Golf Lessons for Catholic Parents



There is a venerable tradition in golf known as the mulligan, the rule that allows a “redo”, a second down after a golfer’s first has gone wrong.

Alas, there are no mulligans for parents raising children, only the ability to look back on their efforts with pride, relief, regret, or usually some combination of the three.

In a recent online discussion with a group of Catholic mothers, many of whom are suffering greatly with adult children who have given up practicing their faith, and I mean really suffer, I was challenged to reflect on my own performance, and that of my husband, in raising our two daughters when I was asked, “What would you have done differently? »

Thinking about that was a painful exercise. Looking back, we thought we were mostly doing the right things. We have made God the center of our lives and our homes. We prayed together every day and read Bible stories to the girls before they could even walk or talk. Grace before each meal. Bedtime prayers together every night. Mass every Sunday. Our daughters faithfully followed religious education classes. We have involved them in all of our pro-life activities and other charitable endeavors of our church.

We learned that was not enough. Now in her thirties, one girl is a militant atheist and the other is an agnostic.

So while a mulligan can’t help us now, maybe some moms and dads who are closer to the first tee of Catholic parenthood might benefit from what we would have done differently had we done a “redo “. Here are five suggestions:

1. From an early age, help your children cultivate genuinely Catholic friends. Socialize (you and your children) with like-minded Catholic families so your children don’t perceive Catholic practice as “strange.” Our children had Catholic friends, but most of their families never even went to mass on Sundays, so our family was perceived as “extremely religious”.

2. Enroll your children in an authentic Catholic elementary school. It is worth sacrificing time, travel and cost to send your children there. The critical word here is “authentic”. Many so-called Catholic schools are just purveyors of social justice pablum. You will have to be thorough in school surveys: are religious lessons given on a daily basis? what books are on the required reading lists? what percentage of students are non-Catholics and what “accommodation” is given to them when teaching the tenets of our Faith? are there priests or religious (in habit) among the faculty? are lay teachers catholic and obliged to live according to catholic teaching?

Although you as parents are the primary religious educators of your children, this is not enough. Children need full, daily immersion in their faith, which a good Catholic school environment can provide.

As an alternative to a traditional Catholic school, and I know this sounds scary to many parents, join a Catholic home schooling community. Their numbers are growing, and the cooperative homeschooling model means you don’t have to go it alone.

3. Don’t underestimate the influence of friends in your children’s school preferences, especially the girls. If they attend a Catholic primary school, attending a Catholic secondary school will seem natural. Trying to move from a public primary school to a Catholic secondary school is nearly impossible; girls want to go where their friends go.

4. Look for a traditional parish (Novus Ordo or Latin Mass parish) with a youth group and a rigorous religious education program. The goal of all these efforts is to align and integrate family life, social life, church life, and the education of your children to form a strong bulwark against destructive cultural and secular influences.

5. Conversely, do not send your children to a Catholic college unless it is one recommended by the Cardinal Newman Society. The society publishes an annual guide that identifies colleges that maintain an authentic Catholic identity.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of culture. You try to protect your children, but you can’t wrap them. As a Catholic parent, you will always be swimming upstream. Talk to your children, early and often, about moral issues. Whether it’s abortion, same-sex marriage, secular marriages or gender fluidity, make your discussions with them a form of apologetics: “You may have heard…., and here’s why it’s wrong…”

5. Start with the end in mind. A recent study found that the average parent spends five hours and 18 minutes a day worrying about their children, thinking about how to keep them safe, healthy and happy. Yet how much time is consciously spent on the most important job of parenting – helping our children go to heaven? This goal should be at the forefront of every Catholic parent’s thinking and decisions regarding their children. Just as a golfer keeps his eyes fixed on his ball, parents must keep their eyes fixed on that end: eternity. There is nothing more important because there is no mulligan in eternity. And our children should know it too.

There are 18 holes of golf and parents are 18 to lay the groundwork for their children to live as good and holy Catholics for life. Perhaps these tips will help parents avoid some “bad shots” and improve their “handicap” as they take on the most important role of their lives.

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