If some high school science instructor challenged your existence in the presence of your daughter, what would she do?
If a college professor presents proof after proof in your son's philosophy course that you are just a figment of his imagination and that he has invented you out of a need for comfort in the face of uncertainty, what would he think? ₁
Chances are that your kids would laugh in the face of these challenges.
Even kids whose mother is absent from their lives would be unlikely to believe she didn't exist. There is at least some evidence in their world that she, in fact, existed, if only a birth certificate, or the fact that people they know have talked about their mother. Not to mention the fact that virtually everyone else acknowledges the existence of a mother.
The assertion is ridiculous on the face of it because we know and have a personal relationship with our own mothers. And virtually everyone else with whom we have contact also knows and has a relationship with a mother.
Yet, when a child's belief in God is challenged, many (if not most) children and young adults these days begin to waiver. Even those that have some intellectual underpinning to their faith may not stand up to the constant barrage of challenges to the tenets of the Catholic Faith and the Church's moral teachings, let alone the existence of God and His importance in their lives.
However, once a person knows, with certainty, that God exists and begins to develop a regular interaction with Him, then the challenges to faith, and the doubt of friends, and even family, are much less of a threat.
And, even a young child is capable of this certainty and this regular interaction with God.
The problem is that neither of those things can be given by schools, parish catechists, or even the Sacraments.₂
For a child, a real and personal relationship with God can only be nurtured in the home by loving parents who also regularly interact with God and to Whom they entrust their lives.
This is what we call Evangelization.
Catechesis is the unpacking and explaining of what God has revealed about Himself and His plan. It is crucially important, but it is not primary.
Moms and Dads...only YOU can evangelize your child. And you MUST do it if you have any hope that your child will grow into an adult of faith.
As a former teacher, catechist and trainer of catechists, I find it quite easy to talk about the Faith, and to teach my kids what the Church teaches about God. But rarely do lessons about the Catholic Faith turn into actual experiences of God for my children.
I am continually humbled by how often those glimpses of personal faith appear in the mundane moments of life. I see it in the midst of an argument with a sibling, a minor illness, or in the conversation that comes when the child asks one of those "Where does wind come from?" sort of questions.
Sometimes I see it during Mass, or while praying with them before bed, but most of the time it is in the rather ordinary moments. Grace moves in a child in mysterious ways and it takes the attention of a loving mother or father to help that child respond to those graces.
No religion curriculum, no matter how orthodox, or attractive, or intellecually challenging can make that happen.
No teacher, catechist or youth leader can make that happen.
Heck, parents don't even MAKE that happen. The Holy Spirit makes it happen. And parents are just there to shepherd the kid through the moments.
A parent's special knowledge of their child's heart, coupled with the grace of the sacrament of marriage make them perfectly suited to that shepherding of their children through the grace-filled moments whenever they come.
The good news is that even the most unprepared₃ parent can begin to nurture faith in their child. Step one is regularly interact with God yourself--He is watching and waiting for you to simply turn your attention to Him. Step two is to share that interaction with your child. Step three is to watch and listen to your child and help them to see God in their lives.
If you are doing these things then wherever they get their Catechesis--whether at home, school, or the parish religious education program--knowledge of Who God is and what He wants from us will make sense to them.
1-These questions and the line of logic in this blog post was inspired by this Greg Popcak article.
2-The Sacraments are REAL, but they are not magic. In other words, they impart actual grace which depends upon our active response. This is why Sacramental Preparation is so important and why it is CRUCIAL that parents are the primary source of that preparation. We are best suited, by design, to help a child respond fully to Sacramental grace.