Passing on the Faith
Why Children Need Ignatian Spirituality (Part 2)
Children need Ignatian spirituality because it can help them learn the value of slowing down to take stock of what their lives mean. Many children today lead heavily programmed lives, limiting the time to develop creativity and independent thinking. It is good to teach them our language about God using traditional language-based methods (reading the Bible, learning our customs and beliefs, and so on)—but we suggest that it is also important to supplement those methods with encouraging exploration, reflection, and prayer. Every child learns differently and resonates with different ways of exploring the world. Encouraging your children to explore spirituality in this way may resonate with some children who less likely to sit down and read a Bible story. To the extent that we can encourage children to connect the word "God" with their very own concrete life experiences, we offer them an entry point into an expansive shared pilgrimage of faith.
Cultivating our children's memory also sets the stage for what is central—though often implicit—in Christian spirituality: namely, the shared memory of Jesus. Christian faith is rooted in memory, not philosophical abstraction: Jesus was a person who did and said specific things. If children become fluent in the language of memory, then they are likely to understand the significance of written memory in the scriptures. "Luke remembered Jesus this way." "John remembered Jesus this way." What emerges is a collection of memories that help shape the ways that we remember Jesus in practices such as the Eucharist.
In our third article, we'll return to this theme of memory by focusing on the stories that we tell children about Jesus: not only what they say, but how we might share them and invite children to be part of them.
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.