Divine Intervention

Over the years my faith in God and the Catholic Church has continued to grow, but for reasons that are between me, my husband, and God, I have not practiced my faith regularly. My husband was raised Southern Baptist, and neither of us has consistently passed on our Christian faith to our children. We are slowly trying to change that, but our oldest daughter has been fairly resistant to the whole idea. She’s been my virulent little atheist much to my embarrassment and sorrow. I’ve just felt like I’ve failed her, and she’s not yet six years old.

We are trying to rectify the situation. We’ve talked to her about getting Baptized in the Catholic Church and starting CCD (Religious Education) classes next year. She likes the idea of CCD after hearing her Granny talk about Baptist Sunday school. I’ve also been trying to get back into the habit of praying before dinner every night. The first few nights there was lots of eye-rolling and attitude, but now she reminds me if I forget. She hasn’t quite gotten to the point of joining in, but she does wait respectfully for me to do it.

Tonight she suddenly began asking me questions during dinner about God. She was asking genuine questions, rather than her usual snarky ones. We ended up discussing theology for at least an hour to an hour and a half. And she was just blowing me away with some of her questions. There were some misconceptions, like about the location of Heaven. And she was understandably confused about the Trinity even though at the time she only knew about two parts of it; when she found out there is a third part she was really astounded.  She asked me stuff that I thought was well beyond what I would have expected of one her age. Of course, she has always been one to ask me tough questions.

Here are some of the questions that I remember her asking tonight in no particular order:

  1. How can there be two gods (God and Jesus) if there is just one God?
  2. If God can see, hear, and know everything than why do we have to go to Confession? Why can’t we just stay home and say we’re sorry?
  3. If God created everything in the world then why do we say that people “invented” something?
  4. If there is a boy God, then is there a girl God? And if not, why not?
  5. Was Mary an angel?
  6. How can we be with God when we die if Heaven is under the earth? (She was confused by dead bodies being buried in the ground.)
  7. What about when you have a good angel and that red thing on each of your shoulders?  (She’s obviously seen too many cartoons.)
  8. What are God’s rules?
  9. How could Jesus come back to life if he was dead?
  10. Did Jesus ever disagree with Mary?

Through these questions and several smaller clarifying ones, we ended up addressing the following topics:

  1. Holy Trinity
  2. Confession
  3. Limitlessness of God
  4. Mary’s role in Salvation
  5. Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven
  6. Guardian Angels and bad angels (devils)
  7. The Ten Commandments
  8. Founding of the Catholic Church
  9. Ganesh and polytheism in India (Thank you, Cheetah Girls movie!)

She even made a connection between sin, Purgatory, and Baptism before I could get there.

When she was finally ready to quit, I think we were both feeling like our brains had been stretched to the limit. As I started clearing the dinner table and taking out the garbage, it really struck me that there had to be some sort of Divine Intervention involved. I must admit that I’ve always found it hokey when I’ve heard people talk about being “moved by the Spirit” and such, but to experience it myself was just very surreal. I mean not only did something inspire my little girl to ask all of these big questions but somehow I think I came up with really good answers. There were fifty million ways I could have answered these questions wrong, but I really think that I was able to answer them correctly and in a way she could understand. I just don’t see how I could have done that without a lot of help from the Holy Spirit.

For now, I plan to continue our slow and steady pace. I’ve not wanted to push her too much and invoke her counter-will completely against God. I just hope that she will continue to ask questions and that I will be able to provide good answers and set a good example for her.

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8 Comments on “Divine Intervention”

  1. I hopped over from 4real and I think it was Divine Intervention. How wonderful that at 6 she is able to grasp some of the fundamentals. I still can’t. Oh, BTW, I am also a graduate of 12 years of Catholic schools, and an all girl Catholic high school. Twenty years ago our school “merged” with the all boys Catholic military school that we shared a football field with. I know the building is still there, although I’m unsure who bought it and how it’s being used. Your posts on a Catholic education could have been written by any of my fellow students. Not me, I don’t write. Oh, and I don’t remember much of high school!

  2. “She’s been my virulent little atheist much to my embarrassment and sorrow.”

