“Much current research and a great deal of anecdotal evidence supports the premise that most adult Catholics are active in the Church today because they were formed in faith by their own parents. Of course, some adults do come to the Church as adults. And, of course, many adults whose parents took great care to form them have drifted away from the regular practice of their faith. Nevertheless, most adult Catholics remain active in their faith because they were formed by their parents. This is faith formation that lasts a lifetime! It does not end with primary school.
Study after study highlights the importance of this. People experience less difficulty with drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide, and family tension when they regularly come to church; children and teens are more likely to do well in school, stay close to their families, and experience a greater sense of well-being when they regularly participate in Mass and parish activities with their families.
Parents, we must now help our children to grow up Catholic in new and more effective ways. The fact is that we cannot substitute anyone else for the work of faith formation. Parents are the key players. They are forming their children whether they practice their faith or not. If they are active in their faith, their children see faith in them and see in that a “hidden message” that faith is important and that we are responding to God’s call when we respond in faith. If they are not active, their children see a “hidden message” in that as well: that faith is not very important in daily life and that it is optional.
This latter belief, that faith is something optional that we can choose or not, lies at the heart of the challenge for us. In fact, faith is a response we make to God revealing God’s self to us in many, fascinating ways. It’s a response, more than a choice. The response we make arises within us when we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit. Within each human person is a great, mysterious force, the force and power of love – which is where God touches our hearts and sets us free.
When we yield to it and respond, we find ourselves falling headlong into the teachings of Jesus: forgiveness, generosity, hospitality, shared meals, community life, commitments of love. The more we yield to this, the more we live in that loving, divine power. The Church helps us do this in ways that cannot be replaced by any other agency in the world. It makes sacramental the daily experience of forgiveness, shared meals, and love. It provides the community context in which faith is nurtured and formed.
Cultivating deep communion with Christ is the journey of each Christian, each Catholic. Such a deep communion is “of the heart” more than “of the head”. Faith, therefore, is not something to be “understood” as much as something to be “lived”. You can’t learn to live faith in a classroom setting alone. You can’t learn it in any faith formation or school setting alone. What happens in those settings is important, but it only works when faith is being lived outside of those settings. So here it is, the key idea: Faith is lived. This should help us understand why parents are so vital in the faith formation of children.”
By Bill Huebsch , author and director of the on-line Pastoral Center at Twenty-Third Publications
Parents, take the opportunity this year to get involved in our faith formation process at Nativity Church. We have “great expectations” for our parents to take the primary role in forming their own children and in being part of the parish process of faith formation. Call Kathy at 232-2414 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org