The Primacy of Parents as Educators
There can be no doubt that parents are children's primary educators. Furthermore, this responsibility cannot be renounced simply because there are alternate caregivers in a child's life, which may include grandparents, nannies, or other professional educators. As Pope Saint John Paul II said in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio: "By virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children. Furthermore, by praying with their children, by reading the word of God with them and by introducing them deeply through Christian initiation into the Body of Christ-both the Eucharistic and the ecclesial Body-they become fully parents, in that they are begetters not only of bodily life but also of the life that through the Spirit's renewal flows from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ."
Given the responsibilities of parents to educate their children in the Catholic faith, CCMA supports parents in developing skills to know the true nature of the child and offers guidance on how best to support their spiritual development.
A family life centered on God is the best way to prepare the home environment for spiritual growth. Very young children absorb the impressions from their environment, so an environment centered on prayer life and devotion to God and the teachings of Christ offer an opportunity for your child to realize their spiritual gifts in relationship to God.
Contemplation and the enjoyment of God are the predominant religious values of childhood, and prayer as a family should foster those elements. This may involve singing songs of praise together around a prayer table, or a verse from Scripture may be read and silently pondered. Be sure to give your children time to offer their own observations on the Scripture, any special intentions, and personal prayers of praise or thanks. Prayers of petition may be offered by children above the age of reason (around age 6+).
Incorporating some basic elements in your home offers further support. These may include:
a prayer table - One way to bring the Atrium home and nourish your children’s spiritual life is to designate a small, low table in a shared space of your home as a “prayer table.” There, you can gather with your children for regular prayer time: lighting a candle, listening to the Word, reflecting together. Some other religious articles and aids to prayer can be rotated and help to engage your child at the prayer table. Ideas include:
statue of the Good Shepherd
crucifix - Sofia Cavaletti preferred the San Damiano crucifix for her work with children
candles - purple, green, red, and white to match the seasons of the Church year.
extinguisher to snuff out the flame of the candle after prayer
small vase of flowers
statue of the Blessed Mother
prayer cards - short prayer of praise or Scripture verse beautifully written on it by you or your child, and beautifully colored and decorated. (Click here for ideas and sample prayers cards.)
tablecloths - have cloths in each of the liturgical colors (purple, green, red, white) that can be rotated with the seasons of the Church year.
shared family meals
celebrating liturgical seasons
The prayer table remains set up in the home throughout the day and serves as a visual invitation to the children to come be with the Good Shepherd at any time. You may notice your children sitting near the prayer table singing songs or praying bits of Scripture they remember even outside of regular family prayer time. Or a child may come and rearrange the prayer table, swapping Scripture cards or statues - a sign of devotion and experience of being in relationship to God for the young child.
We hope you will share with us ideas and experiences at home with us that have proven to be rewarding and that foster a deeper relationship to our Lord and community of faith.