Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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:
Are your kids growing in faith?

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Oct. 25, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell Last week another parent complained his teenager objects to Religious Ed. “Do your kids like to go?” he asked.

No, I admitted. One of mine protests every time, the same one that’s been grumbling about Sunday Mass since age five. I try to empathize – not agree, but empathize – about how boring it is, how they don’t learn anything useful, and how it’s wasting their time. It helps to recall that I once made these same arguments to my own parents.

It also helps to remember that what goes on in our home teaches my kids more than they’ll learn in 20 years of Religious Ed.

Higher knowledge stems from and in fact depends upon concrete experience. In other words, our understanding comes from brain patterns resulting from our physical body interacting with actual things.

That’s a complicated way of saying our faith grows through bodily experience. A child may memorize scripture verses or Catholic doctrines about God, but only comes to know God through nature, people and events. Abstract concepts of faith are grounded in daily life.

Our home and family is the workshop where we build theological virtues. Let’s look at specifics.

Love of God: Children must first be loved, to love in return. As Jesus took human form to demonstrate God’s love to us, our love must be demonstrated to our children in flesh and blood terms. Saying, “I love you” is not enough. Cooking and cleaning for them, even working to earn a living for them, is not enough.

Toni Morrison asks, “Do your eyes light up when your children come into the room?” because that’s what they’re looking for, to find their worth reflected in your face. “You think your affection and your deep love is on display, because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face.”

Trust in God: To trust God, children must live in a reliable environment. Do you follow through on promises? Are you honest with your children? Do you speak one way but act another? Children naturally trust, but when their trust is shattered or chipped away, they withdraw it in self-defense.

Forgiveness: Have you ever done something horrible, been truly forgiven by another and forgiven yourself? To extend true forgiveness, we must have felt it ourselves. When children live in a home where “I’m sorry” is not forced, and parents forgive with no strings attached, they learn true sorrow and forgiveness.

Compassion: Compassion begins with empathy. Children begin to learn empathy as infants when parents are attuned to the baby’s needs and moods and tend to them. As youngsters grow, we can strengthen their ability to feel for others by exposing them to people who are different, and by demonstrating caring action in support of people in need.

Hope: Hard times teach hope. When things go wrong, how do you act? Do you demonstrate that you believe things will get better? Can you convey to your children that no problem is too big it can’t be solved? Hope doesn’t assure bad things won’t happen. Hope is the knowledge that as long as we have life, it is possible to grow, and when life ends, we meet a loving God.

If your children don’t have all the theology right, relax. We all come to theological understanding gradually. Keep talking to them about your own faith. Express curiosity about your child’s faith rather than lecturing.

Here’s a fun way for your family to share ideas about God.

Give each person their own disposable camera, or share the family camera. Allow everyone several days to take pictures that illustrate their image of God, thoughts about God, or things they would like to ask God.

Print or develop the photos and plan a family show and tell. Serve a snack and invite everyone to share their pictures and thoughts. You might be amazed at how much your children teach you about faith.

© 2007, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at

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