Parents: You are Responsible for the ‘Soil’ of Your Children’s Hearts

by Fr Richard Heilman | September 23, 2017 11:48 AM

“The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.” St. Padre Pio

On the Feast of St. Padre Pio, the Gospel has Jesus telling a parable that does not point at how the truths of our faith are given, but how they are received.

You can read the whole Gospel HERE[1], but I will just focus on Jesus’ explanation of the parable:

“This is the meaning of the parable.
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life,
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance.”

For all of my priesthood, I have been shouting from the rooftops that, “It is not about ‘poor catechesis!’ WE CAN GOOGLE IT, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! It is about hearts ‘disinterested’ in catechesis at all! Where are the hungry hearts?”

Before Mass, this morning, my altar server (an adult man) and I were talking. He’s “lit up!” He told me he’s up to Maccabees in the Bible, as he is reading the Bible cover to cover. And, he just order St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica[2], and plans to read it. He said, “I can’t wait!” You see? His “soil” is ready to receive. He’s not waiting for the next “cool DVD” to entice him to learn. He’s hungry, and he is seeking truth wherever he can gobble it up.

Isn’t it true that when a young person enters college, and settles on a major he/she is excited about, that they begin devouring everything they can on the subject? Why are so many hearts disinterested in devouring the truths of our faith?

In my homily, this morning, I pointed a finger directly at us – religious leaders – who, unlike Padre Pio, soft-pedaled our faith through homilies that massage the message rather than challenging through truth, and liturgies that entertain rather than inspire. We have gone out of our way to send the message,

“Don’t get too fanatical (rigid) about your faith. We want to look like the worldly and compromise with the world, so people won’t think this ‘faith thing’ is too hard.”

Of course, that was never the message of Jesus who would even implore us to cut off our hand or gouge out our eye, if they cause us to sin. Or, telling his disciples the way is very hard; a narrow gate that few pass through. How hard? It’s is easier for a camel pass through an eye of needle than for a rich man (someone engrossed in worldliness) to enter the kingdom of God.

Padre Pio pulled no punches either …

“The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.”

 

“The longer the trial to which God subjects you, the greater the goodness in comforting you during the time of the trial and in the exaltation after the combat.”

 

“The most beautiful act of faith is the one made in darkness, in sacrifice, and with extreme effort.”

“Sacrifice and Effort.” Parents? Your children are watching.

I am always amazed at the learning capacity of children. They learn a whole language as a toddler. Why? Because they trust their parents and see that their parents see learning the language as very important. If it’s important to the parent, it is important to the child.

Listen, if faith/religion is simply relegated to something done on Sunday, as you squeeze an hour in amidst all of your other worldly “priorities” in your life, your children are seeing the level of importance faith has in your life. They are learning to make faith a “low priority” in their lives. And, if the children are sitting through liturgies that look like a picnic in the park, rather than a heavenly liturgy that is the re-presentation of the Holy Sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, then the children will never be inspired to take the Mass or their faith seriously.

So, when it comes time to prioritize what a family does with their time, children are “catching” what “truly matters” to the parents.

I’m watching a local Catholic school doing a 5k fundraiser for the school today. So many parents poured themselves into soliciting donations, promotion, etc. for this day. Parents, you have done so much more than raise money for your children’s education, you have prepared the soil of their hearts to set their faith and Catholic education as a high priority.

[3]I have a large family helping to fill 2,000 bottles with Holy Water and Blessed Salt, and the they are overjoyed to take on the project (see this photo). “Church” and its needs are set as a “high priority,” and these children are gobbling up everything they can find to learn about this faith that is so “AWESOME” to them.

I have an army of men (see photo above) who gather once a month for prayer, catechesis and fraternity. Their children watch them walk out the door. This is not abandonment, this is AMAZING preparation of the soil of those children’s hearts … “WOW! Dad takes his faith seriously!”

I come from a family of seven. We had the same high priority when it came to our parish. We practically lived there, helping in anyway we could. The fruit? I am a priest, my sister is a Catholic School Principal, and my other brothers and sisters have been actively involved in their parishes throughout their lives. All of them know their faith very well. Faith, and the boots on the ground “involvement” in their faith, has the “highest” priority.

I get it when people say they need to have as their highest priority their “primary vocation” of their family. What drives me crazy is when some tout this expression – “primary vocation” – as a way to beg off of participating in parish activities. But, when their children start playing soccer or join a group putting on a musical, they – all of a sudden – discover thousands of hours available for their family to devote themselves to these activities.

I get so frustrated with this. These parents believe it is more valuable to sit in front of the TV at home, rather than demonstrate their dedication to their parish (and/or Catholic school). They use their children as human shields to beg off, rather than model the “effort and sacrifice” necessary when we “take our faith seriously” … when it has the highest priority.

All I am saying is … “Your children are watching.” When they grow up, and find their faith boring, and lack interest in learning more about it, know – as Jesus teaches in today’s Gospel – it is not about “poor catechesis,” as much as it is about the preparation of the soil of your children’s hearts.

Sure, in my priesthood, I provide catechesis (I love teaching!) and I point my flock to where they can find catechesis, but it is much more about “preparing the soil” of their hearts to be “great receivers” … hungry hearts. I do this by modeling all the ways “I believe” our faith is a “really big deal.” So, I strive for the highest quality and most reverent liturgies; with enthusiasm, I reveal and seek to revive the many treasures of our Catholic faith (Mary, saints, devotions, sacramentals, etc.); and, I provide 24/7 access to the Sacrament of Penance, so the fire of “being in a state of grace” burns bright in the hearts of those in my charge.

Our Catholic faith is AWESOME!! God is AWESOME!! Let’s learn and serve and love, because we know that pleases our God!!

Endnotes:
  1. HERE: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092317.cfm
  2. Summa Theologica: https://www.amazon.com/Summa-Theologica-Thomas-Aquinas-Volumes/dp/0870610635
  3. [Image]: https://www.romancatholicman.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/TobiasBlessedSalt-1.jpg

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