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Devon Wattam Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Prayer Vocations

It Takes a Village

It Takes A Village

There are many pressures that come with being a parent, but the one that haunts me the most is the responsibility of passing on the faith. As I rock my growing baby to sleep or watch my preschooler eat his pancakes in the morning I think, “How am I ever going to teach them enough, challenge them enough, and nurture them enough to help them grow into the well-rounded, capable, holy adults I know they have the potential to be?” The truth is I can’t. Not on my own, at least. 

My parents have shaped me into who I am as a woman today through the examples they set in their own lives, as well as the guidance they have given me over the years. Parents can only do so much, though. Young people need strong, positive mentors throughout their lives to inspire, direct, and influence them, perhaps just as much as their parents do. I have been blessed enough to encounter many such people, but three in particular touched my life in unexpected ways. 

When I was in the seventh grade, my teacher hung posters of the Holocaust around our classroom. She was the first person to open my eyes to what the world held beyond our small, Catholic school—good and bad. Her posters not only depicted the wonderful things she saw on her worldly travels, but also the cruelty man was capable of. That’s when I knew I wanted to see what was out there for myself. 

Interestingly enough, she was also the first person I knew who would vote politically different than my family. She never said it, but I knew it. I didn’t know how to reconcile that in my heart, but I loved her anyway. During the critical time when I was trying to figure out who I was going to be in the midst of my parents’ divorce, she gave me hope. Hope that I could be whoever I wanted to be, hope for a future.

Three years later, I got my first job selling clothes. My boss took a chance on me. She hired an awkward tomboy and fostered in me a drive to work hard and reach whatever the next challenge was in front of me. Shift after shift, raise after raise, I absorbed her desire to succeed and genuine love of people like a sponge. I doubt she thought much about the direction she was giving at the time, but I felt like she believed in me, so I did, too. She gave me a break when I needed one, and held me accountable when I didn’t. She inspired me to do better.

That same year, I met a priest who taught at my high school. As a young teenager, I was starving for affirmation, purpose, and direction. I joined a group he led on a pilgrimage through Rome and my life changed forever. He affirmed my identity as a child of Christ in ways that no one ever had before, breathing air into the lungs of my faith that had laid dormant for so long. He went on to become my spiritual director through high school and college, and celebrated the Mass on my wedding day. After everything he had seen me through, his greatest gift to me was teaching me how to pray. How to genuinely ask the Lord for His help, praise Him for His blessings, and trust in His mercy. 

There’s no question that it is my husband’s and my responsibility to get our boys to heaven, but it’s impossible for us to do it alone. If I am ever uncertain of that reality, all I have to do is look at my own life and see all the hands who have helped me along the way. I pray that Walt and George are fortunate enough to encounter ordinary men and women of good will who will educate them when they think they know it all, push them when they believe they have nothing more to give, or carry them when they’re too tired to walk any farther.

Reflecting on how I have gotten to where I am, my heart is filled with gratitude. I am indebted to the many people who have gone out of their way to foster the good things that they saw in me when they didn’t have to, but especially those three unlikely mentors. The ones who taught me how to hope, work, and pray.

I ran into the priest recently for the first time in over five years. “I miss you, Father,” I told him. “Don’t worry,” he replied. “I’ll always be there when you need me most.”

I know he will. They all will.

Categories
Allen Ink Slingers Perspective from the Head

What God has Joined Let No One Divide

scan3-77Your Family was started on the day you got married, and after you took your vows.
 The presider may have uttered words similar to the ones above.  It not only applies to you and your spouse, but also to your entire family.  The world many times seeks to separate what God has joined together.  

