19 June 2012

Faith from our Fathers

Our pastor's homily this past Sunday was excellent:  He tied the parable of the mustard seed to our American celebration of Father's Day, connecting the time and effort that go into cultivating a seed in order for it to grow large enough that "the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade" (Mk 4:32) to the time and effort which fathers are called to put into cultivating their children's faith.  Fr. Robert Fath discussed several ways that fathers need to be involved in their children's spiritual upbringing.  Here is an excerpt from his homily:

...Teach your children the Faith. Now many of you are in my generation or on either side. We come out of a Church that quite frankly, the catechesis was not good when we were growing up. The Jesus that we were taught was the warm, fluffy, buddy Jesus. The guy who's standing there giving you high-fives and putting his arm around your shoulder. Now that's not to say that we don't teach our children that God is Love, that Jesus is standing there, walking along the path with us. But teaching our children an authentic faith, one that recognizes God as Lord and Sovereign of the universe, who is loving and just, is what our children need. If you don't know the Faith yourself, pick up the Catechism. Pick up Catholicism for Dummies. Educate yourself in the Faith, so that you can take on your role as the first teachers of the Faith to your children.

This one I think is probably the most important: Take on and live the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. Just as seeds need the proper soil, and nutrients, and water, and care to grow, so do the seeds of faith. Jesus Christ offers us what we need to grow and to flourish if we reach out to Him. He feeds us each and every time we gather around the altar with His Body and Blood. He gives us the strength and nourishment to grow in the Faith. But as we grow, we also need to recognize that we need to protect those seeds of faith from the weeds that grow up in the garden. The only way to do that in our spiritual life is to avail ourselves of the sacrament of reconciliation. You cannot pull the weeds out of the garden of your children if you haven't taken care of your own...

I highly recommend that you listen to the whole thing!  You can find a recording here, under 11th Sun OT Cycle B 2012.

The article he refers to can be found here, and is a thought-provoking read as well.

How rarely do we hear such a clear call to step up and live our roles as parents?  The Catechism clearly states that "parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children" and that "parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children," (CCC 2223), but many "cradle Catholics" can attest that over the past few generations, passing on the Faith has not always seemed to be the highest priority for Catholic parents.  In families where the Faith has been passed on, as Fr. Fath noted, the bulk of the family faith formation has most often been the responsibility of the mother.  How much more effectively our families can create a domestic culture where the Faith thrives when both parents make a conscious effort to be involved, and to teach by their example!

How such a culture is developed will be unique to each individual family.  When I was growing up, there was a clear understanding that no family member-- child or parent --attended events that prevented them from participating in the family dinner each evening, the daily rosary, or attending Mass and other special liturgies with the family.  This helped us to understand what the most important things really were, especially when our parents were also willing to give up other activities to be present.  When Matt was in high school, he was fortunate to belong to a parish with an excellent MC program, and was encouraged to spend time participating in both liturgical and just-for-fun activities with the other MCs and the parochial vicar.  This gave him a broader understanding of how Catholicism can be a part of life beyond "going to church on Sunday."

In our family, we try to incorporate the life and calendar of the Church into our home life: finding fun ways of connecting feast days with daily meals or activities, incorporating seasonal prayers and novenas into our evening prayers, bringing a Catholic worldview to our discussions of current events and the culture...  Does "both parents being involved" mean that I expect Matt to surf the web for novenas and recipes for rose petals during his lunch break at work?  Of course not.  It means-- and this will vary from family to family --that he takes a leading role in our family prayers, that he is open to including prayers and petitions specific to a particular feast day (and it's my job to let him know about them before we begin prayers that evening!), and that he is supportive of my efforts to link meals and activities to the life of the Church, whether that means praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays of Lent or eating hot cross buns during Holy Week. We certainly don't have "the perfect system" down yet, but as we are both committed to working together and asking God's blessing on our efforts, I'm confident that we will continue to improve.

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