Even if you are not of Hispanic heritage, you might find this information useful because it applies to every Christian.
I must confess, when I was younger, I had to go to Mass obligatorily. If I didn't go, my mom wouldn't let me go out with my friends.
Usually, children don't get excited about going to Mass or learning the catechism. If kids do go to Mass, it is often because it is imposed by their parents, at least until they recognize and understand the importance of going.
Even my 5th-grade son, who was born in a Catholic family and attends a Catholic school, seems to struggle to understand the Catholic faith. He thinks Mass is boring and a lot of beliefs don't make sense—like the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
When I asked my husband what is the main reason he loves and practices the Catholic faith, he said, "Because of my mom." He used to see his mom going every day to Mass, praying the rosary, and doing general actions congruent with her faith; practices that she still does.
In my case (even though I was born and raised Catholic) when I grew up I started to hesitate about my faith because I was influenced by close friends from different religions, and even by atheists. I wasn't prepared to answer the typical challenges against God, such as, "If God exists, why there is suffering in this world?" and all the misconceptions about Catholicism, such as "Why do Catholics worship images?"
While I never left the Catholic Church, this stage of doubt is crucial, especially for the young who seem to feel that when they are challenged, it is easier to abandon their faith than to learn more about it.
Separating Ourselves from Our Roots
According to this survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly 1 in 4 Latinos are former Catholics. While most Latinos are raised Catholic as children, fewer and fewer of them are staying Catholic as adults, or raising their kids Catholic, even though the Catholic faith remains the dominant religion among Latinos.
If our historical belief is that the Catholic Church has the fullness of Christian faith, since it is founded by Christ, and is the Christian tradition that has been handed down to us, why do we not teach this to our children?
This is why a strong sacramental practice and a deep prayer life are necessary tools to keep yourself close to Christ and the Church He founded. As parents, you need to guide your child's steps too. You might not know everything, but when you teach, you learn, too. So, let's get familiar with these practical rules to help you and your child stay rooted in the Catholic Faith:
11 Rules to Keep You & Your Kid Grounded in the Catholic Faith
Be a great role model. Parents, ¡a portarse bien! You are the #1 influence on your child, so be a great role model. The Second Vatican Council noted the importance of the family as “the domestic church,” but you can't give what you don't have. How can parents be better role models?
Idea: Get inspired by the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and the teachings of Jesus Christ to keep yourself calm and patient. (I can't picture the Blessed Virgin Mary screaming out loud while scolding our Lord Jesus!)
Know your faith. Educate yourself. We need to nurture our souls in the same way we fulfill our basic needs. Humans beings are composed of body and soul. By understanding your faith, you receive tools to be prepared when someone comes trying to steal the faith from your heart and your mind.
Teach your kids. We must instruct our children about God, because no one loves what they don't know. "Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it." Proverbs 22:6
Idea: Make the Sign of the Cross over your children before they leave home, and explain the meaning of your Christian devotions around the house. Depending on their age, send them to Confirmation classes or youth ministries at your local parish.
Show reverence to God. Actions speak louder than words, and when you show respect for the presence of God, this action is perceived by children. It's proven to work!
Idea: Keep sacred images in the home, and reverence them often. My son, not even two years old at that time, learned how to kneel just by observing us. He started to kneel and even kiss the wall where the Sacred Heart of Jesus is at home. It was as though he recognized the presence of someone that was loved by the family. Now that he is in the peak of his "terrible twos," he stays quiet during the more than one-hour Latin Mass; no cry room needed. Miracles happen!
Go to Mass. Parents have an important obligation to bring their children to Mass:“La familia que reza unida, permanece unida.”
Be old-fashioned for a reason. Remember nightly family meals and weekend game nights? Spend quality time with your family.
Introduce your kids to "real" heroes. And we are not talking about today's movies heroes, such as "The Avengers." Saints might not be physically on earth, and they are not found quickly on TV or video games on a daily basis, but reading about the lives of the saints is powerful, inspirational, and can set examples of virtue for children at an early age.
Idea: If your parish has a library, go there with your child and together choose Christian movies to watch, such as, let's say, a Friday night family tradition. If your parish doesn't have a library, you may be interested in these DVDs for children and family videos.
Guide with conviction. Some Latinos consider themselves Catholics for traditional reasons, mainly because they inherited this religion, and not so much because they are rooted in their faith.
Idea: Stay close to the seven sacraments, and every time you practice your faith with your child, give them facts to help them understand why Catholics do what they do, and that it's not only because "Dad and Mom said so."
Prepare your kids now for what they will face later. I was often questioned about the teachings of the Catholic faith, especially when I was in college. I wasn't prepared for those popular anti-Catholic questions. My faith declined for a bit, and statistics show that the youngest population have switched religions or lost their belief in God altogether.
Idea: Help your kids understand the incorrect understandings of various Protestant denominations, and teach them how to answer those questions with the help of Catholic apologetics tools.
Don't take your Catholic faith for granted. Just because parents are Catholic doesn't necessary mean their children will be. (I have seen converted Catholics that are more committed than cradle Catholics). The Faith has to be cultivated. Otherwise children will grow up with a weak faith and are susceptible to changing their mind or being confused about the teachings of the Catholic Faith.
Go to confession together. "Father, cleanse me from every stain of sin." Confession works as a cleanser for your soul, and to avoid holding onto anger. Also, it will help you to feel renewed and ready to keep going. (It works for me!)
Stay Strong and Keep Growing
The bottom line: cultivate your faith and be prepared. If you have a desire to learn more about your Catholic Faith as you go along in life, you will have knowledge in your favor to prepare you and your children to stay strong and faithful.
Be aware that everybody is questioned about their Catholic beliefs; the difference is that the younger you are, the more easily you are influenced by others. So, get ready to defend your faith.
In other words, ¡Católico instruído jamás será confundido!
Looking for tools to help parents and kids learn more about the Catholic faith? Check out these Catholic Educational Resources for Kids.
How do you help your children understand their Catholic Faith better?
Please share with us in the comments below!