This was the profound question I was asked by one of our children (whom I will call Jena), who has just begun her Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program here in our Parish two weeks ago. Much as this caught me completely off guard, I was thrilled to hear it. And, for all my years of studying theology, some years of teaching religious education and years of preaching, I could not immediately provide her with a succinct response suitable for a four year old. I will not attempt to do so now, maybe later. However, that little interaction popped up in my mind and got me thinking as I sat at the Houston airport waiting for my flight to Phoenix.
Little Jena’s question reminded me of my four year old nephew Jordan who I observed at that age had a consistent habit asking her mother “why” for everything he was told to do. The word ‘why’ punctuated his response to literally every instruction given to him – whether it is a call to have his meals, a reminder to take a nap, go to the bathroom or even a reprimand. Yes, this is characteristic of most, if not all, children whether here in our country, in Africa or indeed, elsewhere.
However, I remember growing up, some of us never had the opportunity to ask ‘why’ because it was traditionally sacrilegious for a child to respond to an elder that way. Nevertheless, I now realize that this did not take away our questions. We somehow found our own answers. Therefore, beyond the thought of a generation devoid of innocence, which some of the questions children ask these days evokes, we have to recognize the bare fact that we live at a time of many questions, but with few or no plausible answers. Unless the right people take charge to give the right answers, the wrong people will do it on our behalf. That is why the many important programs we have for our children and teens here in our parish come in handy.
Like little Jenna and my nephew Jordan who are continuously asking ‘why’, our children have very many questions. These questions range from the reason for their existence, about truth, myths and the life after now. This quest for answers is irrespective of age and continue to be as relevant as they were and as they will be.
So, who is answering the ‘whys’ in your child’s life? In the olden days, children had an opportunity to interact with their parents – especially mothers. Mothers concentrated on homemaking and child upbringing. Sadly today, these personal relationships and interactions are being replaced by facebook, Twitter, television programs and so forth.
Growing up in Africa, I recall that around the fireplace, our elders toFacebookories and taught us about our cultures and values, about how to be responsible and respectable men while the older women taught the girls about the dignity of womanhood and the responsibilities of a woman in the home. Sadly even in Africa times have changed. Today, most children do not know anything about the cultural values and slowly, the ‘family meal time’ tradition is being sacrificed even here in our country. The only available time together is when we gather around the television to watch our favorite programs or play video games.
Ironically during that time, the instructions are clear: maximum silence. No one wants to miss a line of the show during that sacred time. Is it then any wonder that our children are becoming more antisocial, depressed or even suicidal? We have left them to find solace and answers in the smartphones because our jobs make us too busy to relate with them and sadly, these gadgets do not most times communicate durable values or any values at all.
We may not get back the traditional “fireplace time,” but each of our homes can reinvent a custom that facilitates consistent interactions beginning with common family prayers. The most reliable environment to continue this from is our parish which offers timeless values through our newly reorganized Elementary Religious Education, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the vibrant EDGE and Life Teen programs. It is only then that we can fruitfully answer little Jena’s question: “Who is the Father of God?”
Fr. RobertBACK TO LIST