Friday, October 16, 2009

Can You Keep Your Kids Catholic?


Parents who have a deep faith in Christ and His Church are always praying that their children will continue on with that faith. Many good parents enroll their children in Catholic school or CCD, volunteer for the Church, join apostolates, and a growing minority homeschool. They pray the family rosary, discuss the saints, and seriously celebrate saint and holy days. There are many articles online with the title "How to Keep Your Kids Catholic." And the authors always have fantastic ideas on how to do this. But when you look at the world sometimes you can wonder, "CAN We Keep Our Kids Catholic?"

I have belonged to a Catholic Mothers email group for several years. This international group of very faithful Catholic women of all ages has been an anchor for me. We discuss everything, always with an eye on Church teaching. We pray for each other, support each other, and console each other.

This week, one of the topics of conversation has been ways to keep your kids Catholic. We are the kind of mothers who don't just want our kids to go to church once a week, but to actually live the Christian life. To have a relationship with Christ, and to live a moral life.

I always feel inadequate discussing this topic. I have several friends who homeschool and they do amazing things. Some of my friends talk about doing the family rosary after dinner, and having their kids watch the latest EWTN kid show. They don't allow their kids to watch any secular TV, and saint biographies are a staple in their house. I feel lucky sometimes if my kids say some prayers at night.

The discussion through the email group has been very edifying, but always we turn to the problems with adolescents and young adults, and their encounters in "the World." Children who stop going to church, drop out of school, marry poorly, get involved with drugs, or start living with their girlfriends. Children who join a protestant church, or dabble in New Age practices or the occult. Things we have little control over. How do we handle this? How do we cope when the children you have been raising to be good Catholic Christians start to stray?

After giving this some thought this week and reading the other ladies replies, I think it all comes down to LOVE. One of the most profound replies was from someone I deeply admire, Kathleen. Her experience brought tears to my eyes with its beauty and truth, and she has given me permission to post it here.

You can have the most perfect (as possible here on earth) upbringing: 2 parent family, faithful Catholic upbringing, no cable TV, no drinking/smoking/drugs/etc., no skeletons in the closet, parents always there for you, etc., and STILL stray from the faith and from the moral upbringing of 20+ years.

I grew up with awesome parents and beautiful catholic upbringing. There was nothing more that my parents could have done for me. They were loving, faithful, and giving yet not indulgent, strict but not overbearing.

I got caught up with the wrong crowd after high school and started drinking and doing drugs. I quit going to church. I started sleeping around. I moved out of the house when my parents were both at work. I moved in with a friend and partied all the time instead of going to classes. Within 1 month I became pregnant at 19 and had to move back home. At that point in my life, I had tried to sever ties with my parents. Moving back home was the hardest thing I ever had to do... no, telling them I was pregnant was the hardest.

Over the next month I was having morning sickness so I told my mom that I needed to see a doc because I thought I was sick. After a positive blood test I told her I was pregnant on the ride home. I was a basket case, she was just visibly angry and said she knew it. I had never seen her so angry. But she didn't yell or scold, she was just quiet.

I remember sitting on the stairs in our living room when my dad came home. I hadn't talked to him in several months. I always stayed in my room and wouldn't even eat at the table with him. Our relationship was dead. Now I had to face him. I was so scared.

When he came home and saw me crying, he said to my mom, "What's the matter with her"? She said, "What else? Your daughter is pregnant!". He didn't say a word but walked over to me and held me for what seemed like hours then said, "I love you and we'll get through this." And we did.

Today, my mother and father are my best friends, they are my heroes, my rock, my examples of holiness here on earth.

To me, it's not just about raising faithful children - it's about being there for them when they come home after being unfaithful.

Steve Angrisano does a short monologue on one of his CDs where he talks about the Prodigal Son. He says that he likes to call it the story of the Running Father - for the son doesn't make actually make it home... the Father runs to the son.

"So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way
off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He
ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

There is only so much you can do to raise a good, faithful, Catholic Child. You give them a good foundation. If you do that and they stray, it's NOT your fault. It's their choice through the gift of free will.

It's what you do AFTER they fall that counts. Just be there for them, give them a safe haven where they can think and recoup. Don't preach. Your actions say more than words anyway. Finally, allow them to ask for forgiveness.


As I read this I realized that THAT is what being a loving Catholic parent really is about. I have watched my mother-in-law and sister-in-law as they have coped with children who stray - with children who made bad mistakes. It is their loving attitude that has been a balm to their children. It is their loving attitude that has kept the family together with love and peace. Berating, screaming, trying to exact revenge, or enact punish fails in these situations. Why? Because it drives the child farther away. They don't see Christian behavior from you, they see just the opposite.

Christ did not act that way. He was like Kathleen's father. He knew his daughter was hurting, confused, in trouble, and scared. He did not scream at her or throw her out of the house. He held her in his arms with love.

