By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published July 15, 2020
My wish is that my grandchildren always remember how much I love them. May they walk through the rest of their life knowing I’ll always be there for them in any way I can.” ~Unknown
Prior to the shelter-in-place order, I made several presentations to parish senior groups on the topic, “The Grandparents Role in Family Faith Formation.” My biggest take-away impression was that we grandparents have a special and unique relationship with grandchildren. It is different than being a parent because we can enjoy our grandkids without having to deal with all the challenges of parenting.
We can become friends and confidants to help our grandkids deal with the issues of growing up in a complex society. We can spoil them all we want and return to the peace and quiet of our empty nest. We also have the advantage of learning from mistakes we made as parents and the awareness that we will not repeat them as grandparents.
I also confirm that grandparents are very enthusiastic and vocal about being grandparents. Just bring up the subject of grandchildren, and the photos, videos and stories come out.
In short, we grandparents have a great interest in the well-being of our grandchildren and enjoy participation in their lives.
The special relationship enjoyed with grandchildren makes the shelter-in-place order additionally difficult for many of us. We find ourselves unable to be with our grandchildren in person, making the uncertainties of the pandemic more challenging on both ends.
Below are suggestions and resources for how to incorporate faith formation into virtual time with grandchildren.
Pray with your grandchildren
–Share prayer intentions with your grandchildren and ask for theirs. You will probably learn much about their hearts and minds by what they ask for in prayer. They will also come to know you better.
–Recall memories of your early prayer life such as how you learned the “Hail Mary.”
–Teach or enhance the memory of traditional Catholic prayers. Perhaps pray a decade of the rosary together for the special intentions of the family.
–Share stories of how prayer sustained you at pivotal moments of your life. Stories from your teen or young adult years will be particularly interesting to older grandchildren.
Buy a Bible and a children’s Bible for family
–Use the Bible to introduce the family to the beauty of daily readings and Gospels. Order the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) at store.usccb.org or amazon.com.
–Grandparents can use the children’s Bible to explore times when Jesus interacted with children.www.smp.org/series/81/The-Catholic-Childrens-Bible/.
–Read and discuss stories together. Allow space for your grandchildren to share what stood out to them in the readings. Ask open-ended questions to encourage children to express thoughts.
Study the Catechism
–Many seniors learned the fundamentals of Catholicism by studying the Baltimore Catechism in elementary religion class. We all memorized questions like, “Who made me?” and answered, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” How would your grandchildren respond?
–You can order an updated Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) through the USCCB at usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/.
–The CCC covers a broad range of topics. Your teenaged and young adult grandchildren may be grappling with some of them. The catechism is a wealth of wisdom on many issues and can be the basis of in-depth discussions with your older grandchildren.
Develop a better understanding of the parts of Mass
–Watch this 14-minute video with the family that explains the parts of the Mass: youtube.com/watch?v=n1L-Ite2YGA.
–Watch an online Mass together and talk about it afterwards. Explore Masses said in different places to get a sense of different cultures or charisms. Offer to watch a teen or college campus Mass with older grandchildren.
Use the creeds to summarize our Catholic beliefs
–How will your grandchildren respond if asked, “What do Catholics believe?” The shortest answers are the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds.
–Teach your grandchildren the creeds so they can explain to anyone what Catholics believe. Again, the CCC offers guidance in case there are questions in need of clarification.
Our grandchildren may not show it on the outside, but they are trying to understand and cope with the challenges of this crisis just like all of us. Their educational and social lives have been turned upside down, and they have many questions. We as grandparents may not have all the answers, but we can be a steadfast witness to the love of Jesus Christ by providing our time and attention, not only in person but virtually.