Family Life: Reflective Parenting

by Ray Martin

The more I read about good Catholic parenting, the more I start to freak out that I’m failing, especially when I read stats from sources like the National Study of Youth and Religion that said less than one out of three kids in the U.S. remain in the faith of their parents, but as in most things that seem daunting when you look at a big lofty goal, having a plan and following the lead of other people who have done it right can make the impossible more doable, so today we are wrapping up what we’ve learned from the National Study on Youth and Religion and figuring out how to make sure that our kids grow up to be Catholic.

If you missed a couple of our previous episodes, Micro-Churches was on the domestic church and how our children’s future identity is formed in the home, the second was on Super-Parents and how important your influence is to the future faith life of your children.  I encourage you to go back and watch them, but today we are looking into the nitty gritty of exactly how to be an effective Catholic parent and pass on our faith to your children.

Now we could fill a library with how to books on Catholic Parenting, so it’s not like we’re going to cover everything today, but we are going to at minimum offer some practical insight on what this looks like in today’s world.

Intentional And Reflective

In a presentation on the National Study on Youth and Religion, Justin Bartkus said that effective parents are intentional and reflective.  They provide an environment in their micro-church at home where kids grow up having observed that being a practicing Catholic is meaningful, that it’s a good thing and so it’s something that they will continue to have in their life as adults.  They will feel that way if they perceive that being committed to the faith is valuable, but they won’t if they see The Church as pointless.  They will look to their parents as a witness to make sense of what they learn from attending Mass or Youth Faith Formation, or Catholic School.

So for you Super-Parents, it’s critical to know how important your role is and have a purpose for passing on the faith.  In addition to that, you need to reflect on how you are doing.  It’s one thing to have good intentions, but that will only get you so far if you aren’t looking back on your family’s religious development.

Start With A Goal

Back in our first episode, we defined the goal of Catholic Parenting as helping our kids recognize that being a devoted disciple of Jesus as a Catholic is meaningful and even necessary to living a life of joy and fulfillment.  That’s our intent.  How do we do that?

Model Successful Catholic Households

In our second episode, we covered the general findings of the NSYR and how less than ⅓ of Households in the U.S. are effectively passing on faith to their children and Catholics are not at the top of that list, but we can look to those homes that were effective and find out what we need to do to turn those stats around.

According to the NSYR there are four variables that parents either do well or don’t do well in teaching their children that faith is something they should want to have in their life when they grow up:

  1. Parents communicate why being Catholic is important.
  2. They authentically model what they say about being Catholic.
  3. They bring religious content into the life of the family through programs like Catholic School, Youth Faith Formation, Youth Group, CYO Sports, Camps etc.
  4. Most importantly, they help interpret how the faith relates to daily life through conversations, teachable moments, deaths in the family, conversion of the parent themselves.

You Are Not Alone

While it may sound scary as if all of the responsibility falls on your shoulders, there is a tremendous amount of resources available for you at the parish and greater community to lean on.  First and foremost, you need to make a personal decision that you want your kids to be Catholic when they grow up.  If that’s important to you, then it’s time to take a look in the mirror and figure out if you’re being a role model of the faith.  No one is perfect, but making changes little by little is our path to holiness.  St. Terese said to do little things every day, to trust God, and to strive for holiness.  And really, all of the intent in the world will not impact your kids as much as seeing you genuinely live the sacramental life of The Church.

Once you’ve made the conscious choice that you want your children to have our faith in their life, then you’re ready to plug in more to the parish, here are some practical things you can frequently do to put our faith into practice:

  • Attend weekly Mass
  • Pray before meals or bedtime
  • Pray rosaries in the car
  • Take trips to religious sites or attend mass at a church when on vacation
  • Go on a mission trip
  • Pray for loved ones when visiting cemeteries
  • Help your family get to know their priest or other mentors in the parish, invite them over for dinner
  • Volunteer at Mass as ushers, lectors, altar servers, eucharistic ministers
  • Teach or assist during summer bible school or Youth Faith Formation
  • Attend Fish Fry’s and Knights of Columbus Dinners/Breakfasts, be part of the community

A Community Of Faith

An effective Catholic family has a deep relationship with their parish community both on campus and at home.  They often have a strong relationship with their priests and other mentors because the Christian Community found at their church is a system of shared support and purpose.  It’s not enough in today’s culture to expect that just attending classes for sacraments will be enough to pass on the value of being Catholic to our kids.  We as parents have to talk to them and spiritually process what’s going on in our daily lives especially in those moments of crisis and loss so that our children will know that seeking a relationship with God as a Catholic is going to give them a future of meaning, purpose, and joy.


Sources: National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus


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