So how do we keep our kids Catholic? WE don't. God does. I have always felt that a person's relationship with God is like a marriage. We can never really knows what happens between two people in a marriage, and we can never know what happens between a person and God. Some people I thought were far from God turned out to have a really good relationship with him. Other people I thought had it all together and were strong Christian examples to me, fell into serious sin. Those people were not really close to God. Their relationship was weak, like the "perfect couple" who divorces.

We all are sinners and fall short. We ALL are tempted by what looks good but is really a pathway away from God. Our children are no different. They are sinners and will sin.

As parents, all we can do is do our best. We can do all those good things with our children as they are growing. We can make sure they know their Faith. Make sure they know what the Catholic Church teaches and why. Make sure they know the Church's history. We can try to protect them from the evils of the world, and try to arm them as best we can with knowledge and courage. Ultimately it is up to them to make the decisions in their lives, for good or bad.

If you have tried hard and your children stray, it is NOT your fault. You did the best you could. Adam and Eve had God as their Father. They walked and talked with Him. They were in complete harmony with Him - and still they sinned. If God could not keep His children from sinning how can you?

We also need to realize that many times the twists and turns in a person's life are important to get to the ultimate goal. God writes straight with crooked lines. He allows people to join a fundamentalist church, for example, to learn certain things before coming back to the Church. He allows people to wallow in the mire so that they truly thirst for him. God knows best and God is in control.

We as parents should relax, do the best we can, and not be afraid. We should however, be concerned with OUR relationship with Christ. We should be meditating on the scriptures and reading good spiritual books. We should attend Mass frequently and partake in the sacraments. We should pray the rosary and ask the Blessed Mother to pray for us and our children.

In this way, we will strengthen our relationship with God AND be a good example to our children. We will gain in wisdom and knowledge. We will gain peace, and that peace will affect how we interact with our children, and they will learn from us the path to God.

The main thing we should do is to pray, pray, pray for our children. Pray every day. Pray for their future vocations. Pray for their future spouse if God wants them to marry. Pray for their safety and their relationship with God, and pray for the strength to be a wise, loving parent like God our Father. He is the one who is in ultimate control and is the one who will bring them back if they stray.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Me - Behind A Mask

Since I last posted, I have been really sick. No, it is not the regular flu, thank heaven, or even the Piggie kind, but JUST bronchitis. I laid in bed for days, almost passed out at the doctor's office, and forced my hubby into "mommy mode." It has not been fun. It started as a little cold and I tried for days, even with a high fever, to just try to tough it out without the antibiotics, but as usual I succumbed and found myself miserably suffering at the doctor's trying to get a prescription for the miracle drug that would make me feel better. It is a good thing antibiotics were invented or I would probably be dead 20 times over.

One interesting thing happened, however. The doctor comes in after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably 30 minutes. I was lying on the exam table trying to make sure I did not succeed in fainting. She examines me, listens to my woes and my chest, and tells me she is going to fill out the chart and paperwork outside because I'm contagious, what with the 102 degree fever I have even after taking the ibuprofen. She comes back, very sympathetic to the fact I almost fainted waiting for her before, "You look so pale..." Then she tells me I have to wear a mask at home because I reek of contagions. I thought to myself, "Well, it's a little late for that. I've been sick for almost a week."

She then kindly tells me she will call in the prescription so I don't have to walk from the car to the supermarket pharmacy, and escorts me out the back door which is closest to my car. I'm sure it was to prevent my walking far, but perhaps to avoid exposing her staff to my contagiousness? Nah.



So, I get home and dutifully dig out the box of masks I bought on a whim from WalMart. You know, just in case society stops because of the Piggie Flu - we should be prepared. I put one on. It's hot. Well, it's only hot when you exhale. My husband, who has been trying to keep far away from me for a week, thinks this is an excellent idea. All I can say is he better keep to his side of the bed, and get no where near my pillow. My 6 year old kept reminding me, "Mommy, put on your mask." I tell him, "Well, I have to eat!" So, until my fever breaks I wear the mask.

Now, one of the joys of being really sick - besides losing 5 pounds - is having to lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, in a sort of semi-coma. Well, perhaps fog/sleep would be a better word. I spent two days and part of two more, "resting." I say "resting" because how much can a mother really rest? My husband did take care of dinner - "McDonald's." And he wonderfully took the kids to their two schools and picked them up. What more could I ask?

As, I lay in bed I did get to enjoy lots of podcasts I thought I would tell you about. Since, I now have an iPod I can peruse iTunes to my heart's content. I downloaded lots of podcasts awhile back and am going through them one by one. Here are some that I think you might be interested in. Remember you don't need an iPod to listen to them. You can use an mp3 player or listen on the computer.

First, check out SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network. If you like podcasts this is the way to go. Try out the Daily Breakfast. Which is the #1 Catholic Podcast. Fr. Roderick Vonhogen is wonderful. When I first got the iPod I think I listened to dozens of his old Catholic Insider podcasts where he took us all over Europe in great audio tours, including the events surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Also, check out at SQPN Catholic in a Small Town. You can also find this entertaining podcast of a young couple raising kids in a small town here. Catholic Foodie was quite interesting and I'm looking forward to listening to Grace Before Meals.

