Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Tips for Raising Faith-Filled Children

April 13, 2016
  • Tell your children every day that you love them and that God loves them too.
  • Listen attentively and respectfully to what your child says.
  • Forgive frequently. Ask forgiveness when you have done wrong. Look for the humor in stressful situations and hug often.
  • Ask children to consider “what if…” when dealing  with challenging situations. Help them find creative, peaceful, and moral responses.
  • Tell your child that you pray for them every day and DO it. Thank God for the gifts they are.
  • Share your faith beliefs so your child can understand your hopes. Also share your doubts so they understand that doubts do not overwhelm faith.
  • Bless your child before bedtime by tracing the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads and saying: “God love you and keep you safe” or some other blessing. Teach your child to respond. “Amen.”
  • Encourage your child to value others for who they are – not what they have. Help them to develop Christian virtues and to treat others kindly and with respect.
  • Once a week, have a family night when you “unplug” to play board games, do crafts, read stories, or take time to talk together.
  • Honor family  dinner. The benefits are amazing and establish a sacred time to share the joys and trials of life with each other.
  • Pray before meals, before bed, during holidays and family celebrations, and any time when one needs guidance or comfort.
  • Have a family Bible and read the Gospel passages before Church.
  • Decorate your house for the liturgical seasons with an Advent wreath, purple during Lent, and a prominently placed crucifix.
  • Take time to ponder the beauty of creation with your child. Easter is a wonderful time to appreciate the new life of springtime.
  • During the fall and spring, help your child sort through their clothes and toys to donate to a shelter. Bring the child with you when you drop off your donations.
  • Select a patron saint to watch over your children when they become involved in a sporting activity. Pray to that saint every time they are at a practice or event.
  • Participate in the Catholic Relief  Services Rice Bowl program: read the prayers during Lent, look up the featured countries, and donate coins in the box provided.
  • Introduce your child to older people or those with disabilities in your neighborhood. Find out if they need assistance with chores or shopping.
  • When you can’t physically help someone, pray for them.
  • Choose sporting events that do not conflict with your Sunday Mass attendance.
  • Encourage “secret” good deeds.
  • Contribute to a food bank. Ask your child to help you with the collection and delivery.
  • Watch TV with your child and explain during commercials or afterward what you found to be good, wholesome, and valuable. If you find a program objectionable explain why when changing the channel.
  • Encourage your child to use their God-given talents to serve others.
  • Help your child find ways to participate in the of the parish, such as being an altar server, choir member, greeter, or reader.
  • Invite your parish priest over for dinner.
  • Volunteer in your child’s religious education program or Catholic school.
  • Have the sporting equipment your child uses get blessed.
  • Read stories from the Bible and biographies of saints to your child. Several great videos can also be found online.
  • Ask grandparents, godparents, and extended family to share stories about the family their faith lives.
  • On the anniversaries of your children’s Baptism, light their Baptismal candles and tell stories about that special day.
  • Display religious items in your home, such as a cross, artwork, or a picture of your child’s patron saint. Talk to your child about them.
  • By the way you live, let your child know that life is good, that your values and faith guide your decisions and how you interact with others, and that the happiness you experience is a direct result of your personal relationship with God.

Adapted from the pamphlet “Raising Your Child With Faith” by Cecilia P. Regan.

Preventable Tragedies

September 12, 2015

A Bolivian Family Riding a Bicycle, 1991

While studying for the priesthood, I spent a summer at our diocese’s mission in Bolivia. There I learned that South America’s poorest country has a death rate from tuberculosis 222-times higher than here. I was told the Bolivian government offers free TB medicine, but that many who take the pills start to feel better and quit before they’ve finished the prescription. Tragically, this allows the disease to resurge, and the patients are lost. Their half-measured approach to what would save them invites their death.

As our children soon return to CCD, I wish to emphasize the obvious truth that CCD alone is not enough to form a child into a mature Christian adult. Religious education must be paired with daily family prayer (beyond simply before meals) and family Mass attendance each week. Without these, children learn from their parents’ silent instruction that their Catholic faith may be carelessly discarded once their “last hoop” of Confirmation is cleared. This must not be so!

If you are already attending Mass and sharing family prayers, please keep it up. If not, please follow this powerful prescription of prayer and Sunday worship. Embrace it for your children’s sake and for your own. Our Catholic faith is not mere “fire insurance.” It is the path to abundant life for this life and the next. As Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Four Fun Family-Faith Festivities

August 12, 2015

A Family Feast, a Blackout Night, a Generosity Party, and a Big Bed Lifeboat. Enjoyable and memorable family activities for growing together in faith, virtue, and love.

A Family Feast

For a Family Feast, each member of the household prepares a dish for the meal. Whether it is making finger sandwiches, or opening and warming a can of veggies, or melting cheese over nachos, everyone can bring something to the table. Mom and Dad should provide the kids with many pre-approved courses to choose from to prepare. With coaching, even the little ones can play a part. Lead the dinner prayer thanking God for each person and their gift. All will feel a sense of accomplishment and a closer connection through helping to serve and feed one another.

Triple Candelabra - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WIA Blackout Night

For one evening, collect and hide all of the cell phones, turn off all the lights, flip the circuit breaker, and bring out the flashlights, candles, or lanterns for a Blackout Night together. Let everyone know well in advance what is coming. Set out glasses of water for use in washing hands and brushing teeth later. Then, once darkness falls, turn off all the lights, cut the power, and gather the family in the living room. Play a card games together on the floor, read a Bible story (like the calling of young Gideon and his nighttime raid in Judges 6 & 7), or share familiar tales of your own. After bed time prayers and tucking-in the kids, turn the power back on for use in the morning. The experience will help your kids to appreciate the blessings we take for granted and it will be a night together that they will always remember.

A Generosity Party

Choose a charity, such as St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill, lay out a blanket, and throw a Generosity Party. The clothes you did not wear last year probably won’t be worn this year. The toys we never play with are no longer any fun. But these clothes and toys and other things can still be a blessing to others. Explain how and why you are helping those in need, and encourage everyone in the house to bring the possessions they no longer want or need to the blanket “without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2nd Corinthians 9:6-7) The poor will benefit from your charitable giving, and you will all grow together in compassion, detachment, and generosity.

