Throughout his papacy, St. John Paul II called on parents to recommit themselves to the vows they made in matrimony and again during their children’s baptisms: to raise their children in the faith. He called parents “the first and foremost educators of their children.”
Two recently published books encourage parents in this crucial role for the future of the church and give them the tools they need to do it in today’s world.
Dr. John Wood, a mobile eye doctor and father of four from Ohio, created a curriculum to help guide parents on their journey to make their kids saints. Neither overbearing nor overly academic, Wood tells readers in his book “The Light Entrusted to You: Keeping the Flame of Faith Alive,” that helping children to become saints is the most important job parents will have. Wood is passionate, and he uses that fire to provide pragmatic ways for parents to pass on the torch of faith onto their children.
Michael Horne, a doctor in clinical psychology and director of clinical services for Catholic Charities in Arlington, Virginia, shows his understanding of this tall order and how it is further complicated in a world laden with the pressures of digital technology.
Focusing on three areas that he says “arguably have the greatest influence on children and families today,” Horne gives parents resources to help survive social medial, video games and pornography. His book, “The Tech Talk: Strategies for Families in a Digital World,” is a reminder that technology shapes children’s understanding of the world and ability to distinguish what is real and normal. So parents best get involved and get involved fast.
Wood too writes with urgency, calling parents to reprioritize their time and commitments in family life.
“I would say that becoming a saint is the only thing worth your time and energy. If what you have and do now are not helping you become a saint, then at the very best they are wasting your time,” Wood wrote. “Become a saint. Nothing else really matters.”
Wood’s fire is stoked by some frightening statistics he includes in his book. Using data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate and the Dynamic Catholic Institute, he reveals a pretty glum future of the church, emphasizing this staggering statistic: “Eighty-five percent of young adults leave their faith within 10 years of being confirmed.”
His curriculum is called SIMU, which stands for Saints in the Making University, and the classes stand for Saving Grace, Athletics, Instructor’s Manual, Need to Know Him, Theology of the Body and Sacrifice and Service. Of course, a savvy reader following the theme here will see that the classes are the acronym SAINTS.
The other classes might seem somewhat obvious, but how does athletics fit in amid all the grace, theology and sacrifice?
For Wood, athletics taught him life lessons that lead him to God. He writes that this chapter can be summed up by “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). For him, that meant giving glory to God while playing ice hockey on a skating rink. For parents instilling the faith in their children, that means using athletics to teach lessons of self-discipline, perseverance and passion, obedience, repetition and recreation, teamwork and sportsmanship. These qualities lead to obedience, sacrifice and giving glory to Christ.
“The Light Entrusted to You” offers resources and tools for parents to put an ignited fire into action, making this a great and useful read for all parents.
In “The Tech Talk,” Horne gets down to the nitty-gritty of some of the challenges of parenting Catholic children in a world consumed with video games, social media and pornography.
Horne is funny, clever and straightforward. Written perhaps with busy and distracted parents in mind, Horne gets to the point, backs it up with reasons and evidence, and shares a memorable quip or story to help make his message stick. He also offers questions for reflection at the end of each chapter.
Although accessible in his writing, Horne uses key psychological and pedological theory. In addition, he uses Catholic teaching to encourage parental reflection. He asks parents to consider whether gaming actually leads to holiness or virtue, and uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church to define pornography from a Christian perspective.
Although Horne presents some pretty devastating data (the average age of first exposure to pornography is age 11), he offers so much hope.
Parents have a chance to address these societal issues head on, and re-engage in a positive way with their families. He offers chapters devoted to family connectivity and making change to help parents build a strong and healthy family ready to face the reality of the future together.
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Lordan has master’s degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service. She is a digital editor at Peanut Butter & Grace, an online resource for Catholic family catechesis.