Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer Sacramentals Susan

How to Build Your Family on a Rock (and Why!)

Communicate together, Heal together

Recently our family has had to deal with injustice and dishonesty toward our family. It was painful, particularly because the other party does not see any wrong done by them and made it clear we are never to interact with them ever again. We tried to express gratitude for the wonderful opportunities they made possible for us, but the words were not appreciated. Our family has had to walk away from a good thing that went sour. We have talked and discussed all the details within the confine of our home to help each other get past the pain and move onto forgiveness. It was our youth that reminded us that new opportunities will come along, and that is exciting.

When we allowed the topic to come up, further healing came. We listened to each other, corrected each other, and praised the efforts of one another. We acknowledged the difficulties and injustice, but also marveled at how could Christ take all the hatred He was given, the pain? How could he forgive so deeply in the moment of the injustice!? He did it for us to learn from. Sharing the pains together as a family has made us stronger as a family, and gave us firmer footing.

 

Pray together for those who hurt you

Christ was not joking when he said, “Pray for your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, pray for those who persecute you.” Every day each of us encounters personal hurt. We can be truly hurt by the words of others. And frustration only grows when we cannot patch the issue with more words. There comes a time, rather early on in injustices, that we must pray for those who pained us. We must take Jesus’s words to heart and action; not alone either, but as a family and with Christian friends.

I learned more personally this lesson within the family at daily prayer. Our daughter had encountered a person whose personality clashed with hers. Instead of avoidance and being mad, she asked friends to pray for the other girl, and mentioned the girl in our family night prayers. Within a month, they were getting along so very well and enjoying each others presence. A trust had formed not only between them, but between my husband and I with the girl. Only gratitude for the learning experience and for the girl lingers. And that is Good!

 

Order Life Around God

I was warned by a relative, whom I look up to as wise, that we had our priorities out of line. He expressed concern and I told him I would think more about it. As the summer progressed I began understanding what he saw that I had not. We were putting our kids’ activities before the first duties to God and family necessities. We were spending money where it was not prudent at this time in our lives. Thankfully, God took direct care of ending those activities by means outside our control, but not without pain, and not without much blessing. But why could I not have been more prudent to begin with? Why do we parents invest so much time and energy into activities that may not be what our kids REALLY need to be doing? It seems like a disease at times!

In our recent situation, the activity was ended by a chain of unfortunate events and we were left with “free time.” I looked out the window one of these days and saw my daughter working on a hobby she has not done in over a year. I said to my husband, “That’s what she should be doing. Exploring her own interests naturally.” What God actually did for our family was cleared out the source of sorrows, stresses, and drama so we could experience freedom to follow Him wherever he leads. As a family we are seeing the blessings of NOT being scheduled around unnecessary activities. We share with you the importance of scheduling our family lives around Sunday mass, monthly confession, daily family Rosary, and a daily sit-down family meal.  These are the daily routines that keep families on the Rock.

 

Model especially when it is difficult

In the home parents must witness to the family the higher call Christ demands. In the world, each member of the family must model His high ideal, especially in difficult situations. In injustice, we must be just. In suffering, we must strive to be patient and kind. In confrontation, we must behave to gain a clear mind and keep returning to words of forgiveness and gratitude, or if need be end the conversation with grace and walk away.

On a morning my own deep knowledge of injustices done to my family became very raw with sorrow. My dear friend saw me and with compassion listened, then advised me: “We are called to be the ones in the world who model Christ’s higher call, so in every situation, God’s grace can usher into people’s lives.” The words were absolutely true and gave me new insight on the Christian call to holiness. At a later time, with serious words we clarified with our youth that anger needs to stop somewhere. Even the smallest gossip proves we still are angry…it musts stop with us so forgiveness and love may take its place.

As Christians we are expected to stop vice in its tracks so it cannot go any further. As for our family, we choose to stop it here! But we need each other to be strong to live virtue rather than vice. It cannot be done without communication, prayer, and living our lives around God.

