“I hate church!”
This had become a weekly outburst the moment our 5-year-old realized that it was Sunday…again. “I hate Sundays,” he would add. And when that didn’t get quite the response he was looking for, he would throw in, “I do not love God!”
Have you been there? Do you have one of these kids? I don’t think of myself as an overly sensitive or easily scandalized parent. I knew how to take these outbursts with a grain of salt. However, they did leave me a bit sad for him week after week. I started taking my convictions and beliefs about prayer for my children seriously, purposefully asking God to touch his young heart.
A few weeks ago after dinner my husband said he wanted the family to pray a couple of decades of the rosary together. We went for two decades, feeling that would be ambitious with our group of four kids under age eight.
It was so peaceful and beautiful.
All of the boys actually prayed each Hail Mary, fingering their wooden beads one by one. After the two decades, the boys didn’t want to stop. In fact, our anti-church 5-year-old kept right on with his Hail Marys (until he reached what he determined to be the end) while we ushered everyone up for bed.
As I tidied up downstairs, I could hear his excited voice talking to my husband upstairs. “I love praying!” I heard him say. Wow, I’m thinking to myself. He’s really getting into this. I minute later he burst into the room with a radiant smile on his face. “Mommy, I love praying! I really do love praying…….and Mommy…..I do love God!”
Let me insert here that it had been a particularly rough day with behavior, and that family rosary had done a lot to restore my tired parent’s heart. But when I heard his words spoken with such sincerity, I could have easily relived that horrible day over again with joy.
He was experiencing a REAL conversion of heart. He was tuned-in to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and something profound had happened in his interior, spiritual life. He continued on excitedly as new realizations hit him. “Sundays…I will like Sundays now! I will like going to church, because I get to pray there.”
I hugged him and told him to remember this wonderful moment, because one day he would need to be reminded that he loved God, and therefore loved taking time to pray and worship in Mass. I knew this spiritual experience didn’t necessarily mean that he would always feel this way. Why? Because he’s a person just like me. Just as I forget the joy and privilege of prayer, he will too. Just like I need to be reminded that my feelings aren’t always leading me to truth, he will need to remember the truth when his emotions lead him astray.
This experience crystalized for me a truth that we parents must strive to keep forefront: just as the Holy Spirit continually converts our hearts, he is continually converting the hearts of our children as well. In fact, these young hearts are often closer to conversion on a daily basis than we older hearts are. Let us never act in a way that presumes to take over the Holy Spirit’s role in our kids’ interior lives. We are the parents. God is their Creator, and he is continually chasing after them with a love that never gives up.
**Full disclosure: yeah, he needed to remember a week later. 🙂
Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey