I don’t blog as much as I wish I did about our domestic church. In part, that’s because we are not all of one faith in this house, and which sometimes makes things complicated, and I don’t want to dig into the messier parts of our private life.
But we’ve started something new that I am pretty pleased with, and I wanted to share.
A little bit of background: Violet recently announced in a group of friends that she does not believe in God. I was upset.
After a few days of calming myself down (after all, my doting 4yo has also been known to shout “I hate you forever!”), we talked about her faith formation program, which we do in a home-based way with materials provided by our parish, meeting monthly with other families who do the same thing. This is a kind of substitute for Catholic school (though we have a nice parish school, many families go elsewhere or homeschool) or Sunday school (which we don’t do for 1st grade and beyond). She confessed that she considered the program pretty ridiculous and meaningless. Every lesson was the same in her eyes: God created you, God loves you, God forgives you. While to an adult who can understand those things in a larger context, those might seem like grand concepts, to Violet they were empty statements that didn’t seem to have much bearing on her daily life or the rest of her education.
How much was I failing my daugher intellectually, let alone spiritually, if she could tell me with a straight face that she believed in the Big Bang and therefore there was no God?
I felt some relief just knowing that she had thought enough about the issue to give me her critique. But I did not feel at all capable of creating a curriculum of Catholic apologetics that would be appropriate for an eight-year-old who is at once very bright and totally juvenile in her conception of morality, sin, love, death, relationships, and forgiveness.
I am so far pleased with what we have tried. I ordered the Prove It: God book by Amy Welborn, which comes from a series for teens. I read the introductory sections aloud to her as she drew a picture of a fairy. She was intrigued from the start. She recognized her complaints about her faith formation program in the comments about the mushy, sentimental stuff in typical faith formation programs, the “reflection questions” (ugh! I dread the silence that always follows those!), the arty photographs. Then I allowed her to choose a chapter to read by herself, whatever she felt best suited her doubts about God.
We did not discuss it much, because she really doesn’t like to do that. But she did say, “I think this is going to be a good book!” I can see that she is excited to imagine that someone is going to talk to her about God in a language that is neither totally dry and adult nor totally condescending and vapid. I wish that were my gift, but alas it is not.
She is looking forward to the chapter about creation and evolution. I don’t think she believes me when I tell her that the Big Bang theory was proposed by a Roman Catholic priest, but she’ll believe the book.
We’ve also decided that rather than discussing the book, we will have a conversation journal that we can pass back and forth over the course of several days for discussing and asking questions. I do want to be very sure that she is not misunderstanding any of the material and subsequently creating new misconceptions about God or faith.
Of course I cannot make Violet believe anything — I cannot give her faith — but I have not quite succeeded in trusting God on this one! I worry that our lives are so privileged that we can’t experience our longing or need for a relationship with God, yet of course I am grateful that my kids don’t know want or suffering. I worry that I set a bad example, I worry that I am not sending the kids to Catholic school, I worry that deeply sensitive kids sometimes turn that part of themselves off rather than cope with the intensity of their feelings. But I am so grateful that this little book made its way to my awareness at the right time, to give Violet a chance to ask harder questions and get some knowledgable answers.