Passing The Faith To Our Children: FtJ 3

We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.

Psalm 78:4
Keeping the Faith

by Dr. Christian Smith

Article Link: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2021/05/keeping-the-faith

Bishop Baron’s Video Based on Christian Smith’s Book, ‘Handing Down The Faith’- How to Keep Our Kids Catholic- https://youtu.be/wSn-b

Introduction:
  • In the article, Dr. Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame, summarizes his 2020 book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation.
  • Dr. Smith and collaborators spent  two decades studying American teens & young adults (not just Catholics)
  • The main finding is that parents have the most influence in shaping child’s religion (not religious congregations, youth groups, faith-based schools, missions and service trips, summer camps, Sunday school, youth ministers, or anything else)
  • American parents who are NOT especially committed, attentive, and intentional in passing on their faith will produce children who are less religious than they are, if they are religious at all

Christian Smith highlights 4 main ways that parents can effectively pass down faith to their children:

  • Parents should believe and practice their own religion genuinely and faithfully
  • Children of parents who utilize an “authoritative” parenting style are more likely to continue to practice their faith into adulthood.
  • Dr. Smith defines 4 parenting styles:
    1. Authoritative (recommended)
      • Parents hold children to high standards precisely because they love them. 
      • Parents also provide their children with an abundance of warmth, support, and expressive care
      • Children know that when they fail to meet their parents’ standards there will be consequences, but their parents will never withdraw love and support
    2. Authoritarian
      • Parents are demanding, but do not provide warmth and support
    3. Permissive
      • Parents provide affection and empathy but do not set standards and boundaries
    4. Passive
      • Parents do not provide warmth or clear expectations
  • Parents should routinely talk about religion
    • Religion should be part of everyday life, not just Sundays
    • Parents should be comfortable with children exploring and expressing their own ideas and feelings along the way
    • Parents should “channel” their kids into activities that reinforce what they’re being taught at home
      • Kids should have non-family adults that know them well and can engage with them on serious topics
      • Facilitate religious networks and connections through religious media, youth groups, camps, etc.
      • It is important to frame religious formation as a series of steps toward adult practice, not a set of requirements for religious “graduation.”

Final Summary by Dr. Smith

What parents can do—really, all they can do—is practice in their own lives the faith they hope their children will embrace; build warm, authoritative relationships with their children; be mindful and intentional about steering children into relationships and activities that can help personalize religion internally; and then pray and hope that the divine forces in which they believe will lead their children into lives of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Discussion Topics:

What can we do now as parents of young kids? What examples do you have within these categories?

  • Model a religious life for your kids 
  • Day to day rituals
  • Family traditions
  • Symbols/ images in your home 
  • Building relationships
  • Pray for your kids 
Other Resources

Discussion Follow-Up

We discussed how we should pray for our children while also continuing to grow in our own faith because we’ll never reach a state of perfection. We’ll always need to continue on our own journey and relationship with God and Jesus. While we can do this privately by ourselves or with our spouse in some daily ways, we also have to be intentional about including our children in prayer, teaching them how to pray, and being their leading examples of a faith-based life.

This may look like nightly prayers with them before bedtime, including them in your Bible reading, inviting them to join you in prayerful moments throughout the day, having conversations with God and Jesus, or asking them to accompany you in the rosary or daily devotional.

Although attending weekly Mass and the learning and implementing of our faith is non-negotiable, we have to be careful not to force them. We have to remember that we can’t make them have a real connection with God and our faith. We can only direct, guide, and mentor. When they come to us with questions, we must be available to them to answer to the best of our abilities, find out the answers from trusted sources, and to ask them open-ended questions that put the responsibility of their faith on them, not us.

We need to surround them with an atmosphere rooted in faith where God and Jesus are intricately woven into everyday life. We do this with the culture of our own family and our practices, faith-based entertainment or toys, holy water fonts and religious decor, Christian based groups and other Christian adults that can mirror our faith to them from an outside of the family perspective. They need these role models and peers to help them understand the faith more deeply and establish a support network for their own relationship with God.