My absolute favorite podcast though is the Cardinal Arinze webcast. Francis Cardinal Arinze is my absolute favorite cardinal! He is succinct, accurate and very humorous. It is a joy to listen to him. You can also find his podcasts here and at the Familyland website. Some of these are only audio and others are video. One of these links should give you what you want.

One of the surprises within the Cardinal Arinze webcasts are the musical breaks. I have to admit, I don't always enjoy this part in webcasts and sometimes skip over them, but I was simply blown away by the music of Olwen Ringrose that I found in
the webcasts discussing Deus Caritas Est. Several of the songs from Ringrose's album "The Daughter of the King" were featured and they are simply beautiful. If angels could sing, this is what they sound like.

I hope you enjoy these podcasts and if you have any to recommend, please let me know.
I think I'm now going to go rest, well after I start the laundry.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Beautiful Way of Prayer



The main way that you grow in your relationship with Christ, and in the Catholic faith, is through prayer. Many people think that prayer is difficult, and they are intimidated by the thought of it so they don't pray, or they only pray "stock" prayers like the "Our Father" or "Hail Mary." Their relationship may not grow, so they get frustrated and give up. Prayer however, should be as easy as breathing. Talking to God as if he were your friend, concerned about you, is a start. Common devotions are also a help. Some of these common devotions are the Rosary, the Sacred Heart, or the Divine Mercy.

A friend of mine on Facebook, Vinny Flynn, posted the following today. I thought it was a beautiful way of prayer and I'm going to incorporate into my prayer time myself. Vinny is kindly allowing me to share it with you and I urge you to try it.

Several years ago I happened upon a method of praying that has become a daily practice. It began with the Divine Mercy image, the now well-known picture of Christ with red and pale rays streaming from His Heart. I had become accustomed to praying before the large image of the Divine Mercy that hung in my office, imagining myself in the midst of those rays as I intoned the familiar prayer, "Oh Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you."

On this particular day I was praying for a family member, and I found myself mentally placing him in the rays, asking the Lord to let him stay there all day to be soaked and saturated with grace in this outpouring of God's mercy. Looking for a way to remember this intention throughout the day, I dug up a photo of him and stuck it in the corner of the frame so that it was right below the rays - a visual reminder that would prompt me to renew my prayer each time I looked up and noticed it.

It made my prayer seem so much more real that I soon purchased a much larger, unframed image. I glued it to a thick piece of cardboard and, within a few weeks, there were pictures tacked all over it: my wife and children, other family members, the Pope, special friends, anyone I wanted to remember to pray for.

A variation of this photo prayer soon emerged. My wife and I decided to assign a specific day of the week to pray in a special way for each of our children (very easy to do since there are 7 of them). So we gathered photos of each and set up a little "prayer table" on which we could display a different photo each day. This became especially powerful during Lent, as it prompted me to also give up something specific for each child on his or her prayer day.

But as meaningful as these two types of prayer were, the next variation that evolved proved to be the most fruitful for me and has become a permanent part of my daily prayer life. Years earlier I had learned that praying the Liturgy of the Hours (the 4-volume set of prayers known also as the Divine Office) is not reserved exclusively for priests and religious, but can be a fruitful practice of daily prayer for laity as well. I especially love to "pray the Office" in front of the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic adoration. One day, concerned about a friend who was in need of prayer, I found a photo of her and put it in my breviary so I would remember to pray for her the next morning at adoration. It was the first of many photos that I now keep in my breviary.(It doesn't have to be a breviary; any prayer book or prayer journal would serve the purpose just as well.)

How do I pray using the photos?

I just look at them. "Prayer," wrote St. Therese, "is a surge of the heart." I just look at the pictures, one by one, and let my heart surge to God for each person. A photo captures much of the essence of a person. As I gaze at each photo, the person it represents becomes present to me, complete with personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, memories, conversations, specific needs, etc. Sometimes actual words of prayer come to mind and are offered; sometimes there are no words. Essentially I am simply lifting each person up to God in whatever way and for whatever period of time seems called for. It varies from day to day. Sometimes a brief glance and momentary entrustment of the person to God is sufficient. At other times, the same photo may bring a flood of thoughts and a longer period of prayer. I just let it happen, trusting that the Holy Spirit is directing it all.

I am now in the habit of carrying a small digital camera with me when I travel; and when someone asks for prayer, I say, "Sure! Say "cheese."


If you have ever watched the lovely Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN at 3pm then you have seen Vinny and his family, who sing the Chaplet. It is beautiful. Vinny's website is MercySong.com and he wrote one of the most profound but simple books I have read entitled The 7 Secrets of the Eucharist.

For more information about the Divine Mercy devotion please check out the official Divine Mercy Website by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who have been the official promoters of this devotion since 1941.

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, through whom Christ brought us this wonderful devotion, wrote a profound diary that you will find here: The Diary of St. Faustina.