Most of us feel ill-equipped to provide answers to all the questions that children may have about faith. What if they ask us about the statues or the prayers or why we celebrate Pentecost? What IS Pentecost, anyway?!
Knowing things about our faith is important, but I find it much easier to share from the heart and the action-side of faith. The practice of saying a short prayer before we eat dinner. The act of inviting people to our home and showing hospitality. Breaking bread together, whether you are around an altar or around your dining table, is an act of showing Jesus’ love and living out your faith in community.
Life moves fast, though technology isolates us from one another and our busy schedules keep us moving at warp speed. Within this landscape, feeling connected to others and to our faith can be difficult. Extended families rarely live in close proximity, parents work long hours, children are overwhelmed by homework and extra-curriculars and all the while, parents may feel isolated in raising their own children.
Our need for community hasn’t changed. We still need to be needed, cared for, noticed, known. We need shared experiences with others, friends to rely on, witnesses to our lives. So how can we, as a church family or school community, take action to consider all of this and extend that invitation to the overworked, overscheduled young families of today?
First, we can make it easy for parents to attend church or small faith sharing groups and special occasions in our communities. If possible, provide childcare or children’s liturgy, personally invite families to send their children along so they feel that sense of belonging and welcome. Second, try pairing families with an older parishioner in church or a family with older children in school. They might try having dinner together once a month or simply sit together at church. Younger families need intergenerational connections and parents could use the support and perspective older parishioners have to offer. Also, children who have other adults in their lives who are living their faith will be more likely to hold their own faith close. If we start with small steps to open doors and hearts and let go of ‘what’s always been done’, we can move with the Spirit and live life as a family of faith.
On June 26 we observe the World Meeting of Families to pray for and celebrate family in our church. This can be a beautiful way of extending that welcome and hospitality towards young families in our community, making a personal invitation for families to sit with us and share in experiences. The Family Faith Formation team has developed a booklet called, ‘Say a Little Prayer’ and it will be distributed to Catholic primary schools and parishes as a gift to families with young children. This book includes simple prayers to help families say thanks at the dinner table or to quietly end our day with praise and blessings. As parents, we don’t need to have all the answers about faith in order to share our faith with our children, but it is much less overwhelming when we feel supported by others around us.
So whether you are the overwhelmed parent feeling isolated and not knowing where to start when it comes to passing on the faith to your children, or you are the ‘empty-nester’ wondering how we are going to get the next generation to walk through the church doors; both need a sense of boldness to share an experience together. Offer a meal or the seat next to you. Raise your hand and ask for babysitting. Host a morning tea for the World Meeting of Families and let parents know that it is OK for children to make noise during Mass. We need those little voices in our pews!
Lauren Bierer is liturgy educator with the Office for WorshipJump to next article