Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Keeping Your Children Catholic

"Let the Little Children Come Unto Me"
Painting by Carl Bloch, date unknown

It's the nightmare every Catholic parent dreads. The thought of their adult child, coming home from college, and telling his/her parents that he's left the Catholic Church, has been 'born again', and that the Catholic Church is a 'false religious system' that is taking his/her parents to Hell. It's happened millions of times in the United States, and in other nations with a heavy Evangelical presence. Actually, it's been going on for a long time -- five centuries to be exact.

Even worse, suppose your child comes from from college and tells you he's left the Church to become a Wiccan, a Muslim, or an Atheist! Or how about the ever popular "I've become spiritual but not religious" manta. All of these are what every good Catholic parent fears and dreads.

The purpose of this essay is to help Catholic parents keep their kids Catholic. I have a little experience in this area, not only because I'm a Catholic father, but because I am a convert from Evangelicalism. In fact, during my days as an Evangelical, I converted no less than a handful of Catholics to Evangelicalism. Yes, I drug young people out of the Catholic Church, and I was fairly good at it. I've spent the last 15 years trying to make atonement for that behaviour, by helping Catholics understand their faith and defend it. Now I want to help Catholic parents save their kids from Evangelicalism, and this essay will do so by outlining some of the tactics this former Evangelical used, and how to counter them in a proactive way. I had thought of making a more detailed version of this information in the form of a booklet for purchase, but I've since decided this information is just too important to put a price tag on. So I give it to you now -- free of charge. Please don't just gloss over this. Take it seriously.

The following is straight talk. I'm going to be blunt and direct, because this is serious stuff, from one Catholic parent to another. We don't have time for flowery language. I need to get this point across to you. It really is that important. So expect a little street vernacular here. I'm trying to drive a point home!

Please share this essay using social media (social media icons below), and by email, with whomever you like. Use this essay as a springboard to save you children and rescue their Catholic faith before its too late...

STEP 1: KNOW YOUR FAITH

This is perhaps the greatest problem in the Catholic Church. Catholic parents simply don't know their own faith well enough to pass it on to their children. Or, even worse, they have a lopsided understanding of the Catholic faith, putting too much emphasis on the details of Catholicism, and not enough emphasis on the core Gospel. This is how Evangelicals get your kids. That's how I did it, and they're still doing the same thing today. Nothing has changed since I joined the Catholic Church over 18 years ago. If anything it's only gotten worse.

Evangelicals approach your children with a basic proposition. What they give them is the core of the Gospel. It's basically the same stuff the Catholic Church officially teaches, but the Evangelical has its presentation down to a science. Then they ask your child; "Now, have you ever heard it said that way in a Catholic Church before?" Most of the time, your child will answer "no" and for the most part, he's usually right. Catholic churches in America have done an absolutely HORRIBLE job presenting the core Gospel in a clear and succinct way in recent decades. I'm not going to go into the reason for this. It doesn't matter. What matters is that what is passed off as a homily in most parishes these days actually sucks! Sorry to be so bold with common street vernacular, but it's the truth and it needs to be said. Catholic priests and deacons need to do a better job at this. The core gospel needs to be repeated regularly and succinctly from the pulpit. If it's not, than pastors should be prepared for an ageing and shrinking congregation. Again, sorry to be so bold, but it must be said. As an Evangelical I relied heavily on Catholic priests and deacons to give long-winded homilies that focused on feel-good messages that spent a lot of time on details, without going into the core of the Gospel too deeply. I couldn't have done what I did, if they hadn't done what they did. In fact, my ability to pull teenagers and young adults out of the Catholic Church was 100% dependent on bad teaching from the Catholic pulpit. Couple that with Catholic parents who were basically clueless, and presto! I had a new Evangelical in the making. It was easy! I mean super easy. If I were still at it today, which by the grace of God I am not, I have no doubt I could have easily pulled hundreds of people out of the Catholic Church by now. With the advent of the Internet, I could rake them in by the dozens. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was better at it than the average Evangelical street preacher, and a lot more likeable too. I converted Catholics away from the Church primarily through the personal relationships I made with them. Yes, my friendship was sincere. I wasn't faking it or anything like that. But at the same time, I understood that making friends was a big part at getting them to eventually follow my Evangelical beliefs. I was sincere in everything I did. I didn't use people, or manipulate them, and most Evangelicals are the same. Yes, I was sincere in my faith, my intentions, and even my tactics. Sadly, I was also sincerely wrong. I know that now, and that's why I'm revealing all.

