How important are our children in 21st century America? I ask the question because we have so many ways our children are pulled from one direction to the next, it’s hard not only to establish but also to maintain a strong, faith-filled family life. As parents, we want the best and what’s best for our children, deciding that we, the adults, know what we should do. I have come to believe that’s not necessarily true.
A parent who is “gung-ho” sports may sign Jimmy or Janey up for soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis — whatever the family can manage. That eventually promotes schedules that are incredibly hard to manage. If Jimmy goes to soccer practice, who will take Janey to tennis lessons? If a third child is introduced to the mix, everything is refigured on a tighter schedule.
As parents race around trying to meet every schedule, somehow a practice or a game is scheduled on Sunday morning. That can be problematic if the family forgets to go to a Saturday liturgy, or has some other function scheduled in that time slot as well. Never mind that we believe going to Mass is not only important but should be at the top of the list with everything else scheduled around our commitment to our faith.
In today’s society, going to church is often not the first and most important activity on a family’s list. Actually, in some cases, it’s not on anybody’s list at all. If a child has a game on Sunday mornings, that may be the most important event of the day.
We need to change that. Everything should flow to and from our faith. Nurturing our spiritual lives will, in fact, enrich the rest of our lives. It happens all the time, but we don’t hear that much about it. No, we see a mom or dad in the drive-through lane picking up some semblance of food on the way to practice or a game, and sometimes that’s unavoidable. I know kids who have said they just wanted to stay home when faced with a night of no sports.
Naturally, some youngsters thrive on activities, and some families continue to make church a priority. It just doesn’t seem to be the norm. Our churches, once full every weekend for liturgies, now have plenty of space, and it’s not just sports that draws our young people and their families away. Church doesn’t fit into many lifestyles these days, and yet we see evidence of everyone yearning for an encounter with the spiritual, the holy. People feel a coldness or an emptiness in their lives and search for a way to fill that emptiness.
We need to stand up and insist that God, Jesus Christ and the Church have an important role to fill in each of our lives, and we have to send this message in such a way that people can and will listen. Shouting and demanding in many arenas has been tried and has failed miserably. We need to reach out with gentleness and openness and invitation.