April McMurray Aiello

Recently, our daughter grappled with a difficult decision regarding campus housing. My husband and I offered an ear, then some advice. Before she drove away, I added, “Just pray about it. It will become clear what to do.”

“Oh, Mom,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the suggestion.

Why is it considered awkward by the younger generation to speak of prayer life or God-related topics? As parents, how can we make God truly present in our homes and in our children’s lives?

As the world inundates our children with secular messages via iPhones, social media, gaming devices, movies and television, we need to send our own messages inspired by a higher source. We don’t have to wait on the sidelines. We might not have the help of graphic artists or a marketing team to capture our children’s attention; however, we have One greater. We can make a difference through prayer, love and a little educational creativity.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “’The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.’ The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable” (CCC, 2221).

So, how do we religiously educate our children at home? How do we make the eternal Word a daily, relevant and exciting part of our children’s lives? If you encounter reluctance from your children at the mere mention of prayer or God-related topics, perhaps the following steps might offer a starting point.

Games. Don’t limit spiritual conversations to serious moments; instead, make them a part of family fun. Simple games, like a “biblical true or false” or a few rounds of trivia questions, can make learning about faith interesting and entertaining. For example, ask your kids whether Jesus had an aunt named Mary (he did: Mary of Cleophas), or if they know what happened in the year 1531 A.D. that led almost 10 million Mexican Native Americans to convert to Catholicism (the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe).

Travel. Going someplace? Add a Catholic point of interest to your trip. For example, if your family drives into Philadelphia for an event, ask your kids about the Miraculous Medal. Then, make a visit to learn more at the Central Association for the Miraculous Medal before driving to your final destination.

Family group chat. Texting each other about your daily schedules? Add in an occasional Scripture verse for encouragement. For example, if one of your kids is facing a difficult school exam, you might send something such as “I have the strength for everything through (Christ) who empowers me” (Philippians 4:13).

Lead by example. Ask your children to pray for someone you know. Volunteer at a soup kitchen together. If your parish offers a mission trip, consider joining it in place of a family vacation. “Train the young in the way they should go, even when old, they will not swerve from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Music and film. Consider going to a Christian music concert, or watching a Bible-based family movie together. We recently watched “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” Our middle child started to leave a few minutes into the movie, but ultimately stayed. After the film, she began a conversation about how difficult times were for the early Christians.

Mass. Make the Sunday liturgy a priority every week. Allow your children to bring friends if convenient. If you have time, follow up with a meal together. Worship and fellowship go hand in hand.

Pray. Pray for your children. Ask God to help you bring him to the center of your home, and to protect your family. Ask Jesus to show your children that he is the way, the truth and the life. Ask God to send his Holy Spirit to shower his love and light upon your family. Ask the Lord to guide you and show you ways to bring his message through you to your children.

Bringing God more deeply into our homes and children’s lives is not only our duty, but an exciting and enjoyable challenge. At times, we may run into hurdles, but that shouldn’t stop us. After all, “… the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

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April McMurray Aiello is a member of St. Thomas of Villanova Parish.