4th Commandment Allen Doctrine Faith Formation Perspective from the Head Ten Commandments

Family Matters

ernest kral family
My wife’s grandparents and her aunts and uncles

My wife and I are the only members of our family to have moved away from our hometown, the rest of our siblings chose to make their home fairly close to our parents, but we moved a mere three hours west to a smaller city.  So for the last 27 years we have raised our family and become a part of the community in Central Texas.  We were always the ones who drove in from out of town to be with family during the holidays, and we felt bad, from time to time, asking our family to come visit us to attend our children’s birthday parties, recitals, musicals, first communion and confirmations, but we all knew that even though there were a few hours between us it was important to continue to be a part of each other’s lives.  Family is important, when we only had one child, I had the opportunity to move across the country for a job, we seriously considered it, but ultimately we decided that we didn’t want to be that far away from our extended family.

We have never regretted that decision.  Only a few years after we decided not to move, my mother passed away at the relatively young age of 54.  She was admitted to the hospital complaining of back pain and the cause of her pain was determined to be complications from undiagnosed stage 4 breast cancer.  She passed away within a week of the diagnosis and my wife and I and our young children got to see her shortly after she was admitted and diagnosed with cancer and all of us, minus the young children, were able to be at her side praying the rosary when she passed away.  Despite living 3 hours away, we always took every opportunity to get together with our extended family.  My mother would drive up to see us if we needed a babysitter, as long as as we gave her at least a few hours notice.  We have lots of home videos of my parents and my in-laws on family vacations, at all those special family events both in our city as well as theirs.

I have often pondered what it is about extended family relationships that makes them so important.  There is something about getting to know your relatives and even deceased ancestors that helps you to go beyond yourself and see your life from a new perspective.  Knowing your family history allows you to know yourself better, it gives you a sense of belonging, an identity bigger than just yourself.  Let me provide an example, my Mom and Dad did quite a bit of genealogy work prior to my Mother’s untimely death in 1999, and it literally saved their marriage.  I will never know all the details and I doubt that either of my parents could put it into words, but I suspect that by researching the lives of their ancestors and hearing stories about them from older relatives who had not yet died, they were inspired by stories of those who caused them to come into existence.

My kids with my brothers kids at a family funeral

Strong relationships with extended family members can be difficult, but also very rewarding.  You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.  God chose them for you, for your salvation.  Perhaps you have moved far away from your family members, what can you do?  Ultimately it is all about priorities, when you are planning out your holidays, do you plan vacations around spending time with extended family?  Do you keep in contact with your parents, brothers and sisters on a regular basis?  Do you call just to see what is happening in their lives?  Even though many people live far from their extended family, technology has made it easier to keep in touch, video calling is available to most anyone reading this post, social media helps you to share videos, photos and short tidbits about your life with family who may be across the country or the world.  If you can’t be there in person, use your imagination and come up with ways that you can stay involved in the lives of your nieces, nephews and grandparents.  The hardest part of doing this is making the decision that these relationships are important enough to be a priority in your life amongst the many activities and general business of family life.

This has been a rough year for our family and now during this time we find ourselves again facing the reality of losing another parent.  Because we know the value of these relationships, we have chosen to uproot our family and temporarily live in the city of our relatives to be with them during my Father-in-Laws illness.  We have had to make many sacrifices, it is not easy, but it is definitely the best gift we can give to our children and their grandparents.  The opportunity to be present to one another and nourish those relationships we have built with our extended family is irreplaceable.  These interactions with family members are more profoundly meaningful than any other interactions we can have in this life.  These are the people God has given us to love and to cherish.  Families are the design of God to pass on the knowledge of life, faith, and love.

“For the LORD sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. He who honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. He who honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard. He who reveres his father will live a long life; he obeys the LORD who brings comfort to his mother.” Sirach 3:2-7

4th Commandment Allen Faith Formation Parenting Perspective from the Head Vocations

Respect Within the Family

What is respect?

Respect is defined as “a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important” and also as “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.”   While these two definitions may seem to be two ways of saying the same thing, I feel that the first definition keys in on respect being given to those who have earned it by their physical or mental abilities, while the second one focuses more on respect being due to people simply because of their dignity as a human being.respect

Many people find the first definition more palatable and withhold their respect for someone unless they admire them or see something that is good valuable and important in them.  Respect within the family, and indeed within a Christian Culture, should be more closely identified with the second definition in which people are viewed as important and should be treated in an appropriate way. By virtue of each of us being created in the image and likeness of God, we have an inherent dignity and since we are adopted sons and daughters of the Almighty, we have an inherent greatness that is not diminished by what we can or cannot do.  Respect is nothing something that is earned, it is something that should be given out of love for one another.  The child who throws temper-tantrums and the elderly who have lost touch with reality should be shown the same respect as we show to the able minded and physically capable person whom we interact with professionally on a daily basis.  The difference between the two is that when we show respect to the young or the elderly we are being selfless and cannot expect much in return for our kindness.

