Chapter Six is here.
How fitting that we discuss chapter seven of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi on All Saints Day. This chapter is subtitled Rooting Kids in the Catholic Heritage. Studying the saints is an ideal way to establish the history of trials, tribulations, and triumphs of our ancestors. The saints are role models for us as we make our own journey towards Heaven. By looking at both the ancient and the contemporary saints we see the unbroken continuum of the Faithful. We state every Sunday we believe in the Communion of Saints. These holy men and women are not just historical figures. They are current members of the Church Triumphant and are eagerly waiting to add their prayers to ours if we but only ask. For any Catholic value there is a saint that exemplifies it. St. Maria Goretti is known for her virtue of chastity. Blessed Mother is our model of perfect humble obedience to God. St. Joseph offers us a guide to being a strong father and family provider. St. Therese of Lisieux is one of my personal favorites because she really lived a very ordinary life but sanctified her mundane activities by offering them to God.
Why should we talk to our children about Catholic History?
After the Da Vinci Code brouhaha, the answer to this is actually painfully obvious. The secular world will try to tear down the Church with all sorts of accusations and allegations that are patently false. Those with a lukewarm faith and little knowledge of Church history are extraordinarily vulnerable to being swayed by arguments based on these falsehoods. I would guess that the vast majority of Catholics in the pews have minimal knowledge of Church history. Like everything else, it is very difficult to pass on to our children what we don’t have ourselves. Therefore, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to improve our own knowledge of Church history.
Our parish offers a course in Church history as an elective CCD program for high school students. Suggested books for beginning home study are Don’t Know Much About Catholic History and Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know, both by Diane Moczar as well as The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina.
How can we communicate our faith and values to our kids?
In an increasingly secular world it can sometimes be difficult to hold on to our Catholic heritage. That means that we are not afraid to look and sound Catholic. Today my children and I got up very early to attend 6:30 AM Mass for All Saints Day before school. The choices were to attend Mass last night during the trick-or-treat hours, attend this morning, or skip music lessons and attend Mass this evening. Not attending Mass is never an option. This goes for Sunday Mass and Holy Days. We don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. My second son was hanging out with buddies at a friend’s home on a Friday this past Lent. His friend’s mother invited them all to stay for dinner. They were cooking steaks on the grill. My son politely explained he would love to stay for dinner, but he would not be eating steak because it was a Friday in Lent. The mother heated up some fish sticks for him and he enjoyed the fellowship while everyone else enjoyed their steak. From a very early age we have taught our children who we are and what we do as Catholics. We have prepared them for the idea that our values and lifestyle can be counter cultural. We need to stand united as a family against the anti-Catholic cultural values. This gives our children the strength to stand firm as individuals when their Catholic principles are challenged.
Should I send my children to Catholic schools?
This is a very complicated question. The ideal Catholic school would support and reinforce the Catholic faith that we are nurturing at home. Catholic culture would be interwoven in every aspect of school just as we have Catholicism permeate every aspect of our family life and home. Some schools are more successful at this than others. Our children have differing needs so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I have had my children in Catholic schools, secular private schools, and public schools over the years. Each new military assignment brought with it an assessment of the best educational and spiritual environment for my kids. Sending your children to a non-Catholic school means you are accepting the responsibility for creating an environment of Catholic culture for your children. I admit I sometimes feel a bit resentful of all the celebration and praise during Catholic Schools Week. What about those of us who are home-schooling or sending our children to public schools? We are making sure our kids get to Mass on Holy Days, celebrating the religious significance of Christmas and Easter, and looking and sounding Catholic. I would love to have them say a Rosary during the school day but they don’t so I have to make sure we do it at home. It certainly would be nice if the Bishops acknowledged and supported all the “domestic churches” that provide the primary religious education for our children. Catholic schools can be a very beneficial and viable option, but they are by no means the only option.