Here's the deal. You can't give your children what you yourself don't have. If you want to pass the faith on to them, you must have it yourself, and if you don't, then it was already lost, long before it ever was passed to them. Too many Catholic parents pawn their kids off to Catholic schools or Catechism (CCD, PSR) classes, expecting the Church to do the job for them. That is their first and last mistake. It's over before it even began. YOU CAN'T RELY ON THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TO TEACH YOUR KIDS CATHOLICISM !!!  Good grief parents! How could you possibly expect your parish to teach your kids in one hour a week, a message that contradicts what they're getting in the home, their schools, and in the media (television, internet and video games)? That poor parish never stood a chance! The message they're getting in the home, in school, and in media is much more powerful. And they're getting a lot more of it too. Here's the cold, hard truth for you parents. If you don't know your own Catholic faith, your children will NEVER learn it. If you don't practise your own Catholic faith, your children will NEVER bother. Why should they? They learned how important it was form you!

Your child's number one, PRIMARY, teacher of the Catholic Christian faith is YOU. They will get more from you than from any parish catechism class. The job of the local parish is to BACK YOU UP parents, not do your job for you. They can't do your job for you. It's impossible. Then of course you never know what kind of religious instruction you're going to get from a parish these day anyway. Sometimes it's quite good. Other times it's quite awful. Regardless however, even if it's good, it's still just supplementary. It's designed to supplement what is being taught in the home, not replace it. If you're not teaching it in the home, your kids won't stand a chance.

So where to we begin? We begin with the core gospel. Start here, and work out from that...

The Core Gospel

So what is the core Gospel? Parents, this is essential. If you don't know this, and know it by heart, and convey this to your kids, than it's over. It's over before it ever began. You might as well hang up that rosary now, because your Catholic faith ends with you. Your kids will not pass it on. So here is the core of the Gospel...
God is real, and God hates sin. The 'wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23), that is eternal separation from God in Hell. This is God's absolute justice, and since we are all sinners, this is exactly what we all deserve -- ALL OF US! (Romans 3:23) However, God loves us, and he doesn't want this to happen to us. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3:16) Therefore, God sent his Only Begotten Son, the Word, or Second Person of the Trinity, to take on human flesh and become fully man. (John 1:1-5 & 14) This God-Man, Jesus Christ, representing the whole human race, took on all of our sins, and died for us on the cross, paying our penalty in our place. (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Peter 3:18) 
So now, anyone who places his/her trust in him and follows him, may be saved and brought into Heaven at the end of this life (Psalm 13:5; Psalm 20:7; Psalm 84:12; Proverbs 3:5-6; John 11:25; John 14:1; Romans 15:13), and then be resurrected at the end of the world, to live with God forever in glory (Luke 14:4; John 6:40, 54;  Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). We each must make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It begins with our baptism and confirmation, but it doesn't stop there. The commitment must be daily, to trust in Jesus as King, Lord and Saviour, to have a relationship with him as such. We must communicate with God daily (prayer), share our lives with him, and obey him, as would be required in any other relationship we had with a king.
That's the gist of it folks. That's the core Gospel. Surely you've heard most of this before. We recite almost all of it weekly in the Nicene Creed said at mass. The trick is to make this personal. It needs to be integrated into our lives as a daily thing. There are many other Catholic teachings which are very important, but this is the CORE of our Catholic Christian faith. If we don't have this down, we've got nothing.

I want to make this crystal clear, because you cannot give to your children that which you do not have yourself. Now the state of catechises, liturgy and homilies in many of our parishes may be poor, but that doesn't mean that the state of catechises and prayer in our homes has to be poor. We can have watered-down Catholicism in our parishes, but that doesn't mean we need to have watered-down Catholicism in our homes too. While the state of catechises, liturgy and homilies is gradually improving in some of our parishes, thanks to the arrival of younger (and better trained) priests, the progress is slow, and we can't wait for that to happen while our children are growing up. If we were to wait until our parishes change, our kids would be grown, married and living in their own as Evangelicals, Wiccans or Atheists before the necessary changes are FINALLY in place. We, as parents, just don't have that kind of time. Our children are growing fast, and we can't wait for the Church to catch up. We, as parents, need to act in a preventive way.

