As a father of a son attending kindergarten and a four-month old baby daughter, teaching the Faith is a gradual process. While Mass is sometimes extremely hard for both of them to get through, the Faith slowly diffuses and is recognized. While my youngest is in a stage of just looking around, my oldest has learned a few prayers and knows important parts of the Faith. Two of these manifestations, parts of Catholic culture are that of Holy Water and that of saying Grace before meals.
My son when he enters a church looks for the Holy Water to bless himself. While I am still working on him consistently using his right hand to dip in the Holy Water, he is able to bless himself while making the Sign of the Cross, which he now does very well. He is enthusiastic about filling bottles of Holy Water when they have been emptied and has the same enthusiasm when he blesses the house with Holy Water. While very simple things to do, this is something that is tangible (which is important for a child) and something they can do and learn.
Grace before meals is something very simple that children can learn as well. My son learned Grace before other prayers. By age four he was able to lead Grace and make sure to remind us if we were about to eat without saying Grace. Simple things like this allow young children to participate in a family’s religious life.
The ritual of blessing themselves when entering a church or blessing the food before a meal become a part of a child’s life. My son does not need to be reminded of these things. Simple things that we take for granted, yes, but to a child simple things like this can lay a strong foundation for weathering the storms of life.
It is not merely children that benefit from seemingly simple parts of our Catholic culture. Catholic culture that is ingrained in us will continue to lead us back to the Sacraments even in times of great difficulty. It also helps those not of the Faith to see our identity and perhaps may lead them to inquire further about the Faith. Before my conversion, I had noticed the distinct parts of the Catholic Faith and it played a part in my conversion. Later on, after falling away from the Faith for over five years’ time, it was these, the small pieces of Catholic identity, which many of us take for granted, that reminded me that I was truly home again.
Matthew Houston was baptized at age 16 and came back to the Church at age 27 after falling away. A husband and father of two, he says the Faith defines his family life. He graduated from Rutgers with a degree in history and political science, and now works in international logistics.