Forming Children in the Faith: Recommendations for All Ages
Introducing children to the Catholic faith and helping them to grow in their relationship to Christ and His Church is the responsibility of the parents. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “Parents are the principal and first educators of their children.” Likewise, the second Vatican Council refers to the family as the ‘Ecclesia domestica.’ Furthermore, the Catechism states that “the home is the first school of Christian life. . . . Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and the privilege of evangelizing their children. Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.” (CCC 1653, 1656, 1657, 2223-2226) Indeed, simply dropping children off at a Wednesday evening faith formation class is not fulfilling one’s role as parent in the formation of children. We are called, challenged, and granted the privilege to do more.
Fortunately, there are excellent resources to help parents educate their children in the Catholic faith. Below are some suggestions for helping to form your children in the Faith.
When children are in the preschool and early elementary years, picture stories about the
saints; stories, games, and activities from the Catholic Children’s Treasure Box; introduction to the rosary with regular practice; weekly Mass attendance; and joyful celebration of
liturgical year are excellent ways to introduce the faith.
For children in upper elementary and middle school, literature can play an important role. Bethlehem Books provides wonderful stories rich in characters of integrity. In addition, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia is woven with Christian truths. Ignatius Press also has a series of books on the saints, and Amy Welborn has a series titled Prove It! that is written specifically for the middle school age student. All of these provide exceptional reading and wonderful illustrations of the faith through the lives of interesting characters (both real and fictional). Furthermore, at these ages, children are capable of volunteering within the home, their community, and their parish. There are also excellent clubs and activities geared toward children of these ages. Faith camps, parish programs, and Christ-centered community programs can be wonderful ways of helping your children grow in their Catholic faith. Finally, keep your children close to the sacraments at these ages.
For the high school age child, offer them reading material that will challenge their thinking and provide a strong foundation for the truths of the Catholic faith. The writings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, and G.K. Chesterton are recommended for youth at these ages. In addition, video programs such as Ignatius Press’ videos of the saints and Fr. Robert Barron’s series titled Catholicism are great resources. Another excellent resource for high school children are audio resources. Lighthouse Catholic Media has hundreds of audio presentations available for CD or that can be downloaded. Conversion stories are also strongly recommended for these ages and for adults. High school age students should also be introduced to Catholic Bible studies. In addition, there are excellent teachings on sexuality, chastity, and purity by Jason Evert in the Theology of the Body for Teens program by Ascension Press, How to Find Your Soul Mate Without Losing Your Soul (thetheologyofthebody.com or chastity.com) and others. Keeping close to the sacraments is also imperative. Finally, at this age, it is important that the students have an opportunity to put their faith into action. Help your child find a volunteer opportunity that is of interest and importance to them. Volunteering within their parish is an excellent option. Likewise, volunteering at a local soup kitchen, nursing home, food shelf, school, or other location of interest will help them to live out their faith.