Archive for Fostering Spirituality – Page 2

Would You Boycott Christmas? Why Catholic families should celebrate Halloween!

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I raised my nine children in the shadow of  other dedicated Catholic mothers, mostly homeschoolers, who thought Halloween was evil, dedicated to witches. Their children were not allowed to celebrate with their neighbors but went to a church basement to celebrate All Saints Eve.

This church was an hour away from us. More importantly, I felt my children suffered enough  because of a perceived alienation from their peers. At our tiny, Catholic, country school, everyone dressed up for the day and often joined friends afterward to go door to door. I did not want to deny my kids the joy and creative fun which surrounded this cultural, childhood tradition.

If you have any concerns about observing Halloween with your children, please read It’s Time for Catholics to Embrace Halloween by Father Steve Grunow over at Word on Fire. I wish I had been able to read Father Steve Grunow’s research and commentary thirty years ago. He would have saved me a lot of grief because, although I let my kids celebrate Halloween, often dressed as a saint, I felt guilty.  I learned something new, something liberating, which freed me from decades of guilt.

GUESS WHAT? HALLOWEEN IS CATHOLIC!  

October 31st,  November 1st and 2nd, are the “Days of the Dead” because Catholics pray for, or remember, those who have passed through the thin veil which separates life from death.  All Hallows’ Eve, on the evening of October 31 is the night before All Saints’ Day on  November 1st. Then, on the day after All Hallows’, we remember souls who are in Purgatory.

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The  True Origins of Halloween

We often hear that Halloween is a pagan holiday but this is not true.

All Souls Day originated with the Bishop of Cluny, who in A.D. 1048, decreed that the Benedictines of Cluny pray for the souls in Purgatory on this day. The practice spread until Pope Sylvester II recommended it for the entire Latin Church.

In Irish popular piety, the evening before, Halloween (All Hallows or “Hallows’ Eve”) became a day of remembering the dead who are damned. These customs spread, starting the popular focus of Halloween on evil, scary characters and the fate of damned souls.

The customs of Halloween are a mixture of Catholic popular devotions and regional French, Irish, and English customs. Dressing up comes from the French. Carved Jack-o-lanterns come from the Irish. English Catholics initiated the custom of begging from door to door. Children would go door to door begging their neighbors for a “Soul Cake.” In turn, they would say a prayer for those neighbors’ dead saying, “A Soul Cake, a Soul Cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!” Customary foods for Halloween include cider, nuts, popcorn, and apples.

Just as Christmas is still Christmas  despite our culture’s attempt to ruin it, Halloween is still a holy day for Catholics despite our culture’s desire to make it something ugly. As Catholics, when we boycott Halloween, we pull back from our own festival. Rather than withdraw or label Halloween as evil, let’s reclaim our Catholic roots and celebrate Halloween with joy.

Saintly Peg Dolls

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Our peg dolls are smiling from the table. Little hands reach up to collect a few. Then we chat about who this saint was and is. Have you heard about the rage of saint dolls for Catholic children?

Meet some of our peg dolls.

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peg doll2

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I’ve been painting small pegs of wood for many years. Sometimes I do a few at a time.   Imagine the simplicity of having a small image of a saint that mom would allow a child to carry around! The thrill of having your own likeness of a saint for your very own! My young children love it! I hear them play in the voice and character of each saint. It’s an awesome way to work out the understanding of what you have learned about a saint. We are encouraged to grow in faith and virtue as we learn about someone who strived before us.

Last summer I painted 20 of the same saint and traded dolls with some other moms. I began with a gentle sanding of the wood with fine grit sand paper. Then a gentle buffing with a cloth. Next required some study and imagination to translate 2D images depicting a saint into a 3D simple drawing. Each layer of paint was given to the wood with adequate time to draw.   I wondered if it was similar to how an icon is written. There was much time waiting for the paint to dry. When I had finished with all the paint, I gave three coats of protectant to the dolls. Again this required a waiting for the paint to dry between each layer. I was learning patience and so were my children!

