Parents called to be first educators in faith

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Mothers and fathers around our Diocese may be letting out a small, collective sigh of relief, as their young ones now commence a new school year. School is back and that means it’s time to get back to the routines, the football practices and the homework.

Perhaps a good time for us to reflect on the fact that all the years that children attend school, they are also at home, which is another place of teaching and learning for the young child.

In fact, the simultaneous influence on children of school and families is undeniable, but maybe too often ignored. Our Catholic faith brings with it a responsibility to build a culture of life, where every person is worthy of the very best care.

Some years ago, Pope Benedict XVI urged parents to become more active in sharing the faith with their children. Not only did he wish for parents to be actively involved in teaching their children about the Church, but he also wanted them to be joyful as they communicated aspects of their faith.

This idea goes back to the notion that children learn by watching. If a child sees a parent being joyful when speaking about their faith, it will excite them to become involved as well.

These children in our schools today, please God will, in their turn, hand on the gift of faith to their children and grandchildren. The gift of friendship with God is one which can inspire and give meaning to their whole lives.

What a wonderful privilege it is, as a parent, to be able to introduce your own son or daughter to your friend, Jesus; to teach a little one about how unique and special they are in God’s eyes, and about how much God loves them.

What a challenge and responsibility it is to teach and explain to your own child the values of the Gospel of Christ, especially nowadays in a world that often promotes attitudes contrary to the Gospel.

We are reminded often of the need to inculcate good Christian values in our young and the world around us cries out for truth and justice for all mankind. Explaining your beliefs simply and clearly to your children can go a long way as far as affecting them in their spiritual growth. Perhaps these questions are worth pondering:

“Do we teach them what we heard in a Reading at Mass: for example, to walk in love and truth? Or do we teach them with words, and then allow our lives to go in another direction?

Being Christian involves a lifetime journey of renewing over and over again our commitment and friendship with God. It is a voyage of discovery, during which we make many choices; we learn every day what it really means to be a follower of Christ. As we grow older we deepen, through prayer, our love and personal friendship with Jesus. We learn right from wrong.

We become conscious of our sins and failings, but also of God’s boundless mercy and forgiveness when we repent and say sorry.

We learn to change and do better, and to live more sincerely the values of the Gospel which Jesus taught. So, with the help of God’s grace, we find the strength “to reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises”, instead becoming God’s witnesses in our families, communities and in the world.

It is our responsibility to look after these children! Any true Christian has to take care of children and pass on the faith, by passing on what he lives, what is in his heart.

We all have a responsibility to give our very best and the very best that we have is our faith.  I think we may need to be more conscious of this, particularly by passing on our faith in the example of our daily living.

Pope Francis too has commented on this: ‘Too often when trying to teach about truth, teachers and adults stop halfway with timidity, incapable of addressing the message to others with the luminosity of the whole truth.’

Pope Francis continued to explain that the problem isn’t  just knowing what the truth is and being dedicated to it. It’s also knowing how to express it ‘with brilliance and fruitfulness.’ And that can only be done, he wrote, by trying to live like Jesus — reflecting deeply on the truth and expressing it definitively, courageously and clearly as an act of love.

He also expresses the need for passion and creativity as added weapons against the spirit of the “mundane” that is seeking to numb, distract or discourage our youth.

Put simply, parents are called to be positive role models in their children’s lives.

This means teaching them about simple things like right and wrong and, more importantly, setting a good example for them to follow.

Children do tend to learn best from watching their parents do things and they will act the way their parents do, because that is what they think is right.

Church teaching is clear, that the handing on of the faith is primarily the responsibility of parents – as expressed in the words of every baptismal liturgy – where they are described as the first and best of teachers of their children in the ways of faith. But parents you are not alone in this role; you have the support of the parish, and our excellent principals and teachers in Catholic schools.

May I wish every blessing to our parents, teachers, our priests and everyone in the Diocese of Sandhurst, as we move together to embrace the challenges of 2015, in care and concern for one another, in the light of our Faith!

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, October, 2015

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