Monday, February 17, 2014

Parents as First Evangelists

Dear Theophilus, 

Home is where the heart is. Home is also where the seeds of Christ are sown. Home is the first line of evangelization. Home is the Ecclesia Domestica. 

This has never been more apparent to me than this beautiful long weekend where Canadians (at least in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan; according to my calendar) celebrate Family Day. Although we usually try to incorporate activities with our extended families on this weekend, this year we’ve also relished in the blessing of having the whole weekend to our immediate family. Each of us has had time to follow our own personal pursuits (writing this blog for example), while we’ve also come together for some great quality time both indoors and out. 

I always marvel at how God works in our lives, and this weekend has been no different. Our Family Day weekend began on Thursday night as my wife and I were able to attend a seminar at our parish on How to Raise Catholic Children – which our pastor aptly renamed: How to Raise Children Catholic. Fr. Charles’ talk could be summed up in one word: Eucharist. The source and summit of our faith must also be the source and summit of our family lives. 

This is where the role of parents as first evangelists, the Ecclesia Domsetica, comes in. 

As good friend PatrickSullivan puts it so well when talking to the parents of children preparing for First Reconciliation and First Communion: “Children love what their parents love. If parents love sports, then their children will love sports. If parents love the pursuit of wealth, then their children will love the pursuit of wealth. If parents love Christ, then their children will love Christ.” 

It warrants being repeated: 

If parents love Christ, then their children will love Christ. 

And children are not stupid either. They see and know the difference between what is said and what is. Too many parents will tell their children that God is important; that’s why they have their children sacramentalized like a religious checklist and drag them to church for Christmas and Easter; yet they do not live out the love of God the other 50 weeks of the year or in their daily lives. Children see this. Children understand this. 

Too often parents tell their children, “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.” Unfortunately, children would much rather do as their parents do. Parents would rather point to someone else, a saint, the parish priest or a Catholic school teacher; rather than take on the responsibility of evangelization themselves. Evangelization is hard work, particularly when the rest of society (especially in the media) tells you different. Parenting too is hard work, but through their own baptism evangelization must also be the parent’s first responsibility to their children. 

Parents must sow the seeds of Christ through the evangelization of their children. Once parents find the unbridled joy of the Eucharist, they will want nothing more than to share this with their children. Children who witness their parents fervently participating in the Eucharist (this does not necessarily mean taking an active role in ministry, but rather taking an active, prayerful role in the Mass), will want to come to know and participate in the Eucharist as well. Children who learn to love the Eucharist from an early age will garner a wisdom deeper than many adults, and they will grow to see the image of God in each human individual, treating them with the dignity that Twenty-First Century humanity so desperately craves.