Now these saints grace our children’s tables and move throughout the house as reminders. These saints are showing us how to be more like Jesus whether in our work or in our play.

Resources

Would you like to make your own saintly peg dolls? Here are some resources:

Paint a Peg Saint Tutorial. This is a great step-by-step tutorial for getting started on your saintly peg collection.

Easy Peg Dolls. Lacy at Catholic Icing has made it easy for anybody to make saint peg dolls. She offers patterns of the saint’s body to decoupage onto your peg, then you only need to paint the head.

Keeping the Hallowed in Halloween

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I love Halloween candy. I still remember getting all dressed up and heading out early to trick-or-treat with my friends so we would have time to hit two or three neighborhoods. My overflowing bag would sit in a corner of my bedroom, tempting me to have “just one more” every time I looked at it. The candy always seemed to disappear too fast, and Halloween has been my sweet tooth’s best friend ever since.

I grew up in a Catholic family and attended a Catholic elementary school, so I vaguely remember saint costumes and stories being mixed into the fog of my sugar-high haze.   But dressing up in secular costumes, the occasional haunted house, and scary movies also held a place in many of my Halloweens past. The heavenly and the haunting often intermingled. The sacred and the secular walked side by side.

So as my own children grow up, I find that our Halloween traditions don’t veer too far from those of my own childhood. Their Catholic school hosts a “Fun Night” every year around this time–an evening of games, candy, and non-spooky costumes. The kids love it and the parents survive it. There are pumpkins and bats, spiders and ghosts, fun “haunted houses”, jousting pits, and bouncy houses. But in the midst of the chaos, there are always a few saint costumes and games with subtle references to their Catholic faith.

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tierney halloween henry

According to Scott P.Richert, the Catholicism expert at About.com, Halloween does not have pagan origins. The word “Halloween” is simply a contraction of “All Hallows Eve” which points to the solemnity of All Saints Day on November 1. Pope Gregory III instituted the feast and the vigil in the early eighth century.

Opposition to Halloween actually began as anti-Catholic attacks. Some falsely tried to associate the feast with the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, even though the timing of the celebrations was the only element they originally held in common. There have been times in our history that Christmas and Halloween have even been outlawed by non-Catholic governments. Today, commercialism is our worst enemy as it downplays the Christian roots of the feast and thrives on the gore and fright factor. (See http://catholicism.about.com/od/thecatholicfamily/p/Halloween.htm)

tierney saintsAs Catholics, this spooky time of year is a time to celebrate. A time to remember our family of saints that waits for us in heaven. A time to see death as the beginning of life with our Lord, rather than just the end of life here on earth. So we search for ways to help the secular meet the sacred. We search for ways to welcome our beloved saints to walk among us.

While my children love to trick-or-treat, we stick with non-scary or religious themed costumes. Our home is decorated with extra statues and pictures of saints rather than ghosts and spider webs, my daughter’s Little Flowers Girls’ Club hosts an All Saints’ Day party, and we write down the names of deceased family members and friends in our family prayer journal.

The saints have always been our heavenly friends with very human qualities. They assure us that we, too, can get to heaven, even with a quick temper, an inclination to despair, or a selfish streak. They understand that while we live in this world, the secular and the sacred sometimes have to meet in order for the divine to transpire.

And so on Halloween, our family sends our little saints out for some candy with the hopes that they will bring a celestial light to all they meet, and show the world how to keep the hallowed in Halloween.

Considering Halloween

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This week on CAPC I’ve asked some of our staff writers to contribute their thoughts about Halloween — and by extension All Saints and All Souls Day. Many Catholic parents are torn about Halloween.  Should we participate? Is Halloween intrinsically evil? What’s with the ghosts and witches? Where does all this stuff come from?  All week I’ll be posting CAPC staff’s contributions and responses to these questions.

