When I was a little girl, I hated going to Mass.
My father wasn’t Catholic, and we all know how hard it is to take little kids to Mass. So for the first six years of my life, I mostly stayed home on Sundays with Daddy. Sometimes we’d drop my mother off and then go out for waffles at Krystal, or drive around the cones in the parking lot, or visit the Torchbearer statue. Other times we’d stay home and watch Rocky and Bullwinkle. Either option was way more fun than church, in my opinion, and I was resentful when it came time to prepare for First Communion when I was told I’d have to attend regularly from then on while my sister got to be the one to stay home and have fun.
So the very first thing I resolved upon having children is that they would attend Mass every Sunday from babyhood on up. That way, I reasoned, they would be used to it and accept it as just what you do on a Sunday.
We followed through with this, starting about two weeks after each one was born and dressing them in a special “first day at church” outfit that was my husband’s when he was a baby.
But we didn’t want to be the folks who just showed up for one hour on Sunday. We wanted our kids to feel like a part of the community. I joined–and later ran–the weekly Moms’ Group, which we attended weekly from the time I was expecting Jake until Teddy started kindergarten. So my kids had friends to visit with at church on Sunday, just like I did. We attended every parish social event. John became very involved in the Knights of Columbus and our kids came along to Masses and picnics and even conventions.
When it was time for school we enrolled them in the same parochial school I attended. With an occasional break for homeschooling, my first three kids were in Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, receiving an excellent religious education, making mostly Catholic friends, and benefiting from the intertwining of Catholic values into every aspect of the school day.
But we didn’t leave religion for school and Sundays! I minored in Theology at Georgetown and our family thrives on continued education, conversation, and debate. So we discussed the faith, explained it, answered questions. We owned and used a Catechism. We talked frequently about the importance of faith in daily life, and how our values should impact the way we live in the world. I chaired the Deanery Respect Life Committee and wrote for the Catholic press. John rose in the KOC ranks. Both of us served long terms on our parish council. And our kids heard about it all.
We said morning prayers and prayers before meals. We had an Advent wreath and a Jesse Tree. Our house was Catholic in appearance, with religious pictures and statues in almost every room, complete with a kitchen Madonna on the window sill and a picture of Mary hanging laundry next to the washing machine.
In short, we took the job of raising Catholic kids very seriously indeed. I grew up hearing about “fallen away” Catholics. I knew big Catholic families where one of the kids had stopped going to Mass. I often wondered what had gone wrong with those kids, since personally I could no more imagine leaving Catholicism intentionally than I could imagine willfully ceasing to breathe.
So there you have my tips for raising Catholic kids. I suppose I could have done more, but most of my child rearing happened before I discovered the Catholic blogosphere. I thought rigorously celebrating Advent was pretty hard core. I didn’t know anyone who had in-home rituals for celebrating every liturgical feast. If I’d known about those celebrations, I would probably have incorporated some of that into our family’s life as well.
Honestly, I’ve written this post in my head for months, ever since I knew this topic was on the CWBN agenda, and I’ve been dreading it. Because today I have five kids, aged 12, 16, 22, 23, and 26. From my own experience and that of others I know that young adults are not always regular in their practice of the faith of their youth, for whatever reasons. Typically this resolves itself after marriage and children if not before. But without going into great detail because at this age their stories are not mine to tell, there is a real possibility that despite all this Catholic upbringing at least one of my kids will be in that “fallen away” camp, and I won’t pretend that doesn’t break my heart.
Whatever happens, I’m confident that many Catholic values are imprinted on the hearts of my children and that they possess a Catholic worldview whether they realize it or not.
Click below for more personal stories on keeping kids Catholic from the other ladies of the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network.
When I was a little girl, I hated going to Mass.
I didn’t know what a Catechism was until my late-20s! I was one of those who left the Church as a young adult; but, you are correct – many of us seem to return after marriage and having our own families. I credit my itty-bitty son (at the time) with my return… I realized if something happened to him before the age of reason, and something happened to me, I wanted to give myself a fighting chance to be with him in eternity!
And, I love how you state so eloquently your children’s “stories aren’t mine to tell.” I love that line! You continue to be my mom-model! You are an inspiration, and I am so glad I found you in the Catholic blogosphere – because your tips ‘n tricks inspire me!
Thanks, Anni. I needed your uplifting words because writing that post left me feeling a bit down.
Aww!! Hugs!! You have done a phenomenal job, and I can only hope to do half as much for your children – to raise them level-headed, faith-filled, and loving – for my own!