From Disney Princesses to Driver’s Licenses – Letting Go as Our Teens Grow Up

Raising teenagers is not for the faint of heart! I’ve always heard this and known it to be true, but had not experienced it fully until I went for the first drive with my 16-year-old at the wheel. After she had been instructed in driver’s ed class and by my husband, this was my first experience handing over the controls to her and trusting her to bring us safely to our destination. I held my breath, I gasped, and I blurted out, “Stop!” multiple times, but in spite of my panic and fear, we made it there and home in one piece. I learned that she is, in fact, a good driver and can handle a ton of steel on wheels with the best of them.

Part of me was utterly amazed that this, my child from birth, who I fed, changed, and cared for, was actually growing up and becoming more independent and autonomous. She has always needed me to provide food, shelter, clothing, and the other basics of survival, but now, it seems, she is maturing and moving beyond dependency to more self-sufficiency. I am so excited for her to spread her wings and gradually experience the joy of independence, but at the same time, I am admittedly a little nervous about releasing her into the world and trusting her to make good decisions. Just like during our maiden car ride, I am fearful about her ability to travel safely through life and make sound judgments and decisions. I worry about not being there to protect her from the dangers and evils of the world. And mostly, I hope and pray that she comes to know, more and more each day, the joy and beauty of Jesus and our Faith, and that she remains under the protective care of the Church all of her life.

As our children grow and mature, it is necessary to begin to let go and entrust them more to the Lord as they embark on their own adventures and find their place in the world. As I write this, I am aware that my daughter getting her driver’s license is, in a sense, a turning point in our relationship and in her life. Just as she can now leave the house alone and drive to the store or to school, she is, increasingly, becoming more autonomous in many ways and less dependent upon my husband and me. Our hope as parents is that we have demonstrated and instilled in our children the importance of faith and dependence upon God to live happy and fulfilled lives. As they venture out into the world, the most important lesson we can teach them is to continue to be faithful to the Church, to frequent the Sacraments, and to maintain a relationship with God, who guides and sustains us. If we succeed at this, we can be assured that we have given our children a precious treasure, one that will lead them to the greatest of all destinations, eternal life in heaven.

Back to the driving analogy, when in traffic, we make many decisions and judgments about driving the car, often without much time to think about them. As our children become teenagers and young adults, they, too, will face a myriad of decisions, some fairly inconsequential, but some life-altering. What can we teach our children about steering through the thruways and intersections of life and navigating their journeys successfully?

While watching Disney’s Frozen II with my family recently, I was struck by the moment when Anna inspires the audience with her musical, “Do the Next Right Thing,” as she searches for the strength to rise up and move forward in a desperate situation. Sound advice for our young people who are just beginning their journeys from us, as parents, who have faced the trials and difficulties of maturing into adulthood ourselves. “But how do we know what the next right thing is?” you may be wondering. This the question Disney fails to answer, but one that the Catholic Church can be trusted to supply wisdom regarding. As a wise priest recently advised in a homily, “If you want to know what to do, stay close to the Church and to Jesus.” It is here, in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, that we hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us and instructing us. Under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God, also, we can be assured that we are heading in the right direction. Praying her Rosary daily for wisdom and strength are certain to keep us on the right path.

From Disney princesses to driver’s licenses, my little children are growing up and so will yours. We will always be their mothers, but they will need us less as they mature. They will have their own unique dreams, hopes, and plans, separate from the ones we have for them. Although they will be more independent and have lives of their own, we can always sustain them with our prayers. A suggestion I am beginning to incorporate into my own rosaries for my children is to bind them to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for her guidance and protection after each decade. Trusting in her care, we can have confidence that she is looking out for them and covering them with her motherly mantle as they go forward into life.

Go to Joseph, the Model of Husbands and Families

On our home alter, we have a unique statue of the Sleeping St. Joseph.  He is reclining, his head resting on his bag, and seems to be in a deep slumber, readying himself to continue his blessed mission of caring for the Virgin and the Child Jesus.  The devotion has experienced an increase in popularity since promoted by Pope Francis.  The Holy Father has explained that he keeps a statue of the sleeping saint, writing his petitions out on a slip of paper and placing them underneath the statue, trusting that St. Joseph will handle things for him as his sleeps.  Needless to say, there is a generous stack of petitions underneath my statue at home.  St. Joseph always comes through for us!

“Why is St. Joseph sleeping?” you may ask.  The answer is found in Scripture. St. Joseph was visited by an angel in his dreams as he slept and instructed on the Father’s will for him and the Holy Family.  Four times Joseph was directed in dreams to act, and four times he promptly obeyed. In a world that has nearly forgotten the virtue of obedience, we can look to his example of prompt and willing submission to the Will of God in every circumstance. 

