Yesterday Joseph turned 12 weeks old. Many women go back to work at this time or even sooner. I’ve been working pretty much the whole time I’ve had Joseph, but I’ve had a pretty light work load, doing the blog each week and only speaking with groups a couple of times. I’ve been pretty fortunate to get to spend most of my days with him in my arms. It’s a wonderful job being a mother and getting to provide for your child and watching him grow. Reflecting on this gift, I started to think about mothers throughout the animal kingdom and what style of parenting they employ.
Since I was thinking about how many moms go back to work around this time, I thought about how once they make this transition, many mothers begin feeding their children formula. Did you know orangutans nurse their kids on average for SIX YEARS?! That is the longest of any animal.
In a VERY stark contrast, harp seals stop nursing their babies after only a few weeks. Then, once they’re done lactating, they leave their pups on a piece of floating ice and those little ones are on their own. How could they abandon something this cute?
As much as I love my little son, one day he will grow up and move out to make a life of his own. Hopefully I am able to prepare him enough to go out and face the world. Orca mothers, quite differently, keep their kids with them for their whole life. Their young will stay with them in maternal packs.
No matter how long a mother stays with her children or nurses her children, mothers are protective of their young. They know that this child came from them and is theirs. They want the best for them. Even though a protective woman is referred to as a “Mama Bear”, the most protective mother figure in the wild is actually the lioness.
We as humans want the best for our children. We feed them, spend time with them, protect them. It is also important that we educate them. Before our children ever step foot in a school, we are teaching them to speak, to read, their numbers and ABC’s. As Christian parents it is also important that we educate our children on our faith.
At the end of this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples, "Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” It is our job as parents to guide our children towards developing a faith of their own. Vatican II called the family “the domestic church”. It is in the home that children first learn about God.
One of the saddest things I’ve seen in my time working in youth ministry is when parents don’t cultivate any sort of faith in the home. They simply send the kids to youth group for that one hour a week (and only about 15-20 weeks out of the year) and think that that is enough. They don’t think that they need to add on to that at all. Let me tell you, there are 168 hours in a week, 52 weeks in a year. That’s over 8,700 hours a year and you think that us teaching them for 15 of those hours is enough? It’s not. The domestic church is so important. A child’s faith life truly starts at home.
It was such a joy this week to begin that journey with my own child. On Sunday, Joseph got baptized into the Catholic faith.
But we won’t stop at just this initial sacrament. Each day is a new opportunity to share our faith with him. For example, the evening I was writing this blog, my husband was walking back and forth in our apartment, holding Joseph, and praying the rosary. Even before Joseph knows what the words mean, we’re doing our best to expose him to the beauty of the Catholic faith. We take this responsibility very seriously.
You don’t have to have a degree in theology to educate your kids on the faith either. The biggest thing you can do is just to talk about it. Let them see you living your faith on a daily basis. Answer any questions they have when they do see you living your faith. Building up the domestic church is essential to our lives as Christians. The USCCB thought so too, so they put out a list of simple ideas to help you in bringing your kids up in the faith. https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/parents/tools-for-building-a-domestic-church
Some of the ones they list are:
- Praying together, often.
- Hanging a crucifix or religious art in the home
- Beginning family traditions based on feast days or liturgical seasons
- Making Sunday Mass a priority, even when you travel
There are many big and small ways we can help lead children in the faith. It is one of our greatest responsibilities as adult Catholics. We are to be an example. We are to help them on their way, encouraging them to run to Jesus. If you have kids, talk to your kids about some subject of the faith this week. It could be their own baptism, talking with them about how special it was or how important it was. If you don’t have kids, maybe reach out to your parents and discuss your faith with them this week. Either way, I hope that this week you will pray for all youth. Pray that they may continue to grow in their faith and that their family may support them in this endeavor.