You'll need to begin teaching your kids this stuff immediately, starting at about the age they can coherently speak, in words they can understand. Then you'll want to continue teaching them this throughout the rest of their childhood, teen years, until they become adults. There can be no compromise on this, and there can be no laxity. Repetition is essential! Adjusting the message, in age-appropriate words is important too. Give them more information as their little brains are able to handle it. Keep elaborating as they get older.

So it begins with the core Gospel, which I outlined above, and it continues with solid teaching on the Eucharist and Apostolic authority. I'm sorry, but if you want to keep your kids to stay Catholic, there just can't be any compromise on these things. Not even an inch.

The Eucharist

The next teaching you'll need to reinforce regularly is the Eucharist. Now the Eucharist is the literal body and blood of Christ. It's not figurative. It's not representational. It's not symbolic. It's real. That is the primary reason why we go to mass, so that we may physically commune with God in the Eucharist. If you need more information on that, read my essay on the Eucharist here. If you want to keep your kids going to mass, you need to tell them this, with no compromises and without apology. If they want to commune with God physically, there is only one place they can do that -- the Catholic Church.

All other 'communion services' in Protestant churches are not legitimate offerings of the Eucharist. When a Protestant minister offers bread and wine, it remains just that, bread and wine. In most cases, especially among Evangelicals, there is no attempt to hide this. They will freely admit that everything they're doing in regards to Holy Communion is just symbolic, and they make no pretence about this. If you ask them if it remains bread and wine, they will tell you it remains bread and wine. They'll tell you everything they do is just symbolic. They're very honest about this. So when you ask them; what is meant by 'Holy Communion'? They will tell you they are really communing with each other, and the act of taking bread and wine is just to symbolically 'remember' Jesus together. That is all.

However, when a Catholic priest offers bread and wine, we know it becomes the literal body and blood of Christ. So when Catholics partake of Holy Communion, we really are having actual COMMUNION with God! For us, it's not just about gathering together to remember something or Someone. No! For us it's about all of us having direct physical contact with God in a very physical way. We are communing with HIM, not just each other. Though admittedly, by communion with HIM, we are additionally coming into greater communion with each other too, but this happens through HIM, because we share his body and blood. In effect, we become what we eat -- the Body of Christ. As parents we cannot compromise on this. If we fail by compromising here, like the core Gospel, you can plan on visiting your grandchildren in an Evangelical church. That is, if you're lucky! They may not be going to church at all.

Apostolic Succession 

This last issue of Apostolic Succession, is related to the first two, and is intimately connected to the second especially -- the Eucharist. Apostolic succession is about the authority of Jesus Christ. You see while he was on earth, both before and after his resurrection, Jesus vested full authority in his apostles to not only preach and safeguard his teachings, but also administer his sacraments. Only the apostles had this authority from Jesus. However, one of their authorities was the ability to pass on this authority to others through ordination. So the apostles passed on their full authority to their successors, hence the name Apostolic Succession. These successors we call the Catholic bishops. If you need more information on this, read my essay on Authority In Focus.

Apostolic Succession is related to the core Gospel because we wouldn't have the core Gospel today without Apostolic Succession. You see, over the centuries, lots of different groups preached lots of different gospels that were very different from the core Gospel I outlined above. Some of these groups even had their own version of the Scriptures -- their own version of the New Testament.

Now the New Testament that all Christians use today, including all Protestants, is the same as the Catholic New Testament. It consisted of exactly 27 books from Matthew to Revelation. It was first published, in a single volume, in AD 367 by a Catholic bishop in northern Africa named Athanasius. It was later canonised after multiple synods and a papal decree in AD 405. Yes, the writings of the New Testament date back to the first century, but they were not compiled into a single volume that everyone could read until the late fourth century. So how do Christians, even Protestants, know that the New Testament we have today is accurate? Simple. The bishops and pope who canonised them (made them official), were legitimate bishops who had Apostolic Succession, and by their authority, they said it is accurate. That's it! That's the only thing we really have! That means you could trace their ordinations back to the original apostles. The other New Testaments that various people compiled gradually went extinct, because their compilers didn't have Apostolic Succession, so nobody trusted them.

