April 12, 2024

By Lois Heron

This month, we continue to build the proverbial family altar using the Sacred Scriptures as our blueprint. What God commanded Joshua to do with his people, he still commands us to do with our people—build altars of remembrance. These altars are “to be a sign among you. When your children ask you, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’” (Jos 4:6). We will be able to recount the reasons for our faith in the one true Lord God Almighty.

We, in effect, build altars of remembrance in our homes each time we come together to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, graduations and weddings, even funerals. We tell our children the events of their birth; we share the story of how we met our husbands and wives; we hang memory boards at graduation open houses and funerals to celebrate a life in photos and memorabilia.

What would happen in our homes if we honored our faith journey as much as our family journey? Do our children and grandchildren know the story of our faith in God? Do we know our story of faith in God?

Last month, we discussed the instruction from the Shema (“to listen or hear”) to “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart” (Dt 6:6). This month, we will consider the next instruction from the Shema where God directs his people to “Recite them to your children and talk about them…” (Dt 6:7).

When we know why we choose to practice our Catholic faith, it is much easier to confidently practice our faith in what we do and how we live. When we recite the Nicene Creed like practicing Jews recite the Shema, it sets the trajectory of our lives, and it can set the trajectory of our children’s lives when we live what we believe. The bottom line for us as parents and grandparents is to guide our children in establishing a Catholic worldview in our everyday existence. Where do we begin? St. Peter wrote to the early Christians:

“… In your hearts, sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give a reason why you (believe in God) to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Pt 3:15)

Giving an account of something is at the heart of storytelling; its effect is proven in history. It is how the faith was passed down to us, beginning with the story of the Jewish nation recorded in the Old Testament. When we share our stories of faith in God with our children (or anyone for that matter), we effectively give an account of the hope that is in us.

Have you ever spent time meditating on the events of your life in the rubric of God’s providence? That’s an excellent place to start telling your faith story to the next generation. This month, we are sharing some seed thoughts and questions you can ask yourself as you prepare to make a practice of reciting our Catholic faith to your children. In the upcoming months, we will explore ways to implement the what, when and how of building a household of faith.

What’s your earliest memory of feeling God’s presence? That is where your faith journey began. Children are always intrigued by our childhood stories; we can capitalize on that as we learn to recite our faith.

Lois Heron is a parishioner at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Sioux Falls. She is a retired educator and a writer.

When was a time you felt a strong sense of God’s presence? No doubt there’s an interesting story that accompanies that memory, too. Is there a tender or dramatic moment you can share with your children?

When you look back at your life, where can you identify a blessing in disguise? Understanding where God came through for you unexpectedly can help you articulate the memory to your children. Share the circumstances of a time when money was short for a need, and God provided it. Share the circumstance of a time when you were lonely, afraid or angry and how God helped you overcome it.

What are some of the blessings of God’s natural world most meaningful to your life? Recall times in your childhood when you experienced those blessings. Share them with your children and grandchildren! In the present, there are so many moments we can seize when we are in nature with our children to point them toward our Creator God. When you hear a bird call, wonder aloud with them why God designed that bird to sing that song. Thank the Lord out loud for the weather, even when it’s not agreeable to you. Again, we are pointing our children to God by displaying an attitude of praise and thanksgiving for things present, past and future. We can instill faith and hope in God in our children every tiny moment of the day!

Building a holy environment where our faith in God is active, remembered, treasured, celebrated and passed on to generations to come is a privilege and honor. Let’s pick up our tools and get to work!