When Amy’s two boys were small, she took them to the neighborhood pool, along with her baby daughter. Attending to the baby, Amy looked up and realized her boys, both non-swimmers, were nowhere in sight. “I frantically yelled to the moms around me to help me find them, and all they did was look at me with such coldness—as if to say, ‘How could you take your eyes off your children in a pool?’
“I actually screamed at them, ‘Stop judging me and help me find my kids!’ ” she says.
Amy eventually found her boys, safe, playing on the other side of the pool, but it was three years and many swim lessons before she felt confident returning to the pool with her family.
The gospel story of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus for three days before finding him with the Jewish teachers in the Temple resonates with parents on several levels.
Like Amy, most parents have had at least one moment of losing a child in a crowd or store. “I always sympathize with Mary,” Amy says. “I can imagine her panic at losing Jesus. It’s bad enough to lose any child that God entrusts to us—but Mary was entrusted with the Son of God.”
But the gospel also makes a statement to parents about their children’s faith: Mary and Joseph didn’t realize that Jesus had a depth of understanding that allowed him to instruct the Temple elders. Our children’s faith develops quietly, in their hearts. Unlike their physical and academic growth, faith is not measured at the yearly physical or tested in school, so sometimes parents are unaware of its development.
David, father of three, says it wasn’t until he read his middle son’s college application essay that he understood that his son had a strong faith.
“He and I never really talked about faith, so when I read the essay, I felt like there was a whole side to my son that I had not known about,” he says. “I can relate to Mary and Joseph’s surprise at finding their boy in the Temple. I kind of felt the same way.”
Mary is often called Jesus’ first disciple, and parents who are open to following their children’s lead, as Mary did, can find their own faith is strengthened.
“We belong to an affluent parish in a well-to-do neighborhood, and the poor have never been a focus of our church,” says Greg, father of four. “In high school our daughter became very involved in social justice and ministry to the poor. She opened the eyes of my wife and me to issues we had not given much thought to previously.”
Even young children can amaze parents with their faithfulness. Tawnya, mother of four, relates this story: “When I was pregnant, I told our daughter Lauren that my ultrasound revealed the baby would be a girl. I knew this is what Lauren wanted, so I was excited to tell her. When I asked, ‘Can you believe it?’ she calmly replied, ‘Of course, Mom. I prayed for a girl.’
“Even though with time she will learn the deeper complexity that God’s gifts do not always align with our requests,” says Tawnya, “I was so impressed by her absolute confidence that God hears her prayers.”
Our children may never say to us the exact words that Jesus spoke to Mary and Joseph when they found him in the Temple. Often, however, they are as sure of their relationship with God as Jesus was. We just need to look closely to see it. Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?
By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2013 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past four years running. Here’s a sample issue.
We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.
And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.
Photo: ©istock/Roberto A. Sanchez