Wednesday Witness: Parents Are the Key

You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you [parents] clearly understand what you are undertaking? – Catholic Rite of Baptism

Although we held our first classes and Confirmation retreat two Wednesdays ago, our Opening Mass and Kickoff event for the Faith Formation year was just last week. It was a beautiful Mass, with a solid turnout of families, teachers and volunteers, and even a few Confirmation sponsors, all praying together, worshiping God, and preparing to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. For the most part, it was a beautiful family event.

I say for the most part, because the next day I heard multiple reports of a small group of middle-school girls who appeared to have been dropped off at the Mass and who sat in the back of the church on their smart phones, talking, laughing and swearing while the family in front of them tried to pray. In the Gathering Area, meanwhile, two upper-elementary or middle-school boys who were “going to the bathroom” made no pretext of even entering the bathroom, but talked and goofed around noisily in the corridor outside Meetings Rooms 1 and 2, where a weekly Bible study was going on.

The point in bringing this up is actually not the disciplinary issue, though we should be able to get through a 30-minute weekday Mass without patrolling the back pews and hallways for misbehaving teens and tweens. The point is that the Church, the Mass, and our Faith Formation programs exist for one reason—the salvation of souls—and we cannot achieve our mission without active and engaged parents.

Did you know?

  • The percentage of 13- to 18-year-olds identifying as atheist is double that of the general population.
  • The fastest growing “religious” group in the country is fallen-away Catholics.
  • 74% say they stopped identifying as Catholic between ages 10 and 20, with a median age of 13.
  • The most important factor in determining whether or not children and teens remain Catholic is the Catholicity of their parents.

This last bullet is the most important: Do we, as parents, practice what we preach and show by our actions and attitudes that God, prayer and the Mass are important to us? One of the biggest issues for young Catholics leaving their faith is perceived hypocrisy among believers who do not act in accordance with their beliefs or the teachings on the Church. In fact, marketing research shows that today’s teens value authenticity even above functionality—in other words, an honest personal witness is more important to them than whether or not the object or topic of the witness actually meets their needs.

This brings us back to the Opening Mass and Kickoff. I have said and will continue to say that we want you here with us, at the church, every time we gather, no matter where you are in your journey, no matter how many classes or family events you have missed.

But family events are for families. When we drop off teens or tweens at a family Mass when they don’t want to be there, we are actually working against their salvation. We are telling them, Do as I say, not as I do. And unless their faith is already stronger than our own, they will rebel.

So if a specific family event doesn’t work with your schedule, simply don’t come—we hope to see you next time. If your middle-schooler or high-schooler wants to be here to pray and worship on his or her own, great—we are happy to have them! But don’t force them to come without you. The impact of that is worse than not coming, both for them and the people around them.

We will continue to have family events throughout the Faith Formation year, and we will continue to have families check in as they arrive. The purpose of this check-in is simply to know who is here and who isn’t—no bonus points or demerits will be issued to anyone. Our desire is that you choose, as a family, to pray and worship together with the rest of the Saint Andrew community, to draw closer to Jesus and each other.

Wherever you and your family are today, choose to take a step forward, toward Christ. We are here to help you every step of the way!

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