Speaker provides tools for handing on Catholic faith to children

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Following a 9 a.m. Mass Nov. 21 at St. Michael Church in St. Cloud, national speaker Father Michael Schmitz from the Diocese of Duluth spoke to some 200 people about passing on the Catholic faith to children and teens.

“The reality and the stakes are that it is possible to fail at being a good parent,” Father Schmitz said. “Unless we are ready and willing to acknowledge that, it is possible that we could get to the end of our lives and say, ‘I have failed at the one thing I was here to do.’ We are here on earth to become saints but if you are called to be a mother or a father, that is the way you get to become a saint. So let’s talk about how we can win at being parents.”

3A Schmitz

Father Michael Schmitz of the Diocese of Duluth offered suggestions on passing on the Catholic faith to children and teens during a talk Nov. 21 at St. Michael Church in St. Cloud. Kristi Anderson / The Visitor

Father Schmitz, who serves as chaplain of Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and as director of the Duluth Diocese’s Office of Youth Ministry, offered a set of tools that he said every parent can use, no matter what age their children are:

Teach your kids how to pray. Teach them not just to repeat prayer, but how to really pray to God. “You as parents are models and can show your children how to pray from the heart. It doesn’t have to be remarkable,” Father Schmitz said. “Let them listen to you talk to God like [he is] your dad, like you know him.”

The power of a blessing. Father Schmitz shared the story of his own father giving him and his brother a blessing when his brother was going through a particular struggle.

“I remember his words,” Father Schmitz said. “He said, ‘I can’t do anything to fix your problem right now, I can’t take away what you are going through, I can’t resolve this issue. But I am your dad and what I can do is use this God-given ability to bless you in his name.’ ”

Parents can make the sign of the cross on their child’s forehead, he said. Even if they can’t physically lay their hands on the child because they don’t live with or near them, they can still extend the blessing from a distance, he said.

“Your small prayer amplified by God’s grace is multiplied,” he said. “[It] has the power not only to change someone’s life but the power to change the world.”

Witness an authentic Catholic life. “An authentic Catholic life means you are driven by joy — the abiding and pervasive sense of well being,” Father Schmitz said. “You can parent out of joy or out of fear. We can pursue God out of joy or out of fear. Or we can say to our kids, ‘I know you are an entirely different person and God has a plan for you.’ He has a destiny for them. He wants them to go to heaven even more than you want them to go to heaven. We need to have the courage to say I’m going to parent with faith and do whatever I can, but I am going to trust that God can work every step of the way.”

Fasting amplifies prayer. Father Schmitz said the wisdom of the church is that fasting amplifies graces in a mysterious way. “It doesn’t mean you don’t eat. It means there is one thing you can do — some sort of self-denial — that you can give up today for your child, for their holiness.”

Be a prototype. Every person has influence, whether they have kids or not.

“If your kids prayed the way you pray, would they become great saints? If your kids lived with the joy you live with, would they become great saints? If your kids walked every day with the same amount of faith you walk with, would they become incredible saints? The reality is you are the prototype. You can model. You can imitate Jesus,” he said.

Profound trust

Elizabeth Schwartz, who is the director of religious education at St. Joseph Parish in Bertha, attended the talk with her husband Billy, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist Parish in Bluffton. She also brought a group of youth to St. Michael’s the night before for a talk that Father Schmitz presented to the youth (see sidebar at right).

“I thought I might gain some additional tools to help them by coming back today,” she said.

“You can never have enough knowledge or tools,” Billy added. “We also have a great number of nieces and nephews and this was a way we can help bring them up in the faith.”

Teresa LeBlanc, who also attended the session, is the mother of four children ranging in age from 9 to 17. She teaches confirmation at the Holdingford Catholic Community parish cluster.

“As a parent and a teacher, I wanted to hear Father Michael’s message and be able to share it with my own kids as well as my confirmation kids,” LeBlanc said.

“So often I want to spare my kids from the hardships in life by telling them that I’ve been there, I’ve done that and it hurts so don’t go down that road,” she said.

But Father Schmitz said that God sometimes loves people enough to let them walk away from him and the church, hoping they will return someday.

“That just pierced my heart,” LeBlanc said. “There was a time when I walked away and it was my mom who prayed for me to come back. If [my kids] walk away, they walk away, but I will do my best to be a good parent, to be a witness, to be an example.”

Father Schmitz said that it all comes down to having a profound trust in the Father’s love.

“We have a Father who loves [the kids] more than I could ever love them,” he said. “We have a God who is more faithful to them than I could ever be faithful. We have a God who is more active in their lives than I could ever be active in their lives. The goal is that they get to know him more and more every day.”

Father Michael Schmitz delivers message of ‘love in action’ to 700 youth and young adults

Nikki Walz, youth coordinator for the parishes of St. Michael in St. Cloud and St. Joseph in Waite Park, reflects on Father Michael Schmitz’ presentation, “Living Our Catholic Faith Out Loud,” Nov. 20 at St. Michael Church. The event was geared toward youth and young adults ages 12-25.

What if we took time out of our hectic schedules to slow down and really spend time with the people around us? What if we spoke with every person we came across with complete attention and love? What would happen if we put people first, before things and deadlines and ourselves?

I witnessed this kind of love in action recently, and it was a stunning reminder of what can happen when we slow down, step away from our own busy lives and see other people as the treasure that they are.

Father Mike Schmitz, one of my favorite speakers, spoke to a packed crowd of roughly 700 teens, kids, young adults and parents at St. Michael Church in St. Cloud Nov. 20. He reminded us of the great truth that we are called to holiness in and through being made male and female and pinpointed the “big lie” that plagues each gender and which must be killed in order for us to accomplish our mission as God’s children.

The big lie every man faces throughout life is that he doesn’t have what it takes and isn’t competent, which causes him to constantly try to prove himself: whether that’s through having the nicest car in the parking lot (or the most powerful truck), the ability to grow the “best beard” or being a pro at fixing things, since that’s “what makes you a man.”

For women, the major lie we face is that we’re not worth loving just as we are. Sure, “me prettier,” “me better” or “me perfect” is worth loving, but we really struggle believing that we’re lovable just as we are, without needing to be fashion magazine-worthy or the best athlete.

These lies can be killed by a father speaking the truth to his children or a spouse speaking truth to the other, by looking at the crucifix and realizing more and more that Christ died for us just as we are, or by the words and example of the people around us who have the unique opportunity to teach us our worth.

But Father Mike didn’t just talk about helping to kill that lie for others. He lived out what he had said immediately after he had finished speaking by spending the next four hours talking to each person who lined up to speak to him, focusing on each of them as if he had all the time in the world.

I immediately thought of what Matthew Kelly had said in a talk about the need for a “carefree timelessness” with the people around us — living in the present moment and giving them our total attention and love rather than being distracted by other things or rushing through life to “get things done.” It’s like a parent who can spend hours watching his child play, as if he had nothing else in the world to do.

St. John Paul II was known for giving people so much of his undivided attention out of love for them that he was constantly late for everything! But through it he taught us all a lesson: that each person is precious and worthy of all of our love.

As a youth minister, Friday night’s talk and after-party filled my heart with joy and hope through seeing so many young people learning to live their faith and spending time having a ton of fun with other young Catholics.

But as a young adult trying to live out my faith in today’s world, I also learned a valuable lesson I’ll never forget about what it means to love other people as God loves us: with undivided attention and “carefree timelessness.”