Did my last two posts just complicate matters? Did I take the beauty of imparting Christianity- and more specifically the Byzantine Catholic life- to our children and make it seem like an insurmountable task? Do you really need to read the early Church fathers when other Christians do very well thank you with singing Kumbaya? And what do s'mores have to do with any of this?
s'mores maker picture found at unclutter.com--- if you 'need' it, buy it at amazon- or don't
To make a s'more: you need campfire roasted marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey's chocolate. Nothing else is needed. Don't complicate and cage perfection.
To educate a child as a Byzantine Catholic: take the last two posts with a grain of salt. Our faith is very rich and it can get overwhelming (I still have books and materials that I have forgotten to mention). But the Lord said that we must be a "little children" to enter heaven, so we shouldn't get too worried about acquiring knowledge especially if we are sacrificing child-like faith in the process. The mother who wrote me the email that inspired this week's posts is a fairly new Byzantine Catholic, so I would encourage her to work on her own spiritual journey while she is educating her children.
Some essential components of good theological education for a new Byzantine Catholic would be- pretty uncomplicated (although I think early Church fathers are really important- slow & steady, read them when you are ready):
1. The Bible- I read the Douay-Rheims translation
2. Byzantine Daily Worship (Ruthenian) or the Melkite version "Publican Prayer Book"
3. the new Catechism of the Catholic Church
4. Catholic Encyclopedia (from Our Sunday Visitor)- even though the editor Fr. Peter Stravinskas seems to be against Catholics homeschooling, this volume is very helpful and contains a lot of information on Byzantine Catholic subjects.
Parents know that the kids are watching everything (no pressure, right?)- so the best thing a mom can do to educate the kids is to be a faithful and educated Byzantine Catholic (or Roman-rite Catholic or Orthodox Christian) herself. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was so right when she said God desires "faithfulness, not success." Specifically, Byzantine Catholics should really try to cultivate an atmosphere that is Eastern if the goal is to educate children as Byzantines. Some ideas:
1. Once again, live the liturgical year. Try to be at the Divine Liturgy for feast days, not 'only' Sundays. While at the Divine Liturgy, make all of your moments (standing, crossing yourself) intentional. If you don't know why we do what we do, ask the pastor or a faithful church-goer. Sing all the parts for the people and encourage the children to sing as a way to participate in the Liturgy.
2. Fast and feast joyfully and realistically. Talk with your pastor about the guidelines and times for fasting. With your spouse, decide how 'hard-core' you are going to be as a family. There are kids in the house and day-to-day chaos that makes fasting as a family different than if you were living in a monastery. Fasting (during Advent, for example) is an important part of Eastern culture, but it is also important not to get smug and superior about it. Balance, please!
3. My children know the Roman-rite Mass and we pray the Rosary. We also do the Stations of the Cross during Lent. But as Byzantine Catholics, we shouldn't forget our Eastern traditions- the Jesus Prayer, the Akathist, praying before the icon corner. Most of our specifically eastern traditions are church-based, but let's not forget the importance of the home in building up our spiritual life.
4. Try to keep our sometimes-complicated religion simple. Yes, we tend to do everything three times, but by simply living out the liturgical year (no foam crafts, just flowers for Mary), our kids will experience the love of God.