Living the Life

As our kids were growing up, we got involved in Church, sports and social club activities.  It got to a point that we were busy every night of the week.  I was a member of the church choir, my wife and I were deeply involved in building a Catholic School, three of our children were playing soccer and I was coaching them, and our daughters were members of a Catholic Girl’s club.  In addition to these church and family related items, I worked full time with a bit of travel and even took lessons to become a private pilot.  When a new opportunity for spiritual growth or volunteering came our way, our method of deciding whether or not to say yes was to take a look at our calendar and see if there was any spare time.  If there was, we said yes until every moment of our life was filled with activities.  IMG_2709
Each of the activities we were involved in were good, it was the sheer number of activities that was bad for us.  Looking back on that time in our lives, I don’t think we realized that this constant busyness was unhealthy for our family.  We were just living a full life, volunteering for every worthwhile cause and making sure that each of our children was able have all the fun a child should have.  We were on the road to burn out and to losing touch with our young family.
Then I took a new job and one of the highly suggested activities at my new company was to spend a couple of weeks at our corporate offices helping out in the technical support call center.  It was a great way for a new Systems Engineer to quickly learn the technical aspects of the products while helping out our short-staffed support team.  My wife and I discussed this extended business trip and we decided to buy an RV and make a family trip out of it.  When the planning was completed, I had arranged a trip to California and back that lasted just under a month with stops at customer sites, national and state parks, theme parks and visiting friends and family along the way.  I don’t know that I fully realized the immediate profound effect this trip would have on our family, nor the way it would shape our family life and rhythm for the rest of our lives.

RVLife Lessons from Living in an RV

When preparing to leave for this trip, we had to squeeze 10 people, all our clothing, bicycles, and any personal items we needed for a month into a 31 foot Class C RV with no slide outs and limited storage.  This was a serious exercise in detachment, not only from possessions, but from our normal routines.  I still did my work on the road, but pretty much everything else in our normal routine changed.  We didn’t have any sports, school, social or church activities, we left all that behind when we pulled out of the drive on our way to California, we only had each other.
Our commitments at home weren’t missed, we didn’t long for our things, we had a great time and really grew closer together as a family over the course of our trip.  We ate all our meals together, we visited shrines along the way, attended Sunday mass and an occasional daily mass together, met with friends in different cities, and we explored the beauty of God’s creation.  In summary, we retreated from the world, prayed together, played together and formed closer bonds with each other and with the Lord.  We emerged from our month long adventure a changed family with a renewed focus on what was most important in our lives.  

The Family Mission

God taught us that one of his greatest gifts to us is our family.  Each of our children brings something unique to our family, something we didn’t have before and something that makes our family unit better.  We learned that we really like our kids and they like us too. Our kids didn’t need to be kept busy with tons of activities, they were just as happy, maybe even more so, to simply be with us.  GrandCanyon
Unhealthy patterns had crept into our family, this RV trip was a good exercise which allowed us to take a step back and evaluate our lives and our family routine.  We began to regularly spend time in prayer as a couple and as a family, asking God what our family’s mission should be and where we should be spending our time and energy.  At times this exercise has resulted in minor adjustments, and sometimes  major life changes to our family routine to ensure that we meet our primary goal of leading our family to heaven.
Every family needs to retreat from the world on a regular basis, this can take the form of a family vacation, a family retreat, or just making Sunday family days.  But if you don’t plan for them, they probably won’t happen.  Your family is a great gift from God, be sure to nurture and care for it.  
Categories
Adrienne Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Prayer

“Mom, I don’t believe.”

Earlier this week, for the first time ever, my nine year old son confessed to me that he doesn’t really believe in “it”. I asked what. He said, “God and the Bible and stuff like that.”  In my mind, “My heart broke! I wept inside and wondered where I went wrong!” is perhaps what I should have been thinking, but instead I marveled at the demonstration that he was really considering and weighing the things my husband and I have been teaching him about God – and to me, this is a really good thing.

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Yesterday, I read an article that was drawing awareness to the possibility your child is just borrowing your faith. The author said she believes the best way to decipher whether your child has a faith of his own, or is simply borrowing yours, is whether or not he is asking questions. A child who is borrowing your faith will leave the home and eventually leave faith too, because it was never really his own, she says.

I told my son that I can’t make him believe in God and the teachings of Christianity, but it is my job to teach him about Christianity. I asked if he could see germs on his hands, and explained that even though he can’t see the germs on his body those germs can still hurt him.  As his parent, it is my job to teach him proper hygiene. It’s also my job as his parent to teach him how to eat healthy. Eating healthy or unhealthy has an impact on his body even if he doesn’t believe it so.

