Somewhere in the world, there is an ever faithful mom. One who gets up early every morning, dresses in the dark and quietly reads the Bible to herself before anyone else is awake. She then wakes her children before the sun comes up, fixes them a healthy breakfast, and takes them all to daily mass. Somewhere else, another mother wakes up beside her children and snuggling them close, she makes a morning offering, dedicating her day, her chores, her life to Jesus. She pauses, allowing the children to participate with their own heartfelt prayer requests. Elsewhere, a family gathers around their table ready to dig into breakfast, when Daddy clears his throat and asks them all to bow their heads in prayer and thanksgiving for such a bountiful meal. Somewhere, tonight, a family will gather around the foot of their family altar and taking turns, they will pray the rosary. Throughout the day, throughout the world, today, moms and dads will read stories about saints; spontaneously pray with their children; sing songs; live by example; tell stories from the Bible. Each family, in their own way, is doing what we, as parents, are called to do. They are passing on the faith. They are building the most important foundation they can, preparing their children for the ultimate goal in life…Heaven.
Why do we pass on the faith? The goal is not sainthood (although, yes, that would be a remarkable and profound gift); the goal is not perfection; the goal certainly is not to be a walking theologian, spouting Church doctrine. The goal is simple (although I’m not implying easy): It is to get our children to Heaven. That is our calling as parents. That is how we serve the Lord.
So how do we pass on the faith? Oh, if only it were so easy that I could just tell you. But wait, it is that easy. Because faith is not meant to be complicated. It is not meant to need a degree in theology to understand. Faith is simple. It is humble. It is childlike. “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4
St. Therese of Lisieux is a beautiful example to follow when we attempt to pass along our faith. She believed in the “Little Way”, a way of simplicity; a way of loving the Lord in all the small things she did each day. Following St. Therese’s example of her “little way” is the key to passing the faith along. Passing along the faith cannot be done simply by attending daily mass, teaching Church doctrine, or studying the lives of saints (although all of these are worthwhile endeavors). It is more important to ask yourself the following: Do your children see you praying? Do they see you struggling with sin (like short tempers and angry outbursts) but then see you asking forgiveness and begging for mercy (not just from the Lord but from the person on the receiving end of an angry outburst…even a 2 year old sees regret in our eyes and hears the plea for forgiveness)? Do they see us trying harder each day? Do they see us reading the Bible and reading about the lives of the saints? Do they see us expressing gratitude for the many, many blessings in our lives? Do they see us living the faith? Because that’s how we pass on the faith. By living it.
So everybody has their own method. Their own “little way” to pass the faith along. There is no wrong way. And there certainly is no right way. No way that is holier than others. Some attend daily mass; some pray a daily rosary; some read Bible stories at breakfast; some celebrate feast days; some simply pray. Some moms have it all together. Some don’t. Some do it gracefully. Some don’t. It doesn’t matter how it looks to the rest of the world. What matters is what’s in your heart because children see that. They feel it in their little beings. They know when you are earnest and humble. And they imitate that. So do it with a pure heart and the best of intentions. Do it your own “little way”, this grand task of passing on the faith. That’s what’s important…that you do it. So live it, breathe it…you’ll be passing that beautiful gift of faith right along…and your children will be one step closer to the gates of Heaven.