Parents: Primary Catechists
“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery-the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.’ Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them.” (CCC 2223)
“Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.” (CCC 2226)
Being a parent can be a daunting task, even in the best of situations. In today’s society, a parent has to deal with many challenges such as: consumerism, technology, the media, and many other issues. As parents we are responsible for the moral and faith formation of our children. Some parents are unaware of their duties as teachers and models of faith within their homes. Some parents seem to think that their role in the faith formation of their children is to take their children to church for the sacraments of initiation -- Baptism, Communion and Confirmation — and relinquish their responsibility to the priest, the religious sister, and the catechists who instruct their children on basic doctrine.
However, we know that nothing and no one can replace the influence of the example of a parent on the spiritual life of a child.
Many parents feel less than adequate to teach their children religion. Perhaps this is partly because of a misguided presupposition that “religion” is just a school subject. It is, of course, but it is so much more. It is true that what we call “catechesis” is a process of instructing people in the knowledge and practice of the faith. It includes the teaching of specific content involved the creed that we profess, prayer, moral teaching and the sacraments.
Religion, however, is much more than a school subject. It is a way of living. By taking the time to pray - both at home and in Church - families show their children the importance of a God-centered life. Opportunities for prayer are as varied as the experiences of life: before and after sleeping, eating, traveling, playing, studying - even shopping or acquiring things! Yes, it is not a bad idea to pray for the wise use of our material resources when there are so many temptations to waste them on non-essentials that do not bring lasting happiness. No prayer, however, surpasses the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially on Sundays.
The decision to bring the whole family to Church every Sunday, in addition to being an occasion to be fed by the Gospel and the Bread of Heaven, communicates to children that life is more than work or sports, important as both activities are. Sunday Mass communicates the message that we are worth more than what we do, that there we have a Savior who wants to come to us and give us something we can get from nowhere else: total forgiving mercy and eternal life.
The essence of our Christian Faith, however, is really a Person: Jesus Christ. It is all about our relationship with him and his Church, which is his mystical body. Christ saves us through us. The experience of being a member of a family which has Jesus as its center - and lives this conviction each day - is something every parent can provide who wishes to, regardless of their level of theological sophistication or book learning. Just “come and see,” as Jesus invites us.