 

Choose your King

So often we do devotions as individuals. The family has the gift to develop devotions in community with one another. Praying the Rosary, reading the Bible, going to Mass and confession, going to Adoration; all of these are main forms of devotion. But what can the family do that takes it a step further? They can have a Home Enthronement.

A decade ago I use to organize Home Enthronements for families in our town through word of mouth. I had to give it up for many years now for health and family reasons. However, a series of events occurred since August that made it clear I should return to this apostolate and offer my services to families again.  I am amazed at the smooth progress being made in getting started again. But what is it? And why do it for your family? Then How?

Home Enthronement is when a family asks Our Lady to come into their home and prepare them to enthrone Christ as King of their family. In the fewer terms: The family asks to be built on the Rock, and to be sheltered from the storms of life by Christ, their King. They make their home a domestic Church, a “tabernacle” for the neighborhood. In the ceremony, done in the home with a priest, the family consecrates itself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; images of the Two Hearts are blessed and hung in the center of the home; the whole house is blessed; and Brown Scapulars are given and anyone needing enrolled could be at that time. It is beautiful! The requirements of the family then is to pray daily together, renewing often the consecration prayer together; attend Sunday Mass.  Many families wear the scapular, and maybe hang one in the home or on their door. In our town, we give Benedictine medals as a gift to the families to hang above their exit doors. The family home is literally transformed and strengthened.

If you are interested in having your family and home enthroned to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, go to www.wafusa.org , then go to Shop, then to Home Enthronements. Buy your family the Home Enthronement Kit. It will have everything you need in it, except the Images of the Two Hearts. Read the booklet and ask your parish priest to come do the ceremony with you all. If you have any questions or if you want to know how to offer this in your parish, where to get images to print, etc. you may contact me through my blog at www.theeighthstation.blogspot.com .

 

Be a Light in Darkness

None of us have to look far to see the world is very dark. People are confused in morality and religion. We do not have to look far to learn – Catholic Christians need to grow brighter! What better why then with Christ’s Light permeating from our homes and from the foundation of our lives being built on the Rock!? Vice and evil need to stop somewhere. Stop it before it leaves our families, so it stops spreading into the world. Build your family on Rock which is Christ and His Church!

 

Categories
Domestic Church Fatherhood Homeschool Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Marriage Matrimony Motherhood Parenting Prayer

A Call to Order: Strategies for a Fruitful Fall

I can count the number of pool days left on one hand. Already, I notice the dimming light of endless days of summer. If you are sending your kids to school, your calendar is filling up with open houses and orientations and your days are teeming with school supply shopping. Homeschooling families are opening boxes full of treasures, aka this year’s books, and unveiling a tidy, fully stocked classroom. There is so much to look forward to and, yet, so much to stress about. I’m hoping to avoid the anxiety and I have chosen four strategies:
1) Serious meal planning
2) Gathering the family for prayer
3) Walking for health and well being
4) Weekly family meetings

This meeting is called to order with prayer.

Today, I am going to talk about our experience with family meetings and how it ties together all strategies. We have a large family with kids who are all unique, passionate, and energetic people. I know some day, I will appreciate this. Right now, it feels like we are being pulled in all directions and that is a recipe for conflict and stagnation. Last year, we were contemplating a big change in our family life. We were overwhelmed at the prospect of the logistics. We did a lot of fretting and our tempers were short. Then, my husband decided that we needed to gather the family and conduct a formal meeting. This is something he does every day at work. I’ve been to my share of meetings and I’ve had to run more than a few myself. So, this was right in our wheelhouse.

The young kids were amused. The older kids were certain this was going to mean more work for them. And, while we had experience running meetings with other adults, we had not run a strategic meeting with distracted and defiant children. After a few disappointing attempts to implement the meetings, we took a break. Life got busy again. Then, the kids started asking, “When are we going to have a meeting?”

