“Grandparents are a treasure … the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” – Pope Francis
Grandparents have a special love for their grandchildren, and often hold a special place in their lives. As such, grandparents often set the spiritual tone in their families, even if their children aren’t strong in their faith or if they aren’t practicing their faith at all.
Susan Erschen recently released the book God’s Guide for Grandparents, to help grandparents find different ways to pass on their Catholic faith to their grandchildren – without stepping on the toes of any parents. She recently stopped by Morning Air® to discuss the book and some of the key messages in it.
“I tried, throughout the book, to give examples for grandparents of how we can witness and teach the faith beyond traditional things,” Erschen said. “Everybody thinks of reading Bible stories to the children, or taking them to Mass. But what if those aren’t options? I really tried to concentrate on how we can pass on the virtues and the tenets of our faith in nature and in the normal things that we do, like sitting around the kitchen table. Having a tea party with the kids and just talking with them. Because it is hard, but it is definitely our responsibility.”
Pope Francis has stressed the value of grandparents many times during his pontificate, and he was both an inspiration and resource for Eschen as she wrote God’s Guide for Grandparents.
“The pope is an integral player in this book,” she told Morning Air host John Harper. “He motivated me to write it when he wrote The Joy of Love and stressed how important the role of the grandparent is in passing on the faith. The chapter on awe and how important it is to know God through nature is completely based on Laudato Si’.”
Eschen also noted that passing on the faith doesn’t only happen with words. What our grandchildren see is as important as what they hear from us.
“Sometimes we don’t visually carry our faith with us,” she points out. “I brought a statue of the Blessed Mother that sat up in my office (where my grandchildren rarely went) and I put it in the entry of my living room. My little granddaughter would love to pick that up and just stare into Mary’s eyes. I think it’s important that there’s visual reminders to our children that we are a person of faith.”
But how should grandparents navigate the tension between the desire to evangelize and the responsibility to respect boundaries? If their children aren’t practicing their faith, should they apply some pressure for the sake of their grandchildren’s souls?
“If the parents are not teaching the children the faith, the first thing is do not criticize the parents in front of the grandchildren,” said Eschen. “Just gently find ways – like I say, in nature, in our own witness – but do not confront the parents. Pope Francis stresses this too. We need to honor them and we need to tell our grandchildren that their parents are good.”
So what can we do as grandparents to help our grandchildren develop a relationship with the Lord?
“We need to pray,” Eschen said. “We need to pray constantly that they see the faith. And we need to show the children our faith in ways that are acceptable to the parents. Being compassionate, being generous, teaching them contentment, teaching them to trust in something bigger than them.”
Listen to the full conversation below: