In case it wasn't obvious by the former nun and former monk getting hitched business that is our life, and our 4 kids in 5 years, we are Catholic. Because our faith is so important to us, we are trying our best to teach our children about the faith they are inheriting from us. Our TV stand has an earthen tone Nativity (it doesn't look Christmas-y as it is in muted colours, so I don't feel ridiculous having it out year round. Plus, I loves me my baby Jesus!), a statue of St. Francis with a deer (a gift from the Franciscans for our baby girl's baptism. A nice replacement for our old statue we bought on our honeymoon that got knocked over and decapitated by oldest boy), and a small statue of Our Lady of Guadaloupe (bought when I was preggers with baby girl. She was with us in the delivery room and was a great focal point). Our house is also littered with a few pictures of our favourite saints (St. Mary, St. Joseph, St. Monica and St. Augustine, St. Padre Pio, and Blessed JPII) and a cross-stitch of the Prayer of St. Francis made by hubby's Mom. Thanks to both sets of grandparents and our friends, the kids also have a large collection of books related to the life of Christ and various Saints. When he was about 20 months old, our oldest son started to ask if he could take a rosary to bed with him, so he could have "his" Jesus with him. I'm not here to give you an inventory of our home, or trying to look holy or whatnot. I'm just trying to give a sense of the daily normalcy of our Catholicism.
To some people who don't share our values or our particular faith, this may look like brainwashing. You might see our statues, relics, rosaries and stash of Christian books, and think that we're forcing our beliefs on their young minds on a consistent basis. From the perspect of faith, of any faith mind you, not just Christian, a faith worth believing in is a gift that is worth sharing. Belief in a benevolent Creator, who has knows us in every way, is a great comfort as we go through our lives.
As those of you with small children know, everything they do feels like life or death to them, including whether or not they get to have another cookie. Given the fact that we as parents are not perfect, I find it important to be able to point them to a holy Mother and perfect Father to give comfort to them in their darkest hour, even if that darkness seems a little, well, melodramatic to us. We need to realise God made them, knowing that they'd be children, and then even in their littleness He knows them and wants to comfort them in all their struggles. Having the presence of God be real to them from birth can be a true gift that can help them in their frustrations and fears. God's Fatherhood can stand alongside our parenthood without getting in the way. His Fatherhood supports us, and makes good of our parenting when our children are small and we're still learning what it means to be a parent.
By the time they are teenagers it may already be too late to start introducing them to God in the authentic way we can introduce Him to a child who is still full of awe and wonder. In my experience with teenagers, their ability to have perspective on their lives is arrested by the thick fog of hormones, peer pressure, and the isolated life of junior high and high school. How many of us spent our teen years filled with anxiety and writing dramatic poetry about what we would consider now to be small problems? While I felt like I was being swallowed up by the drama in my life, I felt I couldn't talk to my parents because they simply didn't, wouldn't, or couldn't understand. I can see now that wasn't true, but as a teenager that's how I felt. It was in those times that my faith grew from the firm foundation of my childhood into something more personal. I was able to take the lessons of my childhood and use them in my own life. It was about this time that I started reading the Psalms. Nobody does drama quite like King David. I joined him in crying out to God in the depths of my despair, wanting so badly to trust that He would carry me through. And carry me He did. If my parents hadn't taught me about our faith, or spoke of God's love and faithfulness, I'm not sure where I would have turned.
I'm not saying that teaching our children about our faith is going to automatically help them face every problem with great fortitude and grace. I just know that some day, one of them will have a problem they are struggling with, a problem they think is bigger than them and than us. When they're faced with that problem I want to know that we've given them every resource we can to get them through it. The first time they need to utter a prayer not of thanksgiving, but of despair and hopelessness, I hope that praying to the God who they already know loves them, cherishes them, and protects them, will make it a little easier for them. If they know and trust in God, perhaps those troubles that come to them won't seem so great. I want to teach my children about God, because I want them to know they are never forgotten. There is a plan for them even greater than they can imagine. They are always loved. If that faith can start as a child, and stay with them through their teenage years and then into adulthood, I will be able to face them knowing that if I failed in all else, I can be sure I gave them one great gift that will be a testament of my love for them.