A lot of people my age aren’t raising their children in the Church. Some aren’t even having their children baptized. One common reason for this is that people want to let their children make their own decisions about God and how best to have a relationship with that God. I understand why this way of thinking is attractive. It emerges from an appreciation of freedom and not wanting our own biases to interfere with impressionable minds.
I recently had a conversation with a young woman whose parents raised her with that very mindset. While she appreciated her parents very much she admitted that this decision deprived her of a sense of having a spiritual home, which is something that a lot of Catholics take for granted.
I’ve been thinking of this conversation a lot and the young woman’s perspective makes a lot of sense to me. While it is perhaps romantic to think of our children growing up and carefully and thoughtfully analyzing different religions and making well thought out decisions, the fact is that they won’t even be able to do this without learning some basic concepts about God and they are most likely to learn these concepts in Church.
Not raising your kids in the Church is not going to liberate them to make intelligent decisions about their spiritual lives. It is actually going to harm their ability to make intelligent decisions about God because they won’t even have a vocabulary to undergo these processes of thought. I think that it is much more likely that they are going to wind up confused about God and find themselves alone and uncertain when they realize they might need him.
I see this play out during tragedies all the time. When I visit the hospital or celebrate a funeral we often pray the Our Father. People who were raised Catholic, even if they haven’t been to Church in years, find great comfort in that prayer. Praying the Our Father is an experience that unites them to other people when they feel alone. But sadly, I see many young people who don’t know the prayers. They aren’t thinking to themselves, “Oh hey that’s great mom and dad are praying like Catholics, but I’m so thrilled they put me on my own spiritual journey!” Instead they look confused, and sometimes even a bit sad that they can’t join in and participate in such a powerful and moving moment.
I get the appeal of raising your kids without your religion in hope that they will make intelligent decisions, but I just don’t think your expectations are going to be met. If you raise your kids without religion they are probably going to go through life’s difficulties without religion, too. Maybe that’s what you want, but if it is I think you really need to reflect on how that might play out in the worst case scenarios.
Having a spiritual home gives us a place to return to when our lives go off the rails either by our own faults or by bad luck. People who were baptized and raised in the Church will always have a place to return when life gets difficult, and this is especially true of the Catholic Church which spans the globe. Even if your kids move away there will be a Catholic Church nearby to help them if they need it. As a Catholic, I’m proud of that. That’s not something every Church can provide.
If you’d like to talk more about baptism and religious education at any of our parishes, please call Claudia in our office at 360-425-4660. If you’d like to consider sending your children to St. Rose school please call our school office at (360) 577-6760. Thank you again for joining us today! We hope to see you again soon.