Sailboat - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WIA Big Bed Lifeboat

Get everyone aboard your bedroom’s Big Bed Lifeboat and set the scene: “After a violent storm, our ship sank and now we’re in this lifeboat. There is nothing but sea and sky as far as the eye can see.” (Make sure everyone goes potty before you embark.) While you sit adrift, you can sing songs together (like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Gilligan’s Island,” or “We’re the Pirates That Don’t do Anything.”) You can bounce together when a group of big waves come by. And you can hope and dream about being rescued. Ask them, “What is the biggest reason you want to get back to shore? What do you miss the most?” Listen to their answers, and then confide that your greatest treasures are with you in this boat. Once you flag down the rescue ship that suddenly appears on the horizon, lead a prayer of thanks to God for the gift of your lives and for the countless good things in them.

Give one of these unique family festivities a try and let us know how it goes in the comments.

My Five Most Common Bits of Advice in Confession

July 17, 2015
Peter Swims to Jesus on the Shore in John 21

Peter was not afraid to approach the Lord whom he had denied, leading to his tripartite reconciliation. We can encounter Jesus likewise in the Sacrament of Confession.

Of the seven sacraments, Confession is my second favorite (after the Holy Eucharist.) This holds whether I am the one absolving or the one being absolved. It feels good to have that joy of a fresh beginning, or to know that I have helped another come nearer to the Lord. Having our sins forgiven does us incredible good — exorcists say a good confession is more powerful than an exorcism — but the priest in the confessional usually also offers some advice to help us cooperate with God’s grace, sin no more, and live daily life with peace.

Priests tend to hear certain sins or fears more often than others in confession, and in response to these a priest will tend to give similar advice. At risk of making my priestly counsel stale, but in hopes of spreading these helpful lessons for the benefit of many, I have detailed below the five most frequent pieces of advice that I share in confession.

Being Tempted Is Not The Same As Sinning

No priest should say that a sin is not a sin, but priests do right to free troubled consciences from guilt about things which are not sinful. Guilt from experiencing temptation is one example. Temptation, in and of itself, is not a sin. A temptation becomes a sin when we welcome its presence and give it our “yes.”

Sometimes people confess having bad thoughts or desires. I ask them whether they welcomed or entertained these temptations or if they resisted them. This matters because thoughts, feelings, and desires will often come our way without our willing them, but it is what we choose that is important. Only when our will chooses do we act in a saintly or sinful way. For instance, choosing to resist a temptation by praying or distracting ourselves is a holy deed. A saint is not someone who never knows temptation—he or she will likely understand temptation better than most—a saint is someone who consistently chooses love and the Lord even amidst temptation.

Good & Bad Reasons For Missing Mass

Our Sunday obligation flows from the commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy. Whenever someone confesses missing Holy Mass I ask whether it was by their own choice. (Again, what we do not choose is not our sin.) Sickness, hazardous travel conditions, or the need to care for others are all serious reasons that justly excuse us from attending Mass. However, deliberate, willful absence (such as on a family vacation) is a sin to be avoided. Using the internet and a telephone we can plan ahead to find and celebrate the Lord’s Sacrifice wherever our travels take us.

Forgiving May Not Be What You Think

Sometimes anguished persons confess that they just cannot forgive someone, even though they want to. Usually, this turmoil is due to thinking that forgiveness means something it does not. For example, without a bout of amnesia, we cannot literally “forgive and forget.” And trying to agree that past sins done to us were not actually wrong is a lie against the truth. Sometimes sins break relationships and circumstances such that things cannot go back to same way they were before. Or, perhaps we may still feel the pain inflicted—for some wounds cannot be healed merely by our willing it, but only with grace and time. However, none of these realities prevent us from forgiving. In fact, the person who desires to forgive already has everything they need to begin.

Forgiveness means loving someone despite past wrongs. Jesus calls us to love everyone, which means that we must forgive everyone. If you fear that there is someone whom you hate or whom you have not forgiven, simply pray for them. It is impossible to both will the eternal good of another (as we do in prayer) and to hate them at the same time. If you are praying for them, you are loving and forgiving them. The Holy Spirit may prompt you to take further steps in forgiveness down the road, but your prayer begins to open you both to the transforming power of God.

Training Yourself Not To Misuse Holy Names

Crude language is bad, but swearing by misusing the holy name of God or his saints is worse. Our love and respect for someone should be reflected, not negated, by our words. Whenever someone confesses the habitual sin of taking the Lord’s name in vain I suggest a new habit: The next time you misuse a holy name, as soon as you realize it, follow it with a praise (such as “I love you, Lord,” or a “Glory Be…’) This will do three things: it will help undo the wrong with a good (getting you back on the horse,) it will help drive out the bad habit with a good one, and it will present a Christian witness to anyone who may have overheard your profanity.

Apologizing To Your Children

When parents confess to yelling in (uncontrolled) anger at their kids, I ask them whether they apologized to their children. This is a good and beautiful thing for a parent to do because it models true Christian behavior for the children: “I needed to discipline you because you were doing something wrong, but I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I’m sorry.” If we want our children to repent of wrongdoings and seek forgiveness, we must walk the talk and show them how it looks. Authority is most respected when it manifests integrity.

Heeding Our Earthly Mother & Heavenly Father — 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 5, 2014

Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9,11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

A Wall Across the Road

Imagine an wall built across a road which has stood for as long as anyone can remember. The Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton suggested that when confronted by such a peculiar sight:

The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

It is said that human history has been constantly repeating two phases, summed up in two concise phrases:

First, “What could it hurt?
And second, “How were we supposed to know?

All of us are children of the same holy Mother, the Church. And she is united with God, our loving Father. Moms and dads sometimes tell us, “Don’t touch that–it will hurt. I know it glows enticingly, but it will burn you. We’re not saying this in order to control you or to make you miserable, but because we love you. We want you to be safe and happy.

Red_Hot_Coiled_Stove_Burner_3_by_FantasyStockWe then have three options in how we respond: Either we can touch the forbidden thing for ourselves and experience the pain firsthand. Or we can observe others who have touched the thing and learn from them (though they sometimes hide their pain and tears, even from themselves.) Or, and this is the best response, we can trust in the words of our Mother and Father and never get burned.

