We can’t control our kids’ faith, but we can trust God’s love

Although our kids may not practice their faith through adulthood, confirmation preparation can help them understand their faith better.
Our Faith

In February 2023, a revival started in the chapel at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. It started with a small group of students lingering after worship and praying together and morphed into what is now being called America’s first major spiritual revival in the 21st century—and the first for Gen Z. Over the course of two weeks, an estimated 50,000 people from around the country flocked to Asbury University to worship, sing, pray, and experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

My two oldest kids, who are now 18 and 21, experienced a taste of the Asbury revival during the retreats they attended for our parish’s confirmation preparation. I didn’t have personal experience with confirmation preparation when I signed up my eldest his sophomore year of high school, because I received the sacraments of baptism, holy communion, and confirmation all at the same time when I was in first grade. Although my son had graduated from a small Christian grade school that immersed him in Bible study, church services, and worship experiences, after attending a public high school freshman year he said he no longer believed in God. He reiterated his lack of faith fall of his sophomore year after I enrolled him in confirmation classes and he had an initial meeting with the woman at our parish who directed the high school youth ministry and confirmation programs. Although he attended all the weekly classes, he did so begrudgingly.

I had come to a place that I’m sure is familiar to many Catholic parents who raised their children to be Catholic. I had passed down my faith as much as possible, but I also had to accept that I could not force my son, or any of my children, to believe in God or continue practicing their faith after they reached adulthood. My son was still attending weekly Mass with me, my husband, and our three younger kids; however, I was pretty sure that he would stop once he was out of the house and off to college. All I could do was pray.

In January, my son and his fellow confirmation classmates attended a weekend retreat held by Echoes of Worth in Scotts Valley, California, near the Santa Cruz mountains. A number of teenagers from parishes across the San Francisco Bay Area attended the retreat, which included Mass, keynote speakers, adoration, praise and worship, confession, and small group discussions. My son wasn’t thrilled he had to attend the retreat, and he was upset he had to miss a Saturday basketball practice. However, our parish’s youth minister called me on Sunday after the retreat while she was driving with my son and other teenagers on their way back to the parish church. She excitedly told me the news that my son had a wonderful experience. For my son and many other retreatants there with him, they had experienced what those who flocked to Asbury experienced: a personal encounter with God. For my son, God became real and palpable.


The next fall, my daughter began her first year of confirmation classes as a freshman in high school while my son started his second year. They both attended the Echoes of Worth retreat that following January, and it was an experience that changed both of their lives. My daughter, who is more vocal than my son, explained that in a social media world filled with so many distractions, the retreat in the woods quieted the world for her that weekend.

Since neither of my kids went to Catholic high school, that weekend they were able to connect with other teens who shared their faith. Talking about God isn’t always popular for high schoolers. The retreat was a safe space where they could embrace their faith. My daughter was inspired by the young adult speakers who spoke about the challenges they faced and overcame with God’s help. And my son said he appreciated the sessions where they were able to dive into the specific challenges, pressures, and realities teen boys and girls face in high school. In the evening, they had a powerful adoration experience where the lights were dimmed, the consecrated host was illuminated in a monstrance, and reverent music was played. My kids and the other teenagers experienced the veil of the eucharistic host lifted and Jesus present with them. Many of the teens were moved to tears.

The youth minister at my church told me after the retreat that, on the last day, all the teenagers were attending praise and worship, and after the band stopped playing, the youth spontaneously made a large circle, wrapped their arms around the person next to them, and continued to worship together. As an adult witnessing the outpouring of pure joy, the youth minister said she imagined that’s how heaven must be. A diverse group of young people setting aside their fears, insecurities, and differences and uniting in their offering of praise to God.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults says that confirmation deepens our baptismal life that calls us to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world. Along with the weekly classes that educated my kids to understand their faith better, the retreats they attended accomplished the goal of what confirmation preparation should do to complete the sacramental initiation into the church.


At my son’s confirmation Mass, the pastor joked, saying, “This is not a graduation from Catholicism. We expect to see all of you next Sunday.” While as a parent I cannot guarantee my kids will continue practicing their faith through adulthood, I do feel confident the ones who have received the sacrament of confirmation will carry that grace with them for the rest of their lives.

I hope as they go through different stages of adulthood, they will seek to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, as well as fellowship with other believers that helps them feel spiritually nourished and rejuvenated. I hope they not only cherish the experiences they have but that they feel propelled to be witnesses of Christ’s love in the world today and share that faith, joy, and hope with the people they encounter at college, in the workplace, with their social groups, and at home.

This article also appears in the August 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 8, pages 43-44). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Unsplash/Vince Fleming


About the author

Alessandra Harris

Alessandra Harris is a writer, author, wife, and mother of four. She earned degrees in comparative religious studies and Middle East studies. Her fourth book, In the Shadow of Freedom: A Catholic Call for Justice, is forthcoming from Orbis Books in Fall 2023.

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