You move through the sacraments – Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion. Check. Check. Check.
You head to Mass on Easter and Christmas. You find a seat among the packed house. You might even give up something for Lent – perhaps chocolate or soda or Netflix.
You sign your own kids up for those same sacrament classes. Drop them off at Sunday School. Say a prayer when the going gets rough.
I know everyone’s spiritual journey is different, and research clearly notes the commitment to religion is dying in America. We tend to our parishes and synagogues and churches when it’s convenient. We might rush our kids through those big spiritual moments when the grandparents pressure. We turn to our faith when life is hard. We cast requests to a “Greater Being” when we need something.
Given I live in California, my lens to spirituality is likely different. Very few of our own friends attend weekly services. Some call themselves Catholics, others Christians and Baptists. Some claim no religion at all. To each their own.
But over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to view my own faith journey through a very different lens – through the eyes of a Sunday School teacher.
I elected to take the message of volunteerism and service to heart, signing up to co-lead classes for our young first and second-grade students preparing for Reconciliation and First Communion. Since my middle child would be going through the classes, I figured it would also be a special way to spend time with him, and push me to learn more about my faith.
We are now only a few months away from the “Big Day,” but at times I feel hollow. I’m excited for my own son and a number of the kids in the class, but I’ve also seen about 50 percent of the families show very little commitment to this journey. While they drop their kids off at our bi-monthly sessions, they never attend Mass. They don’t pray at home. They don’t participate.
Twice a month, we touch on the basics, but I can tell the education stops there. The amazing thing about second-grade students is that they are brutally honest.
“My mom says we’re too busy to go to Mass.”
“I don’t have time to do my workbook pages.”
“We don’t say bedtime prayers.”
I’m no saint, but I’m stumped.
When you sign your child up for religious classes, why do you do it?
Is it to fulfill some check box?
Is it to grab a picture on the big sacrament day?
My husband and I decided long ago that we wanted to raise our children in the Catholic Church, and we want them to believe in something greater. We teach them to respect others. We teach them to love and give. We teach them that sometimes this commitment isn’t convienent. It means missing events, or waking up early on a Sunday when we all want to sleep in. It means carving out time to learn about our faith. Obviously these actions can be associated with any religion.
So I guess my question to parents is why sign the kids up for religious education? If you aren’t willing to “walk the talk?” why go through the motions? Why treat your kid’s faith journey as a check box item?
When you sign your kids up for something – whether that be religious education or dance or baseball or art classes – why not show your kids the importance of being all in? It’s easy to drop them off to events and practices and classes. The real work, however, comes in the discussions you have with your kids about these commitments. Are you simply writing a check and waiting for the certificate? Or are you in? Are you a teacher? Are you a model?
If you’re not religious, that’s fine. But if you sign your kid up for religious education, think about why you are taking this action. Are you simply checking a box? Or are you seeking something more?