My son’s question…
As I sat with my older 3 kids last night waiting for Ash Wednesday Mass to begin, my 10 year old son was having an attitude about being at church. It’s not really out of the norm for one of them to grumble about it, so I politely explained to him how important it is that we do everything for God.
He then asked me a question that none of them have ever asked me: Dad, what if God isn’t real? Would we still have to go to church?
Wow – how do you respond to this as a parent? How would I respond to this if another adult asked me this question?
My response to him…
Here’s how I responded: We wouldn’t exist without God. Nothing that is here in the world today would exist. There would be a big emptiness. Luckily, son, God is real, and it is because of what Jesus has done for us and promised us that we are here tonight, and every week.
Within the same discussion, he said, “Dad, I don’t want to get the ashes on my forehead.”
I explained to him why we get the ashes and asked why he didn’t want them. His answer? “The priest has germs and the ashes are hot because they come from a volcano.”
I don’t know if it’s his age, or what, but he’s really been a tough one to get involved and interested in church. As the spiritual leader in my house, though, it’s my job to keep him steered in the right direction. He received his First Communion a few years ago and has gone to Confession several times. He attends Religious Education classes every Sunday through Easter, but the remaining time after that he attends Mass with the family.
What I can do as a dad…
I’m going to keep steering him towards God and encouraging him. Sometimes I forget he’s only 10 and that he gets nervous about things. I also forget that when I was 10, I was a Southern Baptist preacher’s son, and I didn’t always want to be there, but my parents didn’t give up. They did what I’m doing today. They kept me in church and learning about God. Going to church wasn’t optional, it was our way of life and tradition.
This year for Lent, I’ve really thought about how I can give back to others, including my family. I spend a lot of time doing things that don’t really have much value to others. Like any typical man, I love video games – mainly, sports games on the XBox. I stopped to think that if I spent as much time with my kids reading and praying with them as I do on other things, maybe they would grow in their faith more than they have. It really hit home with me when I started thinking about all the time I have wasted. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ok to have occasional “me” time, but it needs to be limited, and it doesn’t need to interfere with family time.
When I pondered my son’s attitude and questions again, I realized it all comes back to how well we teach him and raise him in the Catholic faith. Are we truly being mirror images of Jesus Christ? Or are we too busy getting wrapped up in our busy lives? If we can’t answer this question honestly and quickly, chances are we have work to do.
I see myself in him…
I see so much of me in my oldest son that I almost feel like I’m talking to myself sometimes. He’s a sweet, caring, smart boy who is trying to find his place and purpose in this world. He needs my guidance and my support. School and RE teachers can only do so much. The real evangilization comes from mom and dad. What can we do to further his spiritual development? What are we doing today to hinder it?
Prayer is a great place, and the best place, to start as a parent. Instead of trying to do things on our own, we need to ask God for help. We don’t have to be in this parenting thing alone, and we aren’t. We should ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for us and pray that God touch our lives as parents, and our kids as they learn and grow. Pray the Rosary. There is no better way to touch the heart of Jesus than praying His rosary!
I really hope I can get through to my kids that going to church and being Catholic shouldn’t be something they regret. It is what defines us. As Christians, we are called to reflect Christ in all that we do. If we aren’t doing that with our own family members, how can we expect to change the world?