The SicknessThen came tests. He'd always had a nut allergy, so we did more allergy tests. We took him for endoscopies (that’s when they snake a camera down the throat to take pictures) and biopsies (they also take tissue samples while they’re down there). After that, we did elimination diets rule out certain foods. The one bright spot? At one point he wasn’t supposed to eat vegetables. Every kid’s dream … almost. Finally, we got the diagnosis. Eosinophilic Esophagitis. What? We had never heard of that. Has anyone ever heard of that? It’s a condition where frequent exposure to low-level allergens causes eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, to attack the esophagus and stomach. The presence of eosinophils produces difficulty in eating and blocks the absorption of nutrients. Hence, the malnutrition. He couldn’t get nutrients from the food he ate, and he ate less.
The ResponseNeedless to say, we interrogated the doctors about it and did an exhaustive investigation of our own to learn more. After a year and a half of food trials, endoscopies, and biopsies we found the culprit and our boy is growing again. I have no doubt that any parent would do the same thing we did to help their child through an illness. And this wasn’t even life-threatening. I'm sure more serious conditions demand much higher levels of parental involvement. Yet the majority of Catholic parents won’t get personally involved when a crisis threatens their child’s spiritual life. Is the loss of eternal life less serious? Of course, with sickness, we rely on the advice of experts, but it rarely stops there. Would we neglect to carry out the prescribed treatment at home, such as a special diet, because we’re not as knowledgeable as the doctor? Don’t be ridiculous. Yet many parents say they can't talk to their children about faith because they don't know it well enough themselves. Reading and studying the Bible together, praying together, having family discussions about beliefs (possibly even struggles), and being a witness of faith to your children are the best medicines. You don’t have to be an expert to make huge contributions to your child’s spiritual formation; you just have to be there. Will you need to do some study of your own to be ready? Probably. Would you study how to help your children if they were physically sick? I think so.
The Spiritual SicknessAlso, don’t be fooled. There is spiritual sickness out there, and it’s most likely affecting your children in some way. Think you don't have to worry about a lack of faith because your child is too young? A recent CARA study found that among former Catholic young adults surveyed, 63% stopped identifying as Catholic between 10 and 17 years-old. An astounding 23% recalled leaving before age 10! The median age was 13. Catholic schools are wonderful. Parish religious education is a must. However, research shows parents are the number one inoculation, and remedy, to the growing faith crisis in youth.
Your Response?When my first child was born, I was struck with a realization. I had just cooperated in the creation of an eternal being. This person would live forever somewhere. He would spend some time here on earth and spend eternity in heaven … or hell. I was responsible for him. Realistically, you can’t control every decision your children make. Your involvement may not stop them from rejecting the Catholic faith. However, you set them up for success in every other area of their lives, why not this? Perhaps I’m coming on a bit strong. Good. I want to make a point. Most parents wouldn’t sit idly by while their child’s physical health deteriorated. Yet, they’re content to let that happen when spiritual health is in jeopardy. Don’t be content. There’s a battle going on for your child’s soul. Be the hero of the fight. Are you concerned about these statistics from CARA? Are you surprised? Does your young child show symptoms of spiritual dis-ease?
Copyright 2018 Marc Cardaronella
About the Author
Marc Cardaronella is the author of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick from Ave Maria Press. Marc directs catechist and discipleship leader formation for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO. He is married, has two teen boys, and writes about Catholic spirituality and how to share the Faith on his personal blog.