A Call to Conscience

This past Friday, November 20th, a group of Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians issued a document called the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience. This document originally signed by over 125 prominent religious leaders, is a 4,700 word call to Christians to stand by their convictions and not abandon their consciences when it comes to the defining issues of our day.

Normally, I don’t include any political references in this blog simply because others say it much better than me, and my forte is resources not politics. But I feel this is an important document and I have signed it. If you are interested in learning more, or in signing it (and the names are kept private) I urge you to visit The Manhattan Declaration website or their Facebook Page. The entire text and also the names of the original signers are here.

I was glad to see that several important Catholics, including bishops and cardinals have officially signed it. Their names are:

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Denver
Most Rev. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop, Diocese of New York, N.Y.
Dr. William Donohue, President, Catholic League (New York)
Fr. Joseph D. Fessio, Founder and Editor, Ignatius Press (Ft. Collins, Colo.)
Dr. Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College & Kings College (N.Y.)
Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop Emeritus, Diocese of Detroit
Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, Bishop, Diocese of Portland, Maine
Most Rev. John J. Myers, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop, Diocese of Kansas City, Kan.
Most Rev. John Nienstedt, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop, Diocese of Phoenix
His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop, Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo.
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics & Public Policy Center, Wash D.C.
Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
Most Rev. David A. Zubik, Bishop, Diocese of Pittsburgh

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.

Starting A Catholic Book Club

Well, I have been wanting to write about Catholic Book Clubs for DAYS, but we have been in DSL distress for over a week now. So, please forgive me for not posting. For the past couple of months we have had occasional Internet disruptions. Usually they have not lasted long. Last week, we started having longer breaks in service and had two different days when we pretty much did not have any service. We have called our DSL provider and they have been as helpful as they can be, but sometimes you just have to work from one diagnostic procedure to another until you figure out what is wrong. They have been here four times and so far, so good…for now. So let me pick up a post I was working on last week but was so rudely interrupted…

I have several good Catholic friends that I haven’t seen in awhile, and I was thinking one night about what I could do to get us together. Another bible study? Or perhaps a party? Neither really got me that excited. I wanted something where we had fun but it did not involve a lot of work, especially on my part. It would be nice to have husbands too since we never get together as couples… Nights or weekends might be better since I have several friends that work during the day. I wanted it to be more of a social event, but I’m not much of a party giver. Too much stress. And I wanted to do whatever it was on an ongoing basis.

Then it hit me. A Catholic book club. It is a great excuse to read and expose others to great Catholic books. The real reason however, was to have fun, to catch up with my friends… to socialize. We could perhaps meet new friends, too. I had an email together in a few minutes and a lot of people really liked the idea. All this came to mind as I was reading a recent post by Jennifer at Conversion Diary. She is planning on a mini Book Club with her readers and I realized that I wanted to share with you this whole idea of the Catholic Book Club.

So, what did I do to organize it? Well, I’ve learned from organizing bible studies that you need to invite lots of people in order to get a few. That is just the way it is. Especially, if people are scattered over wide distances. For us that means maybe 1/2 hour driving time. You also have to expect that the people who join will not always come. People will be out of town, get sick, have other commitments come up, etc. Years ago, I was always disappointed because a few people could not make it. I would try to change the date, but that would inconvenience other people. Once I finally faced reality that not everyone will come every time I was able to make a plan and have fun.

I decided to make the meetings on Friday nights, the second Friday of the month. Friday night seemed good since there is no school or church the next morning. Many people are really involved with their families on Saturday and so daytime would be out, and in the evenings people are recovering from their day at the beach or whatever. I thought the second Friday of the month would be good since holidays or school startings don’t seem to be then, etc.

We vote on which books to use. At first, I compiled a list of good Catholic books and asked people to vote by email. Now that we are meeting, I propose books to the people attending the meeting, and we choose a book then and there for the next month. Here are the books that we have chosen to discuss so far.

A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot

I’m Not Being Fed: Discovering the Food That Satisfies the Soul by Jeff Cavins

Search and Rescue: How to Bring Your Family and Friends Into, or Back Into, the Catholic Church by Patrick Madrid

Because we started during the Summer many were out of town or unavailable. Some people could not get babysitters. The babysitter point is important. For years we have had women’s bible studies or other studies, and always children are welcome. But since this is once a month, and more of a social event, the adults want to socialize without the children. Nursing babies are always an exception, of course.

We have the meetings in people’s homes and once we had a really small group and decided to have it at Starbucks. So far, since we are getting started, and had one meeting specifically discussing a book for women, we have not had husbands yet. I’m hoping we do that in the future.

Refreshments are fairly simple. When we had the book club at my house, I had cheese and crackers, wine, some fruit and cookies. We start about 7pm so everyone has had dinner and is not too hungry. Perhaps a dessert bar next time? We’ll see. I stuck my kids in the family room with a movie and computer games and they were great. Of course, they are 14 and 6, so that was not any problem. There are advantages to not having toddlers!

We do not have a specific format for discussion. Many of us usually make notes or outline in the book parts that specifically helped us or that we liked. So we start off with catching up with each other, open the wine, have some food and eventually we get to the book. If someone has not finished the book, we don’t mind at all. In fact, I always remind them that if they haven’t read the book come anyway. This is supposed to be fun, there will be no test at the end.

