I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting a class at our parish on “Building Your Domestic Church”. So far, so good. We are having a reasonable turnout to each session and the feedback has been positive. We have covered (1) The Five Pillars of a Catholic Family (2) Keeping Parents Catholic, and (3) Keeping Your Home Catholic. This course is loosely based on the book by Bert Ghezzi, Keeping Your Kids Catholic. This week we will cover the topic Keeping Your Teens Catholic. In preparation for this presentation, I went to my own teens and twenty-somethings. I asked, “What did we do as a family that helps or helped you make it through your teenage years with your faith intact. The answers were as varied as my children. Interestingly, several points they noted were as much about parenting in general as they were about specifically teaching the faith.
One child pointed to the fact that we usually did not have cable television and we never had gaming consoles. We also didn’t buy a lot of the faddish gadgety toys. This is not an indictment of cable television or gaming consoles. But resisting the norms of the culture because they did not fit our lifestyle gave her a sense that the standards in our household were different than the general cultural standards. She knew we set the bar higher. That helped her to resist peer pressure and follow the principles of our family. She also knew these principles were guided by our Catholic faith so the faith was very relevant to her day-to-day life.
More than one child pointed to our commitment to going to Mass, no matter what. We went to great lengths to make it to Mass, even if we were camping or traveling. That left no doubt about the primacy of our faith.
When my children were not enrolled in Catholic schools they were enrolled in the parish CCD program. When they returned from class they knew they would be asked about the lesson. If my husband or I didn’t think the lesson was adequate, we would expound upon it. Similarly, the question “What feast day is it?” would send kids scrambling to the refrigerator to look at the Catholic calendar. One child told me this more academic approach to the faith gave him an appreciation of the saints as well as Church history. It appealed to his intellectual side. Of course, this approach also meant my husband and I had to keep studying to keep these quick snatches of catechesis interesting.
Finally, I heard from a twenty-something that my always asking questions like “Where are you going?”, “Who else is going?”, “What are you doing?”, let him know that he was important to me. We often joked that an important guiding principle for behavior is WWJD-What would Jesus Do, but another standard not to be ignored is WWMS—What Would Mom Say. We established clear boundaries and expected teens to respect them. We had confidence that our kids could meet these expectations so they had the self-confidence to expect this of themselves.
My husband and I are not perfect parents and my children are not perfect kids. In the grand scheme of teenage angst, however, we’ve done pretty well. What the kids didn’t mention, but what I know in my heart, is that credit for any parenting success really belongs to the Holy Spirit. I have spent a great deal of time on my knees asking the Holy Spirit to fill my children’s hearts and guide them. I have asked for the Holy Spirit to give me the words I need to teach them.
If you would like to attend any of the remaining Building Your Domestic Church sessions, you can get the information here.