My wish is that my grandchildren always remember how much I love them. May they walk through the rest of their life knowing I’ll always be there for them in any way I can.”
Prior to the shelter-in-place order, I made several presentations to parish senior groups on the topic, The Grandparents’ Role in Family Faith Formation. My biggest take-away impression was that we grandparents have a special and unique relationship with our grandchildren. It is different than being a parent because we can enjoy our grandkids without having to deal with all of the challenges of parenting.
We can become friends and confidants to help our grandkids deal with the issues of growing up in a complex society. We can “spoil” them all we want and return to the peace and quiet of our empty nest. We also have the advantage of learning from the mistakes we made as parents and the awareness that we will not repeat them as grandparents.
I also confirmed that grandparents are very enthusiastic and vocal about being grandparents. Just bring up the subject of grandchildren and out come the photos, videos, and stories about our precious offspring.
In short, we grandparents have a great interest in the well-being of our grandchildren and enjoy our participation in their lives.
The special relationship with our grandchildren is what has made the shelter-in-place order so difficult for many of us. Suddenly, we find ourselves unable to be with our grandchildren in person, making the uncertainties of the pandemic all the more challenging on both ends.
Below are a few suggestions and resources for how to incorporate faith formation into your virtual time with your grandchildren.
- Pray with your grandchildren
- Share prayer intentions with your grandchildren and ask for theirs. You will probably learn much about their hearts and minds by what they ask for in prayer. They will also come to know you better in the same way.
- Recall memories of your early prayer life such as how you learned the “Hail Mary.”
- Teach or enhance the memory of our traditional Catholic prayers. Perhaps pray a decade of the Rosary together for the special intentions of the family and each grandchild.
- Share stories of how prayer sustained you at pivotal moments of your life. Stories from your teen or young adult years will be of particular interest to your older grandchildren.
- Buy a Bible for your children and a Children’s Bible for your grandchildren
- Use the Bible to introduce and enthuse the family about the beauty of the daily readings and Gospel. Order the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) at http://www.usccb.org/bible/ or amazon.com.
- Grandparents can use the Children’s Bible to explore the many parables when Jesus interacted with children: https://www.smp.org/series/81/The-Catholic-Childrens-Bible/.
- Read and discuss the stories together. Allow space for your grandchildren to share what stood out to them in the readings. Ask open-ended questions to encourage your grandchildren to express their thoughts.
- Study the Catechism
- Many of us seniors learned the fundamentals of Catholicism by studying the Baltimore Catechism in elementary school religion class. We all memorized questions like, “Who made me?” and answered, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” How would your grandchildren respond to that question?
- You can order an updated Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) through the USCCB Bookstore at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/ catechism-of-the-catholic-church/.
- The CCC covers a broad range of topics, many of which your teenaged and young adult grandchildren may be grappling with. It is a wealth of wisdom on many issues and can be the basis of many in-depth discussions with your older grandchildren.
- Develop a better understanding of the parts of the Holy Mass
- Watch this 14 minute video with the family that explains the parts of the Holy Mass, then discuss each part: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1L-Ite2YGA
- Plan to watch the same online Mass together and talk about it afterwards. Explore Masses said in different places to get a sense of different cultures or charisms. Offer to watch a teen or college campus Mass with your older grandchildren.
- Use the Creed to summarize our Catholic faith
- How will your grandchildren respond if asked, “What do Catholics believe?” The shortest answer is to recite either the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed.
- Teach your grandchildren the Creed so they can be in a position to explain to anyone what we Catholics believe. Again, the CCC offers guidance here in case you or your grandchildren have questions in need of clarification.
If you would like to mix in some additional activities with your faith formation focus, check out How to Be a Great Virtual Grandparent…7 ways to strengthen the grandparent-grandchild bond while sheltering in place at https://www.nextavenue.org/great-virtual-grandparent/). The article was written by Liz Seegert, a reporter for Next Avenue, a national journalism service for America’s booming older population.
Our grandchildren may not show it on the outside, but they are trying to understand and cope with the challenges of this crisis just like all of us. Their educational and social lives have been turned upside down, and they have many questions. We as grandparents may not have all the answers, but we can be a steadfast witness to the love of Jesus Christ by providing our time and attention, not only in person but virtually through a computer screen.
The Senior Side column is written by William L. Clarke, former business executive, professor and senior citizen. He serves as the Associate Director, Senior Adult Ministry for the Office of Formation and Discipleship. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary M. Cohen, Consultant in Senior Adult Ministry contributed to this article. email@example.com
If you are new to the “Senior Side” column, you can read past columns in the Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. https://georgiabulletin.org Click on “Commentary”, then on “Bill Clarke”