Passing on the Faith
Why Children Need Ignatian Spirituality (Part 3)
Similar ideas apply the rest of the year. Don't just teach forgiveness; tell the story of the Lost Son and then practice forgiveness—really practice it—at home. Take time when they are calm, teach the meaning of saying "I forgive you" (instead of the more bland "it's okay"), and then walk them through the action of forgiving someone. Find ways to celebrate forgiveness in your family. The father of the lost son threw a party. Your family might celebrate by making a special dessert when you have been able to show forgiveness after a difficult conflict.
Use the opportunity when a celebrity is on TV or in a crowd to tell the funny story of Zacchaeus, who wanted to see Jesus so badly that he climbed a tree. Or when your family is at a party, tell the story of Jesus' first miracle at a wedding in Cana, when he turned water into wine just so the guests could continue being happy together. Do some service work together, and use the opportunity to introduce your children to your nameless friend the good Samaritan. In every case, the objective is to show that your own way of living is an imitation of a story in Jesus' life, and to help them grasp the meaning of that story by connecting it to some kind of sensory experience that will stick with them.
Prayer is an extension of the conversations that you have together in your family. You bring God into the joys and concerns of your family life. Make prayer simple and relatable. Recall the day; pray for loved ones; pray for what your children hope for or are afraid of. Teach them that experience is the holy ground where Christ walks with them. They will, over time, hopefully, want to know more about Him.
Photo: Workshop of Franz Borgias Mayer (1848-1926), detail from "Jesus and the Children," Stained glass window in the Mausoleum of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California; originally created in the 1920s for Saint Vibiana Cathedral, Los Angeles
Tim and Sue Muldoon are the authors of Six Sacred Rules for Families, to be released this Fall by Ave Maria Press. Tim is a theologian and author of several books who teaches at Boston College and writes frequently for Patheos; Sue is a therapist and religious educator.