Mar. 8, 2017

How God makes the difference in Child upbringing


This may look very simple but it makes a whole lot of difference. Imagine the joy parents feel presenting their child for baptism. It’s such an exciting moment. Did you feel that way as a parent? As parent, you not only transfer joy to the child, more so, you infuse the presence of God in your child’s own heart. You plant a seed of faith. Saint Augustine stated that mothers who bring their children up for baptism “cooperate in the sacred birthing”. It’s a divine responsibility. In Africa for instance, I have watched mothers bring the child for dedication after baptism. They invite the whole community, usually a big crowd accompany them to the church. With their husbands, they dress in uniforms, dance and sing to the altar carrying their baby. They thank God for the gift of the child and also for the privilege of getting the child to enjoy the love of God through the gift of parenthood. There’s usually a long procession. Parents bear gifts, hold candles which symbolize the light of God’s love. They hand this light to the newborn. They receive blessings for the child. This is called passing on the faith.

With all the challenges of modern lifestyles, it is a bit difficult to recognize the importance of passing the faith on to children. The Synod Fathers on the Family recognized these challenges which include, “work schedules and the complexity of today’s world, where many people keep up a frenetic pace just to survive” (Relatio Finalis, 2015, 13-14). Many parents have the desire to go to church, but the tight work schedule hinders them. Some resort to watching Christian channels on television such as EWTN as an alternative. Some parents rarely have time to be with their children. They hand them over to baby seaters and only come to see them as visitors. However, we can’t underestimate the importance of passing the faith on to our children. We need to appreciate doing that early enough in the child’s development. I already discussed the “God-element” in the overall family morality earlier in the week. It all begins in the home. Pope Francis challenges parents thus, “Even so, the home must continue to be the place where we learn to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the faith, to pray and to serve our neighbor” (Amoris Laetitia, 287).

We all know that the process of child development involves bonding between the child and the parents. The mom enjoys this bonding in a particularly unique way. There is an unspoken language which makes the infant to resist being carried by another person other than the mom at a certain stage in the infant’s life. Similarly, as the child is taken up for baptism, presented for dedication, introduced to go to church, sit in between parents and watch them pray, smile and greet others in the church, the love of God is infused in the young soul. She is made to bond with God as well. Pope Francis describes it this way, “It is beautiful when mothers teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much love there is in that! At that moment, the child’s heart becomes a place of prayer. Handing on the faith presumes that parents themselves genuinely trust God, seek him and sense their need for him, for only in this way does “one generation laud your works to another, and declare your mighty acts” (Ps.144:4), and “fathers make known to children your faithfulness” (Is.38:19) (Amoris Laetitia, 287).

Interestingly, many parents recognize the great benefits of taking their children with them despite their tight schedules. Some parents introduce their children to some liturgical activities that engage them and make them look forward to going to church such as being altar servers. Such children in turn become the ones to remind their parents to take them to church to perform their roles. That’s a wise way to get them engaged on time. Infusing God’s love early in the child helps the child to develop the right conscience. It enables the child to love. It makes the child open to accepting that life has deeper meaning.

When the child does the Sign of the Cross, she learns to sign the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on her forehead, in her heart and by her shoulders/sides. She understands that the love of God guides her ways and actions. She learns to share this love with her friends and those she meets as she grows old. When the child hears and recites the Lord’s prayers, she begins to admire the God’s Fatherhood beyond her visible parents. She begins to imagine the love that pulls her parents to rely on the support that comes from God. Think of it this way, the child feels loved and supported by the parents. She sees her parents as being strong and trustworthy. She trusts them because of their love. Then she sees her parents pray and rely on God, that means someone could be stronger and more loving than her parents for them to trust him. She connects with them. She believes that this greater love is the source from whom the parents are able to share their own love with her. She begins to trust what the parents trust. She begins to believe in what they believe. She begins to learn to rely on God the same way her parents do. It accompanies the child as she grows. That’s the reason to start on time to take your child to church. It helps her in her spiritual and moral development. What she watches you do, she does.

As the child grows up, she is not swayed by the craziness of the world. She begins to sieve the things around her with an understanding of the reality of God already in her soul. But if she is totally dry, she could easily be taken away by the external influences that come her way. The presence of God makes a huge difference.

Have you not been taking her to church? Lent is a time to start and even do better.