Friday, October 12, 2012

The Faith and Our Children

I'm so happy to introduce Woodeene Koenig-Bricker to you. Woodeene Koenig-Bricker is an award-winning Catholic author and editor.  She has published with Our Sunday Visitor, Word Among Us, Ave Maria, Loyola, and Harpers, as well as having been the editor of Catholic Parent magazine. She has a particular fondness for saints and her most recent book, Facing Adversity with Grace looks at ways the saints dealt with the same kinds of suffering we all face, such as financial worries, physical illness, worry, grief and aging. She lives in Oregon where she loves the summers and grumbles about the endless winter rain. Woodeene blogs more or less regularly at and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

I suspect Woodeene's first post at "Catholic Moms Talk" will give us all something to think about regarding passing on the faith to our children and may even lift a bit of guilt off our shoulders.

The Faith and Our Children

Passing our faith on to our children is one of the challenges all of us face as parents. To listen  to some people, all of whose kids have remained in the Church, talk about how they made sure they attended Mass as a family, said prayers together  etc. and that’s the reason their kids have remained Catholic can make us feel like a failure when we did all the same things and one or more of our children have stopped practicing the faith.

The truth is that passing on the faith isn’t like baking a cake. There isn’t a list of ingredients that, if you mix them in the right order and bake for the appropriate amount of time, will produce perfect results. You can do everything you are supposed to do and it still isn’t a guarantee that your children will remain Catholic, or even Christian.

That’s because, as the Catechism points out, To be human, man's response to God by faith must be free, and. . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”

Faith is a free act. It has to be or it wouldn’t be faith.

In the end, we really don’t pass the faith to our children. We offer it to them and they either accept or reject it. It is their choice. To take credit for the faith of our children, especially our adult children, just isn’t ours to take. (No matter how perfectly we mixed the cake.)

Anymore than it is ours to accept the blame when they reject it. (No matter how imperfectly we mixed the cake.)

I read somewhere that God doesn’t have grandchildren, meaning that each of us has to become a child of God ourselves. We have to make that act of faith for ourselves. As we begin this Year of Faith, that’s really where we have to start. With our own faith, our own response to God’s call. We can, and must, pray for our children, especially those who are no longer practicing Catholics, but we can’t make them believe…anymore than anyone can make us believe. That part of faith lies between each of us and God because that’s how the Master Baker wrote the recipe. 

~Woodeene Koenig-Bricker blogs at  Her latest book is Facing Adversity with Grace, Lessons from the Saints, from Word Among Us Press.


  1. I love this. And especially this, "Anymore than it is ours to accept the blame when they reject it. (No matter how imperfectly we mixed the cake.)"

    I also have long believed that we need to respect our adult children who may not have our faith, the same as we would (I hope) respect any other adult, not as clones of ourselves but as individuals whose lives and hearts we may not know as intimately as we might think we do. And, without credit or blame of ourselves or them, to pray for them, not in desperation but in trust in God's wisdom and goodness in their lives.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Woodeene, this statement is definitely a good dose of reality. Not for the kids who accept our faith, but for those who don't: "In the end, we really don’t pass the faith to our children. We offer it to them and they either accept or reject it. It is their choice."

  3. Many parents blame themselves. How many times have I heard a mother say "We sent our son/daughter through twelve/sixteen years of Catholic schooling and they don't even go to church anymore!!"

    Thank you from me too, Woodeene. Now I know what to tell these worried parents when I hear them say this!


  4. Thanks Woodeene. It's good to cross paths with you again. Years ago, you helped me break into freelance magazine writing through a couple pieces I did for Catholic Parent. I miss that magazine. :) I think this is a great topic to launch our Year of Faith as parents. So true and such a great reminder. If you think about it, who do we think we are to believe we could, on our own accord, lead anyone to the Faith? It is God alone, alone, sometimes acting through us, but always leading the way. And free will, because love cannot be without it, dictates the end result. The most we can do, I think, is pray, and give our children ultimately back to the Father.

  5. What a great post! Thank you for the truth of what you've shared here. I love the baking reference and the reminder of what we can and cannot do--and the encouragement to continue doing our job even if and when we feel we've failed. This has been so wonderful to read! Thank you.

  6. Very well said. My kids are sorting it out as young adults, and now it's a matter grace and free will. All we can do is propose and leave it in their hands. Interestingly, most of the strong Catholics I know are either converts or the products of very lax homes/schools. The Spirit blows where It wills...

  7. I agree Genevieve, we can lay the groundwork but our children have to accept the path to God as adults. We have to stay on the sidelines, rosary in hand. Blessed Mother, be with our children as they search for peace and love, guide their steps to the Heart of Your Son.

  8. I'm always reminded of St. Monica when it comes to older children leaving the faith. I'm sure that many a Catholic mother is praying for St. Monica's intercession for their wayward children.

  9. Thank you! What a wonderful post.

    My response to those who want to praise me for my children or lament my short-comings has always been: "It is not me, but God. I do not want to take the credit for whatever my children make right choices, then I would have to take the blame when they don't."

    What a great reminder that my children do exercise their free-will; whether I want them to or not. ;)


  10. When I wrote this post, I was thinking back to the years when I was a young mother and how passing on the faith seemed like it was going to be as natural as teaching how to brush teeth or a set a table. Surely once I had demonstrated the value of faith, gave my son the tools and skills to practice it and modeled it for him, he would see the value and wisdom and embrace it as his own. Oh, there might be a few times when he would question or disagree, but surely they were going to be as minor as the difference between his dad's preference of Colgate and mine of Crest. I hadn't really counted on free-will being so, well, free.

    Coming to grips with the reality that my son's beliefs and practices don't mirror my own was a source of great pain (and lots of tearful prayers) for many years. I blamed myself for "what I have done and what I have failed to do" over and over. I tried to reason, rationalize, and sometime rag at him, but finally, I had to come to terms with the fact that he is an adult and has his own relationship with God. Ultimately, I came to see that his relationship with God was his business, not mine.

    It's not been easy and, at times, it still isn't. We continue to talk religious beliefs, but I've learned to listen more than speak (I hope I have!)

    I pray for him and his journey in life every day, as I know you all do for your children. I have, however, given up believing that I can do anything more than that. I have to work on my own faith, and lack of at times, while trusting that God is working is my son's life and mine.

    It really comes down to trust, doesn't it? Trust that God loves us, loves our children and will do what we cannot to maintain a relationship with each of us.

    Blessings on this journey of faith we are walk together!