility to continue to know Him better as a grown adult is one of the best ways to show our kids that faith is more than a class or retreat high — that it’s a constant quest to know Him better so that we can continue be transformed.