Theme: Raising a child when parents have different views on church
Thursday, October 07, 2010 by Ruth McDonnell

My boyfriend and I live together and have a son , I used to go to church but have fallen out of my path ,but want to get back onto it. mike doesn’t want me to take my son to church but I want to him to grow up believing in god as I do ! What should I do ?
Signed, Confused with Kids

Dear Confused,
Thank you for your question! I hear in your question a seeking and a desire for God in your life and now in the life of your son. That is a good thing! It is also a sign, I believe, of the Holy Spirit alive in your heart and soul inviting you into a deeper relationship. This is often how God works … the consistent invitation, gently nudging us to renew our relationship with Him. So I congratulate you on hearing this invitation and wanting to act on it!

There are several things to consider here. First of all, I encourage you to talk with your boyfriend about why he feels as he does. By communicating, you can honour his feelings, even if you disagree, and he likewise can honour yours. Through communicating you have a greater chance of finding common ground on how to raise your son.

It is important for parents to take responsibility for the raising of their child in all aspects of their development. Parents are the first and most important teachers of their children. No parent would hesitate to care for the physical, mental, emotional and social needs of their child; however, we live in a society that takes a much more hesitant approach to the spiritual wellbeing of our children. You did not explain the reasons for your boyfriend’s feelings, so I cannot address the disagreement directly.

However, I am reminded of my own friends who now have a child and maybe their experience can help you. They have made the decision that they will not have their child baptized because they feel it is something she should choose for herself. Many other parents think similarly. My friends are good people with strong values. I hear in this response a respect for their daughter and a desire to encourage her free will, all of which are good. However, there is a problem. My friends are not raising their child in the church or any faith community for that matter; they do not go to church and as far as I know, they do not pray at home, read the bible, etc. My question to them, made in all respect, is … when and how will their child learn about faith so that they can make the decision that their parents want them to make? I fear that if they do not practice a faith, they will never know what it is about and they will never know what a faith community has to offer. How can they choose when they have nothing to base that choice upon?

My friends have also said that because they themselves are not strong in their faith, they feel inadequate to raise their child in the faith. I do not see that as a barrier. I think a parent who struggles in faith and has questions, but is seeking a deeper connection to God is a powerful witness to their child. Faith does involve doubts and questions, moments of grace and confidence as well as moments of uncertainly and disillusionment. That was the path that the disciple of Jesus themselves walked. What a wonderful authentic witness such parents can be for their children as they seek to give them spiritual health and wellbeing!

In closing Barbara, I compliment you on your desire to renew your relationship with God and to introduce your son to Christ. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your boyfriend as you raise your son in all matters, especially in spiritual ones. And trust the quiet, gently presence of God at work in your heart and present in your family. God will never leave you or your family. All God wants is to be a part of your lives because God loves you all so very much. God bless you all!

aka Fr. Tony, C.Ss.R.