by Deacon Dana Nearmyer
My oldest child is a freshman at Benedictine College in Atchison this fall. I can no longer control her thoughts and actions.
First Generation Encounter with Jesus is the best experience we can offer children. Golf and soccer can be pretty boring to talk about or watch unless you are a golfer or a soccer player. Our Catholic faith can be much the same. Watching Mass, listening to prayers and learning facts and beliefs about our faith can be really uninspiring . . . unless we know Jesus.
Pope John Paul II said that Mary is the first disciple of Christ. We are to be like her “above all else because no one has been ‘taught by God’ to such depth. She was ‘both mother and disciple.’”
Jesus died on the cross so that we can be in intimate relationship with him — not only in heaven, but today, right now, in our brokenness. He is calling out to each of us, as his children. In stillness, we can hear his voice and see his face.
People tell me all the time that until they sat in eucharistic adoration, listened to God in meaningful quiet prayer, contemplated the Scriptures or attended a powerful retreat, like Christ Renews His Parish or Camp Tekakwitha, they were just going through the motions. In adoration and Mass, we come face to face with God. But do we recognize him and know him?
As adults, it is tough to let our guard down, even to our loving heavenly Father. Children do not bring the same resistance to God. Jesus once said: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt 19:14). Pope John Paul II exhorted parents, godparents, grandparents and parish catechetical leaders: “There is one teacher: Jesus Christ.” We are to lead our children to him. He is alive. He likes it when we study him, but he loves it when we talk to him. He actively leads those who seek him.
Show children the beauty of nature, sit in sacred places, allow quiet to exist and teach them to ask God to speak to them about how much he loves them and what they are called to do. Let the voice of God that spoke to all of the great heroes of the Bible speak to them through all of the senses that he created in us. God is faithful; he will not disappoint.
Teach your children to talk to God in their words. They will leave for college someday to make their own decision. Prayerfully, they will leave with their childhood roommate, Jesus Christ, at their side.