The School of the Heart: Parents as Primary Catechists

We’re still sorting through all we learned and experienced at last week’s World Meeting of Families, but one of the highlights was definitely attending Archbishop J. Michael Miller‘s session on family catechesis:

Parents are the primary catechists of their children.  Because of baptism and the grace of marriage, they are equipped to fulfill the mission of handing down the faith to their children.  A mother and father’s witness of faithful love establishes their domestic church, which is a school of virtue for the family.  It introduces children to the richness of Catholic teaching, the encounter with the Word of God and the sacraments, and the generosity of selfless service.  “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith” (CCC 2226).  This session will offer help to parents to carry out their often daunting mission.

It was a great affirmation of one of the reasons why we made the trip and opened up opportunities to talk to many people about Family Formation!  I heard a rumor that eventually all the talks will be available to view/hear on their site, but until then, I think you’ll like the notes Deb took during the workshop, especially the last part with the Archbishop’s 10 practical tips for parents to catechize and evangelize their children.  Enjoy!

Parents fail as primary educators because:

  1. The faith is not so much denied, it is just ignored.
  2. They feel insecure in passing on the faith – we have at least one, if not two, generations who are not well catechized and, therefore, not equipped.
  3. They are bewildered and confused about what the Church teaches.
  4. Of societal influences and pressures: long work hours; children spending little time at home and when they are, they are with social media – each family member lives in an isolated world.

We need to affirm parents as the first evangelizers of their children. Parents’ primary place of evangelization is in the home, which is the closest and often toughest place.

Home is the epicenter of the new evangelization – the daily witness of love.

Children have the right to be:

  1. Instructed
  2. Educated in the faith
  3. Supported in the Christian life

Catechesis will not be effective unless it is preceded and accompanied by fostering the personal relationship of children with Jesus Christ.

Nothing and no one can replace the influence of parents on those entrusted to their care.

The parish is an essential element. It should provide:

  1. The point of contact for families to meet and discuss problems they have
  2. Adult catechesis aimed at helping them carry out their mission

Ten practical tips for parents to evangelize and catechize their children:

  1. Be present to your children – REAL presence: stay home, eat together, do things together, tuck them into bed
  2. Be joyful witnesses to the Gospel. The father is the most critical factor. Share your personal testimony. Faith is caught, not taught.
  3. Know your stuff! Study the CCC! YOUCAT is a great resource, even for parents.
  4. Stick to the core message – important to teach the kerygma
  5. Pray with your children and teach them to pray! It may be the most effective and successful way to pass on the faith. It leaves an impression on children. Pour out your joys, sorrows, and the desires of YOUR family. Start small. Just DO IT!
  6. Go to Sunday Mass together. It sends the message that life is not just about sports and entertainment and work, etc. Also, go to the sacrament of Reconciliation together. Prep for Mass as a family.
  7. Read the Bible together as a family. Faith demands familiarity with the Word of God. Begin with the Gospel – a little at a time, a few verses, stuff the children can understand
  8. Sacramentalize your home. Help your children to know beauty has its origin in God. Children are fascinated by rosaries, palms, statues, etc. A Catholic culture sustains our ability to pass on the faith.
  9. Share your experience of faith amongst each other. Share age appropriate stories of your own journey and encourage your children to share theirs (while respecting their privacy).
  10. Form your children’s moral conscience and teach the need to obey a well-formed conscience.

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