Monday, May 5, 2014

When our children begin to lose their faith

I had a chance meeting with a friend who I came to know when I was just out of school last week, and the conversation was filled with memories and flashbacks.  However, when she came to talk about her children, though filled with joy and pride about them, she also did say that she is afraid that her young teenage son is at ‘that stage’ where he is beginning to doubt God’s existence, and may be losing his faith.

This is not an uncommon lament among parents who are God-fearing and wanting to form the developing faith of their children.  Those who are from my generation may have had their parents just pushing us along in the hope that the momentum created by the sheer physical presence at worship would help flagging spirits and doubting minds.  But these, days, it takes a lot more than that.  Much as we know that faith is what it is because it is belief in what is unseen and what is intangible, the developing minds that are steeped in a world of the result-oriented and the physical erroneously think that these standards should be similarly applied to God and to faith.  Showing them that this is erroneous is one thing.  Having them accept it, and change their orientation in life to live the life of faith is another.  So where does the parent who faces such a dilemma have recourse?

There are several things that parents can do.  One of them is not to fear questioning children.  I do sense that many parents feel so helpless in addressing anything that their children may raise when faith is a matter at hand.  One main reason for this is that the faith on which their own formation may be weak, and think that they cannot adequately answer any faith-based questions that their children may have.  Of course, the simple answer to this is to have the foundations of faith of the parents strengthened and solidified through assiduous re-learning, but that is a path that many simply do not seem to either want to do, or one that seems too difficult for whatever reasons.  So, the situation stymies and the unanswered questions begin to become a doorway towards unbelief that begins from a small crack, to become large opening that resists nothing that floods the doubting mind. 

The other thing that parents can and should do, is to remember that their example sets the tone for the development of the child’s faith.  As the child’s first catechist, the child from being a toddler with eyes opening to a bigger and bigger world around him, takes in all that is happening, and one of the things that he will notice is that there is a certain regularity and rhythm in the home.  The practices that are associated with the belief in God and the proper worship of him need to be seen to be something that is not strange but something that each day or week has to include to make it complete.  God is not something that happens outside of the regularity of life, but is the reason for life’s regularity.

I can sense that at the heart of the issue at hand for most parents is that they have let God down in the passing on of the faith to their young charges.  But we have to remember that faith, like life, is a developing process that surrounds us.  It is never a one-off item that is checked as a ‘done’ item of life.  And because of this, we may have to give our children that perceived liberty that they seem to be asking for, and risk letting them come back to God by God’s own ways.  Meanwhile, parents need to continue to be stalwart examples of faithfulness and as such, to be beacons of refuge for that moment when the heart filled with wanderlust begins to soften and comes back to the safe waters of the faith-filled family. 

There are no simple solutions to this very common problem faced by so many parents.  But perhaps a quip from Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen could help.  One of the lines he is known for is “there is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in”.  Fear not the crack.  Salvation came to us because of our brokenness.  Trust that God works in ways that are often beyond our ken, and that even in the seeming troubling dilemma we and our children face, light is still getting in.  And we can pray that the parts of their hearts that need more light is presented to that light so that minds can be truly enlightened eventually.


  1. Prayer, father. Persistent and consistent prayer. When my girls were at the young adult age, Sunday Mass is the only 'thing' they would obliged. Nevertheless, i continue to open the Church's invitation of events to them - via emails, sms, whatsapp and if the mood is right, at dinner tables. Coupled with me nagging God, the Holy Spirit does His job, sending them to Choice, offering themselves as Lectors and now one signing for this May's CER. And i give thanks and praise to God. And thank you frLuke for your reflections and ruminations, "that faith, like life, is a developing process that surrounds us. It is never a one-off item that is checked as a ‘done’ item of life." and i continue to pray :)


  2. I have more than a few friends in this predicament. Their children, having grown up and moved out, have stopped practising their faith. Others have even given up believing altogether. Some of (these friends) are deeply saddened by this. Others, are seemingly nonchalant about the whole situation (“After all, we cannot force them to believe”).

    What can we do, really, except pray for our children and lift them up to God?
    As hard as we try to be a good (Catholic) parents and lead by example, there is no guarantee that they will remain faithful and steadfast in their faith. But as parents we must never give up! We have to pray constantly for them, enlisting also the help of the Saints and Our Blessed Mother. St. Augustine’s mother prayed for him unceasingly and look what happened. Have faith. Never give up.

  3. I was very sad when my two sons stopped going to church. They were too caught up with their work and whenever I asked them when are they coming back to church they would just brushed me off. After some time I 'gave' up for what's the point of nagging them to go back to church if their hearts are not there. So I just pray for them, and occasionally I would share with them what the priests' homily was about. Sometimes I would post bible reflections/quotes on their facebook. My 2nd son returned to church last year but not my eldest. I just have to keep praying for him.

  4. Hi, Anonymous. Please don't stop praying. My mom lit a candle and prayed for me every day so that I'd find my way to marry the mother of my first born. Now, we've been married for almost 15 years and going really strong. I will also pray for you and your family.