Sometimes the wise and the learned of this world refuse to see the truth, but to the little ones, to the childlike, the truth is revealed and they welcome it. In our first reading from Zechariah we find a prophesy about the Messiah. The Savior is not coming on a warhorse, but on a donkey—not as a conqueror imposing his will upon the earth by force, but meekly, inviting us to trust in him and freely embrace his will.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

This week’s Supreme Court’s verdict in the Hobby Lobby case comes as good news for religious liberty. However, we must keep praying. Though the five-to-four decision is a positive sign, religiously affiliated non-profit groups are not safely out of the legal woods yet. Many people of goodwill support Catholic institutions in their conscientious refusal to facilitate things they consider gravely immoral, but I wonder how many observers understand why Catholics have any objection to contraception and sterilization to begin with?

People fail to realize that contraception is not something new. For thousands of years, people have used various barriers, chemicals, and techniques to prevent the marital embrace from being fruitful. And most have never heard that before 1930 all Protestant denominations agreed with the Catholic Church’s teaching in condemning contraception as sinful. Most people have not realized what could be wrong with putting asunder what God has joined in the marital act; separating love-making from an openness to life. And though few recognize the harmful impact that contraception has on families and society, its consequences were not entirely unforeseen.

Pope Paul VI

In 1968, in the midst of a sexual revolution made possible by the birth control pill, some believed the Catholic Church would “update” its consistent teaching on contraception. (“What could it hurt?”) Instead, Pope Paul VI shocked the world with orthodoxy. His encyclical, Humanae Vitae or “Of Human Life,” was one of the most controversial documents of the twentieth century, yet the pope’s four predictions of what would happen if contraceptives gained widespread use have proven true:

  1. A general lowering of moral standards throughout society.
  2. A rise in infidelity.
  3. A lessening of respect for women by men.
  4. The coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.

What is more, a contraceptive mentality has so pervaded our culture that healthy fertility is treated like a disease and conceived children are treated like a cancer. Because of procured abortion, in any room of people under 40 years old, there is on average one person missing for every three people you see. This is the fruit of a contraceptive mentality. (“How were we supposed to know?”)

Whether the Catholic Church teaches on indecent images, fornication, cohabitation, same-sex relations, divorce and remarriage without annulment, in-vitro fertilization, abortion, drug use and drunkenness, euthanasia or suicide; for every “no” in her teachings the Church proclaims a greater, more foundational “Yes” to love and life and true happiness. As St. Paul tells us:

“Brothers and sisters, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Will we be childlike enough to listen to our Father in heaven and our Mother on earth? Learn from Christ and take his yoke upon you, for according to his promise you will receive rest. His ways require sacrifice, yet compared to the yoke of sin and death which comes with the ways of the world, Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Lost Children — Feast of the Holy Family—Year C

March 3, 2013

Joseph and Mary loved their faith. Every year they journeyed with family and friends to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. But one year, when the festivities had ended and they were heading for home, Jesus stayed behind.

It takes a day for them to realize He’s even missing, and then his parents hastily retrace their steps, with impassioned prayers on their lips for the safety of their Son. (Perhaps Mary wondered if these days would bring the sword that was to pierce her soul.) But then, on the third day, they find Jesus safe and sound, dialoguing ably with the religious teachers in the temple.

He seems surprised that his parents would be searching for Him, “Why were you looking for me?” Jesus still has some “advancing” to do in both wisdom and in the experience that comes with age. Not telling His parents where He was going to be was perhaps the boy Jesus’ honest mistake, and when Mom and Dad tell Him it’s time to come home He leaves with them and is obedient to them.

Today, on the Feast of the Holy Family, we recall Saints Mary and Joseph, the ideal parents, who lost track of their only Son in the big city; and we recall Jesus, the holy Child, the sinless Lamb, who wandered off from them. This episode goes to show that even perfect people sometimes make mistakes. Remember: not every personal failure is a personal sin.

Sometimes parents come to me with great sadness because their children have wandered from the Catholic Faith. They often blame themselves. Now it is possible to be negligent in not handing on the Faith, but the kind of parents who grieve over their children leaving the Church are probably ones who raised their children in the best way they knew how. These parents should not be so hard on themselves. Even Mary and Joseph had a child who wandered off on His own.

In this Year of Faith, who are the ones who have wandered from the Church that we should be seeking out? Pray for them and invite them back. Tell them, “It’s time to come home.”

The Giving Tree — Tuesday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

March 1, 2011

Do you remember The Giving Tree, that very green childrens book by Shel Silverstein? It’s a story about a boy and the tree that loved him. When he is a boy, the tree gives him her leaves to play with and her apples to eat. However, when the boy becomes a young man he comes asking for money, so that he can buy things and have fun. Since money doesn’t grow on trees, she gives him her apples for him to sell. Time passes, and he comes back, this time asking for a house. The tree lets him cut off her branches so that he may build one. Later, much later, the boy returns again, but he is now a much older and sadder man.”I want a boat that will take me far away from here,” he says. “Can you give me a boat?” The tree offers her trunk and he takes it. He fashions a boat, and sails far away. After a long time, the boy returns, now a very tried and very old man. The tree is now just an old stump. He has taken everything, but she still gives. The story closes with these words: “‘Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’ And the boy did. And the tree was happy.”

Now if The Giving Tree has always been one of your favorite books, that’s ok. If it has a special place in your heart, don’t let me or anybody take that from you. But, as for me, this book has always bothered the heck out of me. Even when I was a kid, the story filled me with indignation. Do you know what I’m taking about?

It’s the boy! The selfish, ungrateful boy, who never gives anything back. He receives everything the tree has to give and he never says, “Thank you.” He takes everything she has to give, uses all of it up on himself, and he never says, “I’m sorry.” This book would have been so much better if he just said “thank you” at the end. Does this kid’s behavior in the story of The Giving Tree bother you like it bothers me? If so, then you and I should make sure that we’re not doing the same in our own lives.

