How about that Jesus!
September 1, 2012
By Jeanne Hunt
This time of year in our town, everyone loves baseball. The stadium is filled with grandparents, parents and kids all rooting on the amazing championship team.
In the market, gas station and everywhere else people begin their greeting with, “How about those Reds!” From the time children in our town are old enough to sit up; families take them to ball games and teach their children to love it. The thought came to me that this natural passion for sports is similar to having a passion for our Catholic faith.
What if we brought our children to church with the same enthusiasm we take them to the stadium? If we witnessed our love for Christ the way we witness our love for sports. People would greet each other saying, “How about that Jesus!” It would be a different scene on Sunday. In fact, folks would be fighting for pew space (or so, my imagination conjectured).
Marissa is three years old. She is going to Mass for the first time and she is sitting between her dad and her grandma. It is the early Sunday Mass, the no frills version without music that the speeding Catholics enjoy. They are sitting quietly when everyone rises to recite the Gloria. Marissa looks puzzled and says to Grandma, “Who are they talking to?” Grandma tells her that we are talking to God…. and so the catechesis of her little granddaughter begins.
It’s probable that Marissa is thinking, “Who is this guy called “God?” ”Why is everyone talking the same words together?” “Daddy and Grandma know the words too.” Just like teaching her about strikes and ball… two generations show her the way to God.
What we have come to discover is that faith is handed on by what we do fa more than what we say. It is easier to show faith than to explain it. For instance, if we want a child to love baseball, we start taking the child to the stadium and sharing the excitement and drama of the game with them. Then, we start tossing the ball at home. Pretty soon our devotion to the local team is passed on to our child. The whole family loves to watch and play baseball and the next generation catches that passion. Yet, we have not translated that process into the way in which we pass on the gift of the Catholic faith.
Actually, this idea that creating a Catholic child only requires that the parents be good Catholics takes the pressure off. We don’t need to attend a skills workshop, do homework pages on the catechism, and join a support group or any other tool we use to teach children academic subjects. We just need to pray with them, take them to mass, tell our story of faith to them and live an active Catholic life. Yet, it might mean that the pressure is back on, because we must be a strong faith filled family rather than a lukewarm one. So, the pressure is on in a far more important way. We can pretty much assume that our children are going to be the same kind of Catholic that we are.
However, just like baseball, passing on the faith requires the layered approach: Multiple generations bring faith to a child. God comes to us in layers, layers of family, layers of friends, layers of time. We cannot learn about faith or God or church in a vacuum.
Children seem to grasp it much easier when the circle of their lives reflects a common passion for faith. When children are immersed in a family that actually lives their faith, they “get it”. This idea is called Inter-generational Catechesis. Its major proponent, John Roberto, will be at the archdiocesan Summit in October to encourage us to consider passing down our faith as a multigenerational family. In retrospect, “How about that Jesus!” makes a lot more sense than “How about those Reds!”
Hunt is a nationally recognized catechetical leader and author.