My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Many of our faithful grew up in the Faith, but may not have any idea why we do what we do, or have any real idea what we believe about God, social issues, faith, prayer, and our place in the world. I often congratulate my catechumens by saying, “You now know more than 90% of the cradle Orthodox.”
This shouldn’t be. We live in the “Why Generation.” Our children want to know why things are and saying, “that’s how they have always been,” will not satisfy their hunger for knowledge.
My most often heard complaint that I hear from students in my Adult Education programs is, “I wish I had known this when I was younger, then perhaps my children/grandchildren might not have left the church. . .”
Many wish to blame the Church, language, or the priest for the massive exodus from the Churches across the Archdiocese, but the blame does not lay there, it is found in the daily lives of the Christians. If someone goes to the gym, does one rep of a dumb bell, in no way will that person get healthy. That person, if he truly wishes to get healthy, has to change his diet, his behavioral patterns, and go to the gym for a full workout multiple times a week. We need that full spiritual workout and so do our children. The home needs must become the “little church.” It has to become a place of prayer, of fasting, of hope, of faith. If we limit our Christian existence to a brief hour a week, we kid ourselves, and our children SEE IT! When we place the Church last in priority, our children see it, internalize it, and then, they dismiss the Church and her teachings. They become, as Archbishop Demetrios called them, “Spiritual Homeless.”
Joshua 24: 14“Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” 16The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;…
The gods our children now have are pop music icons, professional athletes. They can recite entire lyrics. They can rattle off the roster of their favorite team from the last twenty years. They know all of the stats of the college draft for the NFL, but do they know the saints? Do they know how to pray? Do they know that Jesus Christ loves them? Do they fear the Judgment? Do they know how to prepare for the Sacraments? Do they know the Commandments? Do they know the story of Jesus Christ and the Gospel?
My greatest heartache will be seeing the sad, questioning faces of parents as the children abandon the Church, the Ark of Salvation. It is found, not just at 733 South Ashland, but also in your home. Come to the Big Church and make sure your Little Church serves as a reflection. If I physically cannot make it to Church on Sunday because of work, I must make certain that my children know I would be there if I could. I must stress its importance and show them I am not a hypocrite by asking them for the andideron (blessed bread) and praying with them the night before to prepare them for communion.
As parents, God-parents, grandparents, we have a responsibility to these our children and their spiritual upbringing. I urge you, ARM YOURSELVES with knowledge, FORTIFY YOURSELVES with Prayer, DISCIPLINE YOURSELVES with fasting, FREE YOURSELVES with almsgiving, and make sure your children see you do these things. I encourage you to participate in these classes. If your schedule does not allow, please listen to them online from our website. Read the provided material that will also be available. Your Church is here for you and will provide all you need. Just ask!
I remain your servant in Christ,
Fr. Dimitri Tobias, Proistamenos