The opening article by Dr. James Pauley in the current issue of The Catechetical Review reminds us of the critical importance of parents in passing on the faith.
As catechetical leaders and catechists, any investment we can make into the catechetical relationship between parent and child is worth its weight in gold. Helping parents not only become “involved in religious activities” and feel their faith to be “very important,” but helping them to frequently talk with their kids about what life in Christ means and why it is infinitely valuable is perhaps our most important opportunity.
In the Preparatory Document for [October’s upcoming synod of bishops], we read that “the irreplaceable educational role played by parents and other family members needs to be acknowledged in every Christian community.” While the responsibility of parents to be primary educators and formators of their children is affirmed in our guiding documents, we must guard against the tendency to merely offer “lip service” to this important truth. In families where parents are present to their children, they are exceptionally positioned to understand unique temperaments and personalities, to form them from an early age in the virtues, to help them come to know God as he gives himself in the sacramental life, and to equip them with the discernment skills that will see them through life’s uncertain and sometimes dark periods. They will also be best able to answer that question of why authority over one’s life should be given to God.
To the question of a parent’s impact on the Catholic convictions of their children, the University of Notre Dame last year made available a fascinating and helpful study by sociologists Christian Smith and Lisa Pearce, that, for me, convincingly demonstrates why we must put the parent-child catechetical relationship first. Interestingly, the findings of the study actually contradict what many parents presume is their level of influence in the faith convictions of their adolescent children. One of the greatest takeaways from the National Survey of Youth and Religion was summarized well in an article published last year in this journal:
Of the most religious quartile of NSYR young adults ages 24-29 an impressive 82% had parents who reported each of the following: that their family regularly talked about religious topics in the home, that faith was “very important” to them, and that they themselves regularly were involved in religious activities. By comparison, only 1% of the least religious quartile of young adults had parents who reported this combination of religious attitudes and practices. Thus, according to the [study], the single most decisive difference between Millennials who remained religiously committed into adulthood and those who didn’t was the degree of religiousness exhibited by their parents.