BY EILEEN MORGAN
Faith is not just learned, it is also practiced. Just like school, faith or religious formation involves homework. When my children were younger, we’d forget about religion homework until the night before class. Frantically they would do it at the kitchen table while I cooked dinner. It was a chore.
Is there a better way to incorporate religious formation into family life? Yes. Learning and practicing faith need to be woven into our everyday lives.
Here are some suggestions.
Bibles stories and big words
Your child’s Bible stories can be read as bedtime stories. Older children can read from the Bible as part of their school’s nightly reading requirement. Ask your child to tell you the story they just read. Is your child required to learn “Faith Words” or Catholic vocabulary? Write out each word and its meaning on 3”x5” cards or post-it- notes and place them around the house where you and your child will see them often (on the fridge, the mirror, the front door etc.) Let them ask you for the definition sometimes. Children often find it fun to quiz mom or dad.
Pray it again, Sam
Prayers are best learned by simply praying. Use the prayer your child is learning as a family prayer at mealtime. Children feel encouraged when they can remember a word or line of the prayer. So, take turns, one person praying one line and then someone else the next. Make a family prayer space with a felt square or small cloth, a cross or small figurine of Jesus or Mary, and a battery candle. Your prayer space connects to the Mass and Church year if you change the cloth color to match the one currently used in Church. Add a holy card for a favorite saint’s feast day. On All Souls’ Day place on an envelope or card with the names of loved ones who have died in the prayer space. Do the same all year for the names of people or intentions you are praying for. Add flowers for the Easter season or Mary’s feasts.
Pay attention to calendar intersection points
School has times when the focus is on a certain theme or subject. The birthday of Martin Luther King is in January. Explore biblical quotes he included in one of his famous speeches? What actions and words of Jesus are reflected by Dr. King?
Valentines Day is huge with kids. Share the story about the real “Saint Valentine” with your children.
What are your children learning about math and science? Much about math and science can lead to a discussion about God’s uniqueness, sense of order and creativity. Abraham’s descendants would be more than the stars in the heavens. Sowing seeds or growing crops were often used by Jesus as a metaphor for faith. We are each different but equal in God’s eyes. What does that tell us about the value of each person?
Further, when it comes to science, don’t forget the many great Catholic scientists through the centuries, such as Leonardo DaVinci, Louis Braille, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Enrico Fermi, Guglielmo Marconi, and so many more.
Daily life is often messy and demanding. The same is true of our spiritual life. I hope some of these suggestions will help your family interweave the two.
Eileen Morgan has worked in the field of catechetics since 1980 as Director or Coordinator of Faith Formation in diverse types of parishes. As a Master Catechist for the Diocese of San Diego and the Diocese of San Bernardino, she developed youth and adult retreats, catechist education and certification courses, and models for Family Catechesis for Sacrament preparation and primary grade catechesis. She continues to offer workshops today.
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