We cannot just entertain them with the thought of the faith or with faith-based things. We must present them with challenges. Challenge them to be kind to others. Challenge them to experience sacrifice for the good of others. Challenge them to be or service. Challenge them to love God with wild abandonment and to live out Jesus’ teachings to the best of their ability.

There is no perfect formula. There is no secret to success. The reality is that we do our best and trust God to lead our children to him just as he leads us to him every day. We just have to answer him, “yes.”

Why Pray?: FtJ 2

Topics/Discussion

  • Why should we pray?
  • What barriers to prayer do we face? How do we overcome them?
  • Share some personal stories about prayer. How does it affect your life?

Resources

Why do we need to pray? (YouTube Link)

  • Prayer changes us, not God.
  • It helps us to learn how to accept “nos” and “yeses” and learn how to wait.
  • God wants us to work together with Him – this helps to build a relationship with God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 4: Christian Prayer

  • “God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”
  • “Prayer presupposes an effort, a fight against ourselves and the wiles of the Tempter.”

How do we pray? (YouTube Link)

  • Start small
  • Accept where you are
  • Start with 5 minutes – set a timer to simply be in the presence of God
  • Distraction will happen – this is part of being human. Putting in the effort to bringing your attention back to God is an essential part of prayer
  • Prayer is not about a feeling. The first step of prayer is showing up.

Prayer for beginners – by Peter Kreeft (Amazon) (Formed.com)

  • God desires your heart and your presence
  • Prayer is essential for us. As humans, we are a body and soul. Food nourishes the body. Prayer, drawing close to God, nourishes the soul.
  • The “Jesus Prayer” (repeating the name “Jesus” while putting yourself in His presence) is one of the simplest ways to pray
  • All your actions throughout the day can be made into prayers

“Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”

Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God

Discussion Summary

When we realize that we are children in a relationship with God, our father, it is easy to see ourselves in that childlike role. Our souls yearn to learn about and from Him, to be with Him, to walk alongside Him, to talk to Him.

Then when we realize what role we play in our children’s lives, we can see their yearning to know and be with us, especially while they are still young. Showing them how to pray, teaching them traditional prayers and also how to have personal conversations (prayers) with God, and letting them walk alongside us in our daily faith journey is our job as Christian parents.

It’s important to find your own personal time with God, even if it’s in a short moment of your day, while also modeling prayer to your children.

Sometimes, we can get bogged down with the rigidity of traditional prayers, and in those moments, we need to remember that our loving God likes to hear from us in all ways, even open ended communication. There will also be times when we fall back or rely on the traditional prayers as our foundation and build upon them when we can.

Prayer is different for everyone in that it is a intimate, personal relationship with God. No two relationships are exactly alike. Where prayer is the same for all is in the fact that our souls need prayer just like our bodies need food. God loves us and wants that connection with us, even if we start small.

The Parable of The Sower: FtJ 1

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Luke 8: 1-15

We chose to focus on the Parable of the Sower for the inaugeral Farm To Jesus supper for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s farm-related so relevant to the fresh and local food agenda of FtJ. Secondly, it speaks to all of us. We all fall into at least one of these categories that Jesus so vividly paints a picture of with His words and then explains so adequately so there is no misunderstanding the point to His story. We discussed how most of us fall somewhere in between the seeds that fell on rocky ground and among thorns.

As young adults, young couples, young families, we are new to this life where we are fully in charge of our own actions. Our parents helped guide us to get us here, but then we were set free to choose the life we’d like to lead. It can feel like rocky waters at times, especially when we get bogged down with being “busy” and trying to find stability, a sense of control, and meaning through an abundance of activities or ambitions. It’s incredible how easy it is to slip down this road of blurry focus without realizing that we’re losing our connection with God. We may talk to Him occassionally. We may even attend church regularly, but when our lives get muddled by the mundaneness of this world, our focus shifts away from a true, meaningful relationship with God. Relationships require time to slow down, to nurture, and to foster them, and our individual relationships with God are no different.