So who would be the “giving tree” we take for granted in our lives? Our moms and dads come first to mind. They’ve given us life, food, shelter, clothing, and love our entire lives. What have we given back to them? They probably don’t need your material support right now, but they would appreciate signs of your love. (It’s probably no coincidence that Shel Silverstein dedicated The Giving Tree to his own mom.) But there is another “Giving Tree” we can take for granted, who is even greater and more generous than our parents. I speak of God, and of Jesus Christ, “from whom all good things come.” What should we do for our parents and for God? We should honor them with our words. We should obey them in our actions. We should be grateful for everything and show it.

For God, we do this by way of sacrifices. (This Eucharist is a thanksgiving sacrifice. The name itself means thanksgiving in Greek.) Yet our sacrifice is not merely what happens here at church, but the offering of our whole lives. Those who make no sacrifices for God in their daily lives bring nothing to His altar. What do we have to offer Him today? What will we have to offer him tomorrow?

Jesus Christ is The Giving Tree. At this sacrifice, let us say to Him, “I’m sorry, for misusing your gifts.” Let us say, “Thank you, for your generosity to us.” And let us say, “I love you,” because that will make Him happy.

Wine and Drunkenness — Tuesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

February 8, 2011

“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. … Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.”

Everything that God has made is good, but anything can be misused or abused in ways that are wrong. A volleyball-sized amount of Uranium can provide electrical power to 200 U.S. homes for a year, but it can also be used in a single bomb to level a city like Hiroshima. The complimentarily of man and woman is very good.  They were made for each other, but they sometimes use each other in painful and unloving ways.

What about alcohol in its many forms? Is it good or bad? On the one hand, the Scriptures praise God for it as a gift: “You bring bread from the earth, and wine to gladden our hearts.” (Psalm 104:14-15) Yet throughout, the Scriptures also caution about the sin of drunkenness: “…Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, [instead] be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) You’ll recall that Jesus provided wine for the wedding feast of Cana, yet He would not be pleased if the guests used His gift for getting trashed.  If we are adults we may only drink alcohol in moderation, and if we are still minors we may only consume it under our parents’ direct supervision. Anything else is misuse, abuse, immoral and dangerous.

But what about illegal or recreational drugs? Can they be used in moderation? No, there is no moderation in this, for the entire goal of using them is to get high, to become intoxicated. If you have never abused drugs or alcohol, I hope you never start; and if you have, I hope you never will again.

Please do not dismiss this teaching as merely the tradition of your elders; for it is God’s command that we should never get drunk or high. God forbids it, just as every good parent forbids it of their children, because getting intoxicated is harmful and dangerous for us. The Scriptures say, “Honor your father and your mother,” and, “Whoever curses father or mother shall die.” Indeed, those who spurn their parents in this can taste sin and death in many forms.

When you’re intoxicated you make dumb decisions. (I don’t know about you, but I already make enough dumb mistakes in a day as it is.) Someone who is drunk or high will do impulsive, stupid things that they would never do otherwise. You lose control of yourself and become vulnerable to others. I don’t want any of you to wake up a morning after, regretting some serious thing done the night before. I don’t want any young woman here to find herself with child, and be tempted to do something terrible.

Imagine which experience would be worse as a consequence of getting intoxicated? To die alone from driving your car off a road into a tree, or to survive a head-on collision that kills a stranger or a friend? Go too far just once and alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose can have you pass out and never wake up again, put you in a coma or make you drown in your own vomit.

Or consider the risk and costs of addiction. Any recovering alcoholic can tell you a story about how much addiction costs, and any smoker can tell you how hard additions are to break. Of course, not everyone who gets drunk or high will become an addict, but some will, and after the first use of certain drugs, addiction is all but certain. With addiction, even if drug or alcohol abuse never sends you to prison, it can still cost you your freedom. And even if drug use never takes your life, it can cost lives of people far away.

Did you know that since 2007 there have been over 35,000 deaths in Mexico from the violence of their organized crime drug cartels? That’s almost ten times the number of American troops who have died in combat since 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why so much violence? It’s because the Mexican drug cartels make more than one hundred billion dollars a year from selling marijuana and other drugs to Americans, and they will murder or assassinate whoever stands up to them. When we buy their drugs, we’re supporting their terror.

Today I set before you life and death; choose life. If you have never abused drugs or alcohol, I hope you never start; and if you have, I hope you never do again. May no one ever say of Columbus Dons as Jesus said of the Pharisees: their hands are clean in public and ‘they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’

God’s Icon, The Family — Feast of the Holy Family

January 5, 2011

Our Catholic Faith is full of mysteries, but what is a “mystery?” In the world, or in a novel, a mystery can be completely solved once important clues are found. “It was Cornel Mustard, in the Library, with the Candle Stick”–case closed. But in the Church, a mystery is something rather different. Is not something that one more clue could solve, nor something so dark and impenitrable that we can know nothing for certain about it. We can know many things with certainty about Christian mysteries, but they are parts of our Faith which are so rich that we will never completely exhaust them. The Trinity is perhaps the greatest of these mysteries, but by God’s revelation (through words and deeds and created things) truths about the Trinity have been revealed to us. Invisible realities can be known through the things that God has made. One great window into the mystery of the Trinity is the human family.

In the beginning, the Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, took out one of his ribs, and built it into a woman.  When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” The two came together, and brought forth new life.

In the Trinity, the Son is of the Father; “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” The Son is “begotten, not made,” He is a person from a person; not a lesser, created thing. From the everlasting, mutual self-gift of love shared between the Father and the Son, God the Holy Spirit proceeds.

The human family is an icon of the Trinity, like the icon of Mary and Jesus on our Marian altar. An icon can teach us about, and actually connect us to, the events and holy people they depict; however, it is also possible to misunderstand their metaphor. Gazing and meditating upon the Holy Mother and Child can help us to know them and relate to them better, but it would be foolish to think that they are made of wood and paint like the icon. Not everything found in a human family applies equally to the Trinity, but the family is perhaps the greatest icon of the Trinity, sharing many of its realities.

The Trinity is one; three persons sharing the same divine nature. Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” and, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Likewise, in the family, husband and wife are one flesh and their children are their very flesh and blood. No matter what, your biological parents and siblings will be related forever, for there is a special oneness to your nature.

