August 31, 2012

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Take the ancient faith and make it your own here and now

Sean GallagherEver since I was a little boy, I’ve had a love of history and enjoyed learning about the stories that make up the lives of those older than me.

When I was a child, there weren’t a lot of kids my age living around me so I would often talk with the older folks nearby, listening to their stories that always seemed to interest me.

This love of history and personal stories from the past has added much to my life.

Now that my parents are getting older, I’m interested in recording the stories of their lives that they have told me ever since I was a kid so that my sons can listen to them in the future.

But as important as I think history is, I know very well that each person has to create his or her own history. The stories that make up another person’s life may be important to someone else, but will likely not be nearly as significant to the one learning about them from the outside as they are to the person who directly experienced it.

For example, my family and I recently took a vacation to South Haven, Mich. On our way there, we stopped at the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Ind., where I spent two years as a graduate student. There are many places on that beautiful and spiritually rich campus that are very important to me and in the story of my life.

As we visited those sites, I would try to tell my boys stories associated with them. But I soon found out that they were more interested in simply running around than in listening to dear old Dad.

Maybe that’s the way I was when I was a little kid, even with my early love of history. My parents told me stories about their lives that I’m only now interested in recording for posterity.

That visit to Notre Dame, then, reminded me that my history won’t be the history of my boys. I’ll have a role to play in it, to be sure. But they will be the ultimate determiner of their lives.

What is true in this way about life and history and family relationships in general is also true about the life of faith in particular. Those of us who are parents or volunteer as catechists in our parishes seek very much to pass on the gift of faith to our children that we received when we were little.

That is a gift that is nothing less than the faith “that was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). It is a 2,000-year-old faith that has led countless men and women closer to God in this life and to perfect communion with him forever in the next.

But as we lovingly strive to plant seeds of faith in the hearts of our children, we should remember that these young people have to experience that faith in their own way that is still true to the Gospel. They have to make the faith their own.

We can lead them to experiences of prayer, service and learning that might help them move in that direction. But this goal can only be accomplished by them with the help of God’s grace. We can and should, however, invoke that grace through our constant prayer for them.

While we consider the role of this truth of the life of faith in the lives of young people, we shouldn’t forget it in our own.

Many of us may have been Catholics since we were baptized as infants, but we should never be complacent in our relationship with Christ. He wants us to grow more deeply in love with him as we pass through each stage of our lives.

Grow in your own life of faith, then, while you seek to help young people in your life to do the same. †

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