If You Want Faithful Children, Let Them See Your Own-Faith Every Day

Parents, whether they realized it or not, are the main influencers of their children’s understanding and practice of the faith.

Robert Mixa – Word on Fire Blog –

Religion sociologist Christian Smith of the University of Notre Dame has been arguing for years on behalf of what various data routinely prove: the best guarantor that children will practice the faith is whether their parents are practicing the faith in meaningful and integrated ways and, most importantly, talking about religious matters at home.

That may seem an obvious point, but one not sufficiently attended to in a Church accustomed to relying on institutional programs (or now social media campaigns) for passing on the faith. But instruction in living as Catholics needs more than classes or campaigns. Parents most influence the religious lives of their children, both in positive and negative ways, especially in how they talk about religious matters. Given that parents are able to spend a lot more time with their kids at home these days, we need to do a better job of equipping parents to discuss religious matters with their children in intelligent, constructive, and meaningfully lived ways.

Attention to religious matters in the home plays a big role in children becoming religious as adults. Children have to see that the faith is a source of meaning and hopefulness within their parents’ life. It is not enough to simply teach the content of the faith. The kids need to see the living witness.

My preparation for the priesthood in the seminary was in a certain sense preceded by the preparation I received in my family, thanks to the life and example of my parents. Above all I am grateful to my father. . . . Day after day I was able to observe the austere way in which he lived. By profession he was a soldier and, after my mother’s death, his life became one of constant prayer. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary.

St. Pope John Paul II

As a young boy, John Paul II saw that the faith had real meaning in his family. His parents’ witness informed him for a lifetime. And so it goes today: parents are the main influence on the faith life of their children. Plant the seeds of faith at home, water it with practice and conversation, and thank the Lord as you watch it grow.

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