Amanda Evinger is the grateful mother of four children (and two others who have died), whom she homeschools with her husband Michael in a “little house on the prairie” in rural North Dakota. A convert from Calvinism, she spends her days in love with the Church and her vocation as wife and mother. She worked for nine years as Senior Writer for Catholic Stewardship Consultants and is a regular blogger and contributor to several Catholic publications, including the Latin Mass Magazine, Seton Home School Magazine, the Dakota Catholic Action, and the National Catholic Register.
Here and there and everywhere nowadays, it seems like our kids are getting tempted to get hooked on something. This and that idol of a person, this institution or “promising” new government mandate, and the like are calling our children's names. As parents, it is painful to listen to the grind of it all, and even more painful to see what happens to our kids when they, in their naïve vulnerability, do listen, and do get hooked on, well, things that just aren't from Jesus.
As Mary Reed Newland writes in We and Our Children:
For those of us who are parents, the challenge is terrible indeed. We have placed in our care for a few short years precious immortal souls who belong to God, whose destiny is eternity in and with God, and who depend entirely upon us for the formation of a way of life which will lead them surely to God.
So what can we do about it? How can we keep our young children hooked on the right thing – authentic Catholicism – and the right person – Christ the King? How can we help them find the Prince of Peace in the midst of the high-powered frenzy of darkness ruling the modern world? Trust me, I'm no expert, but with a little prayer and research, I came up with a few ideas that I hope will help my fellow searchers along the journey.
#1. Know your enemy
As parents, we can't be naïve, right along with our kids. We need to take advantage of whatever means we have at our disposal to understand what we are up against as a Christian family nowadays. By subscribing to on-the-ball, orthodox Catholic publications (like the National Catholic Register, of course!), we can make ourselves aware as parents what is going on in the world, and what our children are, or will be, challenged with. By reading and hearing things from a Catholic perspective, not only will we gain a more optimistic vision of what is all in play, but we can be filled with the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”
#2. Fill your home with amazing Catholic materials of all kinds
Let's face it – in this day and age, we are seriously spoiled! When I see a catalog from Ignatius Press, St. Benedict's Press/TAN Books, Seton Educational Books and Media, etc. I can't help but think Deo Gratias! Truly, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Despite the dismal culture in which we live, the eternal light and wisdom of Christ has its surefire way of reigning! By saturating our children with literature and music that portrays Catholic beliefs as true and Catholic people as heroes, their hearts will be formed to desire holiness.
The Vision book series, books by the Neumann Press (now owned by TAN), the Bethlehem Book series, the Saints and Me series, the Catholic Treasure Box books, and Fr. Lovasik's large collection are some of the more popular faith-based books for children. The Little Acts of Grace books by Rosemarie Gunther are also a beautiful and creative way to teach children the faith. The Holy Compendium of Heroes is stellar tool for faith education, featuring daily readings about the Saints for children of all ages. Tomie dePaola also has some artistically illustrated books which celebrate various Saints and feast days in ways that will really spark a child's interest as well.
#3. Make Christian music part of your daily life
Kids are music magnets! Pop in everything from Catholic folk music to finer classical works by Catholic composers and dance with your kids.
#4. Use technology to your advantage
The devil is using it to get at your kids, so why don't you use it to get back at him and get your kids hooked on Jesus instead? Highly entertaining and accurate DVD's depicting the lives of the Saints, such as the My Catholic Family series (ewtn.com), the Brother Francis Collection (brotherfrancisonline.com), the CCC of America video series (holyfamilycatalog.com), Donut Man (amazon.com), and a rich selection of DVD's for older children and adults from Ignatius Press as well. And don't forget about EWTN kids! Nearly every day of the week, EWTN features animated Catholic cartoons for kids that are just plain awesome!
#5. Make faith a blast
When we look back on our childhoods, how many of us remember field trips we took or a Christmas play we were in? On the other hand, how well do we remember answers to test questions we dreaded studying for? Although memorizing and studying the Faith is truly essential, it doesn't hurt to do fun things to bring it to life. Have your kids put on re-enactment plays of the lives of the Saints, or even make a movie of a Saint's life themselves. Also, don't forget to be enthusiastic about being Catholic yourself. Your joy will be contagious (and so will a sour attitude, by the way!) Mary Reed Newland also writes, “There is a great difference between reading the directions and eating the cake. The bone-dry definitions in the catechism are as essential as the recipe for the cake, but if we put them together with imagination and enthusiasm, and add love and experience, then set them afire with the teaching of Christ, His stories, His life, the Old Testament as well as the New, and the lives of the Saints, we can make the study of the catechism a tremendous adventure.”
#6. Love your kids like crazy, and make sure they know they are wanted
This one may sound like a “no-brainer,” but the truth is, so many of today's children feel just the opposite. How can we expect a child who feels unloved by their own family to comprehend the magnitude of God's great love for them throughout life? Time and time again, I hear parents of beautiful Catholic families say they were “open to life,” and they were so blessed to have the children they have. By cultivating an atmosphere of love, acceptance and high morals in the home, children can catch a glimpse of their Heavenly Father all the more.
#7. Expose your children to the “real deals” of Catholicism
Take a day and spend it with your kids at a Catholic mission post, such as a Missionaries of Charity inner-city shelter. Have them shadow a priest who carries out his faculties with a genuine heart, respecting the Church's teachings. There may even be a family who is very faithful to the Lord that you could have one of your older children spend the weekend with, so they can witness how they live out their faith.
Above all, let us remember that God is the one we are striving to bring our children towards, and He is on our side, fighting for us every step of the way. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!