This is the fifth and final article in a series on the five characteristics of Catholic identity and how we can nurture those in our children.
In his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis cautions Catholics of becoming “sourpusses” (EG 85). Pessimism and defeatism are not Catholic attitudes. We are people of Easter joy because of our confidence in the Resurrection. Our attitudes are rooted in our identity, so as we help our students form an authentic Catholic identity, we must also model, teach, and provide opportunities to practice an attitude of faith and hope.
What does an attitude of faith and hope look like? We find answers in the Fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, faithfulness, joy, modesty, kindness, goodness, peace, patience, self-control, chastity, generosity, and gentleness) and the Theological Virtues (faith, hope, and love). People who have an attitude of faith and hope live the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3‒11). They also practice the spiritual works of mercy (instructing, admonishing, counseling, comforting, forgiving, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead).
How do we teach and form a Catholic attitude in our programs?
- Be a model of faith and hope. Most importantly, we are models for other Catholics. If our parish and religious education classes are full of sourpusses, prophets of doom, “holier-than-thou” types, and rigid task-masters, then our children will believe those are the proper attitudes of a good Catholic. However, if we model and promote joy, hope, love, and forgiveness, our children will take on those attitudes in themselves.
- Go on a retreat and give a retreat. When we feel tempted by pessimism, despair, or weariness, then it’s probably time to go on a retreat. A retreat can be an excellent attitude-adjuster, an opportunity to refresh ourselves and return our focus to faith and hope in our daily lives. Our children have such over-scheduled, noisy lives, I often ask catechists to make the hour they spend in religious education a mini-retreat for their week. Intentionally plan a retreat class, perhaps at the end of each unit to reflect on what the class has learned and how they have grown.
- Practice in small ways. Practice does not make perfect—practice makes permanent! If we give our students opportunities to practice putting on a Catholic attitude, it will become natural. Each week or month, focus on one virtue to learn about and practice. Challenge the students to practice this at home and school over the week and report back to the class.
- Sing a joyful song. Our treasury of sacred hymns leads us to pray and praise God in any circumstance; at the same time, these hymns teach us the faith. They touch us in our hearts, encourage us, and sustain us. Sing familiar hymns in your class that relate to the topic you are teaching. Play sacred music in the background while children are working. Choose a “theme song” for your class to drive home the essence of the curriculum.
How do you foster an attitude of faith and hope in your program?
Read the first four articles in the series:
Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 1: A Sense of Sacramentality
Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 2: A Commitment to Community
Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 3: A Respect for Human Life
Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 4: A Reverence for Scripture and Tradition
I like to invite my students to share prayers of gratitude: “what are the simple things you are thankful today?” Gratitude is the foundation of hope!