(The Nationalist, 30 May 2003)
School holidays are not far away. Children love them; parents dread them. They are worried about how to keep the children occupied, keep them out of trouble, find something useful for them to do during the long summer break.
May I, as a non-parent observer, offer a suggestion as to what not to do? It is this. Don’t let your children’s, and your own, summer holidays be a break from faith and morals. They sometimes are. Working as I do in a parish, it would be difficult not to notice the drop in attendance at Sunday Mass by children when the holidays come. The problem here seems to be that parents have delegated the education of their children – including religious education – to the school to such a degree that it amounts, in my view, to an abdication of their own responsibility. If something is not done in school, it often is not done at all.
But if the practice of the faith comes to be seen by the child as a school-related activity, then a likely result is that the end of school will be the end of religious practice. And, in most cases, that will be followed not very long after by the end of faith itself.
I am not suggesting that parents send the children to Mass on Sunday if they stay at home themselves. That quickly undermines faith, and the child will readily see through it, coming to regard it as hypocritical and even cynical. The problem here is that this “rubs off” on the faith, and it comes, by association, to be seen by the young as hypocritical, a word that is often on their lips.
What I suggest is that parents make an effort to use the holidays as an opportunity to get to know their children better, to do things and share activities together, thereby strengthening bonds of family unity. It should not be too difficult in all this for parents and children to go to Mass together weekly. If there is a will, a way will be found, and they will be the better for it.
As something of an aside, what does the word “holiday” come from? It originally meant “holy day”. In centuries past, at times when there were no official public holidays in society, the church gradually won acceptance for the recognition of major Christian festivals as “holy days”, when people had a break from work. Holy days became holidays. May holidays also be holy days.