Parents the first educators when it comes to faith

From The Catholic Weekly column:

Joachim was finishing up his breakfast the other day when he suddenly looked up as if all inspired and said in a rush, “You know Mum, I used to think Jesus was just a statue in the church, just a dead statue, but then I went to Kindergarten and learned all about what Jesus did and how the soldiers killed him and he did die and but then he came alive again and he’s not a statue!”

“That’s right! Isn’t that great? I’ve told you that many times, and Daddy did too,” I reminded him.

“No you didn’t. I learnt it at school.”

“Well, all right.”

I’m glad he knows it anyway, even if he doesn’t think it came from us.

This newly-turned six-year-old is the one who, when he was three, used to hate coming into church with me when I would drop in for a quick visit. He said he didn’t like Jesus, who was ‘just a statue’, and that church was silly and boring.

While he still finds sitting through Mass challenging sometimes, and groaned over having to go to church a few times over the Triduum, but he’s no longer the boy who agonised over entering a church.

He has learnt so much in his religion classes at school. His teacher has tapped into his imagination and his love of drawing and creating in a way that I didn’t before.

Two things strike me about this; one is the idea that there are people who would think that we’ve brainwashed our son into believing this story about Jesus and the value of participating in an organised religion. We could be accused of smothering his true, child’s, perception about Jesus in order to inculcate him into our Catholic tribe.

Well, partly we are a tribe. But mostly we are a people wedded to Jesus, and each one of us is wedded to Jesus.

This life of faith is so mysterious, and we can miss things completely we look at it only through the lenses of family, culture, and the psychology of religion.

How happy I am that our boy has learned, really learned, something about Christ! So happy that I don’t mind that he forgets this knowledge originally came from his parents, his first and primary educators, and was only confirmed by his teachers at school.

Which brings me to the second thing that strikes me about Joachim’s comment: How we people of faith can so easily point to those big moments of epiphany we’ve enjoyed in the company of inspiring catechists or teachers, or priests, or lay missionaries, or Christian friends, and forget the influence of the people who have been closest to us in our journey to God.

I’ve always felt that a certain teacher, a certain priest, and Pope John Paul II were my greatest influences in embracing my Catholic faith. But it was with my mum where I first really listened to and absorbed the Word of God, in my bedroom practising my scripture pieces for performing at eisteddfords.

Mum would sit me down and we would read over the passage I had to memorise while she explained its meaning. She was intent on forming my confidence and my performance and public speaking skills, not in catechising me, but God used her, who was closest to me, to impart his messages of love and hope.

God doesn’t need theologians and scripture scholars to impart and impress upon us his word – God can accomplish his means through anyone and in any way he wishes, and particularly through parents who are best placed to be the first communicators of God’s love to their children.

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