Dear Catholic parent,
I know how overwhelming the prospect of raising your child in the faith can be. Making it to Sunday Mass can be quite the feat when they're small (or when you have many), let alone trying to incorporate Catholic culture into your home.
Am I reading them enough Bible stories? Do we pray enough? What if they don't know all their prayers yet? I know that you ask yourself all of these questions. The reason why I know that is because I ask myself the very same questions.
But the question we're really asking is simple...am I doing this right?
My child is (fill in the blank) years old and still can't sit quietly through Mass! Sometimes I forget to pray before meals. Sometimes I'm too tired to pray with them before bed. We don't make special desserts or do special crafts for feastdays. I don't even KNOW what today's feast day is!
What I really want to know is - am I doing enough?
So, what I mean to say is...I know what you're thinking, dear fellow Catholic parent. And I know what you're going through. Because I'm thinking and going through the same thing. I don't care if I have a degree in theology - I can barely stay on top of the laundry and meals and wiping little faces and changing diapers and picking up toys and doing schoolwork/driving people to and from preschool. I'm often too exhausted to do anything but the basics.
Am I doing enough?
The internet, Catholic sites and blogs and Pinterest boards are a beautiful thing. You may find ideas for your Catholic home on those, maybe even ideas that you'll be able to manage in between the basics of running a family. But as wonderful as those things are, dear Catholic parent, they are not essential. Jesus never said, "Go out to all the world...and make some good Pinterest boards!"
The most essential, the most basic message at the heart of the Gospels is...love. Just love.
We do have a responsibility to teach our children about the faith, or to recruit help from teachers and catechists and books in order to teach them what they need to know. But, if underlying all of that there is no love, the Gospel loses all meaning.
St. Therese of Lisieux (commonly known as the Little Flower) was one of the greatest saints the Church has even known. Did she do anything extraordinary in her life? No. She scarcely left the tiny corner of France she was born and raised in. What made her a saint was her Little Way. All the Little Way teaches is that it matters not what great things we do - but simply that we do every little thing we do with love. So the real question to ask yourself is...do you love your child?
Each small and simple act of family life that you do, if done in love, is preaching the Gospel. Each tender glance, each stroke of their cheek, each time you take a moment to hear what they have to say, you teach a Gospel more poignant than a thousand feastday cupcakes and balloons ever could. As they grow, as you take them to Mass, as they naturally ask questions about their faith - and see you practice yours - they will come to know what it means to be Catholic. But the first lesson must be a lesson of love.
I may not have ever met you, dear Catholic parent, but I can just about guarantee that you love your child. I've seen you - in the pew in front of me at church, holding your child's hand on the way into school, or even walking together through the grocery store. I've seen the way you look at your child, the way your tone of voice is just a little gentler, the way you squeeze in a hug or a kiss. I see the way you put your arm around your child at Mass, that sweet kiss you give them at the sign of peace. I see the way that you take deep breaths and grit your teeth and do your best to stay calm with your screaming toddler in the back of church (you may have even seen me doing the same). I see the way you lose your patience when your child just won't listen, but then dust yourself off and try again.
And if I see all those little, simple moments of love, you can be sure that God sees them. You can also be sure that your child sees them.
You see, my dear fellow Catholic parent, this is the Gospel that parents are called to preach, before we utter a single word of the Catechism. We're called to preach a Gospel of unconditional, undying, unselfish love for our children. God knows we can't do it perfectly, but we are called to try - just to try - to love them.
Dear Catholic parent...I've seen you loving. I've seen you loving everyday. You are an inspiration to those around you.
With each act of love, you fight against the evil in the world. With each act of love, you are a part of your child's road to sainthood. All the extra activities and celebrations are fun, but, dear Catholic parent, if you aren't doing them - you aren't failing. Far from it.
Because in the end, what matters most, is how we love. It is the way our children begin to know of the love of God.
And you're loving beautifully.