Religious education for children an impossible challenge?

In spouses where one believes in God and the other does not, or where the spouses are of different faiths, the issue of the religious education of the children is critical. How to solve it and help the child build his spiritual life?

“Our daughter Victoria is 5 years old and we are struggling to agree on her religious upbringing. My husband wants her to go to a Catholic school, I don’t,” explains Catherine, 38. Out of respect for her family traditions, I agreed to have her baptized, but I don’t want her to be special. with a Catholic upbringing” warns, emphatically, the mother of the family. A hesitation regarding the faith grieves her husband Antoine: “It is such a agony that I cannot speak to my wife about Victoria’s education in a peaceful way. I hope we can find a way to be the best parents to her, Catherine is an atheist, and I am a devout Catholic.”

Couples in whom one believes in God and the other does not – such as Catherine and Antoine – or are associated with different denominations or religions, are many in France. And there will be more and more of them, according to Father Pierre-Marie Castinius, guide for young people with a view to marriage and author of Est-ce lui? Is this her? Keys to move forward (Salvatore). If these couples manage to cross the stage of marriage, the question of children’s education often remains a sore point.

Talking about baptism of children before marriage

Spouses who do not share the same faith cannot spare what they wish to pass on to their children, especially if they marry in the church. Father Castinius warns that both spouses must adhere to the pillars of a Catholic marriage: freedom, inseparability, fertility, and fidelity. During the exchange of consents, the priest asks if the spouses wish to raise their children in the Catholic faith,” notes the man who receives hundreds of couples each year at the Abbey of Ourscamp. So he recommends addressing “the question of awakening sons to the faith while preparing for marriage, even from the beginning of the relationship “.

The issue of baptism and the raising of future children is also part of the declaration of intent, and this letter written by each of the betrothed to express in light of what they will marry in church and what they are obligated to. . If canon law does not require the non-Catholic party, in a mixed or mixed marriage, to sign such a declaration, the non-Catholic husband must be informed of the obligations of his Catholic wife. In particular, he must be “prepared to avoid the dangers of renunciation of the faith, and sincerely promise to do everything in his power so that all children may be baptized and educated in the Catholic Church” (cf. Cann. No. 1125). A non-Catholic husband also undertakes not to interfere with his wife’s Catholic faith.

Loyalties and discernment

If the question of the practice of faith sometimes divides the spouses, the question of loyalty to tradition also concerns them. Conflicts of loyalty often arise on the occasion of the religious question. They find their roots in the emotional aspect connected with the family traditions and rituals instilled in each of the spouses,” explains Father Castinius to Aleteia. This is exactly the problem of family loyalty that Virginie and Gabriel faced. It is Catholic and Orthodox. They took a long time to take the step of marriage because they did not agree on religious education for their children in the future.

The question of awakening to the faith of children must be addressed during preparation for marriage, even from the beginning of the relationship.

“I am of Serbian origin and we have a lot of festivals that I like, like Slava. It is the feast of the family’s patron saint. On this occasion, we go to church and organize a family meal, around which we share wheat, bread and wine.” Today, the couple are born Orthodox. They are also rare children in France who celebrate Christmas twice. “I will take them to the Catholic Church on December 25. And on January 7, we go as a family to the Serbian Orthodox Church to celebrate the Nativity of Christ again,” Virginie explains.

The danger of syncretism

Raising the awareness of children of both religions is an option that Elizabeth and George also made. I grew up in a very Catholic family, in a Protestant family for generations. Our families have taken a bleak view of this difference in confessions. “But we just threw everything away,” recalls Elizabeth, 59. From then until the birth of their first child, the couple did not return to the church or temple. Elisabeth added: “They both hoped the other would give up in the end.” This idea, which often comes to the minds of mixed-sex youth, is misleading. “Often, the most committed person is the one who stands by him and ends up right. But if the two are stubborn, it can be very complicated. Father Castinius, who accompanies many mixed couples, warns that this situation can make It quickly causes crises within the spouses.

To give no education to children is to deprive them of the capital of faith and hope.

Thanks to the Cana retreat in Chemin-Neuf, Elizabeth and George successfully overcome the suffering caused by this religious question. “We met Christ. When we first met, our identity as a person was Catholic, he is Protestant. After this session we became sons and daughters of God,” says this mother of five. However, each remained faithful to his or her faith and introduced them to their sons.

baby baptism

If Father Castinius conceived the idea of ​​raising children in different traditions, he warns that “they must have one confession.” It also draws attention to the dangers of mixing the traditions of the two families. “It puts the child in confusion and also a conflict of loyalties as to whether he should choose between mother or father.” As for those who say to themselves: “They will choose when they grow up,” replies the priest, a member of the congregation of Jesus and Mary’s servants, that this is a “false freedom.” “You cannot choose when you do not learn and you cannot learn without approaching the community of believers. To give no education to children is to deprive them of the capital of faith and hope. It is to keep them in ignorance, closing doors more than opening them”, concludes Father Castinius.

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