This past Sunday, Pope Francis, in his homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, reiterated what pastors, directors of religious education and catechists have been saying for decades: in order for the faith to take root in a child, it must be transmitted primarily in the home. The Pope explained that “the faith is always transmitted ‘in dialect,’” in the common language and practice of each individual family. If faith is not practiced in the home, it will become nearly impossible for it to be practiced in daily life.
The local church is blessed by the dedication and zeal of many parish staff members and volunteers who give so generously of their time in forming young people in the faith, and who give impressive witness to the significance of the faith in their own lives. But these devoted people, as they themselves know all too well, are not primarily responsible for passing on the faith. Parents are. There is no doubt that parents today can feel increasingly overwhelmed in the attempt to balance all of the practical needs of family life along with their desire to provide the best for their children.
What more could parishes be doing to support them in their vocation without supplanting their proper role as the primary religious educators of their children? As our dedicated faith formation and youth ministry workers and volunteers look ahead to a busy spring season of retreats, mission trips, First Communions and Confirmations, we may need to begin a conversation about how best to support parents in their role as faith formators, even if that means rethinking and letting go of the familiar practices with which we have become all too comfortable.