Confession 3: I don't know how to keep my kids Catholic

Chapter 3 of Good Enough is Good Enough; Confessions of an imperfect Catholic mom hits me right in the heart! I especially connected to this chapter because Colleen Duggan shares stories of her family and the chaos that is Sunday Mass vs what she had hoped and imagined family life in Mass would be. I am LIVING this on weekly basis, because I definitely have given up daily Mass for now. The absolute chaos of taking both toddler boys to Mass has caused so many challenges (and lavished us with humility) in ways my husband could not have foreseen. We knew that it would be hard, but honestly? Other parents made it look fairly easy and manageable, so we naïvely believed that we would coast through those challenges. Our oldest child has been pretty easy, with only mild tantrums and flare-ups in Mass, but our second, our 20 month old, has been a DOOZEY. So I was able to laugh and share in camaraderie with Colleen as she highlighted the MANY humiliating/hilarious things that have happened with little ones at Mass.

This image we have as Catholic mothers is often so different than the life we are actually living, and that can make us feel like failures. I imagined my children sitting calmly at Mass, watching everything the priest was doing with awe and attention, and asking inquisitive and uniquely holy questions. Most of the time I am trying to get them to stop screaming, and stop them from tearing hymnals. I fear, like Colleen did, that if they did not see the beauty of Mass than they would fail to see the beauty of the Church and then they would have an existential crisis, leave the Church, and not know how loved and cherished they are by God!! See?? A mother’s brain can be a dangerous place. But the beauty of this chapter in Colleen’s book is that she shares her own struggles, and how she came to accept that her expectations were not realistic, and that she needed to take a different approach. She changed herself, not her kids. My children may be small, and in need of my guidance, but I am no fool. I know that I cannot stop a tantrum train once it gets some speed, but I CAN change me and adjust my expectations as needed.

My favorite line in this chapter? “The truth is, we aren’t responsible for whether our children become Catholics.” BOOM.

While this does NOT mean that we ignore our responsibility to raise our kids in the Faith, or that we become lazy or despondent, it does provide some reassurance. What it DOES mean is that we do our absolute best to show our children the love of God and His Church, we pray with and for them, and we show them what it means to be a Catholic in every aspect of our lives. Then, we give them to God and trust that He will do the rest. The best moment of my life was when my faith became my own, not something that my mom told me to do. I had a personal encounter with Christ. And I come from a family who was not that active in our Catholic faith growing up. My mom did all the heavy lifting in the faith department, while my dad worked 7 days a week and used work as an excuse to stop attending Mass altogether. I share this, not to shed a negative light on my parents, because I think they genuinely did the best they could given their circumstances. I share this to illustrate that God works with whatever we give Him. Just like the loaves and the fish. We may not be able to offer much, but He will work mighty miracles with what we DO give Him.

I am comforted by the fact that my husband is more faithful than me. His holiness is what attracted me to him in the first place, and one of many things that I greatly admire about him. I know that when I fail, he will remain strong. He wakes up every morning at 5 am to pray, and he is the one who insisted that we do a nightly rosary as a family. I am not alone in raising our children in the faith, and that alone gives me the peace I need when I find myself going down the fear rabbit hole.

The last, and most convicting piece of advice I read that I want to mention is Colleen’s encouragement to make sure that we are on the path to holiness. Do as I say, not as I do does NOT work in parenting. Recently we went to the Veneration of the heart of St. John Vianney, and as per usual, the boys were loud and crazy. However, as we left the church, our 20 month old had my husbands rosary and was clutching it in his little hands and kissing the cross on it. It melted me. My husband kisses his rosary every night, and our little Emilio had noticed that and adopted that same little form of adoration. Our children are going to see what we do, way more clearly than hearing what we say. Are we living an authentic Christian life? That is what is really the most important thing that we can do for ourselves and our families. Share your thoughts with us!

  1. Are you and your spouse on the same page when it comes to raising Catholic kids? Do you work with or against your spouse?

    Thankfully we are! We experienced conversions before we met, and so that made our family culture a Catholic one right from the start. We definitely work together in this regard, my husband doing most of the work because he is amazing.

  2. Did you have preconceived notions about what it would be like to raise Catholic kids? Were your ideas accurate or not?

    I mentioned this above, but my expectations and preconceived notions were WAY off! haha!! I am learning to adjust my expectations daily.

  3. What is the biggest challenge you face as a Catholic parent?

    Trying to show my children the True, Good and Beautiful in a society that had distorted those things completely.

  4. Are you tempted to manage your spouse’s or your children’s spiritual life?

    No, my husband knows what he is about. I am trying to teach my children more about prayer, and showing them the goodness of God daily. I know once they are older I won’t be able to have these same opportunities.

  5. How is your prayer life? What is one Catholic practice or devotion you love? Does your family know you love it? When, where, or how do you practice that devolution in everyday life?

    My prayer life is a work in progress. I try to spend time daily in prayer, but that is not always the case. I have a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and my husband and I are trying to do an Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in our home.

Copyright 2019 Diana Cantu All Rights Reserved

Image Credit Copyright 2019 Karen Padilla. All Rights Reserved

Diana Cantu