Many of us in parish life have heard over the years of the disappointing but true statement from parents that “my kids have left the faith,” meaning either that they don’t practice their faith anymore, or they worship at another Christian Church. The first part of that statement applies to friends of mine, a married couple, who shared with me the sad news that all three of their kids, who were baptized, received Holy Communion, were confirmed and received eight years of religious education, no longer practice their Catholic faith anymore. One doesn’t believe in God. One is indifferent or doesn’t care, and the third is planning on getting married in a secular ceremony and doesn’t practice the faith either. Can any of you relate? All three kids are grown adults in their late 20’s and mid-30’s, and two out of three now have kids of their own. Though these young grandchildren are not being nourished, sacramentally speaking, they are curious as testified by their grandparents, my friends.
Yes. This is a sad but common faith problem among U.S. Catholic families and maybe in your own family situation…at least for the moment. But there is hope too; hope for the parents and kids. On the one hand our faith teaches us in the catechism that “parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children” (#2223), and that includes faith. My friends did everything they were told and thought that what they were doing was right, which it was. But it was incomplete. They had not developed a relationship with Jesus. So how did they receive one? They asked through prayer. My two friends were eventually led by the Holy Spirit on their spiritual journey of conversion together through three primary activities which are beyond the scope of this article yet are still worth mentioning. They are as follows: 1). Life in The Spirit Seminar, 2) Theology of The Body, and 3) Couple Prayer. Now this married couple, my friends, are so in love with the Lord, in greater love with each other, and are on fire for the Catholic faith!
There is also hope for their kids who have left the faith as well as for the youth of our parish too. We see our young people attend and participate in their catechism classes. We also see them as lectors, ushers, and serving at several parish events especially in the area of Christian Service. Evidence of youth serving in our archdiocese was found in an article from the November 14th, 2014 issue of the Michigan Catholic that was summed up from a survey. (http://themichigancatholic.com/2014/11/young-adult-catholics-small-numbers-great-potential/) Perhaps you may remember this survey that was given out this past year. After the survey was distributed to the parishes diocesan-wide, completed by parishioners and returned, data was collected for analysis. In the area of youth, statistics showed that college-oriented and young adults in the age range of 18-25 were reported as being “one of the most active groups out of all respondents. 66 percent of these reported volunteering or serving in some parish capacity.” That is very promising and encouraging. We see that evidence especially in our own junior high kids and high school youth here at Holy Trinity Parish. More will serve and have a desire to serve if we teach them and reflect it in our own lives. We pray, that in time, God will sustain the faith of our kids as they transition from youth to adulthood; from high school into college and beyond.
Then you may ask the question…why have our kids left the faith? Why have they strayed from the flock of the Church? There is NOT one clear cut answer but several reasons which contribute to it, of which, I will only share a few. For example, there is an unhealthy focus on “the self” known as narcissism (selfishness), materialism (money and the vain acquisition of physical things over the spiritual), relativism (no absolute truth), a sharp decline in morality, especially sexual morality (i.e. cohabitation and contraception) which can be a form of hedonism (that pleasure is the highest good and primary aim of human life) and an increasingly hostile environment to God and Christianity by ISIS today, but it can even be identified to have started in the public public school system over 50 years ago. For example, in the landmark 1962 Supreme Court case, Engel v. Vitale, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and encourage its recitation in public schools. It was followed up and affirmed again one year later in 1963 with Abington School District v. Schempp, a case in which the Supreme Court also ruled to establish what is now the current prohibition on state-sponsored prayer in schools. These factors and others have led to less and less church attendance which results in a faith that fades away. But to be fair, when it comes to Catholic faith on college campuses, we are blessed to have Newman Centers (inspired by the writings of Catholic convert, St. John Henry Newman of England, 1801-1890) at some of our state universities like U of M – Ann Arbor, Michigan State, Wayne State, formerly here in Port Huron and even something similar on the Oakland University campus through St. John Fisher Parish in Auburn Hills. These help to cultivate a Catholic presence in a college environment through Mass, Confession, and a safe place to study, eat, pray, have fellowship and even nap.
The story of faith in our own lives and in the lives of our kids, even for the three kids of my friends, is still developing and can be bolstered. How? Through prayer, which is what my friends have committed to doing. On the one hand, you don’t want to drive your kids away from the faith, let alone the family. But what you can do is pray for them with a persistent faith. St. Monica prayed 17 years for the conversion of her son Augustine. Look what happened. He became a great saint, which is the ultimate call for all of us. Though some of you may need to pray longer than 17 years, it will all be worth it in the end. What kind of prayer? One example of prayer that my friends do consistently is to begin their prayer by lighting a candle daily before dinner. This can be an inspiring reference to the child’s baptism which recalls the powerful words from the baptismal ceremony. As the father or godfather lights the child’s baptismal candle from the larger Paschal Candle, the priest or deacon states: “Receive the light of Christ.” So the parents and godparents receive the light of Christ on behalf of the child at baptism.
After the candle is lit by the parents at the dinner table, a prayer is prayed. My friends came across this particular prayer in the Upper Peninsula and made adaptations to it. We pray God may hear our prayers and inspire others to pray this prayer daily. May our kids, whose faith has grown dim, be ignited by the spark of graces given to them at baptism. On this Pentecost Sunday, may the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our kids, remind them of their Catholic identity as adopted and beloved sons and daughters of the Father in Jesus that they are called to be.
– Fr. Jeff Allan
The prayer states:
O Divine Wisdom, our children are spiritually confused and unsure.
It feels like they are lost in darkness.
As we light this candle,
let your light enter their hearts that they may see the path before them.
May this holy light quiet the voices of fear
that confuse their spiritual judgment and cloud their heart’s true vision.
Grant them the gift of divine wisdom
that they may step forward with faith and courage.