My dad always taught us that if we borrowed something, no matter what it was, we should return it in better condition than it was when we borrowed it.
I’m pretty sure that applies to our children, too. Before our first baby was born, my grandma told me that the children I would bear weren’t mine — they were precious gifts on loan from the Father. It was our primary responsibility, as parents, to help them get to heaven. Grandma’s thinking may seem a bit countercultural today. The world might have us think our primary task is to get our kids on the most prestigious teams, the most elite dance troops or into the most impressive schools. While we’re aiming for first string, first chair and top score, Jesus is begging us to show our children that nothing is more important than giving him first place in our lives. Holiness, simply put, is oneness with God. Here are a few things we can do as parents to make good on our responsibility to help our kids grow in holiness and give the Lord first place.
Pray with and for your kids every day. It’s hard for kids to understand the importance of Jesus and his Church if we rarely talk about it.
Do as I do! Our kids imitate what we model. They need to see us pray, read Scripture and trust in the Lord. We are teaching lessons when we’re cut off in traffic, talking about the frustrating co-worker at dinner or putting an envelope in the Sunday collection.
As you travel to games, concerts, recitals and events, make sure to include some trips to the really important places like Sunday Mass, eucharistic adoration or even a quick stop to rest from the noise and chaos in a quiet, peaceful church. As Christians, we know Jesus is with us always, but a special stop to sit in his eucharistic presence is good for the soul. It also shows our children that Jesus is important enough to stop for.
Say no to the things that don’t point your kids to heaven. That could be screen activity, movies, music or friendships. Their holiness is more important than your popularity.
Point them to the holy ones. The world sets before our children people who don’t always use their gifts and talents to glorify God. Since moving into a cave to shelter our kids from all of that isn’t very practical, we can shower them with stories of the holy men and women of our faith. Many of the saints lived crazy, amazing, adventurous lives and their stories are interesting and inspiring. Put them before your kids to serve as heroes and role models.
Dr. Cathleen McGreal is a psychology professor and certified spiritual director.