Similarly, it’s my job to also teach him how to take care of his soul. I have to teach him between right and wrong, like the differences between healthy and unhealthy foods. I have to teach him that not everything invisible is non-existent. While he is under my care as a child it’s my job to make sure he has proper hygiene and eating habits to keep his body healthy. And while he’s under my care as a child it’s also my job to make sure he learns how to choose right from wrong and seek God in order to keep his soul healthy. When he leaves my home as an adult, it’s up to him to take care of his own body and soul.

I can’t make my kids Catholic. God had only two children in the Garden, and both Adam and Eve betrayed Him. Jesus had twelve apostles, and yet one of those betrayed Him so terribly it lead to His crucifixion and another denied Him three times. God is our example of perfect parenting, and yet even perfect parenting doesn’t always result in perfectly obedient children because God allowed for free will AND He respects it so much that He won’t interfere with it. Why? I imagine it’s because only in complete freedom to choose can one offer his or her purest love to God, and nothing short of one’s purest love for God can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

While I continue to pray for my children, and educate them about God and about their souls, I know that I can’t force true love for Christ upon my children. Pure love for Christ is something that they need to cultivate in cooperation with God’s Grace dwelling in their souls. I told my son to pray daily, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mk 9:24)

As for the status of my son’s faith, two weeks ago he was telling me he needed to begin altar server training so that he could become a priest, and the day after he told me he didn’t believe in God he nearly started crying at daily Mass because the priest skipped over him at Communion and just offered him a blessing. It’s a rollercoaster, this parenting thing, but thankfully the teachings of Christianity make it easier to understand along the way.

 

 

lenten photo journey

Categories
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:

Categories
Domestic Church Ink Slingers Kerri Motherhood Parenting Vocations

Contemplation Over A Diaper Change

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a mom of toddler twins I do a lot of diaper changes. I bet many of you are in similar states of life. Whether you have one child, several young children close in age, or multiples, you can relate. Lately we’ve had some “issues” going around (digestive issues, teething, I’m still not sure) which generally means a few more frequent (and messy) diaper changes. So I’ve been spending a bit more time at the changing table than normal.

I’ve never really given much thought to changing diapers. It’s just something that needs to be done. I’m the oldest of four and my mother babysat in our house while I was growing up. I kind of grew up changing diapers. I don’t remember learning how to, I just remember helping out in that department whenever needed.

Recently I was changing yet another diaper for one of my children and I thought about what a privilege it is to change my two sons’ diapers.

Yep, you heard me right. A privilege.

There are a lot of things we do for our children. Some of those things last a short time, others much longer. But at some point, our children will leave the nest and move off into the world. They will no longer need us in the same way as they did as dependent infants or needy toddlers or awkward teenagers. They will always need us in some way, but there are many material or physical things we do for them in their early years that last only a short time.

Right now I am changing diapers, among many other things. Soon we’ll be into potty training and eventually they won’t need me at all in this area.

And yet, there I stood that day, changing a mess of a diaper and wondering what this little person would be one day. Many things went through my head, until my thoughts turned to the possibility that my little boy could potentially be a priest one day. I lingered over the idea as I pulled out yet another wipe while simultaneously trying to keep little feet out of the mess sitting close by.

Priest or some other career, whatever my children decide to do I’ll be proud of them as long as they are following God’s will and they work hard at whatever that is. But to have your child be a priest! What an honor, what a privilege!!

Yes, it is certainly a privilege. These are small but necessary (and sometimes unpleasant) tasks. As parents we are providing for our children’s physical, material, and spiritual needs. We nurture their bodies, minds, and souls. We all hope that our efforts will prepare our children for the world around them in whatever their vocation is.

My mind was blown away at the thought that this little, vulnerable person, whose diaper I was in the process of changing, could one day be called to the priesthood. What a thought!! And to think I once changed his diapers!

God has given us parents a gift in all these little tasks we do for our children. I can’t even imagine what the years ahead will be like, but the thought of my child as an adult is way beyond anything I can imagine. To think of him as one of God’s earthly servants, leading His people to greater relationship with Him, was mind blowing. Especially given the task I was doing.

I will probably never look at diaper changes the same again!