Personally, I have very mixed feelings about Halloween. I love the harvest atmosphere of many Halloween parties and events, but the whole sub-culture around Halloween seems to become increasingly dark each year.  A few years ago I want into a Halloween costume shop to get my daughter a Dorothy costume and I saw mechanical zombie babies with blood oozing from their eyes. Why? Not funny or interesting; just scary and disturbing.

Kim's dog in her Halloween costume

Kim’s dog in her Halloween costume

But my kids like to play make believe and there is something special about Halloween in my neighborhood. I don’t want my kids to miss out on that. So we trick or treat every year.  We even dress our dog up in a costume and take her trick or treating with us. There is nothing scary or disturbing about a Labradoodle in a bumble bee costume! (At least not to  humans . . . I’m not sure what Labradoodles think of this arrangement.)  This year my sister and her family are coming to stay overnight on Halloween and we’re all going trick-or-treating together. Cousins, candy, cocoa, and a sleepover all in one night!

As a few of our contributors will explain this week, Halloween has Catholic roots and even some of the scary stuff makes sense when you learn the history of the day. Did you know that ghosts first became associated with Halloween in Ireland because they believed that if somebody died one year and you held a grudge against him, then the next year he would appear to you on the night before All Saints: that’s right, All Hallows Eve or Halloween.  Skeletons and skulls give me the creeps and I assumed they were rooted in the occult, but guess what? Many Catholic countries like Mexico use symbols of death like skulls on All Souls Day to remind them of death and those who have died.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t want to think about the inevitability of death. I’m okay with cute pumpkins and bumble bee costumes because they don’t challenge my comfort zone. Perhaps I want to hold on to some illusion that I will always be okay. I don’t want ghosts, witches, or devils decorating my house because I don’t want to invite confusion in my children’s minds about these things, but I am beginning to see that I shouldn’t automatically raise a brow when a Christian lets her child child dress as a ghost or when they put skull candles on their dinner tables.

I’m considering these things and I’m looking forward to reading what our other moms have to say this week.  I think my observation about American culture around Halloween will still hold at the end of the week: why are Americans so obsessed with vampires, zombies, and the undead?  It’s one thing to recognize the inevitability of death on the Day of the Dead and another to idolize demons and evil creatures, to think they are even sexy. That’s just so messed up. I think on some level the young people who are caught up in these things know that there is something more beyond this life, that it is only one short chapter in a journey and a sliver of some greater truth. It’s  unfortunate they are not given the freedom to surrender to the whole truth and promise of salvation and God’s love. Now that’s really scary.

The Rosary Box

rosary boxtitleEditor’s Note: As it’s the Month of the Holy Rosary, please enjoy this repost of a wonderful idea presented by Marcia last year: The Rosary Box. LOVE this!

Four years ago, when I had four children aged 10, 7, 5 and 2, I realized we didn’t have a good handle on the mysteries of the Rosary.  My husband, having grown up in a Catholic family and having attended Catholic schools, was quite proficient on knowing the mysteries.

I felt our practice of praying the rosary could be improved.  When we had one child, we could pray a whole rosary as a family in the evening.  The one quiet daughter would happily sit on our laps or hold a rosary near us during prayer time.  When we had two and three children, we switched to praying just a decade as a family in the evening.  Twenty minutes of quiet before bed seemed so difficult to impose by this mother.  Our prayer time would collapse in mother’s disappointment.  Most often it was mother’s disappointment in her lack of patience.

Fast forward to four kids.  There had to be a way to help them focus for 20 minutes!  I began to look for simple images to convey the mysteries.  There are lots of resources on the internet.   Some very beautiful.  Some very traditional American.  Some very basic.  I purchased this durable book: Mysteries of the Rosary for Children by Cy Speltz.

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Images only work great for those that can visualize and sit still!  So I began to think developmentally for my 5 year old and 2 year old.  What could help them?  What things did I already have around the house?  What things could I find simply, inexpensively?  What could represent the mysteries as a small manipulative?

At a local crafting store, I found four small cardboard boxes (about 3×3 each) which could fit into a larger box (about 8×8).

