I’m convinced that as soon as a baptized baby can point to a picture of Jesus and say, “Jheeshus,” he or she is a budding apologist—drooling, cooing, and in need of a diaper change, but nevertheless, a Child of God, and ready to take the world by storm with the marvelous story of Eternal Salvation.
If you don’t believe me, next time you are around a baby, take awhile to adore her eyes, smell her skin, and watch her smile at you. Is it impossible not to think of God the Creator when you do so? I think you know what I mean.
As soon as children can identify a picture of Christ, they begin doing a mighty work of apologetics, even though they have no clue they are doing so.
In the Calvinist home of my childhood, any sort of picture of Jesus, Mary or the saints was considered to be idolatry, and was forbidden.
When a baby points to a picture or statue of a holy person and unashamedly proclaims who it is, it speaks volumes in the doctrinal field.
I don’t mean to belittle formal apologetics. But I do mean to encourage all of us parents to realize that the youngest children are capable of explaining the Faith in a powerful way. “Out of the mouths of babes,” as they say.
Given this, we shouldn’t wait until high school to train our children in apologetics.
Three-year-old, dimpled Johnny, kissing a statue of St. Gerard and praying for Mommy to be able to have yet another baby brother or sister, may just win his Protestant Grandpa over easier than anyone else can.
Like the Back of their Hand
The root of forming little apologists is, of course, to have them know their Catholic Faith like the back of their hand. Our young children should not only have the Baltimore Catechism memorized, but they should be led to take it to heart.
As we go over our religion questions with them, we should have them explain the answers back to us not only in memorized form, but also in their own words.
After all, they will probably get further with their non-Catholic friends if they can explain why we believe the Catholic Church is the means of salvation for all men in everyday language, and not just recite an answer their parents made them memorize.
Explain Why We Believe
Furthermore, little as they are, they should also know why their parents are Catholic, and why they have chosen to surrender their lives to the teachings of the Church.
As homeschooling Moms and Dads, we have plenty of opportunities to tell them why we believe what we believe – that is, if we know why ourselves.
Preparing to present our testimony to our children will help us to see where the “holes” are in our own apologetic journeys and examine our consciences, and ask ourselves some tough questions like:
- Do we fully grasp the meaning of the sacraments?
- Do we take time to study the Scriptures, and do we know who wrote them?
- Do we know why the Church rests on apostolic succession?
- How do we know we are not worshiping the Blessed Mother after all?
- How can we best find union with God in the midst of our daily family lives?
Once we have pondered these things and studied to fill in the “holes,” we can take time to explain our personal faith to our children, and let them chew on that awhile.
Preserving Faith, Peace & Joy
The advantage of teaching young children apologetics in a homeschool environment is that we can do it in a way that preserves our faith, peace and joy. We are the main ones to influence the attitude that our children have about prayer, God and the Church’s teachings.
We have the freedom in our own home to keep what is sacred about our faith, sacred, and what is exciting, exciting. An attitude of exuberant joy and charitable boldness is at the very heart of practicing effective apologetics.
That being said, let’s give our students the tools they need to be towering apostles for Christ, so that as they trek on towards the Heavenly Kingdom, they’ll bring those around them along with them!
5 Ideas for Younger Children
Some activity ideas for younger children could include:
- Enjoy the amazing amount of resources offered in the Catholic homeschool world (and beyond) these days, such as: DVD’s about the Saints, Friendly Defenders cards, Holy Trader cards, and Holy Heroes CD’s.
- Consider inviting a non-Catholic family over for a visit, and ask them if they would be interested in seeing some of the interesting Catholic materials you have around the house!
- Have each one of your children, young and old, prayerfully write up a personal testimony of faith. For younger children, lives of the Saints books for young children may come in handy. For older ones, Tim Staples CD’s, Scott Hahn books, or the Surprised by Truth series by Patick Madrid may be of great help.
- Even as a child, I remember having an empty feeling about my faith. Young children are very sensitive to spiritual things, and may have more insight and questions than we assume.
- Create opportunities for totally open discussion with your children about other ecclesial communities and what they believe. Let them freely ask you things like what Baptist church services are like, or what a bar mitzvah is.
Have fun researching the answers to their questions as a family, and wrap up the discussions with an attitude of love and respect for people of other beliefs, even while affirming that the Catholic faith is the fullness of Truth in the end.
If your children know they can talk anything out with you now, you can help them when these questions someday become too daunting or troubling for them to tackle alone.