“Ask a Priest: What If My 3 Grandkids Say They Don’t Believe in God?”

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Q: My grandchildren ages 10, 11, and 16 claim not to believe in a God. One of them reports, “I don’t believe in God, I believe in science.” They do, however, like most kids, dream of presents for Christmas. They do not have parents who were ever married or have a home for them to live in. They and their mother live with us. The parents have a history of battering, fighting, and substance abuse. Having the “father wound” seems like a reasonable argument for an absence of faith. Their mother does not want us “pushing religion” on them. I am just wondering how to downplay the material aspect of Christmas. If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it. – M.S. 

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It must be heartbreaking to see your grandchildren without the faith. It sounds as though they have been dealt a difficult hand. As you mention, their “father wound” might hinder them from having a healthy religious outlook.

First, it’s good to remember that helping your grandchildren learn about Jesus and his plan is the best thing you can do for them.

Since they are living in your house, you have every right to display as much of the religious side of Christmas as you want. In any case, most children can’t resist a Nativity scene. So that might be a good thing to set up in your home.

Let the kids see you praying. And let them see images of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus around the home. If your daughter objects to any of these displays of piety, you could gently remind her whose home she is living in.

It would be good to intensify your prayers for your daughter and the children. This is where your daughter still needs a mom. Cultivate your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary. Our Lady knows well the hearts of moms and grandmoms.

And day by day your example of love and Christian charity will have its impact. Perhaps it might take a while to see a change in the rest of the family. That’s OK — the Holy Spirit has his time and place for souls to come to conversion.

In the meantime, it might be helpful to leave good books around the house. Helpful might be the Ignatius Press series on saints written for young people.

You might want to look into the books of Fulton Sheen, Peter Kreeft, and Patrick Madrid and leave them around the house, too. The Spirit can inspire a healthy curiosity in young and not-so-young readers.

Keep up a spirit of hope, too. The effort you make can make a difference in the eternity of each of your loved ones.

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