I collected five small images and 5 small manipulatives for each of four boxes.   Putting this work together for the child forced me to think through and be more familiar with the mysteries myself!

I covered each box in what I thought was appropriate themed paper.  For the Joyful mysteries, a happy floral paper.  For the Luminous, a shining paper.  For the Glorious, a gold paper.  For the Sorrowful, a sad blue paper.  The larger box that houses all our items, I covered in a red paper.  Each box has a label.  I also added a few handmade rosaries and a couple of simple booklets for children about the rosary.

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rosary box

There isn’t a magic item for the boxes.  Any object that creates a memory device for you or your child works.  In our Joyful mysteries box, we have a small dove for the mystery of the Annunciation, a spring for the Visitation, a small wooden baby for the Nativity, two small birds for the Presentation in the temple and a scroll for the Finding in the temple.  If you were creating this for a younger than 3 year old child, you might wish to increase the size of the items and the boxes to prevent choking hazards.

In our house, these boxes appeal to children who are about three to seven years old.  I encourage the children to remove one box at a time. During a child’s own quiet prayer time, I observe them using this box.  When we pray as a family, the younger children remove the objects and images.  It is a great memory game to return all 20 mystery items to their correct boxes.

Using this rosary box, does not promise peacefully well-behaved children during the family rosary.  It does mean that there might be more participation from the younger crowd in your home.  And you just might be inspired to pray as a family more often.

Summer Spirituality for Kids

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The Spiritual Works of Mercy move beyond the needs of the body to the needs of the soul. They nurture others at a profound level, bringing them into deeper union with others and with God. We are sometimes presented with the opportunity to carry out these works of mercy when we least expect it. The practical suggestions below will help even small children feel prepared for those unexpected moments. Pray the Holy Spirit prayer that accompanies each work of mercy so that you will “not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.” Trust that, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, “you will be given at that moment what you are to say.” (Matt 10:19)

1.  Admonish the sinner

  • Don’t be afraid to tell your children (who have reached the age of reason) that immoral behavior is an objective sin. (“Playing my smartphone when I told you not to was disobedience. That was wrong and a sin.”)
  • Encourage your children to charitably remind their siblings or friends of the right thing to do when they see a bad choice being made. Role play some example scenarios.

Holy Spirit, please give me the fortitude I need to speak up for what is right and encourage others to follow God’s commandments.

2.  Instruct the uninformed

  • Have older siblings teach a Bible story or a principle of our Catholic faith to younger siblings. Get creative with a puppet show, play, or craft!
  • Ask one of your children to invite a non-Catholic friend to a fun parish event.

Holy Spirit, please fill me with Your gift of understanding, so that I can teach others the Truth about my Catholic faith.

3.  Counsel the doubtful

  • Encourage your children to look for reasons to praise each other. Use the power of positive reinforcement to confirm good choices.
  • To give good counsel, we have to be good listeners. Ask your children to tell you something interesting (not gossip) that they heard as they went about their day.

Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of counsel so I will know what to do and say when someone is feeling scared or unsure.

4.  Comfort the sorrowful

  • Come together as a family when someone is sad or sick. Have each family member think of something nice they can do or say.
  • Explain grief to your children at an age appropriate level. Have them help you make a card for someone who is suffering — just to let them know you’re thinking about them.

Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of knowledge, that I might see my life the way God sees it. Help me to share with others that everything that happens to us works for a greater good.

5.  Be patient with those in error

  • Teach your children calming techniques (deep breathing, taking a “time out” from a heated situation, getting a soothing hug from Mom or Dad). Tell them to use these techniques when they start to feel angry with someone so they can use a gentle tone of voice to work things out.
  • Remind your children that your family loves people more than things. Even if a sibling breaks a treasured possession or interrupts a fun activity, teach your children to show respect and kindness toward him or her.

Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of wisdom so that I can love You, and those made in Your image, above all else–even when I feel sad or mad.

