Living your faith joyfully has flow-on benefits to your family, says Dr Robert Haddad, who spoke at the 2022 Faith in Marriage Seminar “Living Marriage, Living Faith: Ideas to inspire your children” hosted by the Diocese of Parramatta’s Marriage – Mission Enhancement Team.
Dr Haddad, who has teenage and young adult children himself, said Catholic marriages lay the foundation for the raising of children into the faith.
“Sharing your faith with your children is an important topic, but also a hard one,” Dr Haddad told the audience, before telling them that the most important thing is not to give up on the commitment and recommitment required by married life.
“Every marriage has its ups and downs, bumps and bruises,” he said, “but one thing we must never give up on is the recommitment, the restart and the rebuilding, because that’s always possible.
“In my own marriage, I try and I renew every day. We do our best. I do have my good moments and my better moments, and these come when I remember the secret to success in marriage is unselfishness.
“We should be entering marriage with the mindset to serve, sacrifice and suffer for each other and for the children.”
Dr Haddad identified that a lot of young people consider the faith “dead boring”, but says that is because “we make it boring.”
“We have to make faith exciting for young people, we have to make it an adventure, not just a series of routine actions – there’s a great story there,” he said.
“We’ve got to reignite the excitement of wanting to be followers of Jesus Christ, and we cannot do that without us as parents being seen by our children to live that exciting life and doing the right thing.
“We’ve got to do the basics right. Are we following the commandments? Are we parents who are seen to be going to the sacraments? We need to be parents who are praying in front of our kids or seen by our children to be praying. They need to see you modelling what you want them to do.”
Dr Haddad added that parents should be gentle in their encouragement of living the faith.
“Let your children freely find their level of prayer. You don’t want them to freely choose ‘no prayer’, but it’s better to give them the freedom, inspire them to pray, and find the level you’re comfortable with,” he said.
“You don’t want to mandate your prayer style and your prayer life as an adult on young children, because there’s a likelihood that they’ll rebel against it.”
Dr Haddad suggested a few ways to share the faith with children, which include praying together in different degrees, attending Mass together, having holy pictures and icons in the home, having Catholic or Christian media in the home and being people of truth, goodness, living a holy life and showing respect for God.
Ultimately, Dr Haddad said, parents should have patience when sharing the faith.
“If we model the faith and you promote it positively, attempting to be nice and gentle with your children, to positively lead them to the practice of the faith, you will be more successful in the long run.
“No matter what, we can’t take away our children’s freedom, we have to work with their freedom. As God does with all of us – with His grace – He enlightens, strengthens and moves us, He’s always working with our freedom, respecting our freedom, not bludgeoning us or compelling us to love, because love without freedom is not love at all.
“When the children realise that you are allowing them to be free, and in a sense, to be adults, they’re more open to your positive suggestions.”
Dr Haddad is a teacher, apologist and evangelist and is the Manager, Network Catholic Identity for Sydney Catholic Schools.