We’ve all heard the whining statement, “Ok, Mom, but why…”
When confronted with the “why” from your teenagers, my advice to you is this: run with it.
Those writhing, angst-filled moments of tortuous curiosity can be a real Godsend when it comes to taking ownership of one’s faith.
Tortured by the ‘Why’
When I was a teenager, I was tortured by the “why.” By the grace of God, the relentless questioning of my youth, which was so filled with energy and genuine wonder, led me to my spiritual mother on earth, the Catholic Church.
I was a very troubled teenager, into all sorts of dangerous mischief and destructive behavior.
Yet, somewhere inside, I was seeking my Lord, and He did not let me down. Looking back, I am so grateful for that nagging little “why” that made me question my Protestant faith like crazy.
I remember wondering why we had grape juice in little plastic cups and Wonder Bread for communion. It just seemed so cheap!
Or why weren’t we supposed to have pictures of Jesus (which seemed so helpful to prayer) or why did pastors like my grandpa have to deal with meeting the demands of family life while running a church at the same time?
As I studied for a Bachelor’s Degree in Reformed Protestant theology in college, I had to read the writings of the Early Church Fathers and martyrs, as well as works from medieval monasticism and “counter-reformers” like St. Francis of Assisi.
I made a habit of visiting all kinds of different ecclesial communities and churches in my area, praying for direction and light. Both brought me more and more interior confusion, and soon the heap of heart-wrenching questions became unbearable.
My Changing Point
When I was 20, I arrived at a point in my life where I knew that some day I would die, and when I died, I wanted to be in the fullness of the Truth. I realized, however, that it was impossible for me to comprehend this Truth without the sheer grace of God.
I knew I had to surrender to His mercy if I ever wanted to come home. I began to see that only the Author of the Truth Himself knew which Church was most filled with the Truth. Only He understood which Church glorified Him in fullness, and I’d have to beg Him to show me the answer.
Shortly after that realization, I attended an Easter Vigil service, only to find that the taunting and daunting suspicions I had carried inside about the Catholic Faith for so long were simply untrue.
“How can anyone ever say Catholics don’t read the Bible? For Pete’s sake, aren’t we on the fifth Scripture reading of the night?” I asked.
And what about this worship of Mary during the idolatrous Sacrifice of the Mass? I don’t think the priest, who apparently does have a “personal” relationship with God, has even mentioned her more than once.
False Notions Debunked
After the false notions I had of Catholicism were shot down, I knew deep inside that I must become a Catholic, despite the Cross that loomed ahead of me if I did so. My senior year of college, I accepted a prestigious award from my Protestant theology department for future missionary service, and then turned around and joined the Catholic Church.
Many of my friends and family were seriously upset about my decision, but I wasn’t. I was finally free to follow Christ like my heart had always yearned for, and I knew I had done the right thing.
I tell you my story because I believe that as parents in these wild times, we need to have immense trust. We need to trust that the grace of Almighty God, coupled with our feeble parental efforts, will steer our children in the right direction. We need to trust their young hearts, on fire with enthusiasm and hope.
We need to trust that our grueling days of homeschooling our children with a fully Catholic curriculum will bear fruit. If I, as troubled and poor of mind as I was, could find the Church and offer my life to Her, I believe anyone can.
As loving mothers and fathers, we should never underestimate the capacity that young people have to grasp the Truth of the Faith, and their thirst to have their questions answered.
We should also never second-guess their ability to testify to what is true, good, and beautiful.
7 Suggestions to Help Teenage Minds
With this in mind, these are some of my suggestions to help our teenage children learn to take the Faith as their own and share it with the rest of the world.
- Build up a home library of Apologetic resources such as: the Confessions of St. Augustine, The Life of St. Teresa of Avila, the Surprised by Truth series by Patrick Madrid, Apologia Pro Vita Sua by John Henry Cardinal Newman, Catholic Replies by James Drummey, and The Faith by Fr. John Hardon.
- Spend time going through the Beginning Apologetics series by San Juan Catholic Seminars. It is excellent. Challenge your children to memorize some of the Scriptures which undergird Catholic dogma so that they can respond intelligently to other inquiring minds.
- Consider having your older children hold a practice debate session where they respond to apologetic questions as well as they can. Offer a prize for the winning team!
- Encourage older children to spend time writing in their journals in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in some other quiet place about their deepest questions of faith.
- Turn as many things as you can into “teachable moments.” As Agnes Penny once wrote in her book, Your Vocation of Love, “Without our constant teaching and vigilant care, how would our children learn about Christ, who suffered and died for them, or about the Church He established to lead them to Heaven – or about the hundred and one pitfalls Satan has devised to lure them away from the Church?” As we read through our religion texts with our children, let us bring them to life in front of their young eyes.
- Prayerfully consider inviting over a family member or close friend who is not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Spend time in respectful dialogue about their questions of faith, and let your children be active in the discussion. They’ll never forget the experience!
“Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a Virgin…. Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” -St. Augustine