Within the Context of the Family

There is a lot of talk about respect these days; people demand it, and I would propose that far less give it or perhaps even know what it is.  When you think of respect within your family you probably think about how you desire it from your teenagers.  Respect is an essential ingredient of a holy family, and therefore each family member must seek to understand it, expect it, and give it.  This can only be done by example.  Words like the ones I am writing may help communicate the essence of respect to our children, but will fall on deaf ears if we do not provide a good example of respect.  Showing respect is difficult, especially within our own home, which is where our children will learn the most about what it means to be respectful.  We can be perfectly respectful to our boss (if we work outside the home), to our pastor, the policeman, our co-workers, our friends, but our children will not often see these interactions.  What our children will see is how we treat our spouse, our elderly family members and most importantly how we treat them.

Here are a couple of tips and tricks that may help you as you seek to be a consistent example of respect within your home.  Dr. Ray Guardeni  provides some great advice when he suggests that parents compare the way they speak to their children to the way they speak to their boss at work.  His point is, if you wouldn’t talk to your boss, pastor or someone you hold in high esteem that way, they you shouldn’t talk to your children that way either.  The problem is that often we treat the people that we are closest to with less respect primarily because we know that it would take quite a bit for them to stop loving us.  Often we use that unconditional love as an opportunity for us to take out our frustrations on them and it has to stop.

Another helpful trick is to remember that we, too, have many flaws that we have tried to repair for many years and yet still struggle.  Reflecting on this, we should give our children a little leeway as they struggle with keeping their room clean, doing their homework and chores without being asked, being nice to their siblings and speaking respectfully to their parents. It may take a while for them to get each of these important habits fully formed and they may fall often on their path towards full maturity.  Our children are a great tool that God has given us to help us on our path to holiness.  They will help us be more patient, more forgiving, more humble and more respectful.  Some of us require more work in some of these areas, so don’t be surprised if you pray for patience and have a child that helps you work on that virtue several times a day.  In a word, be humble and hopefully this increase in humility will help us to be a little less harsh and more respectful when helping our children to become mature adults.

Go Forth and Teach Respect

Remember our goal, we are seeking to form a holy family and the foundation of our family is love and mutual respect.  It is not enough to demand respect from our children, we must also give it to them freely.  Our children are born as empty slates and through their experiences in life, they become a fully formed human being, an adult.  During these formative years our children encounter many people from whom they will learn what is right and wrong, how to treat each other and how to love one another.  It was not enough for God to write a book for us to learn these things, He chose to send us His only Son to personally teach us these things, and Jesus chose to continue to teach the world with human beings through his Church.  Holy men and women who have gone before us and some of whom are still alive today continue to inspire us to love and respect one another in a truly profound, godly manner.  In a way that many of us may not fathom, we as parents have the ability to be this profound teacher of our children by our good example, but the opposite also holds true.  Have you ever met a disrespectful child and wondered where he or she learned to be so disrespectful?  Then you met that child’s parents and you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt where it came from.

Escriva_at_Mass_1971With perseverance, respect can be taught within your family and not only will you enjoy respect within your home, but you will also be a light to those who come into contact with members of your family and are treated respectfully.  Our world needs more respect and watching the nightly news and talk shows is not where people will learn it, in fact, they will many times be instructed in how to be disrespectful.  Our world needs examples of respect for all human life, those unborn, those living and those nearing the end of their lives.  The work we do within our families has a profound effect on the world in which we live, St. Josemaria Escriva said, “these world crises are crises of saints“.  St. John Paul II that “The future of the world and the Church passes through the family” Familiaris Consortio #75.  This task of creating an atmosphere of respect within our family will reach further than the walls of our homes, it will go out into our neighborhoods, our Churches, our cities and throughout our country.  The family is mighty and has the ability to change the world.

4th Commandment Domestic Church Erika D Homeschool Motherhood Parenting Raising Saints Ten Commandments

Back to Basics in {Catholic} Homeschooling

Back to basics in Catholic HomeschoolingThis article comes to you almost exactly on the anniversary of when we first introduced this series on {Catholic} Homeschooling.  As we recap the year I would like to take a step back and share some basics which we have brushed upon in the other articles but are worthy of compiling and giving a focus to in this article.

