By Susan Ciancio
At the Culture of Life Studies Program, we understand the importance of Catholic education, and we know how to make learning fun. That’s why, as we prepare to celebrate Discover Catholic Schools Week—November 12-18—we want to explain why Catholic education is something that doesn’t only occur within the confines of the school building. Catholic education can and should begin at home, and there’s so much we as parents can do to help our children learn to love our faith.
Our most important job as parents is teaching the faith to our children. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute” (CCC, 2221).
So while we can send our children to Catholic schools, that education is really no substitute for the way we live our lives at home before and after our children begin school. If we want to give our children a fighting chance in this secular world, how we integrate our faith into their daily lives from the time they are tiny often takes thought and creativity.
We must protect our children’s souls. That is why all of our actions matter. Our faith matters. The more we help our children see the beauty of Catholicism, the greater are their chances of remaining faithful.
Integrating the five suggestions below into your daily lives will help you build that necessary foundation to strengthen your family’s faith and to help you grow in love for the Lord.
1. Read stories about saints.
Reading as a family has a plethora of benefits, but when you read about the lives of saints, you open a whole new world for your children—an exciting world filled with bravery, love, compassion, mercy, and good works. You give your children amazing human beings to emulate, you teach them how to overcome obstacles, and you help them see the importance of living a life centered around God.
2. Pray as a family.
Whether you pray a rosary, a decade of the rosary, prayers for the poor souls in purgatory, or a simple Our Father before bed, make the time to gather as a family to pray. Quiet the outside world, identify one or more people you want to pray for, and then say the prayers together.
3. Perform the Corporal Works of Mercy together.
Among other things, the Corporal Works of Mercy include feeding the hungry and visiting the sick and imprisoned. Teaching your children about our Catholic faith is a great first step, but helping them live it out is a crucial component. Feeding the hungry and visiting the sick and imprisoned are things all families can do together, as imprisonment doesn’t just mean those in an actual prison. The imprisoned could be the elderly in a nursing home or someone who does not have a car or a way to get out of the house. Befriending those people or simply sitting and talking with them brings great joy to their lives. And while serving meals to the homeless can be a great way to live this work of mercy, so can collecting food at the store, helping to sort food in a food pantry, and making meals or treats for single moms who live in a crisis pregnancy center. There’s no end to the good you can do when serving others.
4. Perform the Spiritual Works of Mercy together.
In addition to praying for others, the Spiritual Works of Mercy include comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, and instructing the ignorant. These are all things that we must learn to do as we build a culture of life here on earth. As adults, we know that our world is full of angry and sad people and people who don’t know God. Just as Christ charged His apostles to go out and evangelize, He has given us that same charge. The more we know, the better we can speak about our faith and about God’s goodness. And the lessons we teach our children about forgiving those who have hurt them—whether that is a sibling, a friend, or another child in school—the more they will grow as strong human beings who learn to let go of anger or who offer up their sufferings for others.
5. Make learning fun.
Many lessons from the Culture of Life Studies Program offer activities that correlate to the lessons taught. So not only do children and teens learn valuable lessons but they create fun arts and crafts projects, complete puzzles, conduct interviews, and more. In addition, books like The Adventures with the Saints series from author Maria Riley introduce young children to time-traveling siblings who meet saints and learn valuable lessons. Older kids and teens can learn from educational videos by Fr. Mike Schmitz, they can participate in Life Teen at their local church, and they can learn about the faith and laugh with The Catholic Guy, Lino Rulli, on SiriusXM. Through these joyful and amazing Catholics, your children will see the beauty in our faith, they will learn, and they will have fun while doing so. When we make learning about our faith fun, we help our children see that there are wonderful people out there leading areas of the Church who truly love them and who care about their eternal souls.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “a wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life” (CCC, 2225).
This is our job as parents—to prepare our children to live a life faithful to the Church, a life filled with the love of Christ and with the desire to shine His light to others. So as we enter Catholic Schools Week and give thanks for these amazing schools, let us never forget that education begins at home—and that our primary job as parents is to teach our children our Catholic faith.
This article first appeared in the Catholic World Report at catholicworldreport.com/2023/11/16/catholic-education-begins-at-home.