Today, Protestant and Evangelical ministers can't canonise Scripture, and they usually make no pretence about it. Ask almost any Evangelical pastor if he has Apostolic Succession, and he'll freely tell you 'No!' That is, if he even knows what it means. So the long and short of it is this. Protestant pastors cannot trace their ordination back to the original apostles, and they know it, and they make no attempt to hide it. Furthermore, in order for them to preach on Sundays, they need to use a Bible, particularly a New Testament, which was compiled by Catholic bishops 1,600 years ago who did have Apostolic Succession. So Protestants rely on the New Testament, which is a Catholic book, in order to preach their Protestant message. Go figure!

That's how Apostolic Succession relates to the preaching of the core Gospel, even in non-Catholic churches. Protestants needed Catholic bishops to get the Bible they so heavily rely on. Without those Catholic bishops, 1,600 years ago, they wouldn't even have a Bible today.

Now getting Protestants to understand this is difficult. Most of the time it just goes right over their heads. There have been a few times I've actually been successful at getting some Protestants to understand this, and in almost every case when I did, they immediate replied with something to the extent of: 'Well, that may be true, but I believe that the Holy Spirit was capable of inspiring those bishops to pick the right books for the New Testament, in spite of them being Catholic.' So they acknowledge the Holy Spirit operating through the Catholic bishops, to give us the New Testament, but then immediately dismiss any inspiration from the Holy Spirit before or after that event. I'm not sure how anyone is able to make this illogical leap, but they do it all the time.

However, as Catholic parents, it's not our job to convince Protestants of this. That's their problem, not ours. Our job is to keep our kids Catholic, and that means when they're old enough to understand these things (about age 8) you're going to have to tell them about it, and you should not only tell them once, but repeatedly. It should be drilled into their heads so they remember it. That is, when they're old enough to understand this concept (about age 8).

So in addition to relaying what I described above about the Bible, you'll want to tell them this...
  1. The Bible is a Catholic Book. It was compiled by Catholics in the 4th century to counter the errors of non-Catholics, and that even Protestant ministers have to use a Catholic book to be able to preach their messages every Sunday morning.
  2. The Bible nowhere tells us that we must only use the Bible Alone. In fact it says the opposite, telling us to listen to our bishops and obey their Traditions too. So saying we only need the Bible, and nothing else, actually goes against the Bible.
The second point is a strong one to make with you kids, when their old enough to understand, because most Protestants approach every religious conversation with the presupposition that we should only use the Bible and nothing else. They broach the topic of religion with the idea that it is wrong to use anything but the Bible. That concept actually contradicts the Bible. If you want more information about this, read my essay about how the Bible is not Alone.

I can't stress this enough. There is not a single verse in the Bible that tells us to follow the Bible ALONE -- not a single verse. However, there are plenty of verses telling us to follow tradition and the bishops. This is the Achilles Heel of Evangelical Protestantism. They have no Bible passage they can use to support their most important Evangelical tenet -- their Bible Alone teaching. They're literally helpless on this, and most of them don't even know it. Make sure your kids do!!!

Additional Catholic Teaching

Additional Catholic teaching is very important too, and we should not neglect that for the sake of (1) the Core Gospel, (2) the Eucharist and (3) Apostolic Succession. However, when it comes to dealing with Evangelicals, additional Catholic teachings are distractions. If you want to keep your kids Catholic, you've got to focus in on these above three things like a laser beam.

Having good answers for accusations of Mary worship, Saint worship, papal worship, Pagan practises, etc., these are good to have, but they're not always necessary. Remember, while converting Protestants would be nice, that is not our initial goal here as Catholic parents. Our goal as Catholic parents is to keep our kids Catholic, and that means giving them the tools they need to resist attacks on their faith. If they can effectively do that, than converting some of their friends will happen naturally and organically. A knowledgeable Catholic is an attractive Catholic, and some Protestants will take notice of that. Some Protestants will even want to become Catholic as a result. It's inevitable. Now that doesn't mean turning our kids into little Catholic apologists, but it does mean helping them know their own faith. And that in turn will help them recognise Protestant baloney when its presented to them.

If you're looking for good age-appropriate catechisms, I recommend these...


The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism is one of the best out there for children, and adults like it too. The blue Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism (No. 0) booklet is a short condensed catechism that is fantastic for very young children (ages 5-9). The pink Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (No. 1) book is for younger children (ages 10-13), and the grey Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (No. 2) book is for older children (over 13). Any parent can go through these catechisms with their children easily. They're copiously illustrated, and filled with useful information that any Catholic, young or old, will appreciate.

If you really want to go that extra mile, there is but one more thing you could do, and it's completely optional. It's called the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards...