There is equality in the Trinity. Jesus accepted peoples’ worship, something only God can justly receive, and the Holy Spirit does the same: “With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.” Likewise, there is equality (or at least there should be) between husband and wife in marriage. Though there are natural differences between them, the two are equal in dignity.

Though there is equality among the persons of the Trinity, there is also an order among them. Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me…. The Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.” Though equal in dignity, the Son follows the Father’s lead.

Notice in the Gospel how three angelic messages come to Joseph in three separate dreams: first, to flee to Egypt; second, to return to Israel; and third, to settle in Nazareth. Now God could have chosen to send His angel to Mary. He had done it before, Mary would have certainly obeyed God’s command, and Joseph (following her miraculous pregnancy) would have believed her, but that’s not what God did. God wanted Joseph to lead his family, and when Joseph woke his wife up in the middle of the night and said, “Mary, I had a dream–we need to leave, right now.” Mary said, “Ok,” because she knew that he loved her and trusted him. As Mary was to be the heart of their home, Joseph was to be the head of their family.

Mothers and fathers, in sometimes different but complementary ways,  reflect the divine attributes of God. Our moms and dads were distant likenesses of God, but through them we first came to conceptualize about God. Through them we first experience beauty and strength, the firmness of justice and the tenderness of mercy, the immanent love that braces what we are and the transcendent love that calls us to be more.  Parents are icons of God. That is why bad parents can be such a scandal to a life of faith. If our own parents were poor, let us recognize that it is the ideal they failed to live up to, not their behavior, which is the actual likeness of God.

We are all called to marriage, either natural or spiritual. We are all called to raise up biological or spiritual children for God. We are all called to be icons of God. Let us pray for the grace for our own married and parental love to be a worthy icon of the Trinity. That may seem intimidating, but don’t be afraid. You were made for this.

We’re in a Hurry — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

July 18, 2010

The other day I was thinking about this homily when I heard the words of some modern poets on my radio. They said:

I’m in a hurry to get things done,
Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die,
But, I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

This goes to show that we still have a Martha problem today. The group Alabama said that they didn’t know why we get in a hurry, even though we’re not having fun, but I think I know the answer. The reason is that our loves and good desires are mixed with fears. If we would take that fear away, we would find peace.

Martha loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him well, but she had fears mixed in. She was the one who invited Him to the house and He probably had His apostles and other disciples with Him. She was busy serving them all, perhaps making the biggest meal she had ever made, and she was full of worries. “What if I’m a poor host and Jesus is disappointed with me? What if there’s not enough food for everyone to eat?”

We are often the same way. We fear that our lives are on the edge of disaster if our own plans and efforts should fail. We worry about bad things happening to ourselves and the people we love. We are anxiety about how Jesus feels about us.

Martha had a great desire to do good, but Martha’s fear tempted her to do harm. Her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. (The Greek word for disciple actually means “one who sits at the feet of.”) Martha tries to take Jesus’ disciple away from Him.

Similiar thing can happen in our live on account of fear mixed with love. A husband and father can obsess about his work, out of a love for his family and a desire to provide, but his family can be left feeling like they come second in his life. A wife and mother can be so concerned that her loved ones will be safe and happy that she tries to control everything, making her family less happy because of it. Martha’s problem and ours is not that we work–work is a part of life–but in how we go about it.

Jesus says to Martha, and to us, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” What is this one thing we need? We need the peace of Christ. What is the peace of Christ? It is several things.

It is the awareness that God is near and guiding us. In the first reading, three heavenly visitors approach outside of Abraham’s tent. Now, the Holy Spirit dwells within our tents, Jesus is at our side, and we have a Father above. We are never left on our own.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that whatever may happen to us or those we love, it is for our good. As St. Paul observes in the second reading, even his sufferings are a cause for rejoicing for they advance the salvation of the whole Church with Christ.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that misery is not just around the corner, nor is happiness out of reach. Happiness is at head, in the knowledge that Jesus loves us, likes us, cares about us, and cares for us. Living in the peace of Christ means there is no reason for us to be unhappy.

Let us continue to do works of love for God, ourselves, and others, but let us do them always in the peace of Christ.

Father’s Day Homily

June 19, 2010

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” (1 John 3:1) As St. Paul says in the second reading, “Through faith [and baptism] you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-27) God is our Father who lives and reigns in Heaven. What is the fatherhood of God the Father like? What can we say about His fatherhood. I offer these insights:

The Father’s love begets life.
We see this in His Son, who is eternally begotten from the Father. And begetting is not a merely an action which the Father had done and then walked away from. The Son is eternally begotten from the Father in love.  And, as the Prologue of John’s Gospel says, “All things came to be through [this Son], and …. what came to be through him was life…” The Father’s love begets life.

The Father labors in love.
God the Father labors to fashion and sustain creation; heaven and earth and every creature, seen and unseen. He makes them in love and preserves them in love. As the prophet in the book of Wisdom observes, “[Lord,] you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” (Wisdom 11:24-12:1)  The Father labors in love.

The Father guides His family.
The world became dark though sin, so the Father enlightened it. The people became lost without Him, so the Father guided them. The Father enlightens and guides His children by speaking His word to them. Jesus Christ is the Father’s word. The Father guides His family.

The Father is easily pleased by those who are His own, yet He calls them ever higher.
At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Yet, as today’s gospel recalls, the Father also called His beloved Son to take up the cross. Four days before His Passion, Jesus said, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28) On the cross, Jesus was not just lifted up, but exalted. The Father is easily pleased by those who are His own, yet He calls them ever higher.

The Father is just like the Son.
Some people find it difficult to relate to the Father, but the Father is just like His Son. At the Last Supper, Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.” (John 14:8-10)  The Father is just like the Son.

The Father transcends human fatherhood, but He is the origin and standard of all fatherhood.
God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. The Father is neither man nor woman: He is God. Although the Father is the origin of all fatherhood, He transcends human fatherhood. No one is father as God is Father. Yet, we who are earthly fathers, who have natural or spiritual families and children of our own, must take our Father in Heaven as our standard and model. Each of the insights I have given for God the Father have application for our fatherhood.