In the Letter to the Ephesians 4:1-6, the Lord tells us, through Saint Paul, “I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity.  Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism.  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”  The vocation we have been called to by God, the vocation primarily being wife and secondarily being mother is one that requires much sacrifice and love of our part.  As we know that Holy Mother Church teaches, in her infinite wisdom, that the man is the head of the home but the mother is the heart of the home. Sadly, this world tells us otherwise; this world teaches that our focus should be on being successful outside of the home.  Even when you have the most lovely of professions (as I did instructing children for 15 years), our focus now is on instructing our own children within our home; the children the Lord has entrusted us with. Satan’s plan is to tear motherhood down, he hates our openness to life, he hates our love for our children, and our desire to raise them as God-fearing soldiers of Christ.  So he will do what he can to try to tear us down but we must arm ourselves with the necessary gifts the Lord has given us, through Holy Mother Church.

It takes time and practice to train children, it is the most exhausting job in the world but also the most rewarding! Alone we cannot do it, we need all the prayers and graces and intercessions available to raise God fearing children! We must fight for their soul because if we are not vigilant the evil one will snatch their innocence and corrupt their hearts. We must be strong in our own faith by being in a state of Grace, receiving the Sacraments, and setting an example always. I know it is not an easy task as children can be merciless and demanding of us day and night, but it is the right task. We must be completely selfless and devout ourselves 150% to this task at hand. God has entrusted each of us with those little souls to shepherd them to Him, please never give up on your children, ever. Pray for them always, ask for their Guardian Angel’s help with this task, when you cannot do it, turn to the Blessed Mother for guidance, and always keep your eyes on the Crucifix! After all, when God creates a soul the next human to love that child is his mother. Please friends, I beg you, pray for me and all mothers always.  As parents need to work together to raise the children, exalting our roles as mothers does not, in any way,  negate the important role of the father in the home.  It is just that mothers have the power and privilege of preparing the souls of their children.

So it is vital for mothers to train the child to keep order, be self disciplined, and to accept sacrifice. Mothers should wake up each morning and pray for the spirit of fortitude so that she can train her children well and by God’s laws and standards.  Ask yourself questions like: “Am I raising a Christian family? Are you raising priests? Bishops? or Religious in your families? If we want to change the world, we must raise up our children IN HOLINESS.  Saint John Vianney, over 150 years ago said, “The reason our times are so irreligious is on account of un-Christian families.”  The key to restoring order in this world is by raising Christian children by way of obedience and humility within our families.  Look to other families whom also were prime examples of these, maybe it is a family in your own parish or there are others like the family of Saint Therese of Lisieux.  The Holy Family is the perfect example of this and help us by their influence.

Am I saying we should be super woman or super mom? Not really.  See there is a huge difference between a woman who wants to show off and make herself better, bigger, and wiser than others…this is not the woman or kind of mother the Lord is calling us to be.  No, my dear sisters, the kind of woman the Lord wants us to be is valiant woman (which is why Catholic Sistas is starting the new Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series).  The Lord wants us to be a woman always looking to please God and not be a show off to others.  A woman that has her homeschool under control, knows what she wants from her homeschool and has a selected, well thought out curriculum and schedule so that there is order in the home.

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; Not of works, that no man may glory.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them,” ~ Ephesians 2: 8-10.  

So we are to look for our peace in Christ through our works in our homes.  When we fail? Are we to be discouraged?  No, because we learn from failure and we are also reminded that God is always in control, not us.  We want our children to be Godly by setting an example to them; they will be good if they are being God-like. It is also important that not only do we teach our children but that we also spend quality time with them to establish relationship with our children. Lastly, the quality of events and activities we are involved in matters more than the quantity.  Do not over burden yourself or your children by running around all over town each afternoon.  We want peaceful families not busy families.

