Faith Is Caught Not Taught

Each month I give an instruction to the parents who will be having their infants baptized. I enjoy meeting them personally and trying to help them deepen their appreciation of the wonderful sacrament of baptism. One of the things I try to impress upon them is how important their example will be for their children. Just as they teach their children in every other area of their lives, so they will be the first and most important teachers of their children in the ways of faith. In many ways, faith is not so much something that is taught, but something that is caught. In other words, we come to believe because we experience the faith in the lives of others. We learn how important Jesus is to someone else and as a result we discover how important he is to us. For this reason, it is surprising how many of these parents do not attend Mass on a regular basis. I often wonder why they want their children baptized if their own faith is not central in their lives. I suppose this raises the even larger question of the number of people who call themselves Catholic who seldom come to Mass. Most statistics indicate that only about 30% of Catholics nationwide go to Mass on a weekly basis. We all know that there are those who come only at Christmas and Easter. But there are large numbers who come once or twice a month and find no difficulty in missing Mass whenever something else comes up. Yet, a firm teaching of the church from the beginning has been that for us, the commandment to “Keep holy the Lord’s day” means attending the sacrifice of the Mass. This teaching is based on the Lord’s own words at the Last supper when he instructed us “Do this in memory of me.” I believe that the Lord’s insistence in this regard stems from his understanding that if we do not gather regularly and frequently to give thanks for our salvation, then the fact that we have been saved becomes less important to us to the point that we can risk losing it. If we do not make time for Christ in our life, and nourish the life he has given us in baptism, then he becomes secondary in our daily living and he cannot grace us in the ways he knows we need because we are not open to those graces. Certainly there are times in every one’s life when it is impossible to get to Sunday Mass - a time of sickness, a time of travel when there is simply no Catholic church where we are, a time when an unexpected emergency comes up. But these times are few, and we must be committed to weekly thanksgiving as a community of faith. The Eucharist is the center of our relationship with Christ.



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