Almost from birth in a Catholic hospital in the San Fernando Valley, our son was destined to practice the Catholic faith.

After all, his mother, a born and raised Catholic, began teaching in the parish preschool when he was only one year old and for the next 40 years worked primarily in parish ministry. and liturgical and musical diocesan. Her father, a convert to the Catholic faith, spent 30 years (and more) working for the Catholic press.

In addition to the weekly Mass, both parents’ work involved a lot of time in Catholic parishes, schools, and weekend events, much for which their son dutifully accompanied them with remarkably little fuss.

This was partly because he enjoyed traveling, but also because it enabled him to realize and appreciate the cultural and demographic differences within our local church (which, given the size of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, can be important).

At the risk of sounding heretical, this is one of the reasons we are grateful that our son is a product of public education, with the exception of his early years in Catholic school.

It has always been our parental belief – our belief in fact – that our own experience in public school has helped us appreciate the diversity of our community, especially the different expressions of faith and culture and the goodness present in our community. all of God’s creation.

Our son embraced this diversity with joy, and those who recognize this quality have embraced him. As a teenager, due to his Spanish skills, he was invited to join his high school’s Latino club, proudly becoming his one and only blue-eyed Anglo, and made friends at his school with students of all races, cultures and religions. backgrounds.

Years later, he regularly attended mass in Spanish in our parish. He felt welcome, accepted and respected.

During the pandemic, when many churches were closed for long periods of time, he lacked those personal connections to his parish community, and being able to teach (a ministry he is good at) and receive the Eucharist.

But he remains, in every spiritual sense, a fully, consciously and actively practicing Catholic, watching the weekly Mass live from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, gently reciting the congregation’s responses.

He is above all a good, kind and loving young man. He only spreads his Catholic faith to the world through his actions, showing compassion and respect for those less fortunate, and doing what he can to make the world a better place.

So how, as parents, have we nurtured our son’s strong belief in Jesus? Was it so involved in activities related to faith? Did we insist that he believe what we believe and practice what we practice?

Not at all. All we needed was to attend Mass as a family until he was an adult, then he would be free to choose his own class – which he did, seeking to mold the teaching of Jesus in his life as we have in ours.

This means, sometimes, that we have to recognize when and how we have failed; make amends, as best we can; and to recognize that in our world, in our church and even in our Catholic workplaces, people do not always act the way Jesus would have them act.

And that may be the key. As parents, it does not matter how involved you are in the life of the Catholic Church; it’s the way you live your life within the context of that faith – especially showing love, respect, kindness and compassion for others – that sets the tone for the way your children live theirs, until adulthood.

Or, as the Book of Proverbs states: “Train the young in the way they are to go; even when they are old, they will not deviate from it ”(22: 6).

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Catholic journalist Mike Nelson writes from southern California.