A Year in Recap: Articles on the How’s and Why’s of Homeschooling:

  1. 10 Steps to Start Catholic Homeschooling
  2. Goal Setting in the Catholic Homeschool
  3. Homeschooling Methods 101
  4. The {Catholic} Homeschooling Socialization Myth
  5. Order in{Catholic} Homeschooling
  6. Learning Styles in the {Catholic} Homeschool
  7. 10 Steps to Selecting a {Catholic} Homeschool Curriculum
  8. {Catholic} Homeschooling Beyond Academics
  9. Teaching Religion in {Catholic Homeschooling}
  10. Teaching the Love of Writing in the {Catholic} Homeschool
  11. Teaching Reading in the {Catholic} Homeschool
  12. 10 Steps to Teach Writing in the {Catholic} Homeschool

Sources for this article and suggested further reading/listening:

4th Commandment Communion Confession Fruits of the Holy Spirit Ink Slingers Parenting Sacraments Series Shiela Spiritual Growth Uncategorized Year of Faith

Come, Holy Spirit, and Give Us Peace

This is the third of a 12-part, once-a-month series on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. This month’s fruit is PEACE . Be sure to see previous posts beginning with CHARITY and check back next month as another contributor explores the fruit of PATIENCE.

You would not believe the uproar in my home as I sit and try to ponder peace, one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Here I am trying to expound on something that seems to be an elusive practice in my own home.  There is something very wrong with this picture of me tapping away at the keyboard and intermittently and rather loudly expressing my dismay to my children.  “How can we expect to have peace in the Middle East if you two cannot even share a single toy?!”  And, “Mother Theresa always said peace begins with a smile…not this tiresome bickering between you two!  I am pretty sure that’s how wars start.”  So, if by our fruits, we are known, then, our gig is up.

I have been reflecting on the fruit of peace to fulfill my obligation to write a blog post for Fruits of the Holy Sprit series.  And, I have rather clumsily stumbled upon a few thoughts that have helped me to understand how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and what our role may be.  Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit as opposed to a gift.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are freely given, whereas, the fruits are the observable behaviors done by those who have accepted the gifts and who have maintained a state of sanctifying grace.  These concepts are at once simple and profound.  And, ultimately, I have learned we have much work to do to attain God’s peace in our homes, communities, and world. We are called to be a light to the world.  We are the instruments of peace, if we choose to be. The problem may be that too few of us are willing to do the work.  And, fewer still understand what work we are to do.

 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.”

Often, what we call peace is merely the appearance of peace or man’s attempt to avoid conflict.  Peace is many things to many people.  It is the trite proclamation of every aspiring beauty queen.  To others, it is the perfect ending.  And still others define it as a world without war.  It is both a gift from God and a call to action.  It is a ubiquitous desire and, yet, it seems to be so far out of reach.  We live in a world where wars never seem to end.  Violence and conflict dominate the headlines.  Social media has become an outlet for the expression of aggression and ultimately hatred toward those who disagree with us.  Discord thrives in our homes and in our communities.  Divorce rates continue to soar.  With such a dearth of peace, believers can fall into despair and begin to feel that the Holy Spirit has abandoned us.  And in the want for peace among the faithful, detractors find cause for vindication.

“Peace be with you.”

Before Christ hands Himself over to die for us, He gives us His own body and blood as spiritual food for the journey, thereby initiating the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.  Upon rising from the dead, He greetsHis disciples, who are filled with fear and a sense of abandonment, with the words, “Peace be with you.” Next, He breathes the Holy Spirit upon them.  In the very next breath, Christ institutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  These two Sacraments are gifts from God that will help us to establish His peace on earth.  Yet many demonstrate, at best, a lack of gratitude and at worst a disdain and denial of the Eucharist.  Often, the Holy Eucharist is received unworthily.  Many are unaware of the requirements to receive the Sacrament properly.  And, others avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation because of fear and shame or they tell themselves that they don’t need to talk to a priest.

While we can always go “straight to God,” God knows that we are corporeal, as well as spiritual, beings.  Therefore, he gave us the Sacraments.  To confess our sins to God in the presence of a priest is the most pleasing way to express our sorrow and it is the only way to receive the sacramental graces of absolution, freedom from sin, and reconciliation with God.

I have applied this revelation to address the frequent conflicts in my home.  In the past, I have lamented to my children about the reason God made the fourth commandment all about mom and dad.  “The first three are about God,” I tell them.  “Mom and Dad come next and don’t you forget it!”  While I was correct in teaching them that breaking the commandments causes conflict, my tone was not very peaceful and eye rolls often followed.   So, I decided to give each of my older children an examination of conscience to read each night before bed.  I told them that this is their special time with God.  I taught them to tell God they are sorry and to pray the Act of Contrition.  In this way, I let them know that they can sleep peacefully, in the knowledge that they have begun the process of reconciling with God.

