I SUSPECT ALL OF US have heard a friend say something like, “I sent my kids to Catholic schools; I took them to church; they received all their sacraments — but now they do not practice their faith, and my grandchildren are not even baptized. What happened?”
Recent polling indicates that approximately 4 out of every 10 “born and raised” Catholics in the United States no longer identify as Catholic, and, in the future, fewer than 1 in 10 Catholics now under the age of 21 will continue to practice the faith as an adult.
This trend does not affect only Catholics. The Pew Research Center found that while 76% of baby boomers identify as Christian, only 49% of millennials do; and that while 49% of baby boomers attend religious services at least once a month, only 35% of millennials do.
These numbers reveal an immense crisis for our families and our Church, a crisis in the transmission of the Christian faith from one generation to the next.
It is a crisis of evangelization — or rather a failure to evangelize. In particular, there has been an unprecedented failure to evangelize the Catholic family and to evangelize within the Catholic family.
Pope Francis has said that the “Christian life is actually a journey, a pilgrimage” in which we are called to “a vital, personal, authentic and solid relationship with Christ.”
Tragically, for too many children, this journey has led to a spiritual dead end.
Transmitting the faith to our children is more than reading a textbook and requiring participation in the sacraments. Good catechesis and sacramental practice are absolutely necessary — but they are not sufficient. There must also be, as Pope Francis reminds us, “a vital, personal, authentic and solid relationship with Christ.”
For our children, this means that there must be a lived Christian life at the center of their family.
St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio (Mission of the Redeemer), “There cannot be two parallel lives in (our) existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual’ life, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social relationships, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture” (59).
In other words, we have the responsibility to show our children what it means to be a disciple of Christ by how we live — and not only one hour a week, but 24/7.
This is the purpose of our Knights of Columbus program promoting the Catholic family as a domestic church — what the early Church fathers called “the church of the home.” Our domestic church program, The Family Fully Alive, sees in the daily activities of family life the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ more closely and in this way transmit a living faith to our children and grandchildren.
We must have not only a Church that evangelizes. We must have a “church of the home” that evangelizes.
In what Pope Francis might call a “pilgrimage of the home,” fathers must take up their own irreplaceable role.
This is why on Ash Wednesday, we made available to all our members — and every parish — our new 12-part video series on men’s spirituality titled Into the Breach (see page 6). This series is an important part of our Faith in Action initiative. I urge every council to promote it fully.
We have not only the responsibility to teach our children the truths of our Catholic faith. We have the responsibility to show our children, by our personal witness, what it means to live in Christ.
This crisis calls for Knights. We all have a responsibility — and united as Knights we have tremendous resources. What is needed now is our determination to move forward.
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