Your fatherhood should beget life.
Now the begetting of life is not merely biological, if it were then priests would not be fathers. There are some biological fathers who beget life and leave. These men fall very far short being true fathers. True fathers give life and nurture that life forever, like God the Father who begets His Son eternally. If you are a mother or father, even if even if your children should die, even if you should die, you are a mother or father forever.

Your natural fatherhood should be fruitful. More than just biologically, but biologically, too. What would you think of a priest who was both capable and called to work to beget more spiritual children by sharing the gospel, but who refused to do so for self-centered reasons. What if he were to say, “I’m happy with the number of parishioners I have already.” Your fatherhood should beget life.

Your fatherhood should be a labor in love.
Always remember whom you are working for and work for love of them. Beware of an ambitious careerism, which is all about you. What would you think of a priest whose primary ambition was to become a cardinal, instead of those entrusted to him. 

At home or at the workplace, labor in love for your family. And take time to rest and enjoy them. Even God the Father rested after His labors to enjoy how “very good” it was.

Your fatherhood should guide your family.
You are called to be a leader, guide, and teacher for your family. Your wife will not begrudge your lead if you love her and lead her as Jesus loves and leads the Church. Remember, Jesus died for His family and bride.

As parents, you are the primary educators of your children. Sometimes we think of education as only what happens at school. But the most important lessons in life are not taught in the schools, but in the home. The home is the domestic Church and the school of love.

In your fatherhood, let your children know your pleasure in them and always call them ever higher, to all they can be.
Always show them your pleasure, that with them you are well-pleased. But like God, love them too much to let us remain as we are.  Grow them to their full potential.

In your fatherhood, take the Father in heaven as your standard and model.
If you’re ever unsure of how to image the Father, look at His son, for Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. The Father is just like the Son.

May God bless all our Fathers, living or dead, and may help we who are fathers to be better ones.

Strengthening Your Family — Holy Family

December 29, 2009

Today we are going to try something unique. Close your eyes and let the Holy Spirit guide your imagination to show you what family life was like in the home of Joseph, Mary, and the boy Jesus…

Theirs is a small dwelling and you can see all of them there…

How old is Jesus as you see Him? What is He doing?

What are His parents up to? What are Joseph and Mary like as you see them interact with each other?

It comes to time to eat. What do you see the Holy Family doing?

As they relate to one other, what do you see expressed in their faces? It is now later in the evening and time for prayer. What do you see the members of the Holy Family doing?

You can return in your imagination to visit this house any time you wish, but now, let’s open our eyes and review our mediation.

What did you see as Joseph and Mary interacted with each other? Were they not tender and reverent towards each other? I bet you could see their great mutual love reflected in their smiles.

What happened in their house when it was time to eat? Who would imagine them not coming together to share their meal in each others’ company?

And later, when it was time for prayer, did the Holy Family do? Did you see them go off to their own corners, or did they come together, to pray as one family?

Did you see the Holy Family’s intimacy, their happiness, and their love for each other? Do you want your family to share a bond like theirs? Then take the Holy Family as your model: share your love, share your meals, and share your prayers.

First, on sharing your love. Let your spouse and children know every day that you love them. You can say it, you can show it, or you can do both. For instance, kids never tire of being hugged and told their loved each day.

As for married couples, don’t make the mistake of thinking that intimacy and love are only expressed physically. For St. Joseph had all sorts of simple, little ways to let Mary know that she was loved, and vice-versa. Be like the Holy Family in sharing your love.

A second way to model the Holy Family is to share your meals. The research of social scientists indicates that having frequent family meals together contributes many goods for one’s family: For starters, everyone eats healthier meals, and so kids are less likely to become overweight or obese. And kids who eat family meals are less likely to start smoking, to drink alcohol, or to try or to be addicted to drugs. These kids’ grades are better at school, and there is less stress in their homes. These things probably stem from the fact that families which eat together are bound to talk more, provided the TV is off.

These parents are more likely to know about their children’s lives and struggles and, just as importantly, their kids are more likely to know that their parents are proud of them and love them.

Jesus Christ thinks that the shared family meal is so important for us that He has instituted one for His Church and expects His entire family to be there; for to share in the Eucharist is to share in the life and communion of His family.

A third way to make your family more like the Holy Family is to share your prayers. Apart from dinner prayers or going to Church, most Catholic families do not pray together. I think that maybe we see the priest praying the Church’s prayers and think that we are not equipped to lead prayers of our own at home.

But it’s not true.  As fathers and mothers you have a spiritual authority within your families, what John Paul the Great called “the domestic Church.” Your spouse and your children need you to pray, not only for them, but with them. Right after the family meal might be the perfect time for this ritual of family prayer.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “But we’ve never done this as a family before.” Remember this: as parents, you create what’s normal for you children. If you want it to be normal for your children to eat meals with you, then make it normal for them.

If you want it to be normal for your children to pray to God with you, then do it normally. As parents, you create what is normal for your children and through your gift of these traditions to them you can bless them for a lifetime.

Finally, husbands and wives, if you do not pray one-on-one with each other, then you do not yet share a perfect intimacy together.  It is in prayer that our most intimate selves are laid bare and we ask another person to help us with our heartfelt needs and concerns.

Maybe you’ve never prayed with your spouse before. Then perhaps you can begin like this:  hold each others’ hands, close you eyes, and pray to God for each other, for a little while, even if for just ten seconds, say, before you go out the door. 

Once this becomes comfortable you can begin to telling each other what you want to be prayed for. And, after this is comfortable, you can begin to pray for each other aloud.  Begin the process of praying like this and it will transform your intimacy together.

Perhaps you gave many gifts to your family members yesterday for Christmas, but the greatest gift you can give to each other is yourselves. So follow the way of the Holy Family: share your love, share your meals, and share your prayers.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

October 25, 2009

Return of Vampire. 1944.

Next Saturday, as the children here may know, is Halloween, the evening celebration involving crazy costumes, yummy candy, and scary stuff. But this evening was formerly popularly known as All Hollows’ Eve, for it is the vigil of All Saints Day, November 1, the Solemnity of God’s hallowed ones. oday, I would like to talk to you about vampires, that’s right, vampires. Now vampires are not real, but we can learn a lot from their mythology and bad example, for vampires are embodiments of the anti-Gospel.

