Cradle of Faith

Once a month, my oldest daughter (age 6) attends Mass with her first grade class.  On a good day, I'll get there early (if I don't miss it all together) and have an opportunity to pray, meditate and read the scriptures, searching for what God wants me to know, before she and her classmates arrive.  But on days when I miscalculate my time, I will arrive moments before they enter the church.  Then it is a little more difficult to settle myself, collect my thoughts and center in preparation for fellowship. In either case, it is a delight to see her eyes open wide with joy in anticipation of her "Papa" sitting with her among friends.

My eyes, I am sure, open just as wide, appreciating she wants me there at this time in her life.  I find it so important to be at Mass with her, on her turf so to speak, when she is feeling most independent among her friends.  It seems like one of many opportunities to sow seeds of positive emotional impressions and excitement to uncover together a greater understanding of our relationship to our Lord and his Church.  As we sit together, I am mindful of holding her close as we listen to the readings, because I want her to feel secure.  She does.  I know this because she presses closer.  Don't we all enjoy that as parents?  When they press closer. We all know this time is fleeting, so they are gems each time they occur.

The daily reading is followed by our priest routinely asking the children questions, and my oldest darts her hand, along with many others, into the air to questions she is confident in answering.

Her enthusiasm is both inspiring and something I don't want to take for granted, as it needs encouragement to continue to grow.  That enthusiasm found in her fundamental joy to be at Mass with family and friends, is a valuable witness to the character of her spiritual identity, still developing, strengthening and more and more capable to carry forward by the dignity of her life the message of Christ in the context of our rich Catholic history.  But, how will she know that history?  She will know her Catholic faith the same way we learn of any history, by those willing to teach directly and those who teach indirectly by example.

As with many fathers, I share the wonderful burden to teach my children the Catholic faith.  The importance of that teaching will result somewhere between a firm Catholic identity or one that wanes and is subject to cultural influences. As fathers, if we are able to articulate and live a rich Catholic faith, then we leave a tangible experience and reference point.  If we live a Catholic faith that is sparse, then our children will likely have little investment in what we did not place significant value to ourselves.  It is a wonderful burden, and awesome responsibility.

As good teachers, we equip our children with what they need to sustain themselves in any of life's circumstances.  With a firm spiritual character, they become a source of encouragement to others and able to transmit to subsequent generations born into the cradle of faith a tradition that is magnificent.
How great things have we heard and known, and our fathers have told us. Declaring the praises of the Lord, and his powers, and his wonders which he hath done and declare them to their children.  That that may put their hope in God and may not forget the works of God: and may seek his commandments (Psalm 78:3, 4bc, 6c-7).


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