This is part of an article by Theresa Thomas. You can read the complete article here.
I think there is a danger in thinking that a person is “done” at 18, that a child is “raised well” (or not) by then. After all, which of us is totally complete, finally the person God calls us to be even before we hit the second decade age mark? Moving towards God and towards heaven takes an entire life’s work. In the early years, parents are critical in launching the child in this direction. Later on, the decision, responsibility and privilege will be his own. But it is a process, and we have to remember that.
That being said, what should good parents know in order to raise their children well in the Faith? And what should parents do?
What Parents Should Know
Since the time Jesus walked the earth Christian beliefs and Christians themselves have been persecuted. We need to arm ourselves with a joyful demeanor and live the Christian live fully without expecting it to be easy or to be applauded.
The world will frequently contradict our desires to be modest, chaste, kind, generous, patient, temperate, and holy. We must be modest, chaste, kind, generous, patient, temperate and holy anyway.
The world will tell us to pursue materialism, earthly goods, fame, power, “success”. We must reject that and reach for higher goals, and teach our children to do the same. We have to expect to be revolutionaries, of sorts, radically living in peace, for Christ. And remember, revolutionaries don’t necessarily have support groups.
Yes, there may be pockets here and there of support, of like-minded people who are striving to raise their children the way that we are, and finding these folks will be blessed relief and consolation, like cold water is to a thirsty soul. Indeed, we should seek out like-minded parents to network and brainstorm with them, but we must not expect to rely on them in all cases, at all times. God alone will be our perfect strength as we seek to do His will, well, in our families.
Second, parents should also know that children learn far more from example than preaching or formal lessons. The best way we can raise good Catholic children is to be good Catholic people ourselves. Children learn temperance by seeing us model that. They learn kindness of speech by seeing that exemplified in us. They learn to love the Mass and sacraments when we love the Mass and sacraments and bring them with us to experience them.
We don’t need to preach to the children the importance of praying the rosary, although sharing stories and the Church’s guidance in this regard is good. We need to give them little plastic rosaries when they are just toddlers and snuggle with them on our laps as we recite the mysteries and pray this prayer ourselves. Our Catholic faith must be totally and entirely integrated in our lives, both for our own good and so our children can absorb it.
Third, parents should know that perseverance is essential because suffering often comes with the territory of raising children. This can be difficult to understand when one in the midst of it, especially at the beginning. We might initially address child-raising like we have other ‘projects’- We make a plan. We give our best efforts. We expect immediate positive results because we have tried so hard and done our research.
Yet, raising good Catholic children is not like any other “project”. It takes more time, more faith, more trust than anything else we have ever done. Sometimes situations arise in child-rearing that challenge us to the very core of ourselves and elicit suffering, sometimes great suffering. This is perfectly normal. You see, God molds us as we mold our children. These are “growing pains”, of sorts. The growth toward holiness , in fact should, be a family endeavor. If we stay close to Him we have nothing to fear and are assured of “success,” in His time, in His way.
One day when I was at Mass, I suddenly and surely felt that a distinct part of the vocation of mothers is to suffer for their children. I sincerely believe that when we unite our daily sufferings to those of Jesus on the cross, our suffering can be redemptive. Our children may be buoyed by our generosity and spirit of acceptance when they would otherwise be tempted to falter just by our offering our sufferings for them.
And we all know the outcome of that story- St. Monica became a great saint, as did her son St. Augustine, who was also named a Doctor of the Church. We would all do well to emulate the example of Saint Monica and be relentless prayer warriors for our children.
What Parents Should Do
There is no formula for raising good Catholic children into good Catholic adults, but we can utilize a strategy that many parents have discovered and which really isn’t that complicated.
It is best remembered by thinking of the seven Rs: Receive, Read, Remember, Remain, Rely, Rejoice, Relax.
-Receive the sacraments soon and frequently. This cannot be emphasized enough. Baptize babies immediately. If Aunt Martha can’t make it for two months to see the baby, go ahead and throw the baptismal party when it’s convenient for her, but don’t postpone the sacrament to fit her or anyone’s schedule. It is most important that the child receive his baptism as soon as possible after birth. It is less important that mom is up for visitors, and more important that the baby enter the Church. On a similar note, make a family confession date every single month. Some families like to go out for ice cream afterwards or plan another little treat. The sacrament of confession is critical for the spiritual growth of everyone. We wouldn’t dream of going months without showering, which cleanses our bodies, so why should we consider going more than a month without Confession, which cleanses our souls? Last, we should take the children to Mass more than once a week on Sunday. An entire book can be written why, but suffice it to say here they will grow spiritually, learn how to better behave and we mothers will reap benefits as well.
-Read to your child. Start with simple toddler bible stories when they are small, then move on to other Catholic board books and short stories which teach the Faith in simple terms. Incorporate these into evening story time. As your child grows older, add the “real” bible, the catechism, enriching words from all sources. Take the time to teach your children simple apologetics. The complexity of the apologetics books chosen can grow with your child’s age and wisdom. Snuggling on the sofa with a good book and your child can be bonding like few things are, and will help your child grow in Faith if you choose the right reading.
-Remember that you are not alone. Your spouse is your partner in raising your child in the Faith. Daddies offer perspectives and wisdom that mommies can’t, simply because they are men and we are not. Be a team player and be open to your spouse’s ideas and suggestions.
-Remain steadfast. Endure. My husband is a golfer. He relates to life on a sport’s level. He recently put it this way: “I can control my swing and mindset on the golf course, but not the weather. It may rain. The wind may blow. I can’t control that. But I tee up the ball with the proper mindset and orchestrate the mechanics of my swing the best I can. I think positively and keep moving forward.” Life is not a game of golf, but the idea of controlling what we can and trusting the rest to God is a good plan.
-Rely on God’s good graces. Trust Him.
-Rejoice. Be thankful. Enjoy each moment, each stage and yes, each challenge. As we strive to raise our children well we will see personal growth too. God is so good.
-Relax. Give yourself a break when you need one, and find ways to spiritually re-charge. Attend a bible study at your parish alone, take time for personal prayer, or meet a like-minded friend for lunch and exchange of ideas. Try hard but don’t expect perfection right off the bat. If you falter, forgive yourself and get up and try again. Remember a fool sits enjoying a mud puddle, but an equal fool may recognize his situation yet sits and laments his fate in the puddle without trying to get out. A wise person recognizes when she is deep “in the mud”, gets up, wipes herself off (Confession) and tries again, careful to avoid the puddle the next time.
An eighth “R” might also be to recognize that “success” is not measured by external cues alone. God works in mysterious ways in the deep recesses of the human soul. He is working on our children as He is working on us. Trust Him.
SOURCE: What Every Mother Needs to Know About Raising Catholic Kids