Monthly Archives: March 2011

Radical Parenting Tips for the 21st Century

The 21st century, with the Internet, cell phones, gay marriage, condoms in public schools, and a 50% divorce rate, poses unique challenges to parents. We want to protect our children from predators, from themselves, and from the moral corruption that is running rampant in our society. This requires a radical response from parents. Anything less puts our kids at risk of following the world’s way of life and not God’s. Here are some radical tips to put into practice that radical response.

The Don’t’s

  1. Don’t let your kids on Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites. There is nothing positive to be gained from a child or teen being on those sites, and there are so many ways they can be hurt.
  2. Just pull the plug on cable TV. It sucks money, time, and vitality from the family. There is little of value on cable TV and much that is dangerous. Do our kids really need to see who’s sleeping with who on Jersey Shore or the Real World? Do they really need to know about the glorified life of Teen Mom?
  3. Don’t allow video games into the house. As with cable TV, video games are, at best, a colossal waste of time. Time that could be spent in reading, music, hobbies, or sports.
  4. Keep the computers and phones out of the bedrooms. The internet is one giant near occasion of sin for everyone, especially teenagers. Even the “good kids” can be tempted by porn that is one click away. Keep the computer in an open, highly trafficked area, and monitor its use religiously,
  5. Kid’s don’t need cell phones. Well, not all the time. If there is a legitimate need – such as for calling home when an after school or weekend activity is finished, then get them a simple no frills phone and let them use it during those times. The rest of the time, it is back in the parents’ possession. Texting, sexting, and camera phones are another huge opportunity for sin.

The Do’s

  1. Pray together as a family. Morning prayers, evening prayers, and grace before meals. That’s a minimum. From there, move on to the family rosary.
  2. Eat dinner together as a family. Turn the cell phones off. Turn the TV off. Pray, eat, and talk. You will be surprised what you learn and how much you enjoy it.
  3. Go to Mass together. Don’t divide and conquer; replan those weekend activities around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Nothing is more important.
  4. Father’s, bless your children before bed. You are a priest in the domestic church. Your blessing counts.
  5. Fill your children’s lives with good things so there is no room for bad. Kids who are at ballet lessons aren’t out with questionable friends, getting into trouble, and they aren’t sneaking onto internet sites better left un-surfed.
  6. Start Family Fun Night and don’t miss it. Give your kids a reason to want to be home with you. Make them feel they will be missing out if they spend Friday or Saturday night with their friends.
  7. None of these steps should be radical, but our culture makes them that way. Our lustful, gluttonous, voracious culture tells our kids they must have everything, especially freedom they aren’t ready for yet. It is our job as parents to put our foot down on the brake and stop the insanity.

Why Marriage Has to be So Hard

The Challenges of Marriage, and God’s Sacred Plan

Ups and Downs
My wife and I teach Pre-Cana (marriage prep), and so we’ve had to become comfortable sharing our personal ups and downs both with strangers and not-so-strangers. And there have been ups and downs. Big ones. At one point, early on, we were on the verge of divorce. It was only our parents’ encouragement and the foundation of our faith that saved us. There have been other times when, though fully committed to never divorcing, we did not see how we could ever feel the love for each other that we once felt. And we are not the justice-of-the-peace, living the married-single lifestyle couple that is the norm today. We are serious Catholic who believe marriage is forever. With the help of the church, we have worked through those difficult times, and the love in our relationship now is tremendous.

Every Marriage
Marriage is beset with pain. I believe this is true for everyone, even those who claim publicly that they have never had an argument. No one can hurt you like the person for whom you drop all your defenses. No one can disappoint you like the person in whom you invest all your earthly hopes. Marriages are fraught with arguments, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and difficult negotiations; and that is when things are going well! To keep it functional, to keep it happy, we have to work at it. We have to expend serious emotional effort in communication, in negotiation, and frequently in reconciliation. Without constant vigilance, we find we have “grown apart”. But why? Why does it have to be that way? Why does marriage have to be so hard?

The Hard Truth
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved His Church.” And how did Christ love the Church? He suffered and died for her! So St. Paul, and through St. Paul the Holy Spirit, is calling us to suffer and die for our wives.

Suffering is not something we, as 21st century Christians, especially in the Western church, do particularly well. We run to the doctor with every little ache and pain and sniffle. We complain when we have to wait in a long line for confession, or when the priest’s homily exceeds 20 minutes. We make a big deal about giving up chocolate for Lent; and when we abstain from meat, we replace it with shrimp or lobster.

But when it comes to marriage, we HAVE to suffer, and we HAVE to die to ourselves. It really won’t work otherwise. When we don’t — when we insist on putting ourselves first — our marriages suffer and, in many cases, die. Every day is a fight to overcome our intrinsically disordered, selfish nature, if we want our marriages to last.

There is a Purpose
But why? We are, after all, modern man, with great intellect and a bookstore full of self-help books. We ought to be able to put our heads together, act rationally, and work together at life just the way we work with many co-workers who nominally have much less in common with us than our spouse does.

