Catholic at Home: Action and Audience
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
My husband Andrew and I have five kids this side of heaven. Five kids from age 10 down to 3, and every single one does an on-point job of imitating us. Our gestures, mannerisms and general approaches to life are all under the vigilant speculation of absorbing eyes. It’s fun, isn’t it, to see how much like you your kids turn out to be?
IT’S ALSO A BIG WAKE UP CALL.
For years now, I’ve known that the role of educator goes hand-in-hand with parenthood; but those of us with any number of kids know we’re not just any educators – we’re the first above all others. It’s through us that our kids learn what’s important in life; they catch on to our attitudes and quirks, our phrases and beliefs. I’ve witnessed that even from within the womb, a child learns his mother’s vocal inflection.
Further in life, kids take on their parents’ passions and personality traits. It’s easy for me to take a good look at my own characteristics and trace them back to one or both of my parents. I have my mom’s penchant for house plants and spontaneity, and my dad’s sense of practicality and love for dogs. While I learned life lessons in the formality of conversations at the kitchen table, most of the principles I learned were in our day-to-day encounters. There was no planning involved, just action and audience. My parents had my full attention whether they knew it or not.
The short version is that, as a parent, you’re the first place your kids will look to for how to work and play and, more importantly, how to connect with God. Though we might supplement our kids’ catechetical instruction with Catholic schools or CCD, the foundation is their encounter with faith at home, the domestic church. The Catechism states, “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God” (CCC 2226). This isn’t just a responsibility, but a privilege exclusive to us.
Our kids are going to imitate us; there’s no getting around it. Regardless if we present ourselves as the very epitome of Catholic living or allow our shortcomings to show, children’s eyes and ears are ever keen to their parents’ examples.
One of my favorite saintly quotations comes form St.Therese: “The world is thy ship and not thy home.” In this simple concept lies the fact that, though we are blessed and tried by earthly lives, we were made for full union with God, which, in no uncertain terms, means that heaven is our real home. It’s where we’re meant to be.
We see evidence of this all the time, don’t we? The troubles, sin, injustices and pains of this world, if we pay attention, effect in our hearts a yearning for relief and peace well beyond what the world could possibly offer. Above anything and everything else, we should teach our children that it’s the life beyond that we’re living for now.
WHICH IS A TALL ORDER.
In order to convey such big, important truths to the young souls in our care, we have to begin simply and start with ourselves. If we hope our children will love Jesus, we have to open ourselves to the love He has for us. If we talk to Jesus like the friend and Savior He is, we’ll educate our children in the most important way. They’ll learn that, though we’re immersed in this world, it’s the one beyond that’s worth living for. It’s a challenge, but one we face in the company of God, Whose grace abounds. We can achieve all that He asks, including the blessing of educating our children.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.