My youngest daughter had the opportunity to go to Montessori pre-school last year. My husband and I chose this school for her based on her excited response to the school’s hosted open house. Month after month we were amazed at just how much she enjoyed learning, how quickly she absorbed new subject matters, and at how well she retained what she had learned! Although her teachers presented the subject matters, she had much freedom in exploring her interests. She expressed such joy when talking about what she had discovered – which was, sadly, different from her older siblings.
As I have written about in the past, I am trying to home-school my children in the Catholic faith as they attend public school. So often I find myself anxious about whether they are learning enough, or how far behind we are in their lesson plans. Although I do want to focus on faith sharing with them, I do tend to worry about whether they have properly memorized the Ten Commandments or know the Corporal Works of Mercy. But really, all I want them to do is fall in love with their faith!
I have recently been paying attention to their interest levels while we are attending Holy Mass. I found myself worrying about how much heart they were putting into the responses, how attentively they were listening to the readings, and how joyfully they were singing the hymns. I wondered just how spiritually prepared they were to receive the Holy Eucharist after fighting with each other in the pews about who was invading whose space, or who squeezed whose hands too tightly while giving the Kiss of Peace. But really, all I want for them is to know how very much they are loved by our Redeemer, just as they are, and to respond to that Love in return!
I brought up this issue with a priest – Just how concerned should I be as a parent about my kids’ interest levels at the Mass?
He reassured me that I shouldn’t really be concerned at all. Although it is a good to have an awareness of wanting that for my children, he reminded me that all I can do is prepare the ground for God, and allow the seeds to grow in each soul. Going deeper, or having a greater desire for the Eucharist…those are conditioned by individual situations, where we/they can be led to seek God’s grace or see how the Eucharist provides salvation for us. He did suggest that I apply what is happening in their lives, at home, or school, or with friends and equate that to the Lord saving us from our fears or concerns. He suggested that as a parent, I make Mass as positive as possible and reiterate that above all, Church is a place of (1) safety and (2) sacredness. In referring to the Mass, I can always paint the Church with an aura of safety and sacredness.
It’s kind of like the Montessori method: as a parent, I can present the topics, and lead them to the Sacraments, but I must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them, based on their situations, their temperaments, their interests. I am thinking that if I approach their religion lessons and our participation in the Sacraments in this way, they might discover true joy for themselves. It is not so much in the “how”, but in begging for graces to be attached in our faith formation, despite me being an obstacle as the “Control Freak.” J
As a parent I can trust that God is very present in our lives, especially because of my entrustment to my Blessed Mama. He comes to my rescue as His littlest child. He is the one Who has placed this desire of sanctity for my children in my heart. Therefore, I can trust that He will fulfill it!
God truly desires that we anticipate, with faith and hope, the fulfillment of His plans toward our environment and us. Therefore, we should always look upon our dear ones, as well as those who are away from the faith, as God looks upon them in His mercy. God looks at them as saints, even though they may convert in a year, maybe in ten years, or even – as in the case of the Good Thief – only at the last hours of their lives. The best way for us to help others on their way to conversion is to better appreciate God’s purpose connected to their lives, rather than trying to rely on them excessively.
It is crucial for us to place our reliance on God. At the same time, we must cooperate with His grace and anticipate, with great hope, what we have not yet received, but which we deeply believe is in accordance with God’s designs. In this way the results of our reliance on God can also be the salvation of others. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011], 41-42).