For faithful Catholics, one of the biggest priorities of our lives is to raise our children in the Faith and help them get to Heaven. It’s our primary job as spouses and parents to help sanctify our family to lead them to God. When I was a new mother, I began to see the Catholic Faith anew, and learn some of the beauty of it that never came across in our CCD classes in the 70s and 80s. I liken it to finding a treasure box in the back of a closet, filled with jewels, that no one ever told us was ours to have.
I was certain I would give my children a better religious education than I had gotten, and followed the advice of countless other Catholic parents who also homeschooled their kids. We used good materials with in-depth looks at the Catechism and explained everything that the Baltimore Catechism did not get into with its Q & A. We explained things as well as we could in an age-appropriate manner. We tried to shield them from inappropriate materials when they were young. I worked very hard to give them a firm base in the faith and in what the Church teaches.
What I can’t do, despite what lots of books and tapes and blogs might like to say, is keep them Catholic.
I can teach them the faith, I can point them in the direction of the answers they’re looking for as they work their way through their teen years, and I can do my best to live a faithful Catholic life.
But what I can’t do is keep them Catholic. I can’t make them believe. I can’t make them trust God. I can’t make them know He loves them, even if I tell them every day of their lives that He does. These are all things they have to choose for themselves.
I was a fool to buy into the idea that my actions would be a guarantee of their choices. There’s no guarantee of any of that. I can teach them everything they’re supposed to know, and they can pass every test in religious education.
But I can’t keep them Catholic. I can’t be sure that what I do has made it into their hearts. I can’t be sure that all my work will create faithful Catholic children who leave the nest, but not the Church. In the end, it’s their choice, and theirs alone.
This is an absolutely terrifying reality to me. It’s only really come to light in the last couple of years, and I find myself scrambling to make these last few years I have, when I can still exert a little influence over them, years of allowing them to encounter God. I find myself praying much more often that they’ll make the choice to be Catholic. That they’ll stay in the Church. That they’ll love God and choose Him.
But I’m just me. Sometimes, it’s just us — their parents — begging them to make this choice while all around them the entire world taunts us and tells them this choice is restricting and mean and corrosive and hateful.
I can’t keep them Catholic. But I can learn the truly difficult lesson that I must entrust them to God and, if they leave the Church, carry that cross when it’s handed to me.