“I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” How many times in recent years have we heard that nebulus phrase tossed around? Roughly translated, what that really means is that “There's no creed, ethics, or morality I care to follow, so I direct myself spiritually,” which at best is obscure and impersonal and at worst makes me my own God. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but when you think about it, you may find some truth there.
Many of my friends have hearts that have been broken and daily fall on their knees in prayer because their children have fallen prey to this sort of mentality. Let’s just take a quick look at a few statistics that are rather startling! A third of American adults under the age of 30 state that they have no religious affiliation and 88% of the religiously unaffiliated say that they’re not even looking for a religion!
My goal here is to provide moms with some helpful tools to build faith in the family, keeping in mind that the soul of your child will last into eternity…..it will never cease to exist. So I have put together a top ten list I hope you find helpful! You are the mother of your dear children, so you will most likely have many more inspirations and ideas unique to them and I hope we meet some day so I can hear your thoughts, too!
Top Ten Ways To Build Faith in Your Family Using the Word BEATITUDES: A List of the Qualities I’ve Observed in Happy Catholic Families
1. Be faithful as parents.
If there is anything in life you teach your children, it is that they were created to know, love and serve God. Every cell of their being was created for this!! It gives them the utmost dignity and self worth to know why they were put on this earth.
When children see parents living faithfully, they learn to do the same.
If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.
Model for your children a consistent, natural prayer life. It’s really helpful to live the liturgical year as a family, celebrating important feast days and celebrations and doing our best to bring the message home to our children in an age appropriate way. The teachings of the Church may not seem easy, but they are always a blueprint for happiness, especially of an eternal nature.
2. Experience joy
Here’s a beautiful quote from Pope Francis from October of 2013: “Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well… True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. … But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a challenging day as a mom!!
Mothers especially can feel pretty overwhelmed at times!
It’s important to figure out what it takes to have a joyful heart and do it...immediately!!!
- More time with God, increasing your life of prayer
- Taking care of yourself physically
- More time with friends or mentors
- More quality time with spouse
- A Good Confession
- Spiritual Direction
- Better Spiritual Reading
- Some free time just for you
- Living a more simple life
A well lived vocation is captivating!! Your children will want to be a part of what you have if you are happy and joyful. On the contrary, if you seem negative or overly stressed, angry or frustrated all the time, you may be delivering them a different message than the message of Christian joy and happiness! They may decide they want something different.
A well lived vocation and deep love in marriage is like a magic spark that ignites your soul, your family, your neighborhood, your church, and your entire community.
3. Allow a sense of humor to permeate your home.
Laugh as much as possible!! Find the humor in everyday situations!! Laugh at your own mistakes. A few years ago, my kids forwarded me the hilarious video you’ve probably seen of the mom going crazy in advance of company coming. Of course, I have absolutely no idea why I was the recipient.
Maximize Happiness: When something comes up that’s good or happy, make a big deal of it to make a memory!
4. Take time to pray.
Try to keep your faith alive and new, thanking God for everything! As is wonderfully stated by Marcus Tullius Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” Everything you have is a gift! And with every gift and talent comes a responsibility and opportunity to give glory to God! Take full advantage of all the sacraments as much as possible as a family: weekly confession, daily Mass, and family rosary. Make regular visits to Jesus in the Eucharist! You can pray for the souls of the faithfully departed when passing a cemetery or for someone in trouble when you hear the siren of an emergency vehicle.
5. Introduce your children to heroes.
Teach your children about the life of Christ and the lives of the saints! This is an incredible tool for building faith in the home. Also teach them what qualities you admire in people here on earth and why. Teach them to be good judges of character. Invite interesting people to dinner. Seek out great programs to help them build knowledge and faith!
6. Teach your children to treasure their faith.
You can compromise on many things in family life, food choices, where to go on vacation, what game you’re going to play, what sport your child will play, where your children go to school, how they keep their rooms, what shoes they wear, etc., but we shouldn’t compromise on the laws of God and the Church! Invite others to worthwhile events and invite them to pray with your family and teach your children to do the same!
7. Update your prayer life and goals more often than your home.
Take a “professional” approach to your home, yearly goals, and prayer life. But remember to love intensely and be flexible. You are the only one who can be a wife to your husband and mother to your children.
It’s really ok and even helpful for your children to hear the word “no” from you. You are raising adults, not children!! And these adults will need to say no to themselves someday.
It’s helpful to consider regularly what virtues you need to focus on for yourself and your family? What books should you read?
Plan your fun!! Take your free time as a family seriously! You don’t always need a lot of money to plan fun with your children. Try to reserve Sundays for God and family time.
8. Don’t forget opportunities for your children to be selfless.
Teach your children to minimize their personal preferences for the sake of others. Give them as many opportunities as possible to be generous.
9. Expose your children to great cultural gifts.
Provide continual opportunities to live beauty and culture in your home. Be creative with your surroundings making the most of music, art, and conversation. The dinner table is a fabulous opportunity to teach your children by discussing a plethora of topics. Time is precious and mealtime is truly golden for the success of children and families!
10. Smile a lot and live simplicity.
If you can smile, that’s half the battle! Let others experience Christian joy in you!! It’s infectious!!!
Use your home as a tool for evangelization and fun.
One of the talks I really enjoy giving is on the topic of happiness (maybe a later blog post?). Consider what the qualities are of happy people? Is it money, friends, or an abundance of material things?
Try to keep your home bright, cheerful, and reasonably clean! If you can’t keep your home as neat as you would like, live in a cheerful mess!!
Have a family identity! What will your family be known for? What will your family be remembered for? What does your family stand for? What are your family traditions?
After the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Mother, and their Catholic faith, you are the greatest gift your children will ever receive!! Don’t be afraid to give them what is best in you!!!
You are the only one given the grace of state to parent your children!!