Men face the responsibilities and obligations of providing and protecting their families.  Often the stressors on our husbands can be overwhelming. The same was probably true for St. Joseph as he took Mary as his wife and welcomed Jesus at the Nativity.  We can only imagine the array of emotions which St. Joseph must have experienced during the time he was espoused to Mary until the birth of Jesus and their harrowing flight into Egypt.  Despite any fear and apprehension he may have felt, his faith and trust in God guided all of his actions, and his obedience never wavered. 

We need men like St. Joseph, who are ready to imitate the courage, purity, and obedience of this great Saint. In this year of St. Joseph, as declared by Pope Francis, what better time to become familiar with this great man of God and to learn from his virtuous life.  Devotion to St. Joseph is for everyone, but we can especially encourage our husbands and sons to nurture a devotion to St. Joseph and to begin to turn to him for help and assistance in becoming faithful and more virtuous men. One way to a stronger devotion to St. Joseph is through Fr. Donald Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph, which has gained popularity in this year devoted to the saint. Each night, our family is praying together the preparation for Consecration, which will take place on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19.  This practice has united us as a family and enlightened us and our children about the wonder and power of this great saint.

There are no words recorded from St. Joseph in Scripture; however, his actions reveal great wisdom that we can imitate and learn from.  He is regarded as a model of courage, obedience, and humility.  Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), issued on the 150th Anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, reminds to turn to the silent and unassuming Saint, especially during trying times.  He explains, “Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”  Do you feel unnoticed or overlooked?  Remember that St. Joseph was a strong but silent support for Our Blessed Mother and Jesus, and through his gentle humility, he teaches us that even when others do not acknowledge or notice us, God loves each of us with a perfect love and sees the good that we do. Even in obscurity, we can become great saints. 

When you are unsure, Go to Joseph.

When you are afraid, Go to Joseph.

When you need a powerful intercessor, Go to Joseph!

Head of the Holy Family, Pray for Us

Imagem de ESchwartz por Pixabay

In a world confused by gender ideology and with the attack on the idea of the traditional family, it is a difficult time to instill in children and teenagers to appreciate the need for strong, holy families. Even as my husband and I try to faithfully live out our vocation to Catholic marriage and parenthood and provide a solid foundation for them, I know that our teens still have questions about these issues. They are surrounded by confusing ideas and beliefs in our culture that threaten their understanding of the family as we believe and our Faith teaches that it should be. What are some ways we can reinforce our children’s acceptance of and confidence in the traditional family?

One way is to turn to the saints who exemplified traditional family values. With the Solemnity of St. Joseph approaching on March 19th, our family has been preparing together each evening for the Consecration to St. Joseph, using Fr. Donald Calloway’s formula in his book Consecration to St. Joseph, The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father. In each chapter, Fr. Calloway highlights a title of St. Joseph, and follows the order of the Litany of this great Saint. Last night, we read about the title, “Head of the Holy Family,” which examined St. Joseph’s role as husband and father in the Holy Family and explained the concept of a father’s authority in his family. Fr. Calloway began with the statement that, “Today, calling a man the “head’ of the family is frowned upon.” He explained that this doesn’t mean men or better or more important than women; only that their roles were intended by God to be different. He proposes that if more men begin to model their fatherhood on St. Joseph’s, the “crisis in manhood can be corrected.”

Our children are watching and listening to our examples as fathers and mothers. We need God’s help and the example and intercession of the saints to root out our faults and become better spouses and parents. What better saint to turn to as an example and an intercessor than the Head of the Holy Family, St. Joseph. He spoke no words in Scripture, yet his obedience, courage, and humility speak volumes if we take time to reflect upon his actions. He responded quickly and decisively when instructed by the angel in dreams to take the Virgin Mary as his wife, and to protect Jesus and Mary when they were threatened. He remained faithful until the end to his role as the leader of the Holy Family. We can trust in him when we need prayers and help with our own families’ needs and problems.

When we make our Consecration to St. Joseph as a family this year on his feast day, I plan to have a special meal and dessert and a celebration to honor our holy patron and that, hopefully, we can all attend Mass that day together to celebrate our Consecration. I hope that this festive observance will make an impression on our three girls so that they adopt this devotion to St. Joseph for themselves and continue to love and honor him. I am asking his intercession for all of our children, that they will find their own individual vocations. If they are called to marriage and family, I ask that he will guide them to devout and faithful husbands who, like St. Joseph are strong, faithful, and protective. I am thankful for my own “St. Joseph,” my husband, who has always been a steady and devoted provider for our family and has been a model of faith and virtue for our family.

Head of the Holy Family, Pray for Us.

Creation Mode

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Things are messy at our home this weekend. There are flowers strewn about the kitchen, Gorilla Glue being pasted on cake plates, and conference notes feverishly being taken in a writer’s notebook. Like I said, it’s a messy process, but the promise of the finished product helps me to overlook the chaos and remember that, in this season of life, the mess will always be there, but the creative process is what’s important right now.

