One day this past fall, my daughter called from college, and she was pretty upset. She was working on a paper for a history class, she was having a difficult time finding the focus for her paper, and her deadline was looming. I knew nothing about the topic that she was writing about, so I couldn’t offer much help there. So I suggested that we do what I usually do when I’m feeling a bit lost – I suggested that we pray. A quick Google search revealed that St. Bede the Venerable (who, I must confess, was previously unknown to me) is the patron saint of historians, so we asked St. Bede to intercede with a bit of guidance. Glorious St. Bede, help me faithfully explore my place in the Word and the world. Amen. Happily, St. Bede did not disappoint us – my daughter calmed down, she found the focus that she needed, and she ended up with an A on the paper.
I share this story not because I think it is wise for students to rely on the saints to get them through college. I do think it is wise, though, for parents to remind their children that they are never alone. Children, as well as grown-ups, need to know that, in the good times and in those moments when life is hard, God is always with them.
I certainly trust that God is always with me. Being a parent is hard work, and every now and then it can be scary work. Who would want to go it alone, without the comfort of knowing that God is on your side? Certainly not me — I need all the help I can get. As a matter of fact, I never felt more in need of God’s grace and guidance until the moment, almost twenty-two years ago, that I found out that I was going to be the father of triplets. I expect that most men are unsure of what kind of father they will be. I had my own dad as a role model, but otherwise, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. So, like most men, I tried my best, and with the help of both God and an extraordinary wife, I have managed pretty well. I know that I have learned a thing or two over the past twenty-one years about what it means to be a good father and to raise children to be good people.
The foremost lesson I have learned is about the importance of providing your children with opportunities to receive the gift of faith. Though there are countless instances of people finding their faith on their own, growing up close to God has to make for a richer and deeper faith experience. Soon after our three children were born, my wife and I were very fortunate to move to a town with a wonderful and vibrant Catholic community. As members of this parish, our children learned how deeply God loves them, were able to recognize and be grateful for God’s many blessings, and to understand the connection between faith and justice. I hope that no matter where they go in life, this parish family will always be a moral compass in the lives of our children.
The other fact I have discovered may seem simple, but it’s an important one nonetheless — if you want your children to grow to be good Christians, then you must be one yourself. Children understand that we are called to serve when they see you doing the work of Jesus. They learn kindness of speech when they hear it spoken at home. They learn to be still and to listen to God’s word when you make time as a family to attend Sunday Mass.
Being a father is the greatest gift I will ever receive, and over the past twenty-one years my faith has grown and I have learned from my children as much or more than I have been able to teach them. I was taught to not worry so much about the future, but to enjoy each moment, each stage and yes, each challenge. I have learned to be patient, and I have learned to love. But perhaps most importantly, I have come to understand that, With God, all things are possible.
 Ken Likely is a member of the Center for FaithJustice Board of Trustees, a parishioner and former Chair of the Pastoral Council at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Community (Skillman, NJ) and the father of three rising college seniors. In the spring and fall, you can usually find him driving to or from a college campus with a packed minivan.