God doesn’t want us to treat our spouse like a co-worker. He wants us to love her, and not in an “Every Kiss Begins With Kay” sort of way. He want us to love as Christ loves, as God loves: selflessly, disinterestedly, unconditionally, with forgiveness and honesty and devotion. It is a love that is foreign to this world marinated in original sin.

The surprising answer is this: the love we learn in marriage is for more than our spouse, for more than our families. It is for the whole Church. As we learn to love our spouse in a Christ-like way, we learn to turn around and reflect that love on others we encounter in our lives. And that is God’s grand and wonderful and not-so-secret plan for our marriages. In marriage we learn not only to love our spouse and our children, but we learn how to love, period, and love is a pre-requisite for entering the eternal kingdom. Remember, Christ taught us that the commandments boil down to loving God first and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

So we, as married couples, have a special advantage in the path to holiness. We have a training ground for love, and a partner to take that training with us. The question is, will we take advantage of it? Will we pick up our crosses and soldier through those difficult times? If we do, the rewards will literally be eternal.

9 Ways Raising a Family Increases Your Holiness

Christ told us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless. When they are born, our children are naked, hungry, and homeless, and they remain wholly dependent on us.

Paul said that love is patient. No one needs patience more than a parent of a 2-year-old.

Denial of self comes with the territory when you are a parent. I want to work on my book, but instead I am driving a child to ballet. I want to buy a new car, but instead I pay tuition for Catholic school. I want to get some sleep, but instead I soothe a sick child. And for some grace-filled reason, I don’t resent it.

God said to be fruitful and multiply. Can’t do that without a family.

Christ’s first miracle took place at a wedding. Think that’s a coincidence?

The Holy Family is the ultimate example of sanctity. All we have to do is follow.

When I teach my kids about the faith, they ask me questions I never thought of. And they won’t accept a non-answer.

Christ said, “Let the little children come to me.” So when we bring our kids to Mass, we are doing His bidding.

Christ said to have the faith of a child. What better way to learn to love God like a child than to watch how our children love us? With simplicity, trust, and no preconditions. Just try finding unconditional love anywhere else.

Lent: A Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Open the windows of your soul, that the fresh air of God’s grace may enter.

Wash your sheets in the Blood of the Lamb.

Throw out the old food of sin and worldly ways, and hunger and thirst for Christ, who is true food and true drink.

Confess your sins, do penance, pray, fast, and give alms.

For the Kingdom of God is at hand.

A Reflection on Suffering

It is hard to remember that all things that happen are allowed by God. Since God is all good, and God is love, and since all things are allowed by Him who cannot ere, then our sufferings must be for the good, as impossible as it may be for us to understand.

God is timeless. He sees the world, from beginning to end equally, as one thing. His timelessness is how we can approach Calvary each day at Mass. When we suffer, He sees us as the eternal souls we are destined to be, and our suffering is an integral part of that meaning.

When we suffer, we must trust in His judgment and love.

From the Divine Office:
The Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great
If we receive good from the hand of God, why should we not also receive evil? Paul saw the riches of wisdom within himself though he himself was outwardly a corruptible body, which is why he says we have this treasure in earthen vessels. In Job, then, the earthenware vessel felt his gaping sores externally; while this interior treasure remained unchanged. Outwardly he had gaping wounds but that did not stop the treasure of wisdom within him from welling up and uttering these holy and instructive words: If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? By the good he means the good things given by God, both temporal and eternal; by evil he means the blows he is suffering from in the present. Of those evils the Lord says, through the prophet Isaiah, I am the Lord, unrivalled, I form the light and create the dark. I make good fortune and create calamity, it is I, the Lord, who do all this. I form the light, and create the dark, because when the darkness of pain is created by blows from without, the light of the mind is kindled by instruction within. I make good fortune and create calamity, because when we wrongly covet things which it was right for God to
create, they are turned into scourges and we see them as evil. We have been alienated from God by sin, and it is fitting that we should be brought back to peace with him by the scourge. As every being, which was created good, turns to pain for us, the mind of the chastened man may, in its humbled state, be made new in peace with the Creator. We should especially notice the skilful turn of reflection he uses when he gathers himself up to meet the persuading of his wife, when he says If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? It is a great consolation to us if, when we suffer afflictions, we recall to remembrance our Maker ’s gifts to us. Painful things will not depress us
if we quickly remember also the gifts that we have been given. As Scripture says, In the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and in the day of affliction, do not forget prosperity. Whoever, in the moment of receiving God’s gifts but forgets to fear possible affliction, will be brought low by his presumption. Equally, whoever in the moment of suffering fails to take comfort from the gifts which it has been his lot to receive, is thrown down from the steadfastness of his mind and despairs.
The two must be united so that each may always have the other’s support, so that both remembrance of the gift may moderate the pain of the blow and fear of the blow may moderate exuberance at receiving the gift. Thus the holy man, to soothe the depression of his mind amidst his wounds, weighs the sweetness of the gifts against the pains of affliction, saying If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?

And from the morning reading of the same day:
Judith 8:25-26,27
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God who, as he tested our ancestors, is now testing us. Remember how he treated Abraham, all the ordeals of Isaac and all that happened to Jacob. For as these ordeals were intended by him to search their hearts, so now this is not vengeance that God exacts against us, but a warning inflicted by the Lord on those who are near his heart.