For example, Christians are children of the light and of life, but vampires are creatures of the night, of darkness and of death. Vampires fear the daytime and they sleep in coffins. Vampires tempt, seduce, and exploit others. They manipulate persons as things to be used. Vampires steal others’ blood and take their lives. This is the opposite of Christ, who tempts, seduces, and exploits no one. Rather, Jesus calls, invites, persuades, and challenges with the truth, with goodness, and with love. He treats everyone as a person to be loved. Rather than taking, Jesus gives us His blood and His life, His entire living person in the Eucharist, so that we can share His life.

How do you defeat an otherwise immortal vampire? Traditionally, there are two ways: either drag him into the sunlight, or put a wooden steak through the heart. Why do these tactics work against them?      These things work because vampires are personified evil, and evil cannot overcome either the light of Christ or the wood of His cross.

There’s one more element of vampire mythology with something to teach us. Vampires can only enter a house, if they are invited inside by the people who live there. In vampire stories, the peasants don’t realize that the attractive, charming, intriguing person at their door is really a vampire, so they invite him in without realizing the threat he poses, or their own vulnerability.

Now comes the scary part of the homily, where we apply the lesson to ourselves. What have we unguardedly welcomed into the heart of our homes? What in our lives most resembles the vampire? It is, I suggest, the television and the internet.

Now granted, television and the internet are not digitized evil, like the vampires are personified evil. There is real good to be gained through these forms of technology, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that they can’t seduce us. More often than not, it seems that television and the internet suck our lives out of us. They are up to our necks, but we are too infatuated with, or hypnotized by, them to realize that something is wrong.

Ask yourself, when was the last time that you watched TV and came away thinking, “Wow, that was great.  You know, I really think watching television made me a better person”? Now consider this question: when was the last time you watched TV and came away from it feeling unmoved and unsatisfied? That dissatisfaction should tell us something. Television sucks our life from us, and the internet can be just as bad, or even worse. Not only do these forms of media tend to disappoint us, numb us, and give near occasions to sin, they can harm our families too.

TV Children

Imagine if there was going to be a public execution in Marshfield tonight and your son wanted to go and watch, would you let him go? Yet how much death, simulated and real, is there to be seen on TV? Would you allow a complete stranger into your daughter’s bedroom unsupervised? Yet how many of our children have a TV or the internet right in their rooms? If TV or the internet were a person, would you welcome that person into your home?

Again, I am not saying that everything on television or the internet is evil, or that every good Catholic should discontinue their cable and internet subscriptions. But I am convinced that we need to be more careful and discerning about their roles in our lives, and that our habits with them probably need to change.

It could be that the single greatest thing you could do today to strengthen your family life and to improve your life of prayer would be to simply unplug. Imagine how much more opportunity and motivation you would have every day for family bonding and quiet times with God, if you put all your TVs in the basement and hid the internet cables along with them. Why not try it for a week? Or, if you’re really serious, why not make this your Advent penance and see how much your life is changed?

Like the psalmist said,

‘Although you may go forth weeping,
you’ll be carrying the seed to be sown,
And you shall come back at the end rejoicing,
carrying the sheaves you’ve harvested.’

After your unplugged period is over, you can bring the TV and the internet back if you want, but you will be freed from any addictions to them and they will be less likely to seduce you in the future, into the life of the living dead.

In the Gospel, the blind man, Bartimaeus, threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and ran to Jesus. Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied, “Master, I want to see.”

Like vampires, change in our lives can be scary, but we should have the courage to see how much our lives could be better by following Christ in this way.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

October 4, 2009

At my old seminary in Ohio, where I was formed for the priesthood, there’s a great professor named Dr. Perry Cahall. Dr. Cahall taught us not only through his lectures but also by his personal example, as a husband, a father, and a good Catholic man. One of the courses taught us was early Church history, a class that covered the controversies and councils of that era about Jesus Christ and the Trinity. Now a person might easily overlook the importance of those councils, but Dr. Cahall presented us with a revealing thought experiment. He would have us imagine how things would be different if the heretics had won the day. For example, he would say, “Imagine a world in which Arius was right.” (Arius claimed in the 4th century that Jesus was neither God nor man, but rather the highest creature God had made.) What if the bishops at the council of Nicaea would have spurned the Holy Spirit, and the apostolic tradition, to make Arius’ theology the creed we say each Sunday? When you sit down to consider the consequences Arius’ belief would have for our morality, our worship, and our world, you realize that everything was at stake at Council of Nicaea. 

Important ideas have consequences. If some Christian belief does not influence your life, then you have either not accepted it, or you have not really grasped what it means. Dr. Cahall liked to say, “If you get into pulpit as a priest on Trinity Sunday and preach to your people that, ‘The Trinity is a mystery, so there’s really nothing we can say about it,’ I will hunt you down like the dogs you are. (We think he was kidding.) He said this because the Trinity and Incarnation are the two most central beliefs of our faith and they are full of implications for our lives. Important ideas have important consequences and our beliefs should shape our lives.

Dr. Cahall also taught our seminary course on marriage and family, and he had a meditation about marriage, family, and the Last Judgment that I hope to never forget and always remember. He would say, “At the Last Judgment, every person who has reached adulthood will stand before the Lord’s throne and Christ will ask them two things: First, ‘Were you faithful to your spouse?’ And second, ‘Show me your children.’” Now he said this to a room full of seminarians on their way to becoming celibate priests, but what he said is valid for everyone. We are all called to marriage, be it spiritual or natural. And we are all called to be mothers or fathers, either spiritually or naturally.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. That is why a man… clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”

The fulfillment of our humanity is achieved, in Christ, through marriage and having children. Priests and religious who live chaste, celibate lives are no exception. That’s because celibacy is really about fruitful, spousal relationship, to one spouse, bearing many children. It is not without meaning that tradition calls nuns and consecrated virgins the “brides of Christ,” for they really are. All people are called to marriage; to fidelity in marriage, to permanence in marriage, and to fruitfulness in marriage. This is our Christian belief, but many people today have either not accepted it, or not really grasped what it means.

