Guest post by Thomas Tan.
Spirituality comes naturally to most children. From a young age, they feel an instinctive connection to other living creatures. They have no trouble believing in things they can’t see, and they’re intrigued by God and religion. At the same time, it has often been observed that faith isn’t something that is taught — faith is rather something that is caught.
To this end, I have often tried to let my children see my faith, even as I often teach them about my beliefs. I have never shied away from praying in public and in view of their little hearts. My daughters are used to seeing Daddy interrupt our routes with a detour to visit Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, or to feel Daddy cuddling them with a rosary in one hand, hoping that my Aves and Paters would lull them to sleep.
They see me go through my norms of piety — my series of daily prayers — with the understanding that this schedule of little prayers scattered throughout the day help me live better the presence of God, so that I can receive the help I need to be a better husband and father, as I explained to them.
They rush to hug and remind me to pray for them each evening as I leave for daily Mass, and mimic me as I bless myself and make a Spiritual Communion every time we drive past a church.
And so it is with great consolation to me when my daughters now vie with each other at bedtime to see who will say their prayers first. Marie in particular warms my heart with her eagerness to lead us in grace before meals, and her desire to bless Daddy before bed.
One night as I interrupted her long prayer to hush her to sleep, she stopped me and said, “But I’m not finished, I like saying prayers to Jesus.” And indeed, her prayers often move me in their gratitude and simplicity, in their great sensitivity to the needs of others, but also in their surprising depth and love for God.
The other day as we sat watching the telly together, my phone alarm went off, reminding me to pray the Angelus. I tarried a little, distracted by the show we were watching. And then I heard a firm, almost parental little voice saying, “Daddy! It’s time for your norms. Don’t keep the Lord waiting.”
My little 5-year-old conscience keeps me honest and helps me persevere in my Christian vocation. And I’m grateful for her innocence and wisdom.
Whatever happens with our children, whatever paths they take in life, I know that this is the most important legacy we can give them: an informed, living, joyful faith in God; and I know that despite all their brimming potential in life, the virtues of faith, hope, and love are the only legacy that will truly matter on either side of eternity.
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”
~ Matthew 19:14
Thomas Tan is a Knight of Malta and father of 3, living in Singapore.