Recently I came across the issue of how important is the parents', or rather, father's influence on children's religious beliefs, and how to raise good Catholic kids, thereof.
At the present I'm reading Shusaku Endo's The Samurai and there are similar echoes in my own story of faith too. In this novel, the samurai expressed revulsion at first, later desperation at the thought of embracing a religion alien to his ancestors:
"I can't be the only one in my family to convert to a foreign religion that my father and my ancestors never knew"
"..back in the marshland, everyone shared in the lives of everyone else.. in the marshland, everything was as one.. [he] could not abandon the faith revered by his father.. That would be tantamount to betraying his own flesh and blood, betraying the [homeland]"
Refering to figure of Jesus on the cross:
"This ugly, emaciated man. This man devoid of majesty, bereft of outward beauty, so wretchedly miserable. A man who exists only to be discarded after he has been used. A man born in a land I have never seen, and who died in the distant past. He has nothing to do with me", thought the samurai.
There are 2 separate points here:
1. Influence of parents on the person's conversion
2. Influence of parents on the person's continuing belief (and subsequently, the influence of ancestors on future generation's belief)
"I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword"
Is the faith of our fathers important for conversion? In some cases, it could be discouraging in the case of Endo's samurai (which he claimed, was somewhat slightly autobiographical!), to break away from thousands of years of tradition. Stripped down to its essence, this could be just a matter of pride; the samurai was impressed by the charitable acts of the missionary, I was convinced by the teachings of the God who lived as man & died for Mankind, yet both of us did not (at first) want to be the first to abandon a practice that had served our ancestors for hundreds of years. Many Catholics I encountered on the blogosphere were mostly Europeans/Caucasians: former cradle Catholics who returned to the Church, or separated brethren who crossed the Tiber. In their cases, in spite of the seeming apostasy, they are able to say that they are returning to the 'faith of their (fore)fathers'.
Is the faith of our fathers really important for continuing belief? I'd often reflected how the Catholic faith is truly meant to be lived in a community, and what better way to start than in your own family! A lot of culture goes into cultivating religious beliefs, hence at times I felt that, being a first generation convert, my own faith lacks that cultural support. Discovering that the Catholic faith goes deep (in terms of practices, devotions and institutions) has helped me personally to provide the weight of history and point of reference. As I discovered many hidden facts about the Church's role in shaping the world and my worldview thus far, I felt a connection to the universal family who shared the same faith all over the world, over time. If ever I were to have children some day, I'd make sure they know their mother's faith doesn't separate them from society in general, but unite them to a great universal civilization born out of Christian faith.
"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!"-- St. Augustine