Catholic parents often wonder, how can I teach my children the faith and create an environment where their faith life will thrive? What’s the best way to ensure that their faith stays with them always?
“This is the singular most difficult thing to do in the world,” says Fr. Eric Nielsen, priest of the Diocese of Madison and pastor of the St. Paul University Center at the University of Wisconsin. Many things in the culture are working against your efforts to create a Christian home, so don’t get discouraged. It may be a long process, but don’t give up!
Where to begin? “For one thing, the Christian environment in the home should start with the father. The father gives the ability of the mother to set the tone. The mother actually sets the tone but she needs that support of the father or it’s just not going to come together very well.” This can be a difficulty for many families, whether the father is often gone for work, is not a part of his family’s life, or isn’t used to leading his family in faith.
“The culture we live in is extremely individualistic. We’ve lost our communal identity as family,” says Fr. Nielsen. He says that the ideal way to create a Christian environment is to have both the father and the mother in the home and working together to raise their children and instill the faith. “An important thing to remember in this is that faith is about love and it is about free will. So faith and loving your children has to be elicited from them, it can’t be forced from them. It’s just like you can plant a seed in the ground, you can water it you can fertilize it you can give it sun, but you can’t force that seed to grow. So it is with our children. We want to give them the right environment for their faith to grow, but in the end it’s up to them.”
This all starts with you. “It starts with you being as close to Jesus Christ as you can be through the Virgin Mary. And just realize, just you alone—even if everybody in your family has turned to pagan worship, you know—you alone in that home worshiping Jesus Christ with the heart of the Virgin Mary will bring great light and a Christian spirit into that home,” said Fr. Nielsen.
“Secondly, it starts with the mother and the father having a relationship of prayer with each other … a relationship of prayer for each other and for the children. If you can have that in your home, mom and dad praying together every day, that’s golden. That’s just naturally going to permeate into the children.”
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