    Both my parents are Catholic. I am an atheist – also president of my university’s atheist club.

    When I finally “came out” to my parents about being an atheist, it had been about 5 years since I had become an atheist. I was scared to tell my parents, because I felt they wouldn’t accept me because of my skepticism.

    You mention that your daughter is only 6, and so you probably have plenty of time to indoctrinate her. But please, don’t be embarrassed because your daughter doesn’t believe the same things you do. I would be proud that such a young daughter has the critical thinking skills to not just believe whatever she is told by an authority figure.

  3. Kelly Says:

    That sounds like a really great conversation!

    If you have a church in your area that does Catechesis of the Good Shepard, that might work really well with her. It is a Montessori based catechesis program. Much more fun that sitting down with a workbook, like we used to do. Well, me, I guess, since I never went to Catholic school. I was always a CCD kid!

  4. barboo77 Says:

    Dear Mr. Blanchard,

    I should have been clearer. I was embarrassed, not of her, but of my self. If you really believe in God and God’s salvation, you feel like you have let your child down, like you’ve shirked your parental duties. I knew it was my fault. When you believe in God and God’s salvation, it is your duty as a parent to prepare your child to get to Heaven. I knew that I had been failing her in this regard.

    That being said I can only take her so far. “Indoctrinate” her as you said. We are all “indoctrinated” as children in one way or another. Parents naturally try to instill their beliefs into their children, whether they be about God, politics, or the best way to fold the bathroom towels. In the end, though, she will have to decide what to believe or not to believe, who to vote for, and how to fold her own laundry. All I can do is lay down the facts as I see them and give her as much information as possible to make good decisions.

    If she decided as a mature adult that she does not believe in God, I would still be sad and I would pray that she changes her mind. But I would still love her, and I hope that she will never let her fear keep her from being honest with me. As long as she is respectful of my right to believe, I would be respectful of her right not to believe.

    But she is still a child. And like many children, she does not enjoy rules that keep her from doing what she wants to do. And like most children, she doesn’t understand that as parents we make rules and guide her in the way that we think is best for her long-term even if it makes her unhappy in the short-term. This is also how a Christian relates to God Our Father. I think some of her reticence about God has been because she doesn’t want to be told what to do and also because of flaws I need to rectify in my relationship with her; I think some of her attitude is because she knows it is important to me. She acts the same way about reading. She does it to push my buttons.

    I recently read a phrase that I think kind of describes the situation we are in with her. “People want their way, and atheism is the price they pay for insisting on having their way.” (Reasons to Believe by Scott Hahn, p 45). She was atheistic not because of Reason but because she just wanted her own way.

    I am very proud of her critical thinking skills (you should hear her shoot down the advertising industry). And I hope that all of my kids will question things. But in the end we all have faith in something, even if it’s to faith that God does not exist.

    I have no problem with atheists or agnostics, except when they can’t agree to disagree nicely. Unfortunately, you find a lot of derision on both sides of the fence. So, I hope that as president of your university’s atheist club you promote respectful dialog with religious people in addition to whatever group study or community service you undertake.

  5. Thank you for the clarification.

    I feel it necessary to point out two things (I’m really sorry, and I don’t mean to try to argue, but I have a lot of pet peeves).

    1. There are different levels of indoctrination. When you teach your child in such a way that you close the door for them on any other way of seeing the world, then I think that’s a form of child abuse. Please have your children understand there are other people who exist who are non-Catholics, non-Christians, and even non-theists – and that these people aren’t evil or stupid, but they do see the world differently.

    2. “But in the end we all have faith in something, even if it’s to[sic] faith that God does not exist. ” Sorry, I have to point out that not all of us have faith in something (assuming that by faith you mean belief without evidence). I have no faith that God does not exist. I lack a belief that any gods exist. Certain gods I believe do not exist – ones with properties that are contradictory either with themselves or with the observable world. I would not count this as faith, though. If I believed those beliefs required faith, I would not continue to hold them.