These are great, because they're designed to get kids mentally prepared for the kind of questions Protestant children often ask. They not only give the appropriate responses, but also back it with Scripture passages and citations from the Catechism and Church history. You can make a game out of this with your children, but I think the appropriate age category is about 10 and up.


You also really should read the Bible to your children too. I have found a good place to start is with picture Bibles when they're young. There is one Bible I will highly recommend. It's not a Catholic Bible, unfortunately, but I haven't yet found anything in it that is harmful to Catholicism, and I've actually been impressed with the catholicity of some aspects of it. It's called The Action Bible, and it's laid out in a comic book format. It's a good place to start with children ages 5 to 12, but when they get to be teenagers, you really need to switch to an adult Bible. When you're ready to make the switch, I recommend the Catholic Scripture Study Bible: RSV-CE Large Print Edition. As for letting your older children get involved in Bible study groups, don't do it, unless you know they're Catholic. I mean you need to be 100% sure they are Catholic. They should be put on by your local Catholic parish or some kind of Catholic youth group. Do not, under any circumstances, allow your children or teens to attend Protestant Bible studies. Historically speaking, this is where Protestants apply the most pressure on our Catholic kids.

Look, back when I was an Evangelical, whenever I encountered a Catholic who understood these things, even just partly, his/her ability to resist my Evangelical approach was solid. I couldn't get him/her to budge. It seemed they had an answer to most of my questions and accusations against the Catholic Church. They seemed to genuinely have a relationship with Jesus Christ that I couldn't deny. And even when I thought I had them with a real zinger, the fact that they didn't have an answer didn't seem to bother them much. They were confident in their Catholic faith, and to be quite honest with you. As an Evangelical, I really didn't know what to do with that. Their spiritual defences were ironclad. To be quite honest with you, that didn't happen very often. Most young Catholics were not so well prepared.

As parents there is one more way you can prepare yourself for the tough questions that are sure to come your way. Get a copy of my book Catholicism for Protestants. This will prepare you for almost every question an Evangelical can throw at you, and it will give you a solid working knowledge of the faith. Catechists from all over the country are using my book, or sections of my book, to teach their RCIA classes. This book has an imprimatur from a Catholic bishop, has been reviewed by a Catholic diocese, and given many "thumbs up" from Catholics priests. In fact, I know more than a few Catholic priests who keep several copies of my book in their offices and cars, to hand out to both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Even Church Militant likes it! And that's saying a lot, because they are very selective about what they approve.

STEP 2: LIVE YOUR FAITH

Children can smell a hypocrite. If you're not living your faith, they'll know it. If you're not taking your Catholic Christian faith seriously, than neither will they. It's like I said above, you can't give your children what you yourself don't have. If your Catholicism sucks, theirs will too. It's as simple as that. So what if your Catholicism does suck. Now what?

They have a saying in the U.S. military. It's called "fake it until you make it." I know, it sounds silly, but actually it's pretty good advice. Soldiers use it all the time. They fake being good soldiers, until the figure out how to be good soldiers, and finally get used to it. They literally fake it, until they make it.

Sometimes we have to pretend to be good Catholics for a while, at least while we're trying to learn how to be good Catholics. It's not hard really. For example; let's say you haven't been to confession since your first communion. You don't even remember how to do it! No problem. This is what you do. You say to your child you're going to confession, then you go. You have your child wait in the pew outside the confessional. You go inside, close the door, and then spill the beans to Father. Tell him everything. Tell him you haven't been to confession in decades, you have no freaking clue what you're doing, and you need his help to get through this. Trust me, he'll help you. Then, you casually exit the confessional, go do you penance (pretending like its second nature!) while your child is watching, then take him/her by the hand and go do the rest of your errands for the day. Your child never need be the wiser. You just fake it until you make it. Repeat this approach for every sacrament until finally you're back into the routine of being a good Catholic. You see; you faked it, until you made it! It really does work.

The same goes for standard practise in your home. Kids need prayer, both ritual prayer at meals and bedtime, as well as spontaneous prayer when the need arises. Pray with your kids regularly, so that they know God is a regular part of their lives.

On that note, think about how you're living, acting and speaking around your children. You don't need me to tell you the difference between right and wrong. You know what to do, and what not to do. So if you're not living, acting and speaking like a Catholic should, work on changing that. Ask God for help, and don't be afraid to chat with a priest about it, especially in confession.

