As a trained catechist, and Catholic apologist, I’m frequently asked by Catholic parents how to keep their kids Catholic. Let me begin by saying you have to do it yourself!
You can’t trust Catholic schools or parish catechism programs to do it for you. We have 50 years of failed history as an example. If we trust the religious education of our children to anyone, besides ourselves, we’ve lost them already.
So here is a step-by-step program for keeping your kids Catholic. Follow this, and the odds of your children staying Catholic will go up exponentially. Keep in mind that nothing is foolproof. There are no guarantees in life. Catholic parents can do everything right and still lose their kids to Protestantism, Agnosticism, Atheism, Paganism or Materialism. But if you can increase their odds of staying Catholic exponentially, wouldn’t you do it? Here’s the process…
- Kids can smell hypocrites. If you’re not living the faith yourself, they will grow up to be just like you — backslidden and spiritually lazy. If you want your kids to grow up to be good Catholics, you have to be good Catholics too. If you’re not one yet, it’s time to start. You can start today.
- Find a good and traditional Catholic parish. Seriously, if you’re going to a watered-down, Protestantized parish, where the focus is “don’t judge and be nice” then it’s game over before you even start. Your kids will hate this stuff, especially when they become teenagers. Today’s youth crave a challenge. They’re more sophisticated than their elders. They want Catholic Tradition! Not watered-down fluff. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Latin Mass, but it should be along that line (read more here). See below for suggestions on where to find a Latin mass and similar types of traditional Catholic liturgy. Find a traditional Catholic parish, of some type, and go there. Basically, you have four options. Sorry, but this is the state of affairs in the Catholic Church today. You want the truth, I’ll give you the truth, but it might be a little harsh. Here it is. Find a parish HERE and start attending immediately.
- Get the Baltimore Catechism and start teaching your kids from it. Get your parent/teacher copy HERE, and your children’s copies here: ages 3 to 7, ages 8-12, ages 13-17. You don’t need any training. Simply read the lesson number in the parent/teacher version the night before, then work with your children on the same lesson number the next day. Note: the ages 3-7 version won’t match the lesson numbers of any other version. It’s just a brief overview of the faith. Read it together with your kids. You should read an age-appropriate Catechism every year with your children. Once is not enough. Repetition is the key to success.
- Read the Bible with your children every night. Make sure you cover the Old Testament while they are children, then you can zero-in on the New Testament when they’re teenagers. For children (12 and under) I recommend either the The Action Bible or The Complete Illustrated Children’s Bible. Use this Action Bible or Illustrated Bible to read through the Old Testament while they’re young, then the New Testament during ages 11-12. For teenagers (ages 13 and up), I recommend the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (large print), or the Revised Standard Version — Catholic Edition (regular), or the Revised Standard Version — Catholic Edition (compact). I ONLY recommend the Revised Standard Version — Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) for teens and adults because it’s the best quality English version on the market. It uses intelligent modern English, and is based on the time-honored King James Version. No other English version compares to its dignity, faithfulness to the original Greek/Hebrew text, and readability. It is also approved for personal use by English-speaking Catholic bishops around the world. You should make it a habit to read no less than one chapter from the Bible every night. The Baltimore Catechism strongly recommends regular reading of the Bible, and even promises indulgences from the Church for doing so. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
- Get a good Catholic prayer book for your family and use it! Learn the prayers therein, and use it frequently, so your children become familiar with them. The St. Gregory’s Prayer Book is the new standard for English-speaking Catholics, especially if they attend the Divine Worship Mass (DWM). If, however, you go to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), you’ll need the prayer book called Blessed Be God or better yet, the Complete Roman Missal with prayers included.
- Focus on the Eucharist. Ours is a Eucharistic faith. That is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith. The transubstantiation is the core of Catholic teaching, and it is what separates Catholicism from all the Protestant denominations. If your kids don’t understand the Eucharist, you’re going to lose them. They must understand that the Eucharist really is the literal body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. That it’s not symbolic but literal, and that only a properly ordained Catholic priest can confect the real Eucharist. Drill this one into their little skulls. It’s essential.
- Pray the Rosary. Reliance on Mary is essential for battling the evil around us. Set up, minimally, one full rosary night a week, but make sure you’re praying at least one decade with with kids every night. Make it part of your regular devotions. Here’s a short how-to guide to the rosary. Understand that the younger the kids, the shorter their attention span. Limit prayers to one decade of the rosary while they’re young. Teenagers are more capable of handling the full five-decades per day.
- Prepare them for the onslaught. Read the apologetics section of my blog for answers to tough questions, and email me with some ideas for more blog posts that might be helpful to your families. Specifically, I’m looking for apologetic questions about the faith, that I haven’t written about yet. Then talk to your kids regularly about the things you read here, so they can be prepared for the onslaught of challenge and doubt the world will undoubtedly throw at them as teens and young adults.
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism. His articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. You can read Shane’s books at ShaneSchaetzel.Com
Pray the office. It’s the backbone of the domestic church.
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The St. Gregory’s Prayer Book has an abbreviated form of the Daily Office according to Divine Worship, which is specifically designed for busy parents.
Ugh, not the action bible. I find it a terrible resource. There is no way to narrate the stories and there is never any scene that you can point to and use as an explanation of what the story is about.
I have had far greater luck with “The Complete Illustrated Children’s Bible”. While it is still heavily paraphrased, the essence of the lesson is preserved and is easy to discuss. The illustrations are scene based so children can focus on the story and discern what is happening.
Comparatively the action bible is a blur of small detached drawing and you can’t put together a scene in the child’s mind. I can’t even always tell who is who in the stories. “Um, that’s Moses… no, wait. This guy here is Moses I think…”
Either the Action Bible or the Illustrated Bible would be fine. It depends on the child really. The Action Bible reads like a comic book, and for some children, that’s what works well — especially some boys. But the Illustrated Bible does a good job painting the big picture, as you said. Parents will know their children best and what works well for them.
I think we need to be careful with children’s adaptations of the Bible. We should begin with the end in mind. If you introduce the faith and the Scriptures under infantile forms, with the excuse that you’re just “meeting them where they are,” you run the risk of them having permanent associations between the infantile form and the real content. This is another reason why the daily offices are critical. They are not infantilized, and kids are a lot more open to them than we might expect.
I would hardly call The Action Bible “infantile.” It’s faithful to the Biblical text, insofar as a comic book can be. It’s careful not to rile Catholic sensibilities in translation of key text. And it can be very efficacious to those children accustomed to the comic book style of illustration. That being said, The Illustrated Bible is great too. Parents should decide based on their children’s needs.
“Kids can smell hypocrites. If you’re not living the faith yourself, they will grow up to be just like you — backslidden and spiritually lazy.” I was born (and baptized) in 1951. Followed by 16 years of Catholic education starting in 1957. It didn’t take. I was moving away from belief in a God by the time I was 12-years-old. My father didn’t even realize how much of his faith was grounded in the social aspects of the parish and the associated fraternal Irish Catholic organization he belonged to. He wasn’t lazy–he just didn’t understand himself, his true, bone-deep priorities, or his own wife. My mother maintained the appearance of belief, but deep-down, she was a lapsed-Catholic-agnostic. She was pretty good at the appearances, but I think she sensed a sympathetic person in me, and was a bit less buttoned-down with me. She loved my father and never felt a moment’s compunction about pretending to be Catholic when she wasn’t. really. None of the three of us ended up Catholic. So interpret it as you will.
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