Consider the meaning of fruitfulness for marriage. The psalmist today considered having a large family to be a blessing (‘may your children be like olive plants around your table’) and Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them.” But many people today act as if having more than two children were a curse, and prevent more children from coming. Now there can be serious and legitimate reasons for naturally regulating and limiting births, but I fear that many people, when it comes down to it, are resisting Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever receives a child such as this in my name receives me.” So what does it mean if someone refuses to receive a child in His name?

Couples are afraid; they’re afraid that having four children will be twice as hard as having two.  But if you ask most Catholic couples with large families (with numbers of kids that were commonplace fifty years ago) they’ll say that the burden is less with each additional child, while the love and blessings within the family are multiplied. We should not be afraid to give ourselves fully to fruitfulness in marriage.

We are also called to permanence in marriage. Marriage in Christ is “until death do us part.” But in America today, one in every two marriages end in divorce. God says in the Old Testament, “I hate divorce,” and I suspect that the children of divorced parents share in His sentiment. Cases of abuse, serious addition, or unrepentant infidelity may require a couple’s separation, perhaps indefinitely, or may even require a divorce in the eyes of the state, but a consummated sacramental marriage can never be divorced in God’s eyes. As Jesus said:

“What God has joined together, no human being must separate. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

That is why a divorced person cannot be remarried in the Church without a determination by the Church that something essential was lacking in the first marriage, from its very beginning, which prevented that marriage from being sacramental. So no one should say that annulments are “Catholic divorces.”  Annulments are judgments by the Church that a marriage was never sacramental. But in a valid, sacramental marriage, the mission of the husband and wife is to lead each other to heaven, no matter what, and to raise up children, natural or spiritual, for God.

If you want you children to feel safe and secure, tell them what my parents told me and my sisters when we were kids. Tell them, “Even, though Mom and Dad may argue sometimes, we want you to know that we will never, ever, get divorced.” Tell them this, and mean it.  They’ll really appreciate it. And I’m sure your spouse would like hearing you say it, too.

Most people would still agree that a married couple should be faithful to each other, exclusively.  But I would not be surprised if we began to see the open dismantling of this third pillar of marriage as well. The institution of marriage has been under assault for many years. It’s not that people have been out to destroy marriage per se; but steps to redefine what marriage means weaken marriage all the same.

Now a person might easily overlook the importance that traditional beliefs about marriage have for our society; but, like Arius’ heresy, when you sit down to consider the consequences of negating fruitfulness, permanence, and fidelity in marriage, then you realize that everything is at stake when it comes to marriage. You can’t remove or seriously weaken all the pillars from a house and expect the roof to remain hovering in the air. When we redefine marriage to mean what it is not, the house we live in comes crashing down upon us. That goes for one marriage or an entire society’s marriages.

So what are we to do? First, we must pray. Pray for your marriage. Pray together as a couple, because you need this. Pray together with your children, because they need this. And pray for our country, because it needs this. And then, empowered through your sacrament of marriage, which makes the love between Christ and His Church really present between the two of you, live out what Christian marriage really is as an example for all to see. Be fruitful, be faithful, be loving and joyful, as long as you both shall live.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

August 17, 2009

We humans are forgetful creatures. Look at the Hebrews, running short on food and patience in the first reading. It’s only one month since they’ve walked freely out of Egypt; after ten miraculous plagues, after the parting of a sea before them, after the total destruction of their enemies behind them. It’s just one month later and they’ve already forgotten God’s desire and creative ability to care for them. They’ve forgotten, and their hope is gone.

In the Gospel there’s more forgetfulness.  The people come to Jesus and they ask Him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?” Have they already forgotten about His recent miraculous sign, how just the other day he multiplied loaves and fish for them?  Recalling that miracle to mind would have strengthened their faith and hope.

We’re forgetful too. I, for example, often have a problem remembering how the responsorial psalm goes.  I hear it, I repeat it, and then it’s gone. We’re forgetful people. For instance, can you remember what I preached about the last Sunday I was here? I wouldn’t expect you to.

I spoke about how we should be hopeful because of Jesus Christ. I also strongly emphasized the importance of each of us to pray every day. This morning I want to teach you how we can be strengthened in faith and hope by recalling in prayer our most grace-filled memories.

Maybe you pray as the first thing when you wake up. Maybe you pray before you go to bed each night. Maybe you pray while you’re driving, perhaps imagining Jesus or Mary in the seat beside you. Maybe you make a daily visit to Jesus here really present in our tabernacle. When and where you pray each day is not as important as the prayers you offer and the connection and consolation that Christ wants to give you.

Anyone who prays frequently will have times when they sometimes seem to wander about in a desert of unfocused thoughts. By an act of will, we can try digging a hole here or there, looking for new, fresh, spiritual water. But there is an easier way to go about things when our prayer time feels hard and dry.

If we search our memories we can find places and times when God was obviously close and active. Perhaps a time when He silently but clearly spoke to you, or a time when He provided for you in answer to your prayers. Perhaps the births of your children or day you got married are moments that perceivably touched the eternal.

These memories can be wellsprings of grace and consolation for you. Just because we have left a well behind in your past doesn’t mean that well is run dry. What was true then, is still true now and you can go back their in your memories and draw graces from it again. Our grace-filled memories can serve as an anchor of hope, our ever-accessible source for faith and hope in prayer.

There is one more thing I on which I want to speak.  Our psalm said today:

“What we have heard and know, and what our fathers have declared to us, We will declare to the generation to come the glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength and the wonders that he wrought.”

This psalm is not only written for the Old Testament Jews, its meant for us as well. And when it mentions “fathers” here, priests like me are not the fathers it has foremost in mind. Fathers, if your children only hear about God from me, your silence will speak a message to them. It is important that you be a spiritual leader for your family and tell the stories of our faith and of your faith.

Parents, have you ever told your children of “the glorious deeds” that the Lord has done for you? If not, why not? Do you feel reluctant to tell? Or do you think that there is nothing to tell? Either way, a change needs to happen.

So remember, whether you are dry at prayer, or raising children for the Lord, remember to remember.