Through my travels and speaking engagements, I often come across well-intentioned Catholic parents who are, to put it mildly, frightened about “teaching” their children the Catholic faith. But the truth is that every parent is already equipped to share their faith in transformative ways. It all begins with getting in touch with and sharing your own experience of God in your life.
In 1975, Pope Paul VI wrote what has become a timeless document on evangelization. He wrote that people listen more to witnesses than they do to teachers (Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 41). His words ring true today. Why is this? What is so powerful about personal testimony? How might parents share their faith story with their children?
We see in the life and teaching of Jesus that telling stories is an effective way to share the truths about God and his Kingdom of grace. Interestingly, Jesus does not only tell stories (parables), he also shares his own story with his closest disciples, telling them about his relationship to the Father who is, now, Our Father through baptism in Christ. Jesus teaches by sharing his own personal experience of being the Son of God, and of the love he, the Father, and the Spirit share.
By our baptisms, we have been adopted as Sons and Daughters of God. God has shared his life of grace with us to conform our lives more to his own: a life of love, mercy, and justice that seeks to rehabilitate and heal, not punish and condemn.
Many parents do not realize that they have stories of faith to tell their children. Moms and dads do not think or speak in the language of faith very often. Many of us will look back on our lives at moments of surprise assistance and good fortune, and we will say how lucky we were or how fortunate. These coincidental moments, and myriads of others, are God moments—every one of them! Because God exists and has created all things, there is little to no room for chance, though it is true that we don’t always understand why things happen the way they do. It’s one of those questions we can ask God when we see him.
When it comes to teaching the faith at home, I prefer to use the language of “faith sharing.” Faith is first experienced and later described and repeated in doctrinal form. Many young children and adults have profound experiences of faith though they lack the words to articulate them. They sense the hand of the Divine in their lives, but may not feel comfortable describing the experience.
Many parents do not realize that they have stories of faith to tell their children.
As primary faith sharers, parents have the ability to do three things:
Learning about the teachings of the Church can help parents to articulate their faith experiences more fully and authentically, rooting their personal experience (and their children’s) in the rich Tradition of Catholicism. There are many resources that can help parents understand, express, and live out the Church’s teachings.
A great way to reflect on the role and place of God in our lives is to journal. Writing down or journaling your thoughts about God and faith is an important way to being rediscovering your life within the language and context of faith and God’s love.
Read a little Scripture each day, pray about what you read, and ask God to help you understand how what you read applies, or has applied, to your life. This kind of prayerful reading is known as lectio divina or “divine reading.”
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits (officially knowns as the Society of Jesus or SJs) gave the Church a beautiful practice for reflecting daily on our relationship with God. It’s known as the examen. There are many examples of the examen, but the simpler the better, especially for beginners! The examen is composed of a series of questions that help us to reflect on God’s love in our day and how we responded or failed to respond. The following is a simple example to consider:
Support parents as they share their faith story with their children during the summer or any time of year. Download and share an eBook that outlines the key Dos and Don'ts of sharing family faith.
This post is the second in a series of three posts guest authored by Dcn. Matthew Halbach, PhD. He is the Executive Director of Catechesis for William H. Sadlier, Inc. and a a member of the USCCB National Advisory Council. He earned his PhD in Catechetics from The Catholic University of America in 2014. He is married with six children. As the “Deacon Doctor,” Deacon Halbach will be a featured guest blogger throughout the summer on the Sadlier Religion Blog on the topic of Summer, Family and Faith. Subscribe now to catch the last post in this exciting series.