—Is it possible that a teen who was greatly enthused as a child, but then abandoned the Lord, can return to the Church later in his youth once he gets his act together?
—Yes, but prior to that, he has to go through some emotional stress. In the lives of the faithful, piety is often based on personal religious experience. A lot also depends on the extent to which we can pragmatize our emotional experiences. We either can follow the Magi in their path—by way of reflection, reading, and analysis, or we can follow the shepherds; we can also follow the path of our own emotional experiences. That's why people from all walks of life come to God.
— How can we protect a child from spiritual indifference?
—St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) warned against false mysticism and sensual experiences while praying. But even he used to say that, if you feel totally spiritually indifferent, try to pound your chest and make a few prostrations to somewhat soften your heart and soul. But softening a child’s heart is a difficult matter. We should keep trying in an attempt to get through to him.
It sometimes happens that we can see how the Lord leads someone along a non-linear path. We know that the majority of Soviet people came to the Orthodox Church after being involved in Eastern cults, yoga, and Zen practices. Is it possible for us to recommend it as a proper path to God? Of course not. God brings people to Him in a variety of ways. The same can be said about every child’s life.
It is hard to tell what particular event in someone’s life will motivate him to move in the right direction or what can turn him away forever. A child may witness the misdeeds of his parents or priests, or he could read something online and we’d be unable to protect him from that negative input. There are so many temptations and afflictions today. In this respect, the issues of logic, and reasons of conscience are not critical factors for teenagers. Therefore, a lot of them depart from tradition, because tradition, apart from depth, holds something incomprehensible and odd.
— Prayer is salvific... What prayers do you bless for reading by children before confession and Communion?
—It depends on the child. You know, in my day, when I came to the Faith and asked the now deceased Archpriest Arkady Stan’ko what prayers I should read before Communion, he said: “Read the Lord’s Prayer.” I read that and came to Communion for quite a while, and then asked again: “Is it enough? It doesn’t seem enough.” So, he told me, “Read the Lord's Prayer three times.” That’s why you have to look at each person separately. Besides, the modern text of prayers before Holy Communion can by no means be applied to a child. I would advise one to use the Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion. And I mean the canon proper, without the prayers.
—Father Maxim, in conclusion: how can parents act wisely enough for their child to earnestly desire to be with the Church and walk the path towards God?
—Cut back on Pharisaism. This way, the chances are that a child, in his teen years, won’t be alienated too much.