COVID-19 has presented tremendous challenges to parents. You are trying to work, provide necessities, teach your children at home and have suffered the effects of not being able to gather with family and friends. However, this time has also presented you with the opportunity to be creative in the things you do at home, the ways you interact with others and in the ways you teach your children.
God has called you to the most important role of being parents at this particular time in history and in this particular place. God has given you the precious gift of your children and he will equip you and walk with you on the journey of raising them to be the disciples that he has created them to be. We know that children don’t come with an instruction manual and the responsibility can seem daunting. However, God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called. He equips each of us for the vocation that we are living. And you have been called to this vocation. Have no doubt.
Forming your children in faith begins with you. We need to breathe, pray and find time to be healed by God in order to care for, love and guide our families. This is truer in this moment given all we are carrying. Jesus loves you for who you are, not for what you do. He promised that he would be with you: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) What is your relationship with Jesus? Do you make time to be with him daily and listen to his voice? Jesus wants to be close to you, he hears you when you call. Jesus will walk with you, just as he accompanied the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus listened to what Cleopas and the other disciple were experiencing; he let them talk, and then explained the Scriptures and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. They couldn’t wait until morning … they rushed back to Jerusalem to share the good news. Jesus will place that same burning in your heart and the desire to tell your children about what you have experienced if you turn to him with open hearts and minds.
God will give you the grace to lead your family in faith. We begin with real-life situations because God speaks in and through our daily lives and interactions. Here are some practical ways that you can lead your family in faith:
1. Foster or strengthen your own relationship with Jesus.
- Set aside a daily time for prayer — talking and listening to God for even 10 minutes — that you guard as sacred time.
- Dive into sacred Scripture — daily Mass readings, upcoming Sunday Scripture readings, the Gospels, particularly the Gospel of Mark, Proverbs (a good place to start — you can pray one of the 31 chapters each day for a month), or the Psalms.
- Participate in livestreaming of daily Mass and prayer opportunities.
- Journal or keep a log of your prayer and what you hear in it.e. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance in raising your children and grandchildren as disciples of Jesus.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk about your faith with your spouse.
- Find space with your spouse to pray together, heal together and break bread together.
- Before you begin your day (as crazy as it may be) bless one another and pray for the grace to be instruments of God’s love and mercy in whatever the day brings, to be guided by the Holy Spirit in raising your children and to recognize others’ needs.
- After the kids are in bed, recall how you saw God at work in your day, in your family and in those with whom you’ve interacted throughout the day.
- Have fun! Spend some time enjoying one another’s company— a candlelit late-night dinner, playing a game, sharing your favorite beverage, etc.
3. Don’t be afraid to talk about your faith with your children.
- Share stories of faith with your children — your own stories and stories of others (Church saints and heroes, miracles, seeing Jesus in those you meet at school, in the neighborhood, at work, etc.).
- Discuss their patron saints and why you chose their names. What qualities or charisms of these saints do you see in your children?
- Ask your children how they see Jesus in their lives, the people they read about, your family and those who are helping others
4. Pray together as parents and as a family.
- Pray together with your spouse; it’s one of the most powerful ways you can model your faith to your children. Ask the Lord for guidance as you share in the awesome role of accompanying your children on their journey of faith.
- Let your children “catch you praying.” One of the most impressionable things they can witness is for them to see you turning to God as you pray the rosary, kneel by your bedside or read the Bible when you model what you ask of them.
- Set up a prayer table or corner with an age-appropriate Bible, candles, holy water, crucifix, symbol of the season (Advent, Lent, Easter, Marian feasts, etc.) and journal or box for prayer intentions. Ask your children to contribute to this prayer area.
- Mealtime, bedtime, anytime prayers. If there is an immediate prayer need, pray for that intention right then. Bless your children before they leave the house and regularly.
- Adopt a patron saint for your family; pray for his/her intercession.
Five finger prayer: This simple aid to prayer has been popularized by Pope Francis, and it’s perfect for kids. Try this: using an old glove, write key words on each finger to help your children remember the five parts of the prayer.
- Thumb: those closest to you, your family
- Pointer finger: those that point you in the right direction, teach you, and heal you (teachers, priests, doctors) — pray for wisdom and support for them as they direct others
- Middle finger: those who lead us — our government leaders and others who have authority; they need God’s guidance and direction
- Ring finger: our weakest finger, which reminds us to pray for the weakest among us — the sick, the poor, those excluded from society, and those in pain
- Baby finger: the smallest of all. Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. When you have finished praying for the other four groups, you will be able to pray for your own needs in a better way.
- Read the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday and invite children to share how God is speaking to them in the passage. Ask them to imagine that they are there in the story. Which character do they identify with? How do they feel? What is Jesus saying to them? What is their prayer?
5. Reach out in service.
- How can you help others from the isolation of your home? Be sure to include your children in gathering ideas; they have a real sense for those in need.
- Pray for others and let them know that you are praying for them in an email, a phone call or a text.
- Ask your children to draw a special message for your extended family, neighbors or those who are homebound and alone. Send these in the mail or drop off on porches.
- Drop by and mow the lawn of a senior.
- Offer to shop for someone who cannot leave his/her home. Drop the groceries on the porch.
- Prepare care packages for those who are isolated with personal products, notes of encouragement, prayer intentions, the parish bulletin and more.
- For those who are homeless or in need, contribute to the local St. Vincent de Paul pantry, soup kitchen or shelter. Include personal messages of hope, prayer and encouragement.
6. Build a community of faith.
- Other parents are experiencing what you are. Connect with them online. Ask them to join a group of families to pray, play games, share ideas and hang out online.
- Contact other families in your children’s age groups. Share ideas of how you are praying together, sharing your faith as a family, activities that help you grow in faith and fun activities that foster your togetherness.
- Share your prayer intentions. Whether it’s through a Facebook group, a group email or text message, ask others to pray for your intentions and support them in your prayer.
- Connect with your parish catechists for ideas for forming your families in faith. Spend time with your children as they review their faith formation lessons and take advantage of the fun activities offered.
May the Lord bless you in this journey of discipleship and faith!