|Good habits last a lifetime...|
Although I don't always think so, because I want to get back to a TV show or ball game as soon as possible, one of the highlights of my day is praying with my children.
Every night, before our three kids go to bed, I blessed them with holy water and lead them in the "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer and a Hail Mary. You can say it's my one-on-three time, as I often tell friends.
But, lately my 6-year-old son has added a new twist to our nightly routine. As I'm doing the sign of the cross to wrap up and call it a night, he says to me, "Daddy, I want to talk to God," which means he wants me to pray so that he can repeat what I say.
After doing it for a while, I use it as my Duck Dynasty concluding scene moment, where I think about all the things that we should be grateful for and the things that may have happened to them, friends or family that day, as he parrots my every word, except when he can't understand a big one! (Which prompts me to use a simpler term)
One night this week, my third grade daughter, who apparently is learning about the Four Marks of the Church, asked me whether I knew what they were shortly before I put them to bed (I guess she was trying to stump me!).
So, I decided to use my Duck Dynasty moment to thank God for giving us the Blessed Mother, the Communion of Saints, the Eucharist and the Church, which allowed me to elaborate on why the Catholic Church is said to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic (the four marks she was asking about).
Not to get too fancy or philosophical on them, I told them the Church is One because Jesus built just one, His Church, upon Peter the Rock. She is Holy because the Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles to all truth and gave them the authority to bind and lose on earth what would be bound and loosed in heaven. She is Catholic because the word means universal and is spread throughout the world, as Christ commanded the Apostles to "make disciples of all nations." And, she is Apostolic because her roots can be traced back to the Apostles themselves.
When we finished praying, my third grader asked, "Daddy, why do you call the Church a she and her?"
My 9-year-old daughter is very observant and likes to ask provoking questions, like the time she asked me why we pray to Mary, not because of any objection (since she is still to young to question what we teach her) but because of sincere childlike curiosity about our faith. Last year, as she prepared for her First Holy Communion, her teacher often raved to me about her spirituality and profound understanding of the faith (for her age).
"Well," I answered, "Because Jesus is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are His Bride. We are united to Jesus through the Eucharist. As a husband and a wife become one in marriage, we become One with Jesus when we receive the Eucharist. And, since God is three persons, and where One is All are, then in the Eucharist are also contained the Father and Holy Spirit. And, since the Church is the Body of Christ, as St. Paul says in the Bible, and you can't separate the head from the body, in the Eucharist we are united to the entire Church; the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, those in heaven, those in purgatory and all of us here on earth, who partake in the Eucharist." Say what?
Exactly! I paused a moment and noticed a dead silence.
Either all three had fallen asleep, which I doubted, or their little brains were spinning frantically. I could have broken into the old Simon and Garfunkel song, "Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk to you again..." I could have sworn I heard crickets chirping outside.
I decided to leave it at that and got up from my son's bed, where I was lying, and gave him a kiss. "I love you, Daddy," he offered with a hug and a kiss, as I got up.
"I love you too, Buddy," I said, then got up, walked out of their room and closed the door behind me.
There is a fine line between trying to explain our faith to young minds and talking over their heads, as my wife often warns me.
But, the way I figure it, as the Catholic Church teaches, the greatest responsibility I have as a husband and father is helping my family get to heaven. Therefore, I think it's better to show them my fervor and passion for my faith, even if they don't quite understand yet, so that, as they get older and are more ready to digest what I have passed on to them, they can appreciate and be inspired, if not by my words, at least, by my ardency.
Besides, I also learned something very valuable that night. The next time I want them to pipe down after a raucous day, I'll just try to explain the Holy Trinity!
St. Augustine once said, "Seek not to understand that you may believe but believe that you may understand." Hopefully with belief, and God's grace, my children will one day understand, despite their dad's elaborate and silence-inducing explanations!
What do you think, was it too much?...