I have witnessed the positive transformation in family relationships, respect toward my authority, and in expressions of peace in the home.  As a family, we encourage frequent Sacramental Confession.  It has been a blessing on our marriage and our family.  By going frequently, we stop bad habits from turning into sins that could easily destroy our marriage and divide our family.  Additionally, by frequent reconciliation with God, we are prepared to worthily receive the Holy Eucharist.  This way we find ourselves well rested and energized for the journey toward peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

While participation in these two Sacraments is the most important work of peacemakers, we can do nothing without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Here is a list of other peacemaking practices that demonstrate that we have the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  When we catch ourselves doing these things, we know that God is living in us and working through us.

  1. Practice the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
  2. Practice the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
  3. Perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
  4. Forgive your enemies.
  5. Love your enemies.
  6. Prefer virtuous pursuits over sinful indulgences.
  7. Perform the duties of your state in life with joy and gratitude.
  8. Pray daily.
  9. Read Scripture daily.
  10. Smile.

4th Commandment Adrienne Marriage Parenting Respect Life

A Holy Family – Thoughts on Procreation and Christian Marriage

Pray for us, O Holy Family.

The Catholic Church’s stance against birth control has catapulted to the forefront of today’s news, as it is utterly shocking to modern day folk that anyone could be against birth control.  The contraceptive mentality is held in high esteem, as it is considered wholly responsible and good across all walks of life.

Allow me to step back in time (and even out of time) to explain why I agree with the Church’s teaching against contraception within Christian marriage.  Before the creation of the Earth, God created heavenly beings, the angels – bodiless souls with free will like our own human souls.  As we read in the book of Genesis, then the Lord created the Earth, and created the first human, Adam, and from him, God created his helpmate, Eve.  Adam and Eve were different from the angels in that they were souls bound in time and space to bodies on Earth.

The most common way God allows for the creation of new souls is through a male and female choosing to come together.  There are other ways as well, like the devastation of forcible rape, or electively through advancements in modern technology (surrogacy, IUI, IVF, etc). But no matter which of these ways, God has chosen to restrict the creation of new souls to deliberate human acts.  Even Christ Himself was not made incarnate without the deliberate consent of the Virgin Mary.  Being God, the Lord doesn’t need to involve us humans in the soul creation process; yet, He does, and in effect He demands our participation.  Enter, the institution of marriage.

Have you ever noticed the number of commandments that relate to marriage?  Let’s review.  Quickly, we think to “Thou shall not commit adultery” and “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife”, so that’s two.  And, I make the assumption that in the commandment “Obey your mother and father”, God’s most perfect plan is that those two be married.  Three of the Ten Commandments are explicitly related to marriage – the same number of commandments as God reserved about our relationship with Him.  Marriage must be pretty important.

I believe that the importance God places on marriage also shows us the importance of soul creation, and this concept has been shunned by our world today.  It is perceived as barbaric to expect that marriage be both unitive AND procreative.  As the U.S. battles about the HHS mandate, and whether or not contraceptives and sterilization should be covered, we are ultimately debating whether or not infertility should be a basic human right (ask any infertile couple to comment about the wisdom of that one).  Today’s climate is terribly hostile to procreation – the creation of souls.  The Catholic Church’s stance against birth control is wildly counter-cultural… as it should be.

It is in marriage, open-to-life loving marriage, that God prefers to use Christians to create new souls for Heaven.  When two Christians obey God’s calling to marriage, it should be with the deliberate act of offering God their bodies for the creation of as many or few souls as He sees fit.  And the two also offer Him their family to raise any souls entrusted to their care for His Glory in Heaven.  Marriage is a lifelong vocation, and God already built into each couple a way to cease soul production when He sees fit… not though man-made contraception or surgical sterilization, but through menopause.  Crazy, I know, to suggest trusting the Lord with fertility for so long.  He might go nuts and create too many souls (is that really possible?)  I jest, but ultimately, we should consider it a privilege if God desires to create many souls from our own personal marriages.

I am convinced that God uses even miscarriages to populate Heaven, and I have a theory that with how many miscarriages there seem to be these days, that God  is working to quickly populate Heaven with even more souls to pray for our fallen world.  I am utterly thankful to the couples who continue to be open to life (and heartache) in the face of miscarriage because they are bearing such a cross in helping God create new souls.

There are indeed grave exceptions where some couples perhaps for or while or no longer can safely help the Lord create new souls, and this is understandable.  But I pray that Christians will resist what the world has planned for their marriage, and instead focus on what God has planned for their marriage, especially with procreation.  I pray that married Christians remember it is through their vows to each other and to Him that God hopes to find his greatest support in the creation of his new souls for Heaven.  If married Christians turn their back on God when it comes to the creation of new souls, then what does it say to the world?

From Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer in the Gospel of John (17:14-21)

“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth. I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”