So, we decided that we were on to something and went back to the drawing board. We just needed to tweak it a bit. Our tweaks included: creating an agenda and providing a copy for each member of the family, setting ground rules, and providing art materials. Here is what we discovered to be the great value of weekly family meetings:

1) Open communication: The number one relationship problem is poor communication. This is true in friendships, marriages, and families. Families go through so many changes and this can be anxiety provoking for children. So, the number one goal of our family meetings was to make sure that we clearly communicated any upcoming changes and how it may affect each child and the family. Kids are not too young to understand financial struggles, challenges at work, health problems, and other “adult” concerns. It is important to be honest with your children without scaring them. So consider their age and developmental level when presenting information. For example, the economy has hurt so many families in recent years. Our family has been affected. This means we can’t spend freely, we need to save, budget,and avoid debt. Kids can play an important part. We tell our kids that they can help by turning off lights when they are not in use, not do the “gimme gimme” or say “that’s not fair” when mom and dad say “no,” and help with meal planning to avoid the need to dine out last minute. They are very creative and, if given the task, can come up with some creative ways to save. This open communication about finances decreases anxiety and teaches them good financial practices. As Catholics, we also want to teach our kids the dangers of unbridled consumerism. In that way, our financial struggles are a gift. Communicating this view empowers kids to take action and not feel like victims.

2) Goal Setting and Review: Here, we set personal and family goals. By writing goals and sharing them with each other, we are more likely to achieve them. Again, consider the age and ability of each child and help them to set measurable and achievable goals. Encourage creativity and personal challenge. These goals can be spiritual, academic, physical, or social. We encourage them to tell us how we can help them achieve their goal. This is a time when we can plan family trips or family goals. We also review achieved goals and this motivates them to set more goals.

3) Building strong relationships: Kids present us with so many opportunities to correct them. They are impulsive, forgetful, and messy. And, on busy school days, it seems the only interactions we have are, “Have you finished your homework?!” “Clean your room!” “How many times do I have to tell you not to swing from the curtains!?” Okay, that hasn’t happened in awhile but you get the picture. We try to gather each night for dinner. But, with tennis practice, wrestling, and gymnastics in a large family of growing kids with social lives of their own, the opportunity for a peaceful gathering is rare. Our weekly family meeting helps to reset any frustrations that have built up during the week. We can also strategize what went well and what we need to improve. Prayer is an integral part of the meetings. We begin and end with prayer and we make sure each family member has a chance to share a special intention.

4) Strong marriage: My husband and I have started daily walks outdoors. This is our time away from the kids each day. We plan our week and check in with each other. It has become the time to plan our family meetings and our time to simply be together. And, it is on these walks that I was able to identify the four areas that I think will help us have a fantastic fall.

At the end of September, we are making a pilgrimage to Philadelphia to attend Mass with Pope Francis. That’s our first order of business for the next meeting. We are excited and we will share our adventure when we return.

Categories
Ink Slingers Patty

Kindly address me as ‘Your Royal Highness.’

When I had my first child I couldn’t wait to hear him say that one treasured word every mother anticipates with great joy. Over the months I endured hundreds of ‘dada’s’ and a mash-up of consonants and vowels which only the most skilled linguist could have deciphered. Finally one day, my chubby-cheeked, tow-headed, spring-loaded Tigger of a boy gazed intently into my eyes, and slowly opened his mouth. I held my breath in anticipation with my hands clasped together just knowing this was going to be it-I wanted to treasure this moment, make a mental video of it which I could play over and over again in my mind as my toddler grew into a teen and then an adult. Matthew’s lips formed the word with care…’cookie!’…okay, that REALLY wasn’t what I was expecting or hoping for but it was a start, after all, if a child can say, ‘cookie’, surely the name of the woman who carried him in her womb, loved, cared for and nourished him would not be far behind…right????

Fast forward to a four year old. The word I waited for with such eagerness was starting to get old. ‘Mama, what are you doing. Mama, how does that work, Mama, can I have some ice-cream, Mama…mama….mama…MAMA!

