One of the most joyous experiences in life is when your child has a child of their own. Grandparents play a very special role in the life of a child, and can be a great source of love and wisdom; and for many grandparents, handing on the Catholic faith to their grandchildren is one of the most important things they can do. But what if your children have fallen away from the faith? Should you, as a grandparent, take on the role of forming your grandchild in the faith?
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop with Fr. Matthew Spencer, Father Matthew responded to an e-mail from a listener whose grandson, “Frank,” had received the sacraments of Baptism and First Communion, but did not attend Sunday Mass because his parents were no longer practicing Catholics. The listener asked whether they should require “Frank” to go to Confession when he stayed with them, so that he could receive Communion when he accompanied them to Mass. Fr. Matthew responded:
“The idea is to form his conscience so that he wants to go to Mass. … It’s really important to realize that we want Frank’s conscience to be formed well, but we also want a good relationship with Frank’s parents. If his parents are alienated, we are going to create a situation that is not going to help his parents.
Now how does that happen? This is the crux of the matter, if you ask me. It’s not so much about what we do from a book format, like we have a flow chart or something. If he says this, then you do this. If he says he hasn’t gone to Communion, then you do that. That’s not the answer I have for you.
But what I do have is this: To look at this as an opportunity to evangelize, to share the Gospel with this young boy, and indirectly with his parents. So instead of trying to figure out if you should make him go to Confession, instead say, ‘Hey, we’re going to Confession, you should come along, because we go out for ice cream after we go to Confession. Not that you should come to Confession so you can get ice cream, but we do this because we realize that Confession is special and important. Why don’t you come?’
Again, I’m not saying you should manipulate the boy or trick him into going to Confession, but I’m saying you should try to make him realize that this is a wonderful thing, a positive thing, a joyful thing. When it becomes something that’s not just a burden, but he sees his grandparents actually wanting to go and doing it, then he may think there is something to this.
And he might not. He may go along and say, ‘I don’t get it.’ And what is a grandparent to do? Still give him a positive example. Still give him a smiling, loving embrace. And realize that that is going to win so many more points, and ultimately help him to want to embrace Confession himself.
And guess what? If he wants to do it, that’s going to impact his parents. It creates an opportunity for dialogue between him and his parents. I think that’s the approach and the attitude to have. Not to become the conscience of your grandchild, per se. Not to take the role of his parents, poorly as they might be doing the job.
When it comes to these family relationships we have to be very cautious to not take on a role that is not ours. And to also not presume and just imagine that you know somebody’s conscience, and therefore we can determine whether they can go to Communion or not.”
Listen to the full reflection below:
St. Joseph’s Workshop with Fr. Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.