Beyond that you should really consider what kind of Catholicism your exposing your children to at your local parish. You should seek out more traditional forms of Catholic worship. Here is why. Some decades back, many Catholic leaders got it in their heads that the best way to keep kids from leaving the Church for Protestantism, was to redesign Catholic worship and make it look more Protestant. Did it work? Look around. It was a miserable failure. The best way to keep kids Catholic is to provide for them a style of worship that is the opposite of Protestant worship. It should be something they CAN'T get in a Protestant church. So the more traditionally Catholic your parish is, the better. The old traditional Latin mass stands as the STANDARD of traditional Catholicism. I'm not saying you need to go Latin though. What I am saying is that you should try to seek out a Catholic parish that tries to emulate this standard as much as possible in their regular vernacular worship. If you can't find such a parish nearby, then talk to your priest about it. Just ask him to bring in a few traditional elements to the mass; like bells, incense, some more chant, and maybe even an altar rail for people who want to kneel. Some priests may not be receptive to this. Others will be, especially younger ones. But you'll never know what side your priest falls on until you politely ask. On that note, I will tell you this. There is no more powerful way to convey to your children the divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, than to kneel for communion.

STEP 3: EXPLAIN PROTESTANT CONFUSION

If you decide to get the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards, this section will be covered there. We just can't keep our kids in the dark about this stuff. They need to understand what is going on around them, and why their friends go to other churches, and most of all, why they are so intent on getting your kid to join them. It's all very tempting for a Catholic child, and especially a teenager. It's all about peer pressure. Their Protestant friends will undoubtedly try to get them to go to Protestant Bible studies, youth groups, and even Bible camps. All their friends may be going. So this is something you need to prepare them for ahead of time. You need to explain what is wrong with Protestantism, and why there is so much confusion. It will help your child understand when you say 'no' to their requests to join their Protestant friends in Protestant activities.

The following is a graph that explains the origins of some of the more popular Protestant groups...

click image to enlarge

As you can see, they all resulted from two major schisms with the Catholic Church about 500 years ago. Probably the best advice I can give you is to avoid spending a lot of time studying Protestant beliefs. The variations are endless! Study your own Catholic faith instead.

You only need to know just a few things. The most aggressive Protestants tend to follow the Evangelical belief system. Biblically speaking, they're fundamentalists, but that doesn't mean they're all mean and judgemental. Protestants are just like Catholics, in the sense that there are all types, and everyone has their own personality and disposition. That being said, there are a few things to look out for...

Are you saved? Are you born again? Are you a Christian? Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Saviour? Basically all of these questions mean the same thing. What they're asking is 'Are you an Evangelical?' But the trick is, they're asking it in such a way that if you answer wrong, or dismiss their question, it makes it appear as if you don't love Jesus. Here is how you answer all of these questions in a way that will stump them...
Yes, I am a Catholic Christian, and I was born again at baptism. I am being saved because Jesus is my personal Lord and Saviour, and I trust in him alone for my salvation. Praise the Lord!
I guarantee you, most Evangelicals won't know what to do with that. You see, they're not used to hearing that from Catholics. It will stump them. Some will just accept you as a brother/sister Christian, and that will be that. Others, still won't accept that answer coming from a Catholic, but they won't know what to do with it either.

Evangelical Protestants see salvation as a one-time magical event, that happens when you stand in front of a church, or a group of Evangelical believers, and profess your faith in a format called the 'Sinner's Prayer'. Then once that is done -- POOF! -- you're 'saved' and your entry into Heaven is guaranteed! So that's what they're trying to get your Catholic kid to do. Actually, the 'Sinner's Prayer' in and of itself is harmless. They just ask Jesus Christ to come into their lives as their Personal Lord and Saviour, and then they ask the Holy Spirit to help them live good Christians lives. Again, this is harmless. What follows is what's problematic. Often, after saying the prayer, they want you to attend their Evangelical church, and they'll often say just about anything to get you to do it. That's when they pour on the anti-Catholic rhetoric. By using the above answer, you demonstrate that Jesus is already your personal Lord and Saviour, thus the 'Sinner's Prayer' is unnecessary, because you've already professed your faith. This leaves Evangelicals confused, not knowing what to do next.

