If we all think back to our younger years of elementary school, we can probably remember a few times when we were asked by adults what we wanted to be when we grew up. In all likelihood, the answers of the class were all over the place, from firefighter to doctor to scientist to pilot. But regardless of the answers we gave, our teachers still had a curriculum that was, more or less, set in stone. This is because teachers are charged with providing a professional foundation at whatever level they teach. With a strong academic foundation, children are able to excel in higher education, and eventually their careers.
That goes double for our spiritual foundation and growth. Our parents are known as our first teachers, and they have the most important job in raising us. They are supposed to set a moral and religious example so that we grow up with a solid set of standards by which to live. Doesn’t it stand to reason that we should be given a spiritual foundation when we are young if we want to live virtuously?
Guest host for Trending with Timmerie, Patrick Conley, talked about his time leading RCIA and the stories he would hear about people who were never taught religion. He said that RCIA leaders often try to meet with the candidates to hear about their spiritual foundation and their journey to Catholicism. “But more than once, people would respond with something along the lines of this. They would say, ‘Well, my parents didn’t really push any religion on us as kids. They didn’t take us to Church, but they also didn’t take us anywhere else for religion, so we grew up without really religion because they wanted us to make the decision for ourselves when we got older.’”
This is a phenomenon that is becoming more and more common. Parents are deciding that they will simply ignore religion and let their children pick when they reach the age of reason. Patrick asked the listeners how they would respond to someone who says that they are going to let their children decide their religion later. Tom from Crosslake, MN called in and said that he had this exact encounter a few years ago and without thinking, he said, “Well, why are you teaching your children to walk? Why are you feeding them? Why are you teaching them to ride a bike? Why are you teaching them skiing? Why are you teaching them anything, because all of those things you’re teaching them are of minor importance in comparison to the goal of heaven?”
Patrick agreed, saying that these basic needs and functions are trivial, relative to the spiritual hunger that we need to satisfy. If we are going to let the world shape their religious upbringing, why not let the world teach them everything else? Patrick took another call from Ryan in San Diego, CA who is a recent convert to Catholicism. He said he was actually raised in this type of environment without religion, and he doesn’t recommend it. Since his conversion, Ryan said that he has come to realize that because of the corruption of Original Sin, we all require saving and salvation regardless of our age. It is better to start that journey to salvation when we are younger so that we can learn to overcome that corruption through virtue.
Anne from California is a Catholic high school teacher and she said a majority of students are behind in their religious education. They are suffering because their parents have failed to instill a basic education, so the students are being thrown directly into the deep end. Anne also agreed with Tom’s point by saying that parents today are willing to drive halfway across the state so their child can play sports, but they won’t teach religion. “They would never say to their kid, ‘Wait until you’re 18 to decide which sport you want to play.’” It sounds silly, but it’s unfortunately true. Sports have taken precedent over religion in some cases.
Kelly from Middleton, WI said that she was raised by parents who were fallen away Catholics and she didn’t fully join the Church until she was 50 years old. Looking back on her younger years, Kelly said that she felt cheated out of so much and that she had cheated her own children by not giving them the full truth. She would’ve done things so much differently and maybe things could have turned out even better. Kelly said that parents don’t let their kids find out on their own that it’s dangerous to play in the street, so why would you let them endanger themselves by not teaching the Faith?
Parents have a responsibility to provide their children with the footing they need to succeed in life, whether that be academically, professionally, or spiritually. Religion is a compass for life, so by guiding them towards the truth about God, parents can feel secure in the fact that their children have started off in the right direction.
Listen to the full discussion below:
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