How do I choose the books to pick from? Well, I try to get several books that have topics that I think people will learn from, but are not too deep. Something they can finish in the month time period. I also look for popular books that I think people would like to read. No politics, period. I only choose from good Catholic publishers. I don’t want any books that will steer people wrong in their faith. So no dissenting authors. I also don’t want devotional books on the list. Those are better read slowly and prayerfully over a long period of time. Here are some of the books that I’m thinking of adding to the list for people to choose from:

7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn

The Mass of the Early Christians by Mike Aquilina

The Fathers of the Church, Expanded Edition by Mike Aquilina

Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life by Bishop Charles Chaput

Catholics and the New Age: How Good People Are Being Drawn into Jungian Psychology, the Enneagram, and the Age of Aquarius by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

I’m pleased the way things have worked out so far, though we have had to postpone a couple of meetings. You do need to remind people throughout the month to get the book early to have time to read it. And remind them of the date several times so they can get their schedules together. I’m always surprised that people say…”Oh, I thought it was next Friday!” or whatever.

So far it is a positive experience for all of us and I’m hoping it will continue in the future for quite a while. I’m interested to know if you have any experience with Catholic book clubs, or book clubs in general. Do you have any tips?

Thank You Lord

Thank you Lord for a blessed life. Thank you for my family and good friends. Thank you for faith in times of confusion and troubles, sorrow and pain. Thank you for my home, the strong roof over our heads, the abundance of clothes our family has, and shoes. So many children walk over dusty roads, rusty garbage and sewage, but my children have shoes to protect their feet.

Thank you for our family’s health, our doctors and a hospital 10 minutes away. Many have to travel hours or days to get to a hospital. We have a rescue squad 3 blocks away and an excellent hospital, in fact several. Thank you for medicine, both cheap and expensive – so, so many don’t even have an aspirin.

Thank you for my education so that my intellect is fostered and broadened, my curiosity fed, and my family enriched. Thank you for the ability to send my children to school. So many sit in the dust with a tiny blackboard and chalk to learn their letters. Many children don’t even have that. Girls all over the world are denied even a rudimentary education, but I went to college. I can teach my children at home if I would so choose. Many countries deny this. I can take my children to museums, aquariums, parks and zoos, others don’t even know these things exist.

Thank you Lord for books! Oh, Lord what would I do with out books? Today, I can learn to make bread or fix a faucet, learn about quarks or black holes, enjoy a novel or enrich my soul. Thank you Lord. I can take my children to the library. Many in the world cannot even comprehend that such a thing exists – and for free!

Oh, Lord – thank you for my computer where I can learn anything in the touch of a fingertip, in microseconds. I can talk to others with the same interests across the world and know that we are not alone – when we thought we were before. Thanks for the TV too, where the whole world is opened in front of our eyes. Good and bad, just like people, but a blessing nonetheless.

Thank you Lord for my husband, wise and strong, yet gentle and loving. So many women have been abused, abandoned or ignored. Thank you Lord for loving, kind in-laws, too.

Thank you for air conditioning and indoor plumbing! Thank you for washing machines! I don’t have to beat my clothes on a rock in the river, or get my hand caught in a wringer. I don’t have to do more than sort, load and throw in the dryer. Thank you God for dryers! I can do my laundry at midnight or if it is raining. I don’t have to haul loads of clothes in the car and wait for hours at the laundromat since my washer & dryer are steps away.

Speaking of cars, thank you Lord for cars. We can transport our whole family across town or across the country with nary a thought. Many people have to walk miles to go to church, each way. I can jump in the car and be there in 6 minutes. Many people never leave their village or town. Many never go farther away than 10 miles from their homes. We may go more than 10 miles to visit a friend or go to work. Thank you for airplanes too, so we can even see the world.

Thank you Lord for employment, for every paycheck, for we can eat and eat well. Too, too, many places in the world families have only a bit of bread and beans, if that. In some places Lord, people eat cakes made of dirt to fill their bellies. They have to watch their children starve to death, women carrying dead babies to their graves. We have an abundance, and whine if our particular brand is out of stock. Thank you for refrigerators for the food we have will not spoil and make us sick. Thank you that my family does not know what real hunger means.

Thank you Lord for the garden my family grows. For sprouting seeds and luscious produce. Thank you for inventing the beautiful, red bursting strawberries, the incredibly fast beans, and the prolific indescribable tomato. Yes, thank you for tomatoes, they are truly a gift. And garlic. And onions too! You had a good day Lord when you invented tomatoes, onions and garlic. Thank you too for the fruit trees, bursting with nutrition and flavor, to fill our stomachs.

Thank you for the rain and the sun to drench the soil with the good things it needs. I even thank you for the hurricanes and the earthquakes, for they are part of your plan for Earth. They are minor inconveniences compared to the grandeur of the building of mountains, and the workings of the oceans. Ah, the deep, deep oceans, Lord. How wondrous are your creations, your waves, your sea creatures, the saltiness of the sea, the bounty of the sea, the sound of the sea.

Dear Lord, I thank you for the delicate child in the womb, floating in a sea, drifting to sleep by the rocking of its mothers voice and steps. Thank you for the kicks of life I was privileged to feel. The groans of childbirth and the sweet, sweet breath of a child on my cheek. The glorious privilege of watching my child nuzzle and nurse at my breast, his hand delicately placed upon it.

I thank you so much for being born at this time, in this wonderful country. Where there is freedom. Where I can speak my mind and not worry about a knock at the door in the middle of the night. Where we are safe. Yes, bad things do happen here, but nothing like other countries. War is not here. Machine guns carried by thugs do not roam my streets. Bombs do not explode in my supermarket. I thank you. We have laws and courts that, while not perfect, are the envy of millions.

We are truly blessed. Blessed to have this Earth. Blessed that you gave us your son. Blessed for his sacrifice. Blessed to have your Church guide us. Blessed for your overflowing, never-ending love. Thank you.