I don't remember who said this, but whoever did, was very wise: Nothing is less believable than an answer to a question that is not asked.
The point in life is not to be religious or to go to church. "Being" religious is the privileged struggle of freely being able to express one's love and gratitude. It is not an end in itself. The point of morality is not to be moral, but to be happy. We were made for happiness and freedom. One can only truly be happy if free to be good. Goodness is in accordance with human nature and frees us to be the persons we were meant to be.
It is also--as practicing the virtues are--an act of the will.
Falling in love (and loving as verb, not feeling) can not be forced. It goes against the nature of love and it goes against the Mystery who freely gives love and wants it to be freely reciprocated. (It takes two to tango...)
The essence of religiosity is love. Keeping that in mind, here are some tips from a single, non-married, non-parent:
- Fathers are important. I have an aunt who asked me to make her kids religious and I flat-out told her the best thing she can do is to have her husband lead the family in prayer or do a short Bible-reading each week together, as a family, led by the father. This is especially true if you have sons. If the wife/mom is religious, it is more probable her daughter will be devout, but unless the father is, the sons most likely will not. Men learn from men. One of my good friend's family has family night every Thursday night. I like that idea.
- We are fighting huge secular demons in America. Materialism is one of them. You can not serve both God and Mammon. Choose one or the other. Also, it is better to emphasize character and integrity over school and grades. I would rather my child be a decent human being than an honor student.
- Start young. More than going to church, my parents taught me to love Jesus. Love comes first. Then obedience. You can't start with the "rules" as if that's the point. It's not the point. It's the expression. Making dinner for your husband is not the reason you married him. It's an expression of your love for him.
- Be strategic. My parents did not teach us morals through "talks" or cheesy after-school specials. They had unspoken, high standards of my sister and I and we knew what was simply not an option. My mother especially taught us morals through the arts and films. Movies are very influential. Use them.
- Growing up, I watched my grandmother read her Bible every morning. Very influential and a great visual memory. Try to have grandma around. :)
- Go to Catholic conferences together. It is very powerful and moving. My family has grown so much because of these shared learning experiences.
- Don't get strict on the stupid stuff. I drank alcohol well before 21. While my friends' parents were so strict on alcohol they were too busy to notice that daisy duke shorts are inappropriate apparel for a 7th grade girl or anyone for that matter.
- I love Catholic "stuff," but don't overdo it. Icons are beautiful visual depictions of the gospel. In the middle of my living room there is a prominent picture of Jesus. It is a powerful visual reminder that He is present and is the center of our lives.
- Create good memories and traditions. Good Friday at my house is hearing Fairuz (a Lebanese singer) sing Good Friday songs (in Arabic of course), smelling the incense burning, and reading the Bible. These images and senses stick well into adulthood.
- Lastly, the best teachers are witnesses.
-St. Francis of Assisi
Five days until Lent 2009!