6.  Forgive offenses

  • Give your children the words they need when they claim they “hate” someone who did something they didn’t like. (“Instead of ‘I hate him’, try ‘I didn’t like it when he smashed my Lego truck.’”)
  • Help two children who were upset with each other find something fun to do together once they’ve cooled off. Assist them in repairing their relationship.

Holy Spirit, please gift me with a healthy fear of the Lord so that I will be filled with a desire to please Him and forgive others as He forgives me.

7.  Pray for the living and the dead

  • Make a “spiritual bouquet” for someone who needs your prayers. Send them a card filled with paper flowers — one for each prayer you will say for them.
  • Write down the names of deceased relatives and friends in a prayer journal, and light a candle while you pray a decade of the Rosary for them.

Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of piety, so that I will remain obedient to the prayer life you have chosen for me.

Image credit: “mercy” by Andrew Parvenov (dreamstime.com)

3 Techniques for Raising Children Who Love to Pray

GUEST POST by ALEXANDRA KUBEBATU

Prayer is the essential tool to help our children build a life-long relationship with God. Many parents believe children do not need to be actively learning to pray until they begin CCD, but that is not the case.  According to scientific studies, a child’s character and world-view is mostly established by the age of five.  For this reason, teaching our children under five how to pray is essential.

1.  Set-up a prayer altar in your home or child’s room

child praying2Growing up, my mother always set up a prayer altar and encouraged us to put one together in our bedrooms. As a little girl, I didn’t have much space sharing a room with my sister, nor did I have a small table to set it up on, so creativity was a must! I found a cardboard box, flipped it on its side, and covered it with my favorite pillowcase. Then I placed on it a photo of our Blessed Mother, a small crucifix, a small dish with Holy Water, and a Bible. I was so excited to have a small altar in my bedroom where I could pray on my own.

Children have a short attention span so the excitement of having their own prayer altar in their room will quickly wear off. The prayer altar should not be treated as a toy they can play with once in a while. We need to teach our children how to use it. One technique is to incorporate their prayer altar as part of the waking and bedtime routines. When they wake up in the morning, show them how to give themselves the Sign of the Cross and say a short prayer. Make sure to place a pillow or something for your child to kneel on comfortably. At bedtime, you can make it part of the routine by having them say their prayers at their altar after bathing.

Since small children are still learning to put thoughts into words, they will learn to pray at first by repeating after you. For example, you may ask them to repeat after you as you pray the “Glory Be,” then follow up with something simple like, “thank you God for another beautiful day. Please protect me and my family. Help me be a good girl/boy and listen to my mom and dad.”

Having your children’s participation putting an altar together and teaching them how to use it will help them begin to take responsibility for their own spiritual development and relationship with God.

2.  Pray in front of your children

There are few things that would make children more curious than watching you pray silently. Of course, the moment they see you at peace, you will get interrupted. However, in this case, an interruption is a good thing.

As you pray in front of your altar, do your best to stay focused and try not to let anything “move” you. When a child comes to interrupt, be calm, explain to them that you are praying to Jesus and to “please be a little patient.” Use a kind, gentle, and loving tone when you say this or you’ll send the wrong message. Continue praying and have them wait one minute for every year of age of the child. If they are two years old, have them wait two minutes, three years old three minutes, etc.

Depending on your child’s age, you may invite them to pray along with you, but make sure to continue on. I had my daughter posturing to pray on her knees with palms together starting at eighteen months. Of course, she couldn’t hold the posture for more than five seconds, but that’s okay. It’s a small beginning of something beautiful and life-long.

The goal is to impress upon children that nothing and no one is more important than praying and connecting with God – not even themselves. I developed this technique after reading Saint Teresa of Avila’s work, The Way of Perfection, which focuses on prayer and detachment. Practicing this technique repeatedly will help them cultivate the virtue of patience and lead them to think of the world outside themselves and up towards God. If we, as parents, model for them that our relationship with God is most important, hopefully they will also learn to put God first in their lives – above all relationships on this world.

