September 20, 2018
The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard HS parent community:
Last week I began sharing the contents of the BCHS Parent Village presentation, Keeping Faith Alive at Home. I shared a few common mistakes parents (myself included) make in forming our children in the faith. I then began listing some specific strategies. Offered as strategy #1 was Being a student of your own faith – we cannot effectively form our children in the faith if we are not comfortable doing so. Knowledge is power.
Today I will share strategies #2 through #4 and next week I’ll wrap up with #5-7.
Strategy #2: Display signs and symbols of your faith throughout your home
I remember going to my grandparents’ house when I was young. There was a crucifix or cross in every room and hallway. In my parents’ house, I can remember three strategically placed crucifixes – one in the bedroom hallway, where we would all see it as we emerged from our bedrooms; on the wall near our kitchen table where we gathered to share meals; and near the front door, clearly visible as we entered or exited our home. Visual imagery is powerful. How many crucifixes and crosses are in our homes?
While the crucifix certainly serves as the strongest symbol of our faith, it is not the only one. Consider having these other symbols included in your home: religious artwork such as paintings or sculptures, coffee table books or even a “faith library”, or other faith-based room décor. I shared an example of a baby’s room I’ve seen that featured a painted wall mural of Noah’s Ark – the animals two-by-two, the ark, the rainbow, the dove…the whole works. The infant won’t likely get the full effect of the mural, but what about the older siblings or visitors to the home?
Carol and I have a prayer “Intentions Board” hanging in our front entryway. It is a decorative framed chalk board on which we write prayer intentions for ourselves or others. Under it is a shelf with a small bowl with chalk. Visitors to our home are welcome to write their prayer intentions on the board as well, knowing those intentions will be added to the daily prayers of the Wagner family.
Strategy #3: Have conversations about your faith
If the only conversations you have with your children are focused on sports and homework, your children will assume what you value most are grades and athletic prowess. What we talk about is what we value; our conversations reveal our priorities.
Sure, talk about those things, but how about taking the conversation towards faith occasionally?: Perhaps Where did you see / experience God today? Or What did you talk about in Theology / Religious Ed class today?
Don’t be afraid to take on current events or to share times when you’ve struggled with your own faith. They need to see that it’s OK to question or to struggle, seeing that you “hung in there” or came out of your struggles even stronger can offer them hope and build confidence.
Strategy #4: Participate in faith-based family activities
Consider going on “faith field trips”: Visit some of the beautiful churches near downtown or in some of the small rural towns. Make a morning of it by going early to take in the beautiful architecture, stay for Mass, then head to the local breakfast place to be together as a family.
Have you spent time on the grounds of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, Saint Meinrad, or similar locations? Your family can take in the beautiful scenery of these holy places. If you have not visited The Shrine of Christ’s Passion in St. John, IN, do it soon. There you can see beautiful life-size bronze statues depicting the Stations of the Cross, complete with audio.
What TV programming and movies do you choose to watch as a family? There is some great faith-themed programming that is well done and enjoyable. Hollywood is trying to keep some options coming as well. Just as important as what we watch, is what we choose NOT to watch. There is so much inappropriate programming cluttering up the cable lines. It’s OK to turn the TV off.
Finally – are there other families, friends of yours, that seem to be searching for a more engaged faith life too? Maybe two or three families of like mind can have a rotating cookout – this month at your home, next month at ours. Before the hamburgers and softball game, could a 20 or 30-minute bible study be offered? Think about how powerful it would be to have adults and children – families and friends – sitting in a circle sharing the Word of God.
Finally, every family should have a designated family prayer time. It could be in the morning to thank God for the gift of another day and to ask for His continued loving presence. Maybe it’s at the end of the day to show gratitude, share your struggles, or lift up the prayers from your Intentions Board. Whatever time it may be, make it a dedicated and consistent time each day. We want our kids to know that prayer is just “what we do.”
More strategies next week!