COLUMBIA—As the parents of 10 children ages six to 23, Mike and Alicia Hernon know what it means to be stressed.
As devout Catholics, they also know parents are the most important models for their children when it comes to faith. They have made it their life’s work to show other families that it’s possible to raise faithful kids even with busy lives.
The Ohio-based couple run the Messy Family Project (www.messy familyproject.org) focused on helping parents negotiate challenges and realize they don’t need to be perfect. They write a blog, offer a monthly podcast and travel the country to speak. The Hernons recently were the keynoters at “Winging It: Faith, Family and Friends in High Places,” a workshop for young families held Oct. 12 at Cardinal Newman School.
A central theme of the talk was the importance of involving children in their faith from an early age, which makes it less likely they’ll stray as they grow up in a secular world.
Here are some suggestions the couple offered to help immerse children in a life of faith:
* Make faith a central part of daily family life. Show kids that their faith has a central role every day, not just on Sundays. Talk about God and Christ in daily conversation and pray together as a family. Share the day’s Scripture readings.
* Create time for one-on-one prayer with children. Take time to talk about what is going on in each child’s life and show them how they can talk to God about every facet of their lives. Read Scripture together and help them find readings that apply to their personal concerns.
* Make Catholic culture a prominent part of the home. Display the crucifix, religious statues and other items. Pray the rosary together as often as possible. Take part in special prayers such as novenas or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament together.
* Practice forgiveness as a family. Be genuinely forgiving to children when they do something wrong, and teach them how to forgive their siblings, friends and classmates. Modeling Christ-like forgiveness will help kids learn about God’s love and mercy.
* Hold a family retreat. Take time away from daily stress to nurture faith and relationships with each other. The Hernons suggest including time for prayer, lessons, family bonding activities and plain old fun during the retreat, which can last for a day or a weekend. Families can watch videos on how to plan a retreat on the Messy Family website.
* Stay focused on your marriage. Parents must remember that their marriage is the primary relationship in the family and “brings grace into the family itself,” Mrs. Hernon said. Mom and dad should regularly carve out time as a couple. By modeling a strong Catholic marriage, they also offer witness to what a life built on faith can be like.