Passing Down the Faith
According to Roman Catholic theology, the entirety of divine revelation and the Deposit of Faith is transmitted to successive generations by way of scripture and sacred tradition. The word “tradition” actually means handing down something to another person. This is the most basic meaning of Catholic tradition: it is the true Faith itself, given to the Apostles by Christ and faithfully transmitted to each new generation ( see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 77-78).
Twenty years ago when I was embarking on marriage preparation with my fiancé (now husband), we were excited to uncover what God had in store for us. Looking back, I had hoped more attention was placed on living a virtuous life as a couple through prayer and intentional conversation. We barely scraped the surface, but trusted in God’s great plan for our marriage and family. I knew I had been given the tools and had seen this in action with my own parents and grandparents. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t lacking because I saw this example first hand in my life….but it makes me wonder… What if I didn’t have that background? What if I hadn’t seen the faith lived out first hand ? What if my parents or grandparents had not passed on this beautiful gift of faith to me? This is an invitation for each of us to go deeper. The secret is being a witness to your spouse and (future) children while reveling in the grace of the sacrament. In contemplating the necessary attributes of faith, love, compassion, patience, kindness and humility (to name a few) with one’s spouse and one’s children, we are called to share those by word and action. These small seeds planted will inspire your (future) children as to how and why to embrace their Catholic heritage too. The importance and responsibility of passing on our Catholic faith to our children, and the power and graces of the sacrament of Marriage in terms of honoring this promise-to raise up children in the faith, is a large order. Faith is indeed the best legacy that parents can pass on to their children. We can all desire to be teachers of the faith.
Greater emphasis should be placed on growing and nurturing the virtues. Whether you are just starting out as a married couple or you are a seasoned veteran couple celebrating many happy years of wedded bliss, all couples would benefit from self sacrifice. The prayer of surrender can also be transformative, allowing God’s will to be done. Though this role as parents might be intimidating or overwhelming, we are further encouraged to “See the grace of the sacrament of marriage: parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the first [teacher] for their children. A wholesome family likes to foster interior dispositions that are genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life” (CCC 2225). Though it may be a daunting responsibility alone, by the grace of God it becomes a privilege. “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home with tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and this interested service is the rule. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues” (CCC 2223).
It lies within the family to live out the virtues. The heart of the family is God’s call and he equips us with this mission. Faith in action, by living out the gospel, is the best way to teach our children. Catholic parents should learn to form their family as a domestic church, a church in the home, where God is honored through action, word, prayer and virtue. Daily discipline with emphasis on this domestic church, is an invitation not to be missed. In the sacrament of Marriage, the Catholic Church asks us to promise to raise our kids in the faith. This privilege is an honor but carries the weight of response and action—What efforts do you put forth to attain holiness? What wisdom can you share with your spouse and your children? How can we be better formed in the faith? Understanding the WHY is key. We must be willing to make sacrifices to make a marriage last. Ultimately, joy and peace will reign when we live and grow in the virtue of love. Every act of love is a renewal of our wedding vows. Through words and actions we instill the values in our children that were taught to us by our parents. We are teachers of the faith first and foremost at home. Along with the church, we are invited to walk close to God in prayer and the sacraments.
Here are some transformative ways to live out the Church’s vision for marriage:
- Daily Prayer (including the Rosary, Divine Office, Novena for Marriage and Family)
- Read the Bible as a family
- Frequent the Sacrament of Confession
- Sacrament of the Eucharist (holy mass, daily or weekly)
- Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Discern and Participate in Catholic School
- Celebrate Saint Feast days
- Set up a home altar, to follow the liturgical year
- Sacred Heart, Marian, St. Joseph Consecration
- Have your priest over for meals and family functions
- Join a small group of faithful Catholics
- Actively serve in ministry or in the Mass
By establishing trust, leading by example, learning sacrifice, and having a marriage built on friendship and prayer, our children will see God’s goodness in us and through us. What does it mean to be a good mother and a good father ? What does it mean to cultivate virtue? By simply asking ourselves and our children, “What is God‘s plan for my life? How is my prayer life? What is my understanding of love?” We are each called to raise a domestic church. Consider yourself challenged. This just might be the most important invitation of your entire life. These are all special opportunities to grow in the faith. Honor your vows. The Holy Family should be our guide, our focus and our inspiration to imitate and live out the virtues. Our love as husbands and wives can mirror that of Christ for His Church.
“The final battle between good and evil will be between marriage and the family. We are living this out right now. Invoke the Immaculate heart of Mary, the Sacred heart of Jesus and the Chaste heart of St Joseph. We are living for times such as these -don’t miss the GRACE!”~Father Donald Calloway
Let us be encouraged to be the most fulfilling and enriching version of ourselves by being a witness of Christ to each other and our family. Let us embrace this vocation to grow in holiness. Let us help to build our own domestic churches within the heart of our home by following close to the liturgical year and clinging tight to our Catholic faith. Who can you encourage today? Who has inspired you with their own marriage and faith? Christ established the sacrament of Marriage through His Church. By raising your children in the faith, this foundation will be passed on to the future generations leaving a legacy of love and sacrifice. Now is the perfect time to let your marriage Be Light for the world to see!
To participate in Witness to Love’s Marriage Enrichment Small Groups, visit Be Light. Be Light helps all Catholic married couples in a community to open their hearts to the powerful way God remains present to them and in the holy bond of Matrimony.
A Prayer for the Family
Composed by St. Mother Teresa
Heavenly Father, you have given us the model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O Loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely eucharistic, revived with joy.
Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow in family prayer. Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our families, especially in their distressing disguise. May the Eucharistic heart of Jesus make our hearts humble like his and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way.
May we love one another as God loves each one of us, more and more each day, and forgive each other’s faults as you forgive our sins. Help us, O Loving Father, to take whatever you give and give whatever you take with a big smile.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Holy Guardian Angels, be always with us, guide and protect us.