Why do we let worldly things such as riches or ambitions, activities, and worries get in the way of our relationship with our God? We discussed how for some people, they remember to pray when times are tough, when they need help or guidance. For others, they remember to talk to God when things are going well, when all cylinders are running smoothly, including their conversation with Him. And still for others, they may be going through the motions but get stuck in the rut of the not feeling a real connection. If you’re married or have been in a long-term relationship, then you may be able to identify with any of these three scenarios. How simple is it for us to lean and depend on our significant other only when we need them? How exciting is it to feel a togetherness only on a vacation or when life is running like clockwork? How down-trodden do we feel when we’re doing everything “right” and going through all the “right” motions only to question why we feel more distant than ever?

Jesus’ answer is to have a noble and good HEART. What does that mean? How does that look in practice? For starters, we listen. We don’t just let words go through one ear and escape through the other. We truly listen to our spouse, our children, those around us, and most importantly to God’s word. Then we hold fast to the words we’ve heard. What do they mean? How do they apply to us? Do they call us to action? Do they give us guidance for how to go forward? And lastly, we create through perservation. If you’ve ever canned, dehydrated, or put away food for the future in your fridge or freezer, then you know you did so with creative intention and the ultimate goal of perserving that food. We are creative beings made by a creative God. He made us in His image and likeness with creativity being a significant piece of His make-up and image. (He created the world in seven days…) Everyone is creative in their own ways with their own set of God-given talents. When we are intentionally creative with the sole purpose of sustanance, we enter into this action call by Jesus. How do we do this? After we’ve listened, after we’ve retained, it is then time to implement what we’ve heard and learned. This can be applied to every relationship we have and absolutely to our relationship with Jesus.

When we hear that our child or spouse has had a hard day, we think about the problem as a whole and possibly have suggestions for how to fix it to avoid the difficulty in the future or we may listen and stay silent, understanding that they are merely sharing their difficulties with us so it isn’t so burdensome to them. After assessment, we act. Do they need a hug? A kind word? A shoulder to cry on? Something silly to cheer them up? We act in order to help them the best that we can and in a way that they need and tells them they are cared for and loved. Jesus calls us to do this with everyone in our lives. Be of service to others. Love others. When our spouse or child or friend has had a fantastic day or week, we listen to what has happened and the cause of their excitement. We retain and assess it. Then we act upon it according to our own creativity and invention of how to respond. Maybe they’d like a hug. Maybe they’d like a “well done!” Or maybe they are just content with knowing that you share in their joy with them. Whatever our response, as long as it’s noble and good, then we are perserving that relationship and its meaningful connection for the future. For our last example, prehaps everything in our lives is going swimmingly to plan. All the i’s are dotted. All the t’s crossed. We have everything we could ever want or need. We fill our lives with community and activity. We talk to God. We love and appreciate our children, our spouse, and our friends. We’re blessed and we know it, but then why do we feel unfulfilled? Why do we feel emptiness? Father Mike points out in the homily posted below that it’s the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. You can be efficient without being effective. You can be successful in all the ways you can imagine but miss the destination point of success completely. Going through the motions of life, even if they are all the right motions, won’t bring you peace and fulfillment without true intention and purpose, without the creativity to perserve.

We are creative, loving beings with a creative, all-loving God. When our relationship with Him has meaning, purpose, and connection, it trickles down into all facets of our life. Let us strive to be the seeds on good soil. Let us strive to be noble and good by doing the small, daily actions that are noble and good and to foster our connection with God and those around us.

What Is A Disciple? : Elisabeth Elliot

Bread Of Life

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

John 6:35

Jesus = THE Bread Of Life…

What does that mean? Why did Jesus call himself the bread of life?

Few of us go without some type of bread in our lives. Whether it’s a freshly baked sandwich loaf, a crunchy sourdough, or a specialty bread, most of us enjoy a bread product (especially if it’s warm… mmm). But, could we live without it in these times? Prehaps. Do we want to? I don’t…

Bread has been made by mankind for close to 30,000 years. THIRTY THOUSAND. That’s a long time for humanity to stay on one continuous cuisine track.

Bread is composed of flour, water, and a rising agent. Nothing fancy. Nothing unattainable. Anyone can make bread. Even a beginner’s “brick” of bread tastes good warmed with butter. So, why did Jesus pick such a basic thing to call himself?

Because it was essential. Bread is rich in complex carbohydrates. It provides us nourishment, energy, and strength. Before food was overly processed, bread was a vital part of one’s daily nutritional intake.