I readily admit there were times when the constant repetition of my title of matriarchal status caused my eyes to glaze over and I involuntarily entered into a catatonic or semi-comatose state. I was once informed that I stood for a full three hours with my right hand raised in the air, mid-pancake flip-while my precocious pre-schooler ran circles around me chattering incessantly, ‘mama, mama, mama, mamaaaaaaaaaa’ Well, it may have only been 30 seconds but it seemed like three hours.

Research has not been initiated as of yet to determine the cause of these episodes of stupor in mothers, however, I have a sneaking suspicion that the repetition of the word, ‘mama’ at a certain frequency and pitch will inevitably cause any mother of any age to gradually lose all awareness of her surroundings. I further hypothesize that this is a survival mechanism developed first in Eve as young Cain and Abel pummeled her with their newfound ability to talk-constantly and with little need to intersperse words with breaths. I am presently collecting data which I plan to sell for billions to the military so they can use this information during times of conflict, by crippling entire armies as my evolving research demonstrates fathers also experience identical results from similar stimuli.

The pre-schooler rapidly (and sneakily) grows into an adolescent at which time ‘Mama’ shortens to ‘Mom’ and subtly, almost imperceptively, the vowel in the word lengthens and contorts until it becomes ‘Moooommmm’. This version is almost exclusively expressed with dramatic effect, either embarrassment, angst or some emotion strangely resembling pity, a pity that is directed at the parent when the adolescent comes to the full revelation that they (the adolescent, of course) knows absolutely EVERYTHING. If they had the foresight to recognize that a few short years later they would be stumbling around in a world in which they realized they knew nothing, their demeanor might change. However, even after thousands of years of mankind walking the earth and advancing in all areas of knowledge and science, this revelation still does not manifest itself until, at the soonest, the early 20’s or when the individual has a child of their own, whichever comes first. Sadly, in some unfortunate souls this knowledge never does manifest itself.

The teenage years are challenging, to say the least. So I, in my finite wisdom, decided to infuse as much humor as possible into my interactions with my teens. Generally, this involves embarrassing them as much as possible with as few words or actions as possible. Maximum embarrassment can be obtained by
a.) revealing there is a relationship between oneself and the particular teen-for example, ‘Hey sweetie!’ yelled across a crowded room of your child’s peers is an ideal and effective method of embarrassment.
OR
b.) any physical contact initiated by the parent involving the child. I find that something as inconsequential as brushing one’s fingers across the teen’s sleeve results in immediate mortification on the teen’s part. I myself, do not waste my time with such minor acts of affection, I choose to ‘give it my all’ which includes a bear hug (if I can catch my child) and if I am quick enough, a brief kiss on the teen’s cheek. Please note that these actions MUST take place within ¼ mile of other teens in order to have effective results.

If you have a child who is persistently doing poorly in school or doggedly pursuing some other course of undesirable behavior, visibility is truly the best weapon. When I discovered my ninth grade son was falling asleep in one of his classes and pushing ‘D’ work to his instructor, I took swift and dramatic action. In an e-mail to my son’s teacher following a parent-teacher conference which did not result in the requested behavior improvement, I informed the teacher that if my child were to persist in his underachievement, I would be quite content to attend class with my son-wearing my high school prom dress. It certainly was helpful that the teacher announced this to my son’s entire class. The attention and fascination my son quickly developed for this particular course was truly inspiring.

My humor did not culminate with my quest to embarrass my children; it extended to our private family interactions at home. Having quickly tired of the teenage ‘moooooommm’ and the associated rolling of the eyes and heartfelt sigh, I directed my children to simplify things and address me as ‘Your Royal Highness’. It is impossible to stretch out three words and imbue them with an appropriate level of drama when the teen is giggling uncontrollably. Hey, I’ll take giggles over angst any day of the week and hopefully, one day when they have teenagers of their own I will hear ‘Your Royal Highness’ out of my grandchildren’s mouths, and I will know I started a beautiful tradition.