There is no need to scold and/or punish your child for interrupting. Doing so will give them a negative association with regard to praying and make them feel neglected. They do not understand the significance of what you are modeling for them. As long as their physical and emotional needs have already been met at that moment and there are no emergencies, simply be calm, ask them to wait, and continue praying. Using this technique daily is key. However, do not beat yourself up for forgetting once in a while – “mom” and “busy” are synonymous.

3.  Develop a family prayer routine

Having a family prayer routine will help your children make praying habitual in their lives. Making prayer a habit means they have internalized the action of praying and connecting with God, our Blessed Mother, and the Saints. Just as someone can form a habit of checking their email first thing in the morning, we can teach our children to form a habit to pray.

It’s not about setting-up a “schedule” to pray. It’s more about recognizing opportunities to raise our hearts and minds to God (which is all the time by the way). Family prayer routines can vary in a million different ways depending on your family’s needs. You may forget a time or two, but once you are consistent, your children will be sure to remind you. Here’s an example of what your family prayer routine might look like:

  • Morning prayer
  • Prayer before meal – breakfast
  • Prayer before homeschooling studies
  • Prayer before meal – lunch
  • Prayer before meal – dinner
  • Bedtime prayer
  • Prayer in the car before the commute
  • Rosary Saturday

It’s never too late to start planting the seeds of faith and virtue through prayer in our children. The hope is that when they are grown, whether life is good or tries to tear them apart, they remember the love and peace with the presence of God as they prayed with you as children. We must always be leading them back to the Lord.

Pray daily, love gently, and nurture your Catholic faith.

ABOUT ALEXANDRA

alexandraAlexandra Kubebatu lives in Texas with her husband and two children. Having earned a B.S. in Instructional Design and Technology, she creates online courses addressing faith and family issues using adult learning theories and studies in early childhood development.

Alexandra has combined both her experience as a certified CCD teacher and academic education to homeschool her children. She enjoys and feels honored to share her unique perspective, experiences, and faith-based parenting techniques with CAPC readers. Alexandra is also an account manager for Lighthouse Catholic Media.

 Image credit:  Dreamstime.com

Developmental Attachment v. Spiritual Detachment: raising children who are capable of letting go of the wrong things and embracing the right things

pope francis prayingAn acquaintance and I were recently chatting when the subject of parenting came up. I explained that I am an “attachment-minded parent”. He chuckled and said, “But we’re Christians. Aren’t we supposed to be detached from created things?” He was only joking (I think . . .), but he does raise an interesting question about the difference between the term “attachment” in developmental psychology and the term “detachment” in spiritual development.  I talked about this topic with Greg and Lisa Popcak recently on their Catholic radio program More2Life.

So, if Christians value spiritual detachment, can our children become too attached to us? Can their attachment to us prevent them from maturing spiritually? I think the contrary is true: a secure attachment in childhood makes it easier for our children to experience spiritual detachment in adulthood.

1. Attachment in Developmental Psychology = GOOD

The term “attachment” in developmental psychology refers to a process by children form (or fail to form) strong bonds and a sense of security with their parents. A child’s attachment style develops in response to repeated interactions with his parents. It’s like a dance between a child’s needs and the parent’s response that creates an internal working model for all of the child’s relationships; it shapes his expectations about other people and how they will treat him when he is vulnerable emotionally or physically.

Secure attachment unfolds when parents respond consistently and warmly to a child’s need for comfort and guidance. This attachment gives children a secure base from which to explore the larger world, and helps them learn to regulate their emotions in response to stress and disappointment.

Insecure attachment might occur because the parents are cold and distant or too harsh (this leads to avoidant attachment). Or the parents may meet the child’s need warmly one day, then disappear the next (this leads to anxious attachment). Children adjust their behaviors to deal with the pain or unpredictability of their relationship with the parent. The outcome is unfortunate. These kids don’t trust others, they struggle in friendships with other kids, they have poor self-esteem, they may be aggressive, or lack empathy.

