I had a little bit of an epiphany this morning. I am getting ready to begin teaching 7th grade religious education again this year. As always, I am mulling over in my head just exactly how I am going to draw parents into the program. I kept thinking, “How do I make these parents into the primary catechists?” Bzzzzzzz…. Wrong question! Like it or not—whether they know it or not—these parents are the primary catechists. They are the most important teachers of the faith.
My goal should be to help these parents become intentional catechists. They need to see that their attitudes towards the Church, towards Mass, towards prayer, towards religious education and towards vocations are their lesson plans. If they dismiss any of these, most likely their children will as well.
If parents only attend Mass when Grandmother is in town, should they be surprised when their children see going to church as a social obligation rather than an act of faith? If children do not see their parents pray, will they learn to pray? If children do not see their parents developing a deeper faith through religious education, will they aspire to know more about their faith? If children see parents eschew Church teachings, will they stand firm in these teachings when the popular culture advocates otherwise? In most cases, the answer to each of these questions is “no”.
My job as a parish catechist is to help parents make a conscious, intentional effort to instruct their children in their faith. They are going to teach their children. I need to help them make sure they are teaching what they want them to learn.