It is all too common to hear frustrated parents complain that although they sent their children to Catholic school, or had them faithfully attend religious education and youth ministry, they nonetheless fell away from the faith. Pope Paul VI may have said it best: “The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, §20). What does Paul mean? He means that there is a rupture between what we believe, what we’re taught, and how we live our lives. That may be the best explanation for why so many youth do not continue practicing the faith. They had not lived the faith out fully before they were off on their own.
Living Out our Catholic Faith
What can families do to bridge the gap between faith and culture? The most important thing is for our children to see that the faith is not something that stays at Church but is lived out every single day in the context of family life. Is the faith just an opinion or something done on Sunday, or is it something that truly guides and impacts everything that we do? When the faith is lived out in this way, it will sink down and take roots and become something living in the lives our children, not just an idea or a bunch of rules.
Praying Regularly as a Family
How do we begin to form a Catholic culture in our family life? The first step is by praying regularly as a family. Prayer should shape and guide our lives: daily, weekly, and yearly. We begin to shape our lives with prayer daily by praying in the morning and evening and before meals as a family. We need to start and end the day with God, asking for His assistance in all that we do. We also shape our week with prayer by making Sunday a unique day, given to God not only by attending Mass, but also by spending more time in prayer and keeping the day together as a family. The year becomes shaped by prayer by keeping the liturgical seasons, especially Advent, Lent, and Easter, which mark the seasons with distinctive Catholic practices.
Celebrating Catholic Practices
There are also other things that we can do to build a family culture. There are important Catholic practices like retreats and pilgrimages that can be done as a family and are important moments to strengthen faith. There are also things like reading together, appreciating good music as a family, and experiencing the outdoors together. These things help form us and unite us as a family and can be strengthened by Catholic tradition; for example, by reading some of the great treasures of Catholic literature and music. More importantly, we need to serve together as a family. When our children see the family living out the faith by serving the poor, visiting the sick and elderly, and helping anyone in need, this is one of the clearest signs that we have moved beyond keeping faith on the sidelines.
There are many things we can do to form a stronger Catholic family culture. When we put our faith into practice as a family, we strengthen our faith and provide a foundation to keep it strong throughout our lives.
What are some things my family is already doing that is building Catholic culture?
What are some ways the Catholic faith can grow and strengthen my family? (examples: regular nightly prayer, weekly Rosary, monthly Confession, etc.)