Appreciating the Church

Yesterday, I decided to go to confession at our local parish, and wanted to take a few of the kids.

“OK, who wants to go to confession?” I asked. My eight year old son David’s response – “Confession? Good, I need that.”

Amen, kiddo.

As a convert to the faith, one of the most disconcerting aspects of parenthood is the fact that we’ve got several children who are cradle Catholics. Kathi and I came to the faith by means of discovery, as if after a long and excruciating treasure hunt, but not so our kids. They’re growing up in the Church.

I’ve often said that growing up Catholic is sort of like growing up in a wealthy family. The riches are everywhere, but they’re more difficult to appreciate if that’s all you’ve ever known. In contrast, becoming Catholic is like being adopted by a wealthy family after growing up poor. I’m still running around the Church with wide eyes, like a kid who has been given the keys to a candy shop.

I love confession, and David does too. But I’m acutely aware that my cradle Catholic children, never knowing another way of life, could easily take the faith for granted. They didn’t make the choice to pay for it. They didn’t lose friends like Kathi and I did, nor did they have people counsel them (as was Kathi’s experience) to divorce their spouse to avoid supposedly idolatrous Catholic practices that would drag our family to hell if we converted.

Sigh. So many misunderstandings, so little time. I’m doing my best to keep the spark of joy alive in my own children, with decidedly mixed results. Perhaps my strategy is bad – I mainly rely on prayer and personal example, but recognize my countless failures with regard to the latter (hence my need for confession). I recognize it’s not easy for them, or for any cradle Catholic.

So here’s the challenge, and the opportunity: let’s do our best to appreciate the richness of being Catholic. Despite all us sinners in the pews at Mass, our scandals, our hypocrisy, and our lack of charity, our Lord is faithful.

Even the smallest steps towards conversion, including the everyday, humdrum acts of faith we may have learned as children, can be blessed. Despite my sinfulness, and perhaps because of it, I am supremely grateful for the gift of the Church and the sacraments.