As part a part of that process, I always ask my children about things like they have liked, not liked, want to continue, want to pause, want to try out... I also, sometimes, ask them specific questions.
One I asked this year was, "Which faith-related activities, resources, traditions, or activities did you like the best this year?"
My children's responses surprised me.
I expected to hear about favorite Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas traditions, myriad saint day celebrations, go-to books, videos, and audios, and the like.
Instead, my children said:
1. Mass: "I get to serve and it's really fun."
Seriously? I NEVER thought I would hear my oldest call Mass fun! He is the child that was the toughest child at Mass for many, many years and who was my reason for prayer, trust, and reaching out.
I am so grateful to the former pastor of our church who took a chance on allowing our son to become an altar boy when he still struggled at times with even being at Mass, and I am even more grateful for the grace, mercy, and blessings God has bestowed on us. Serving has made such a difference in my son's life.
If you have a child that is a handful at Mass, be encouraged. He may one day cause your jaw to drop by stating Mass among his top three favorite faith-connected practices.
2. Confession: "I feel like I don't have to worry that I am going to go to h-e-double-hockey-sticks... I feel happy that God has mercy on me."
Again, I was surprised (and delighted!) by another of my oldest's answers to my question.
I did not relish the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a child and did not return regularly to the Sacrament until after I became a mother.
Wanting my children to be steadier in faith than I was, I actively sought out resources to use in teaching each of my children about the Sacrament of Reconciliation before their first Reconciliations and have continued to look for age-appropriate reinforcements about this Sacrament.
I have also, of course, prioritized regular Reconciliation time.
I am so grateful for this Sacrament and the graces it brings, and, now, am grateful for affirmation that my child appreciates it, too.
If you are reluctant to take your children to Reconciliation regularly, please just try it. Then, try it again. Make a habit of it and, I bet, you'll see a difference in your life.
3. Savoring the Sweetness of Jesus: "I like that it tastes good!"
Hmmm... it would appear that the way to a teen boy's heart - and soul - may not just be through the Sacraments, but through his stomach.We have a tradition in our home of enjoying a sweet treat or snack after Mass as a symbol of "savoring the sweetness of Jesus". So, of course, my 13-year-old said this was one of his favorite faith-connected things this year.
4. Altar Serving: "It's fun."
Although my youngest was super-excited to serve at Mass as soon as he'd received his First Communion and was, thus, able to train and serve, he does not - as his big brother sometimes does - ask to serve at Mass when he is not scheduled to do so. Thus, I have sometimes wondered lately if he truly likes serving or if he does so out of a sense of duty.
I now have my answer, and I could not be happier.
I often pray when my boys are serving at Mass that if they are called to be priests, they will clearly hear and understand their call, and God will guide me in best supporting them.
I also pray that if they are called to other vocations - like marriage - God will make that clear, too, and, if marriage is to be their vocation, that God is already preparing their spouses hearts for them.
Whatever their vocations are to be, I have no doubt that serving Our Lord through serving at Mass is a wonderful way to prepare their hearts for their futures.
5. Saint Day Celebrations: "I usually like the food and hearing stories of saints, especially knights and soldiers!"
I love that my youngest enjoys our saint day celebrations and am not surprised that he particularly likes when we celebrate faith through food, for he does love eating!
If you'd like ideas for celebrating saints, too, we've shared plenty of liturgical living ideas through the years.
6. Our Saint Joseph's Table: "I get to pretend to be baby Jesus and we eat honey-glazed pasta."
We have so enjoyed our St. Joseph's Day feasts through the years, with traditions of enacting the Holy Family, sharing special foods, and praying and playing with friends.
If you've been thinking of trying to start a tradition of faith-connected feasting with friends, I encourage you to mark next St. Joseph's day on your calendar and to plan an easy feast table.
7. Mary Gardens: "We haven't done that this year, though. Can we? (I like it, because) it is not only about faith, but we get to bring home a garden and it blooms around Mary."
My girl knows it Mary's month and reminded me that we have yet to plant a mini-Mary garden. There's still time to do so! Maybe you'd like to plant one, too.
8. Volunteering at My Brother's Keeper: "We are doing one of the Works of Mercy and it's fun. I really like going to My Brother's Keeper!"
My Brother's Keeper is such a fabulous organization and my children LOVE living our Works of Mercy by being "Santa's helpers" there each year during Advent.
If you are local to southeastern Massachusetts, do check out My Brother's Keeper as a fantastic charity to support. If you're not, maybe there is a similar place nearby.
9. Going to Events at the Fr. Peyton Place: "I like the the big Rosary walks and stuff there."
The children were excited when Fr. Peyton was named venerable, and I am looking forward to the opening of the new Museum of Family Prayer that will be happening in September.
10. Going to See Relics: "It was really cool when the priests started singing all together and I like going to the relics."
Recently, we went to the St. Jean Vianney Relic Pilgrimage, participating in a beautiful Mass and veneration and being treated to hear a host of priests singing together as they venerated the relic.
St. Jean Vianney's Relic is still on tour, so look at the schedule to see if it will be coming to your area soon.
St. Maximilian Kolbe's relics, the Relics of the Passion, and the Treasures of the Church also made great impressions on my children in the past.
I admit, I never understood anything about relics when I was young and thought they were rather weird and creepy when I first came to now about them. However, I am glad I got over that, because learning about the saints and venerating relics has brought more depth to my children and my understanding of our faith.
If you'd like to know more about venerating relics, both CNA and EWTN provide brief, understandable explanations.
My heart is warmed by my children's answers to my question about which faith-related activities, resources, traditions, or activities they liked best this year since they testify to my children growing in understanding and appreciation of our faith.
I pray that they continue to grow in faith. I pray you and yours to as well.
I also encourage you to ask your children what they've most been enjoying and appreciating when it comes to faith-focused life and learning. Their answers - like those of my children - might come as a pleasant surprise and can also help direct where you put your focus in future months.