Providentially, I received my newest book, The Heartbeat of Faith: 59 Poems, Fingerplays, and Prayers, on my birthday. I wrote this book because a teacher at a workshop I gave commented how useful she found my poem about etiquette in church. Strangely I didn’t even remember writing it! If this poem was a help to her, I reasoned that a book full of such poems would be welcomed by other teachers, parents, and grandparents. The faith is caught at an early age. Psychologists tell us that basic attitudes are formed in the first five years of life. My book is for children from ages 3 to 7. I like to tell the story of the father whose son was very quiet in his room. The dad cracked open the door and peered inside just in time to see his little boy get up from his train set, run to the statue of the Sacred Heart and kiss it. “Why did you do that?” the father asked. “Because he’s a good guy,” the tot replied. He already knew about Jesus.
My earliest memory is being at a high Mass in St. Vitus Church with my grandmother. The incense made me cry, and Grandma and her friends were trying to quiet me! I also recall the hours my mother spent drilling me on the Baltimore Catechism answers so I could recite them in the Wednesday catechism classes. How important it is that parents pass on their faith in Jesus to their children. They are responsible for the physical life of their offspring: seeing that they eat, sleep, and exercise. Parents and grandparents help children to walk, talk, and introduce them to the world. They need to be equally concerned about their children’s spiritual growth and their understanding of the supernatural world. The Church tells us that parents, not PSR teachers or priests, are the primary religion teachers of their children.
So how do parents go about sharing their faith? Here are a few ideas:
• Take the children to Mass. So what if they cry and you need to carry them out during Father’s homily? At Mass provide them with religious books and prayer books instead of books about mermaids, trucks, and princesses.
• Along with reading fairy tales as bedtime stories, read Bible stories.
• On road trips play some Christian songs. As lullabies sing gentle Christian hymns.
• Display Christian images in your home such as a crucifix, palm, statues of Jesus and Mary.
• For Christmas give Jesus and Mary equal time with Santa and his elves, and for Easter give the Risen Lord equal time with the Easter bunny.
• Teach your children the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be before they learn them in school or PSR.
• Take your children along with you when you do works of mercy such as visiting the sick and serving in a soup kitchen.
Here is the poem the teacher liked and which is one of the 59 in my book:
In God’s holy house
There I talk to Jesus,
And Jesus talks to me.
Church, God’s holy house,
Is not the place for fun.
I do not laugh or giggle,
Wiggle, scream, or run.
Deep within my heart
When I’m very, very still
I hear God say, “I love you,
And I always will.”
- What are your memories of “catching the faith” at home with your parents?
- What do you do with your children to introduce them to God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints?
PS: My book, published by ACTA Publications, is $12.95 and should be on Amazon.com any day now. If you would like an autographed copy that has additional art, send me a check for that amount (4237 Bluestone Rd.; South Euclid, OH 44121).