It was also at one time a gift from God. God gifted Moses and the fleeing Isrealites manna in the desert. It literally fell from the skies, kind of like that other imperative life-giving substance… water. The Jewish people in Jesus’ time would no doubt have made this connection- Jesus too was a direct gift from God.

So, could we live without bread in our daily lives nowadays? (Real bread, not that white cardboard in a plastic baggy.) The answer is no. It provides our bodies vitamins, minerals, and fiber that it craves and needs, and I’m not even going to ask if we could live without Jesus. Anyone reading this knows that answer… 😉

Be More Like A Tree

But I will bless the person who puts his trust in me. He is like a tree growing near a stream and sending out roots to the water. It is not afraid when hot weather comes, because its leaves stay green; it has no worries when there is no rain; it keeps on bearing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Are you a tree growing near a stream? Do you send your roots out to God’s holy water?

As easy as it is to say, “Of course, I trust in the Lord wholeheartedly,” it’s much harder to put into practice. Giving up control and becoming fully trusting in Jesus is a neverending journey, something that can never be perfected but can always be cultivated.

Fear and worries creep into the nuances of daily life. If we allow them to, they can control us. If we allow them to, they can even debilitate us. God says the tree does not fear. The tree does not worry.

Why? Because the tree trusts in God and allows Him to shoulder the burdensome troubles of fear and worry. Not only does its roots drink from the holy water, it miraculously bears fruit. It doesn’t just tread water while God handles hardships. It THRIVES and provides nourishment for others.

What a beautiful analogy for our own lives. Let’s strive to be more like a tree, God’s living trees.

A Useful Crop Receives the Blessing of God

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

HEBREWS 6:7

We are inundated with blessings every single day. We’re blessed by the sun and the rain. We’re blessed with loved ones, that we have food to eat and water to drink. There are so many blessings to be grateful for.

But, what about our land, the little slice of paradise we call home? It’s a blessing, but is it blessed?

It can be… with one simple seed that produces a crop that is useful. What an interesting thought. Your home, your land can automatically be blessed by the Lord by utilizing it to produce something, whether that’s a towering apple tree, a vegetable garden or a potted herb.

We can never have too many blessings. By utilizing our home/land and graciously accepting the blessings from God, we can continue to walk along in faith with Him.

Using Gifts to Serve

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:7-11

Do some things just come naturally to you? Maybe you’re a natural athlete or can speak eloquently. Maybe you have a knack for making others feel appreciated or perhaps you have a smooth sense of humor.

These things that come naturally are some of the gifts that God has bestowed upon you. Your experiences may have helped shape them, but you embrace these gifts like a fish takes to water.

Other things may take more fine-tuning before they become a part of your make-up. Maybe sharing isn’t your strong suit or perhaps you struggle with confidence.

God’s bestowed gifts are just that- gifts! Tokens to be used and enjoyed. Not only are these priceless treasures intended for our use, but they’re also intended for our use in the service of others. Hospitality and grace are key components of being good stewards and servitude. Who doesn’t love the feeling of a welcoming, genuine smile, a warm, homemade meal, or a gentle, understanding look? Who doesn’t appreciate being appreciated and accepted for who you are?

Showing others compassion through God’s strength is a gift God bestows upon us all. We are all capable of fulfilling His word and purpose for us in order to glorify Jesus Christ.

When You Have Eaten & Are Satisfied

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you.

DEUTERONOMY 8:10

Land. What do you think of when you think of the word land?

Do you think of property you own? Or perhaps wide, expansive spaces? Do you think of an apartment dwelling or maybe a city park? Or do you think of a dense, forest or a parking lot? Land can have a million different meanings to each individual, but the common ground (😉) for all of those meanings is that God has given land to us to be stewards of.

We won’t argue about the “correct” uses of land. We’ll just look at the scripture. “Praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.” It doesn’t matter if you own land. Did you eat today? Is your hunger satisfied? Then praise the Lord for the abundance He has graced us with. Your food came from somewhere. It came from the earth, from the dirt, from the nutrients in the soil. What a wonderful God to think of everything!

Farm to Jesus is born out of this scripture. We have so much to be grateful for and still so much to learn. God provides.