Early Learning, Lifetime Memories

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

I guess I’m a typical sports fan. I cheer for the home team and am happy when they win. I cheer against the “bad guys” and am happy when they lose. Although sometimes the “bad guys” are considered bad only because they’re so good and seem to win all the time. (You know whom I’m talking about, right?)
I enjoy watching professional sports on TV, especially football, golf, baseball and occasionally hockey. Someone once asked me how I could watch golf on TV because it’s “so slow.” I answered that whether I’m watching golf or football, I’m moving at the same speed!
Notice that I didn’t mention basketball in my list of favorite sports, and there’s a reason for that lacuna. I think it’s because growing up in Pittsburgh I had little exposure to the game. There was no professional basketball team in Pittsburgh except the short-lived “Pittsburgh Rens,” who played in the American Basketball League from 1961-1963. We didn’t play basketball in our neighborhood or school; there were no courts in our playgrounds or hoops in our driveways. Basketball just wasn’t on the radar and I’m sure that my apathy to the game today derives from that early experience.
But this is a column about faith and religion, not sports. And the point is that what we learn as children often impacts us later in life, in religion as well as in sports.
Most devout Catholics will quickly and proudly point to their early experiences of Catholicism as the foundation of their faith. They learned from their parents and grandparents, from their parish priests and the sisters teaching in elementary school.
It was as children that they learned their prayers, and the importance of Sunday Mass and monthly confession; that they memorized the Ten Commandments and precepts of the Church; that they first experienced the Stations of the Cross, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and First Friday devotions; that they heard about guardian angels and patron saints and developed a devotion to them. Say what you want about the Baltimore Catechism, but it provided a strong and clear foundation on which to build our faith.
The lesson is that the imitation of Christ begins at an early age. Children will carry with them throughout their entire lives what they first learned at home. So parents, as the song says, “teach your children well.”
Something to think about: What is your earliest memory of the Catholic Faith?


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