This is an article I wrote for St. Joseph School's January newsletter called "Knightly News." I share it with you prior to its publication.
I know that I may sound like a broken record, but the reason we have Catholic schools is to assist parents in handing on our Catholic faith to their children. We feel we can best do this in a secular world through our schools. Providing a top notch education is also our goal, but not the primary purpose of Catholic education. Religious formation is.
I should have underlined that Catholic schools only assist parents in handing on the Catholic faith. In other words, we only supplement what our parents are doing in the home to instill the Faith in their children.
For example, I have become somewhat annoyed by the fact that the majority of our children at St. Joseph School and Mt. de Sales Academy only go to confession when I and the other priests provided it at the school during Advent and Lent. This means that the vast majority of our Catholic parents are not bringing their children or themselves to confession between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM on Saturday. Practicing our Catholic faith means precisely that, practicing our Catholic faith. Like playing a sport, we must practice the faith if we are to grow and mature in our Catholic faith, to become good at being Catholic. Practice makes perfect!
As Roman Catholics what is the least that is expected of us? Let me list some of the more obvious practices for you:
1. Attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. This is not an option to be practiced only when convenient or one feels like it. It is an obligation and to willfully break this precept without a good reason, like sickness, is a mortal sin.
2. Practice regular confession. One should never receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin, but rather in a state of grace. Confession is the normal way our mortal sins are forgiven. Bring your child to confession at least monthly.
3. Make holy your days through prayer. Morning and night prayers are important. Saying an Act of Contrition prior to retiring for the night is important. Praying before meals is also important. Praying all these prayers as a family is critical. Making sure the Rosary is known and prayed in the family is important also.
4. Live your Catholic faith at home, work and play. Catholicism is sustained by Sunday Mass and daily prayer, but is meant to be lived everyday!
5. Support the Church and school financially and in other ways.
6. Make sure your home is blessed and has images of the crucifix, Mary and other saints.
7. Know the basic teachings of the Church and instill them in your children. Having a simple catechism helps as well as recourse to Catholic sites on the internet. I still recommend the Baltimore Catechism as an excellent resource for teaching the faith at home.
8. Make sure your children know that they must observe the laws of the Church concerning the Sacrament of Matrimony. This means that as Catholics, they must be married in the Church, remain Catholic and baptize and rear their children as Catholic. They must know too that if a marriage is a Sacrament it is until death.
9. Make sure your children know they must do some form of penance every Friday of the year. During Lent we refrain from meat, poultry and meat products. This could be chosen for the year round penance. Praying the Stations of the Cross could also be chosen as a Friday substitute penance.
10. Teach your children about heaven, hell and purgatory. We all need to know why Jesus died. He came to save us from hell. If your children don’t understand that sin can cause them to loose salvation then they will never understand what being saved means.
Many Catholics are under the mistaken belief that because God loves us, and certainly He does, that salvation is automatic. It is not. It requires our assent and participation through the actual practice of our Faith. I suspect you could be convicted in a court of law if you enabled your child to miss school by not bring him to school. We all know that not going to school breaks the law with ramifications for the parent. The same would be true of allowing your child to drink, smoke, drive and live independently while they are in elementary school. The same is true with God and His Church. He expects certain things from us, like Mass attendance and striving to live a moral life, and holds us accountable when we don’t. When much is given much is required. Like the Sunday Mass, Confession is not optional. It is required. It leads to the joy of forgiveness and the reversal of the powers of hell that sin creates in our lives.
In this new year of our Lord, 2010 let us all make a resolution to practice our Faith as God and the Church directs us. Let all subjectivity be overwhelmed and consumed by the objective truths of our Faith practiced well.