Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Journey to Rome: Converting with kids

Yosef, Anna and Biniam in front of the Nativity scene after 10 pm Mass on Christmas Eve

When you have seven kids, you don't do anything alone.  :)

This part of our journey has actually been tricky at times.  To be honest, part of me was positively terrified as I gradually came to the conclusion (as did my husband) that we needed to convert to CatholicismBecause it's one thing to quietly assent to Church teaching, and it's another to instruct your children in those things.  I felt a heavy weight of responsibility, and all of the dogmas and doctrines that were difficult for me to wrap my head around were completely magnified when attempting to explain them to our kids. 

And, our kids had questions.  When we talked to them about needing to leave our church for the Catholic Faith, they wanted to know things like, "But don't the people at our church love Jesus too?"  Yes, yes they do.  "Well why do we have to go to a different church, then?"  And although Mass is shorter than most Protestant church services, the kids are in the pew with us the whole time.  So initially, they felt as if Mass wasn't as "fun" as our Protestant church.  "My knees hurt when we have to kneel!  Why do we have to stand and sit so much?  Why don't we get to go to Children's Church?"  And my oldest took communion as a Protestant, so she of course wanted to know why she can't yet receive the Eucharist at Mass. 

All of this was hard for me, because my children have always, always loved church.  I want this component of their spiritual life to be a positive thing, and most of all I want them to embrace the Mass--and ultimately the Catholic Faith--because we believe it is Christ's Church.

So suffice it to say that we had a lot of discussions.  We talked about how not everyone who loves Jesus is Catholic.  We explained however that we wanted to be Catholic, because we believe it is the fullness of faith and God's desire for His children.  We told them about the Reformation.  We explained the Mass and how we get to witness the miracle of the bread and wine becoming Jesus' actual body and blood, just like He and Paul talk about in the Bible.

And wouldn't you know it, in God's mercy our kids started getting the hang of the whole thing.  They quickly made some dear buddies at our parish.  They adore--and I mean, adore--our wonderful (and patient-with-small-children) priest.  They (usually) know when to genuflect and kneel and stand and make the sign of the cross and pray, and they (usually) all say the Our Father and Nicene Creed when it's time.  They know the Hail Mary and the Guardian Angel prayer and, um, know more about the Rosary than I do.

And wanna know what I'm discovering?  

The Catholic Faith is, for lack of a better word, earthy.  Ultimately, Catholics believe that God uses the stuff of this earth in supernatural ways.  And while there may not be any flannelgraph or glitter glue or Sunday School Charlie involved, the Catholic Faith is (in many ways) actually easier for kids to grasp.  The crucifix vs. an empty cross, the bells during the Consecration, different postures during the Mass, incense and prayers and statues and Holy Water and Rosary beads.  Things you can see, hear, smell, touch.  Perfect for children (and adults!) to worship God and actively participate in His Church. 

And the truth is that my kids see some things much more naturally than I do.  Mary as our mother, for example.  And the Sacrament of Baptism with its washing away of original sin.  They just get it.  No, they wouldn't be able to write a theological discourse on any of it (although my oldest did come up with a GREAT analogy about Baptism last week!), but they get it.  Faith like a child and all that.

In many ways I suppose we're playing catch-up.  I bet (and hope!) my kids' kids will be better catechized than mine, because I officially became a Catholic at age 30, as opposed to age 7 or 4 or 2.  But we're doing our best, and God continues to be gracious with us.

There are several resources and practices I've found helpful along the way in making this transition as a family, and I'll plan to share those with you later this week.  In the meantime I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas!


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