As they move into adulthood, insecurely attached individuals are frequently crippled in their ability to sustain healthy relationships. Their unresolved emotional pain prevents them from experiencing or forming authentic, loving relationships in which both people are comfortable giving and receiving love. Some adults cope by shutting out people and convincing themselves they don’t need anybody (this behavior is termed “dismissive”). Others become preoccupied by their relationships because they are anxious about the other person’s love for them – they are clingy and needy (this behavior is termed “pre-occupied”). These attachment stances affect their relationships with their co-workers, spouses, children, and even God.

2. Detachment in Spiritual Development = GOOD

Christians strive for spiritual detachment from any inclinations, choices, or relationships that hinder their spiritual growth. We detach ourselves from any obstacle to human flourishing, so that we can in turn re-attach to healthy human relationships and the love of God.

Think of addictions, obsessions, or a tendency to particular sins – these are unhealthy attachments. Sometimes our attitudes toward material goods or status become the problem. More is never enough and before we know it we are imprisoned by our stuff or our “success.” We find it increasingly difficult to connect with the people we most love; our prayer becomes distant and dry. Sometimes detaching may mean getting a new job or purging our house of the objects that are weighing us down, but frequently we just need an adjustment in our attitude and priorities.

Dr. Greg made an interesting point about the difference between Buddhist and Christian views of detachment. For the Buddhist, detachment is about escaping the ego, letting go of the prison of our personalities, so that we can fall into the void of the universe.  This escape is the goal; it is an end in itself.  For the Christian, detachment is about weaning ourselves from unhealthy approaches to relationship so that God can teach us his plan for relationships.  The end goal for us is loving communion with God and each other.  Detachment for the Christian is a means to that end.

Maturing Christians even detach themselves from preferring one thing to another. Should my son go to this school or that one? Should I attend a baseball game or my brother’s piano recital? Should I take this new job or stay at my current one? Detachment leads us to a place where we don’t prefer one choice to another; we just want to do what God wants because we love him so much. Most of us struggle with this kind of detachment, but it’s a possible for us all!

3. Moral of the Story

Cooperating with God to form in our child a secure attachment and capacity for self-giving love will actually make it easier for her to experience spiritual detachment later. Because spiritual detachment requires a kind of inner balance in our hearts toward things and relationships. People with adult attachment disorders often claw at things or people out of a desperate unmet need. This desperation keeps them imprisoned in pain. If our children are emotionally whole, they will be more free to get about the business God has for them to do.

If you’d like to listen to my interview with the Popcaks, it starts about 20 minutes into the show.  Better yet, enjoy the whole show!  The Popcaks addressed problems with connection in our relationships:

Praying in Silence with Children: VIDEO

A free video from Apostleship of Prayer.  Love these 3 tips for helping children become comfortable with praying silently.

  1. Timed prayer
  2. Secret good deeds
  3. Listening

Become Like Little Children

Sympathy by Briton Riviere

“Sympathy” by Riviere (1878)

Some religious people would maintain only a mature, adult Christian can act lovingly, with a conscience. Yet Pope Francis and even Sacred Scriptures disagree with this narrow view.

St. Paul explains that God will judge everyone by much how truth God has revealed to them. If a tribe hidden in a jungle has never heard the gospel, God will judge them based on what they know and St. Paul assures us all men have the basic laws of God carved into their hearts. In modern language, we all have an awareness of good and evil — or a conscience.

The problem is tapping into and living out from my core where God has inscribed a moral code on my heart. It is  hidden in my deepest self. Actually, if we can block out our own ego and selfishness and simply stop and listen, even a child knows what is right and what is wrong.

The second problem is finding the strength to do what is right. Thank God for Christ, because he offers an easy way to love. Relax. Give up striving. Surrender to His love and let it saturate every cell of your body. Then simply let His love flow through you. It ends up being a long journey to such carefree lifestyle because pride and ego get in the way. It is so simple that it seems complicated to our adult, logical minds.

