One of the most common and sharpest pain priests hear about is the sorrow parents and grandparents feel about their children not practicing their Faith, not going to mass.
They look back over the years spent getting children to religious education, making all their sacraments, fighting and arguing on the way to church, and throwing hands up they exclaim, “How did I fail them? What did I do wrong?”
It’s a big issue, not something to solve in this little article. But here are a few thoughts that might ease the pain and point to hope for the future.
First off, you are not the perfect parent. (Mary and Joseph came the closest to that, and even they lost track of their boy for 3 days!). You yourself were imperfectly formed by your parents and on and on back into time. GOD KNOWS THIS ABOUT YOU. God judges your heart and your intentions for your children, not the imperfect answers you gave them in those embarrassing conversations about Faith and morality.
If in fact you know how it was that you came up short (laziness, lack of faith earlier in your life), you may want to share with your children how you regret your earlier lack of faith or your half-hearted efforts to share your be-lief. But now you’ve grown to see the power of Faith to change your life. Yes, an acknowledgement from mom or dad about their own shortcomings can go a long way to heal old wounds and angry accusations.
Secondly, it’s not too late to share your faith. No longer grade-schoolers, your children still look to you for love and guidance. But this time around it has to be different. They need to see how your faith and religious practices make a difference in your life. They need adult answers.
“So, mom/dad, you believe in Jesus right? Does that make you better than others? How does that help you live your life? How will it help me?” Think long and hard about your answer. People need to see that following Christ re-ally makes a difference in how you live.
Are you . . . more Patient? Generous? Hopeful? Selfless? Forgiving? Less judgmental? Do you try to think the best of people? Are you happy? Are you ready to point out what’s good in a situation (even though there’s darkness everywhere)? Why? How does Faith help you do these things? These are just a few of the signs that shine through a life that finds its meaning by following Jesus Christ. If we don’t exhibit these why would someone want to practice our religion?
Third. Life is a strong teacher. It brings lessons we never thought we’d have to encounter – – poverty, sickness, tragedy, broken relationships. But also there are moments of inexpressible joy – – first love, a baby, some victory in sport, the job you’ve worked so hard for.
These moments are full of “God possibilities”. God uses the events of our life to come to us with His strength when we are weak and can’t go on. Or, He comes to us in times of joy to remind us that life is a gift and in the end, love wins. Lastly, God knows your child better than you do. God knows why they do what they do to keep Him away. God also knows the secret goodness your son or daughter already has for God (you don’t!).
So? Trust God to find moments of love to lure your child into heaven. And . . . be ready to be an instrument of gentle, gracious, patient witness to God in YOUR LIFE. And then? Pray. Pray. . . . pray some more.
Love wins. All will be well.
Why? Simple. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.