Scripture and Our Children The ABC's of Raising Saints

MARY ANN BUDNIK

Stimulated by Scripture, striving for holiness will seem very natural, especially when our children see our example of applying Scripture to our own daily lives.


Parents, you are called to help your children become saints! Lying dormant within your family could be another John Paul II, a Therese of Lisieux, a Thomas More, an Elizabeth Ann Seton. From your vantage point it may not look promising, but remember, the Curť of Ars had difficulty in school and every saintís mother went through the frustration of potty training. At all times, the spiritual formation of our children must be our highest priority.

Teaching our children Scripture is an indispensable tool in raising saints. Without a working knowledge of Scripture, our children cannot be adequately grounded in the Catholic faith. Introduce the Bible to your children when they are young by using a childrenís version. As you read these stories aloud, point out that God not only created us, but even when we turned our backs on God, He was there to protect and guide us along the path of holiness.

Besides reading Bible stories, help Scripture come alive through your natural interaction with your children. When our children are but toddlers we can begin their Scripture training with the story of creation. After reading the story, take them for a walk, perhaps at a park, in the woods, or along the coast. Point out the majesty of Godís handiwork in each of these places. Point out sunsets, the moon, the stars. Donít forget the different shades of green in nature, the different shapes and colors of flowers, their wonderful fragrances.

When grocery shopping, point out the different foods God created. Take them to a zoo and show them the various types of animals God created. Then show them a baby and let them see how perfectly God created it. Finally, show them Godís love in creating them. Point out their various senses and how each works. We often take our eyes, ears, fingers, hands, and legs for granted until we become incapacitated by an accident or illness. Help your children appreciate the genius of God in all of His creation.

Point out that on the seventh day God rested. Emphasize how important it is to keep the Lordís day holy by going to Mass and refraining from unnecessary work. For older children, show through Scripture passages how strictly the Jews observed the Sabbath. What can we learn from them? How can our family give Sundays to God?

Develop the habit of praising and thanking God in front of your children. We often take things for granted. If the day goes well, we forget that it is a gift from God. When something nice happens to us, we may have the attitude that we deserved it rather than seeing Godís love at work. Pick out some psalms of praise and thanksgiving. Explain how King David prayed to God. When hardships knock at your familyís door, pick up the psalms again and select those to pray that seek Godís protection or aid.

Little ones are fascinated by angels. Using Bible stories, show how the angels protect Godís friends and help them when they are in trouble. Teach your child to pray to his or her guardian angel. Point out occasions to your child when his guardian angel helped him.

The story of Adam and Eve gives us the opportunity to teach the doctrine of original sin and its effects. Use the stories of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah to teach how God protects the obedient but destroys hardened sinners. The story of Moses and the Ten Commandments gives us an opportunity to teach our children about actual sin, mortal and venial. As our children grow older we can show how the New Testament completes the Old Testament. In the Old we have the Ten Commandments. In the New, Christ gives us the Sacrament of Reconciliation that absolves us from our sins. In Matthewís Gospel Jesus tells Peter:

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt. 16:18-19).

This passage not only explains the institution of the Sacrament of Confession, but it also describes Godís appointment of Peter as the first pope.

If we explain to our children when they are young that the Ten Commandments are not meant to destroy their freedom but to protect it, they probably will not rebel against the Commandments in their teens. Teach your children that since the fall of Adam and Eve, our world has become a dangerous minefield. These mines not only destroy our souls but can also destroy our bodies. That is why God gave us the Ten Commandments. They protect us from destruction and help us to live in joyful freedom as sons and daughters of God.

As our children reach the age to receive Holy Communion, itís vital to read with them the New Testament passages that refer to the Eucharist. Begin with John 6:48-57. Here Jesus contrasts the manna given to the Israelites in the desert to the new Manna, His own body and blood. Jesus tells the shocked crowd: ďTruly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in youĒ (Jn. 6:54).

If we want to be saints, we must be nourished continually by Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. This nourishment is more important than the school lunch! As necessary as this sacrament is for our spiritual health, it is critical that we explain clearly to our children that they must be in the state of grace to receive Jesus. If their soul is soiled with any mortal sin, they must first go to Confession to receive the Lordís forgiveness. As St. Paul warns:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord . . . for any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor. 11:27-29).

The Mass readings during Advent connect the Old and New Testaments in regard to the promise and birth of Jesus, our Redeemer. Discuss these passages in connection with lighting the advent wreath each evening.

Preteens can understand the books of Wisdom and Sirach if you go through them slowly. Use the teen years to explore the prophets and the Book of Revelation. Interesting discussions can ensue when these are studied along with the daily newspaper.

Another approach for older children is to encourage them to read a passage from the New Testament each day and then discuss with them how they can apply it to their prayer, school, and family lives. Families can also read the Bible together and discuss it over dinner.

Stimulated by Scripture, striving for holiness will seem very natural, especially when our children see our example of applying Scripture to our own daily lives.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Budnik, Mary Ann. ďScripture and Our Children The ABCís of Raising Saints.Ē Lay Witness (September, 1999).

Reprinted with permission of Lay Witness magazine.

Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.

THE AUTHOR

Mary Ann Budnik writes from Springfield, IL. Her latest book, entitled Looking for Peace? Try Confession, may be ordered by calling 1-888-316-2640.

Copyright © 2000 LayWitness
 


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