No wonder Jesus says,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

And in even stronger terms,

“I assure you,” He said, ‘unless you are converted and become like children, you will never get into the kingdom from heaven…’” Matthew 18:4

A relationship to the living God is child’s play. Listen to this exchange between my young children:

One afternoon, I was making dinner, standing at the counter with my back to our three youngest children. Grace and Daniel were lounging around the kitchen table, with three-year-old Rebecca perched like a little elf on a high stool, happily swinging her legs.

Simply making conversation, Grace who was eight, asked Rebecca,

“Rebbecca, whose your favorite, Mum or Dad?”

Rebecca replied,”Both!”

Still facing the counter, I looked over my shoulder and intruded on their conversation, “Smart answer, Rebecca.”

Rebecca was not done, though.  She added, “But she’s not my real mum, Mary is.”

Grace rolled her eyes, slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand and said incredulously, “Where does she get this stuff?”

I tried to explain as simply as I could, “Well, the Holy Spirit is in her heart and she listens to His voice.”

Rebecca jumped right back into the discussion and chanted in a sing-song, lilting voice, “That’s right. God the Father in my heart. Baby Jesus in my heart. Holy Spirit in my heart. Mother Mary in my heart . . . but . . . I still like Mum and Dad the best!”

Grace rolled her eyes and plunked her head down on the table with a loud sigh,“Where does she get this stuff?”

I just laughed.

A few weeks later, as I crouched down to tie Rebecca’s shoelace, she picked up the small gold cross I wore around my neck and said,

“This is the cross of Jesus and the glory of God shines all around it.”

Grace rolled her eyes again, slapped her forehead and asked, “WHERE does she get this stuff?

She gets it right from the source of all truth.

********

If you enjoyed Melanie’s charming story, check out her free book on Amazon: Echoes of the Divine:  Slice of Life Stories from a Mother of Nine9.

Raising Children Who Love (or Don’t Hate) Confession

My guest essay on Dr. Greg Popcak’s blog Faith on the Couch:

I’ve heard that some people love going to Confession.  I personally don’t know any of them.  Maybe it’s an urban legend.  I think avoiding the confessional is our human default,

Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi

Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi

because we are uncomfortable exposing our weakness to others.  The Church wants us to know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift.  It’s more an opportunity than a duty.

Confession brings our human failings to the Light where we can find healing, courage, and support.  The devil hates that!  He thrives in the dark, like a fungus.  He wants us to keep our sins and moral struggles to ourselves, because full freedom from them requires community – it requires family, friends, and counselors, especially our priest when he acts as Christ in the confessional.  In particular, as embodied creatures we need the physical experience of the confessional:  when we feel and hear ourselves speaking aloud the truth of our failings, when the priest with his body and his voice acts as Christ extending his mercy to us, we can understand better the power of repentance and the reality of God’s forgiveness.

How can we raise children who understand this deeper truth about Confession, who welcome it as an opportunity?  Here are a few lifestyle tips that may help.  These aren’t lessons our children learn from a book, but rather from the way we relate to them:

Read the rest on Dr. Greg’s website!  Leave a comment, too!

40 Days in the Desert

Cactus Pic

Displaying a cactus in our home during Lent reminds us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. Our family purchased a mini cactus at Walmart and printed a simple card with a picture of Jesus in the desert and the scripture passage “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3)

The cactus and prayer card can be placed in a prominent place in your home or on a prayer table as inspiration for reflection. Or use the following prayers and activities based on Jesus’ responses to the devil’s three temptations. Let Jesus‘ time in the desert inspire your family to respond generously to God’s will as you travel through the desert of Lent.

FAST

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3)

Dear God, please help me to do what You want me to do, even when I really want something else.

Fast:  Give up one of your favorite things to eat

ALMSGIVING

“The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” (Deut. 6:13)

Dear God, please help me to remember that You are more important than all of my toys, my clothes, and anything else in my life.

 Almsgiving:  Clean out your room and give some of your extra clothes or toys to a charity.

PRAYER

“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Deut. 6:16)

Dear God, please help me to completely trust You with everything in my life.

 Prayer:  Show God you trust Him by spending time in prayer every day.