I am struggling with how to explain my spouse’s lack of interest in anything religion (he is not Catholic and to my knowledge has never really been involved with any organized religion)… The children (oldest 2nd grade) attend Catholic schools and are becoming a little “irritated” with their father’s lack of interest and seem to be concerned for his well being. I have tried to explain that we cannot force him and that the best thing we can do is to show our love for Jesus through our own actions. But they continue to be rather disrespectful on the matter… any thoughts on a different angle to approach this with?
I guess I would explain to them that he has not found the truth yet. Truth would be God. Us believers understand that. Some just have to find it for their selves. Tell them to pray that their dad comes around someday and finds the truth just like you did.
You have to keep growing in the faith and help the children grow too.
They will have a slight handicap with respect to the faith and keeping it throughout life. There are some studies on the faith life of children when the father does not practice. It is an uphill battle.
This is why you have to be very prudent. I would do nothing that provokes a confrontation, especially in front of the kids or within hearing distance. Have a private meeting as soon as you can and ask him to commit to cooperation. Once this is established, you can then discreetly catechise the kids. If all of you, and us, pray for him, maybe he will come along later in life to see the light.
Till then, you need to teach carefully and in a way that does not provoke a confrontation. Reading material is another good avenue to pursue. Forget about all the secular and popular reading material except for a treat now and then. Have boys read good books on male saints and girls on the great women in our tradition. Use reading time to let the kids quietly read great material.
For car trips, when possible, tune into the local catholic station. You may have to search the internet to find these. For home video, order the Truth In The Heart series of videos from EWTN.
In the end, I recommend when the kids are older, you explain one of the basic teachings of our Church. That is, always marry someone of the faith. It makes life much easier. Now you and I both know and can make sure our kids at least are aware of this teaching as they approach the dating age.
Also, remember God may have put you in this situation to save your spouse. Don’t give up but remember how Jesus was abused in his last days and hours. It is now our turn to suffer for Him.
I don’t have any children (just to let you know where I am coming from) but I was raised not to tell my parents what to do. I think it is also a time to teach them to honour their father no matter what. As they get older, you can then explain the gift of faith and not everyone has it
Yes, I have a suggestion for a different angle. Where is your husband? Your children are in a critical stage of their development. They are becoming aware. They love their father. They are trying to save him. You say they are getting irratated with him. No wonder, they are trying to take on his role of father, protector of the family. Tell him to wake up.
To be truthful, I think it is good (from the standpoint of not confusing the children) that he is not Catholic. Because at least you can tell them that he doesn’t know better. I teach my kids about other religions pretty early. For example, that the reformation was started by someone who thought he knew better than the Church (this is the simple version, appropriate for young ones), and that he got people to follow him. I explain that people today who were raised as either protestants or atheists etc. are not at fault, because their parents didn’t teach them the truth about God. Here, I insert the reminder about how blessed we are that we have people to teach us about God. I might also discuss that it is harder for grown ups to learn the right thing (because they have been told the wrong thing so many times in their lives), and that this is another reason why it is such a blessing to be able to learn the truth about God when you are a child.
Of course, all that is objective and not about someone they love. Because it’s Daddy, I would say that honestly, yes, we are concerned for his soul, and yes we hope that someday he will become Catholic. But we know (from the Bible stories starting with Adam and Eve) that God doesn’t force people to love Him or follow Him. I actually just had this conversation with my 2nd grader today - that God doesn’t force us to make the right choices, because if he did, our right choices wouldn’t mean much. I explained, “What if I forced you to tell me you loved me? When you said that you love me, would I believe you? How would I know you mean it? But if I don’t tell you that you have to say it, and you just walked up to me out of the blue and said 'I love you Mommy” wouldn’t I be so happy and KNOW that you really love me? Well God wants us to really love Him because it’s so much better when our love is real. So he gives us the freedom to choose yes or no…"
Anyhoo…seeing as even God Himself doesn’t force us to follow him, neither can we force other people. So we should pray for Daddy every day, and we should do our best to love God the best WE can. One of the ways to love God is to follow his commandments. The 4th commandment requires us to be respectful to our parents. So no matter what Daddy believes about God, we ALWAYS need to be respectful towards him. I would be very firm on that point. In fact, I would put it like this to the kids. When it comes to Daddy and God:
#1 Job = honor and respect Daddy.
#2 Job = pray for him, show him how much we love God by being good etc.
Giving him the honor and respect that he deserves, even though HE doesn’t care about God’s laws is an excellent first step towards teaching him about God’s love. And it might go a long way for him to see that you will enforce that respect - might soften him a bit on being cooperative with your efforts to teach the faith to your kids.