From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: Passing on the Faith

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Feb. 7, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Iíve been using the book Raw Faith by John Kirvin to spark my daily prayer. Kirvinís meditations jump off from the words of greats like Henri Nouwen, St. Teresa and Guigo, a Cathusian monk. Theyíve been powerful ďprayer-starters,Ē leading me to a deepening quiet and a growing sense of the mystery of God.

Just this morning a passage in the book touched me so profoundly, I wanted to run and tell my teenage son about it. The words captured something so real and true I had to make him understand it. Should I photocopy the paragraph? Buy him the book?

ďRead this,Ē I wanted to say. ďTell me what is says to you. Can you explain how it applies to your life? Do you understand how important it is?Ē

Yeah, right. As if any kid wants more homework, let alone assigned by his mother. Luckily, I came to my senses.

Like many parents I have a strong desire to pass on to my children the deep truths of my faith and any particle of wisdom Iíve gained from life. Because it means so much to me, but also because I feel responsible. Itís my job. And I can get carried away. I forget that faith is better caught than taught.

I know itís not what I lecture my kids about, or what I have them read that will pass my faith to them. Itís how I live my life.

Thatís probably why I get in such a panic sometimes.

More often than not my life is one step forward, two steps back. I donít feel like model material. I donít want my kids to make the mistakes Iíve made, or to have the hang-ups I have.

I may be able to present a fairly good picture to the world. I go to Mass on Sunday, work for social justice causes, show caring for friends and family. I donít steal or cheat.

But my children see the real me. They hear me gossip to my husband. See me lose my temper. Feel the hurt of my sharp tongue. They know my petty moods, my way of sneaking chocolate or ice cream and hoarding it for myself. Even if they couldnít put into words the ways in which I donít always live up the convictions I preach, they sense the inconsistency.

ďDonít do as I do,Ē I want to tell them. ďDo as I say.Ē At best this creates dissonance and confusion, at worst it breeds disrespect and alienation. Children grow up to call it hypocrisy. If it were the only truth, I might as well give up. For Iíll never live my Christian ideals perfectly.

Salvation lies in the nature of our God, an all-merciful, all-loving God.

But that truth can feel like so many words. Itís hard to trust that God accepts me, mistakes and hang-ups included. Iím just learning that God loves me right where I am. Even if itís two steps back. God created me human, imperfect. With all my weakness, propensity for foolishness, blindness, self-centeredness, Iím still lovable. Accepting my limitations, and at the same time, Godís redeeming love, is true humility. The starting place for faith.

I come back to that starting place when I am worried Iím not doing a good enough job passing the Christian faith to my children. If I read something that stirs me, I check my natural inclination to run share it with someone. Rather I try to sit with it, and ask ďGod, what are you trying to tell me? Is there something new you want me to see or do?Ē

I try to take time everyday to reflect on my actions and motivations. I donít always do it, but meeting regularly with a group of others committed to daily prayer helps me get back on track.

When I have not been my best self I try to ask forgiveness. It doesnít seem true that ďLove means never having to say youíre sorry.Ē Rather, I think love means risking to be the first to apologize. That is so hard, especially going to my teenager and saying, ďI was wrong.Ē

I cannot model perfect faith for my children. I canít pass it on to them through my words or with photocopied articles or even a good book. But through my willingness to change, to see and admit my faults, I can show them humility.

I can model a humble heart open to Godís gift of faith.

(Mary Farrell is a Spokane freelance journalist and childrenís writer.)

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