  6. barboo77 Says:

    Tommy (Can I call you Tommy?), we all have pet peeves. As you can see on my blog, I even have a category for pet peeves. 😉

    1. You’re right that there are different levels of indoctrination. There is often the assumption from atheists and agnostics that religious indoctrination is always harmful and does not leave room for studying and respecting different world views. And we are all tempted when we believe that we are right to be derisive and disrespectful of others who disagree with us. We wonder what’s wrong with them that they just can’t “get it”.

    I have very real concerns about the negatives of indoctrination and I do not agree with some of the indoctrination that goes on in schools. That’s one of many reasons we homeschool, even thought the majority of people are indoctrinated wrongly to believe that children can only learn and learn social skills by going to school (even though compulsory education is a recent invention and somehow humanity has flourished).

    Obviously, you don’t know me, and there is only so much you can know about a person by reading their blog. Not that I feel the need to defend myself to you or anyone, but there is the misconception that religious people must live in some sort of theological bubble. First of all, as I mentioned above, my husband was raised Southern Baptist. My mother and all of my extended family is also Baptist.

    Besides the fact that my Catholic high school made a very lame attempt at studying Judaism and Islam as I wrote in a previous post, I have a degree in Religious Studies from a secular university. I’m not saying this makes me some Religion expert, but besides Christianity, I also studied Judaism, Hinduism, and Native American religion. I couldn’t fit Islam into my packed schedule. Oh, and my first room mate was Wiccan.

    We live in the suburbs of Chicago where my husband teaches Sociology at a local community college. In the course of or daily lives we interact with people from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. My husband usually has several Muslim students every semester. And when my children get older I look forward to touring the nearby Hindu Temple in addition to a variety of very old Christian churches. Maybe we can also hit a Synagogue or Mosque down the road. I’m a religion nerd.

    My children would have to live with blinders on not to realize that there are other people who exist who not Catholic, Christian, or even non-theists. In my post I mentioned that we had to discuss Ganesh because she was wondering if Ganesh was part of the Holy Trinity.

    2. Most people think of faith as a belief in something that can not be proved. There are things that scientists believe exist such as quarks, pulsars, and black holes not because they can prove that they exist but because there is no other logical explanation for what they see happening around them.

    If you can not believe that the God of Abram does exist because you discern that He has “properties that are contradictory either with themselves or with the observable world”, I will admit that I do not have the time or the talent to argue this out with you. There are much better theologians and philosophers who could go point/counter-point with you than lowly old me. I can understand the arguments, but I’m not very good at passing them on.

    In the spirit of understanding the “opposite” position, I would suggest reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis or “Reasons to Believe” by Scott Hahn. I often find it very illuminating to read the works of someone who I know that I mostly disagree with; sometimes I even learn something new. (If you think I’m full of it, I actually read a book by Ann Coulter, who I absolutely can’t stand and found that she had a few things right by checking her resources.)

    And please forgive any grammar errors. I am a college-educated person, but one with three young children. In the course of writing this response I’ve had to fetch a pop sickle, clean up a pop sickle, change a diaper, mediate an argument, and answer fifteen questions. We could discuss atheism vs. theism until the cows come home, but I really do not have the time. Anyway, Benjamin Franklin once said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

  7. Julie Says:

    You go, Barbara! I really enjoyed this.

  8. Laura Witten Says:

    I’ll have to go back and read all the dialogue of the others, but for now time is short so I have to say:

    I’m so glad that you were able to answer her questions through the Holy Spirit. Some things you just KNOW are of God.

    The other night, DS who is still only 3, and I had a conversation about Jesus. It was very short, of course. He had a rough day at preschool – had hit someone for the first time and gotten 2 separate time outs over the course of the day (not enough sleep, I believe was the issue, now remedied). So I prayed aloud with him before he went to sleep, which is something I do only sporadically, unfortunately. This time he actually listened, then said he didn’t want Jesus to give him a time out. I explained that Jesus doesn’t give us time outs, but he does show us the right way to live and loves us very much, so much that he died for our sins. He said, Jesus died? I said yes, but he came back to life and is in heaven watching over us. DS says, He came back to life? I said yes, because he loves us so very much, just like God. He said, Oh.

    And that was that. 🙂 Not verbatim, but I think you get the gist. I love that he can talk to me about these things. He’s been an eye roller during mealtime prayers as well, which are sporadic like yours. 🙂

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