The statement I suggested above is also doctrinal accurate from a Catholic perspective, because it acknowledges the Catholic truth that salvation is not a one time magical event. It happens gradually, over a lifetime. It begins with baptism, and is strengthened through confirmation and the Eucharist. Then it is completed upon our death, assuming we have been faithful to Christ, and trusted him in everything.

Remember, as Catholic parents it's not our job to get our kids to convert their Protestant friends, but it is our job to make sure our kids understand where the problems are with Protestantism, and why we shouldn't fall into those same errors ourselves. The biggest errors of Protestantism centre around Apostolic Succession and the Eucharist. There are many other errors too -- lots of them -- but these are the two biggest.

STEP 4: SHOW CHARITY WITHOUT SENTIMENTALITY

It's our job as Catholic parents to keep our kids Catholic, and that means explaining our own faith well, living it well, and making sure our kids understand the problems with Protestantism. At the same time however, we don't want to come across to them as unfairly prejudiced toward Protestants either. Remember, Protestants are NOT a bogeyman! Those that have been baptised in the name of the Trinity are actually our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, and we need to make sure our kids understand that.

At the same time, our kids need to understand that Protestantism is not equal to Catholicism. They're not the same thing, and yes the differences do matter. Many Catholics who leave Catholicism for Protestantism end up leaving Protestantism eventually to, and move on to... well, nothing. For many Catholics, not all but many, Protestantism is the last stop on the train ride to atheism or agnosticism, or 'spiritual but not religious' nothing-ism. Our kids need to understand this, when they're old enough to emotionally deal with it, we have to tell them. Not all Catholics who convert to Protestantism go this way, but a large number of them do.

On the flip side, I have experienced that some Catholics, who turn Evangelical Protestant, don't end up losing their Christian faith (thank God), but sadly they turn into the most rabid anti-Catholics I've ever seen. They end up with an axe to grind against the Catholic Church, like a disgruntled fired employee hates his former employer. They attack it at any chance they get, and feel it is their mission to get their friends and family out of the Catholic Church. In my experience, whether it be an eventual slide into atheism, or a disgruntled former Catholic that's turned anti-Catholic, conversion of Catholics to Protestantism almost never goes well. It's like poison to the Catholic soul.

We need to love our separated brethren in Protestant communities, show them charity, and work with them whenever we can. Those who were born into such communities can never be held responsible for the sin of schism. It wasn't their fault. They were born into it. They didn't have a choice. Catholics, however, who left Catholicism to join Protestant communities are probably victims too. They are usually victims of poor catechises, parents who didn't care to show them how to be good Catholics, and Catholic parishes that gave them the impression that Protestantism is 'okay' because of their Protestantised masses.

So we have to level with our kids, and be brutally honest with them, showing no sentimentality toward Protestantism, but at the same time showing them charity toward Protestants. It's a fine line, but one that we as Catholic parents have to walk. We have no choice. It's the job we signed up for, whether we realised it or not.

(If this essay had helped you, please share it with other Catholic parents.)

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

BOOKS BY THIS BLOGGER...
A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism
for Protestants
Regnum Dei Press

1 comment:

Shannon Federoff said...

We have 11 children, the oldest four are 19, 20, 22, and 24. (So... "adults".... or at least they think they are)

All of them have chosen to remain Catholic and lead a sacramental life. So I feel like I've got some street credit with the issue of keeping your children Catholic. Here are a few things you also MUST do:

1) BE JOYFUL. A sour-faced saint (or parent!) makes no converts. The old adage is true here: People don't care what you know until they know you care. You may KNOW your Faith, but your children want to see that you CARE about them. Look to the Five Love Languages and speak your child's love language. Smile. Joke. Laugh with them.

2) Consider HOMESCHOOLING. The Culture War is practically lost in many public and private schools. The curriculum omits religion's influence on history, literature, and scientific advancement.... many teachers don't believe in the truths of the Gospel (even in Catholic schools).... and the other students WILL expose your child to agnosticism, pornography, blasphemy, and blatant secularism and materialism. Many students will spend 8 hours (or more!) a day in school with no mention of God.... except for His invocation as a curse word. At the very least, find a solid, orthodox, JOYFUL Catholic youth group where your teens can make friends with their peers who believe. But you will have a hard time countering 8 (or more) hours of daily secularism with the few hours you have left with your children in the evenings and on weekends.

3) Work on having a solid MARRIAGE. Your children should know that they came from love, and their destiny is the marriage feast in heaven, as reflected in how you and your spouse love each other.