Kelly Guest offers ways to help little ones grow in the virtues given to them in Baptism.
Yesterday’s feast of the Baptism of our Lord has me thinking about my own children’s baptisms. After asking for our child’s name and what we wish of the Church for our child – Baptism – Father says:
You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so, you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
The responsibility of training our children in the practice of the faith is a serious one, not to be taken lightly. Through Baptism, God freely gives not only sanctifying grace but, also, the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Unlike sanctifying grace which is given in full measure bestowing life and light, the theological virtues are given in seedling form. These virtues grow with the child – with proper care. It is the parents’ responsibility to water these seeds so that they grow.
Just as an infant cannot yet grasp simple math concepts like 2+2=4, let alone algebra, a child needs also to grow in his understanding of the faith. And parents are the first teachers of their child. As the familiar paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares:
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues (2223).
Look around. Is your home well suited for education in faith?
Where are the religious images in your home? Are there crucifixes in the bedrooms? If you are concerned that a crucifix might upset your child, folk-art crucifixes such as these made in Latin American countries are bright, colorful, and child-friendly.
Say prayers together, especially before meals and bedtime. Take your child to church. I know, I know, when you do, you come out of Mass not able to recall any of the readings or homily. But, oh, the graces granted in the struggle and perseverance! Don’t deny yourself or your child these graces.
Does your child have a Bible? Read these stories to her in order to help her faith grow. Veggie Tales videos are another fun way to learn Bible stories. Plus, there are other children’s books out there, like Lisa Hendey’s I’m a Saint in the Making, that help children understand their faith.
Speaking of saints, get your child a statue of his patron saint. If the patron saint cannot be found, a statue of Jesus or Mary is wonderful to have. Be sure to tell your child about his patron saint and other saints, too. Children need role models and good friends.
Faith is the gift of belief in God.
Reading God’s word in the Bible, praying and worshipping together, having a home adorn with sacramentals such as crucifixes and statues help that gift flourish.
Hope is the virtue that enables us to trust God, to trust in His goodness and mercy.
We parents are the first persons our child learn to trust. We are there to pick them when they fall; we know the right moment when to let go of the bicycle seat; and with our vast knowledge, we are the homework helpers and advise-givers. No matter what, we are always there for our children. Thus, we reflect God.
Furthermore, we forgive our children whenever they do wrong. Correction is necessary, but after the punishment is over, we go to our child, teach her to say sorry, and let her know she is forgiven and loved. Hugs are recommended since a hug can heal a heart.
When your child is old enough, be sure to take him to confession. The sacrament of Reconciliation is how he can most effectively and efficaciously tell God he is sorry. Penance can heal a soul.
Finally, the greatest of all these virtues is love.
Love of a child comes easily to a parent, just as love comes easily for God the Father for us His children.
Love is what motivates us to get up every morning and go to work to provide for our families. Love gives; it gives birthday parties, Christmas gifts, and control over the tv remote or car radio. Love enables us to sacrifice our wants and desires so to give our children theirs. And because of love, we experience not sadness in our sacrifice, but joy.
And they return that love with hugs and kisses at unexpected times, with dandelion necklaces, and toads. Love is in their drawings that you proudly display on your refrigerator or even framed on a wall. Love leads to late night talks, living room dances, and a long walk down the aisle because the love she has seen between you and your spouse, she now leaves to imitate and share. And God has overseen and been in it all.
That is the gift of Baptism – the gift of faith, hope, and love. It is the gift of God’s own life in our own. There is no greater gift we can give our children.
Copyright 2021 Kelly Guest
Image: Santa Fiora (province of Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy), chiesa del Suffragio - Terracotta of the baptism of Jesus, Wikimedia Commons (2020), CC BY SA 4.0
About the Author
God has given Kelly lots of wonderful opportunities to follow Him. She was a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville, an education coordinator for a Catholic Charities' program for pregnant teens, a middle school teacher, a director of religious education and is now a youth minister. Her most challenging and rewarding calling, though, is wife and mother of ten children. What she has learned, she blogs at CatholicMom.com. Kelly's book, Saintly Moms: 25 Stories of Holiness, is due out October 2021.