From an online writer’s conference to a sixth-grade project in process, we are inventing, using our creativity, and delving into our imaginations. My daughter is building a cake plate and adorning it with glitter and artificial blossoms, an idea she conceived while scanning the shelves of Michael’s after school on Friday. I love seeing the project come together. It gives me hope that my own literary ideas may somehow come together and take shape into the book that I am attempting to write.

My mother’s favorite verse from Scripture is Phillipians 4:13 “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me,” sometimes translated as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I, too, often reflect upon these words and lean on them for encouragement because they give me hope and confidence. Whether facing a fearful situation or undertaking writing a book as I am now, I know that God doesn’t make promises that He can’t keep. I truly believe these words, so even if I don’t always believe in myself, I realize that it is God who does the heavy lifting when I am weak.

Even when we don’t believe we can do something, if our inspiration comes from God, we can be assured that He will guide and encourage us throughout the process. Another encouraging verse from Phillipians reads, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6) And so, for today, I ignore the jumble and the clutter and forge on. The housework will get done eventually. For today, I write.

I invite you to follow this blog in hopes that it will be a source of inspiration and encouragement to you on your journey with Jesus. Thank you for your prayers and support!

A Quiet Christmas

This year, after a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family, we have all decided to err on the side of caution and celebrate Christmas separately, in our own homes, instead of gathering as we always have, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this has been a sacrifice, we think that this is the best decision for everyone, until it is safer to get together as a family. In making this sacrifice, we hope that those we love will stay healthy and safe and that we will be able to see them again soon, when hopefully we will have subdued the virus and the threat will be lessened.

On one hand, we miss our parents and siblings and wish that we could all celebrate together as usual; however, looking at the glass as half full, this quieter Christmas we are able to more clearly think about the real meaning of the season and spend time reflecting on that most significant event over 2,000 years ago which changed the world, the birth of Jesus. In the emptiness and solitude, we can remember that Joseph and Mary were alone that night in a cold stable, when the King of Kings came into the world. There was no festive gathering or jubilant party awaiting Him at His birth, but rather a solemn silence in simple surroundings.

Although this Christmas is different and less celebratory, it is no less filled with the peace and joy of the true meaning of the day. The highlight of Christmas for us will be Mass on Christmas Eve, when we remember and receive the greatest Gift, Jesus in the Eucharist, and give Him thanks and praise for all of the blessings we have received this year and throughout our lives. Like the Holy Family on that Silent Night, we are enjoying the peace and solitude of a quiet Christmas and remembering the real meaning for the decorations, the music, and the celebration.

Wishing you and your family blessings for a peaceful and holy Christmas!

Overcoming Fear

During this time of pandemic, unrest, division, and uncertainty, many are facing fear and anxiety on a new level. Having struggled with anxiety for many years, I recently reflected on how devotion to Our Lady and her Seven Sorrows has helped me over the years to deal with the fear and worry.

In the Desert with Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel – Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay 

During this time of being largely homebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have had to field complaints of, “Mom, I’m bored!” from restless children. The adults in the family have probably experienced some cabin fever as well. With no family gatherings, sporting events, and other of the usual forms of daily activity and entertainment, it has taken some getting used to the “new normal” for many of us. You could say the experience has seemed somewhat like being in a desert – barren, desolate, and empty at times. Some of us may feel like we’ve been stranded in this dry, arid desert without much comfort. Many would consider time in a desert as being fruitless because of the isolation and lack of activity; however, it depends on how you look at it.

With the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel approaching on July 16, we are reminded of those religious around the world who have devoted themselves to a life of prayer and sacrifice in the “desert” of Carmel. They have given up many of the pleasures and comforts of the world in order to follow God more closely and to hear his voice. The first Carmelites were hermits on Mount Carmel beginning in the 12th and into the 13th Centuries. They dwelt on the mountain, inspired by the Old Testament Prophet Elijah, who prayed, fasted, and witnessed to God by performing a miracle before the worshipers of the false god Baal. Elijah and the early hermits on Mount Carmel were willing to leave the world and sacrifice everything in pursuit of holiness and union with God. Elijah proclaimed in  1 Kings 19:10, “With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.” Carmelites today continue in the spirit and tradition of Elijah as they intercede for the world through prayer, fasting, and sacrifice.

Though we as lay people are not called to the vows and lifestyle of Carmelites, we can learn from their simple and sacrificial way of life. With many of our activities cancelled and having to spend much more time at home because of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to use this time to deepen our faith and prayer life. Even five or ten minutes a day is a good place to start. Some methods of prayer we can incorporate into our daily routine at home include reciting the Rosary alone or with family or friends, reading and reflecting on the daily readings and other spiritual reading, or reciting the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy at three o’clock in honor of the hour that Jesus died. Being in the “desert” of this pandemic is an ideal place to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, which often comes to us when we slow down and allow ourselves to experience silence and solitude.

Now more than ever the world needs saints, and we are all called to strive to attain this goal. Whether our days are spent at a desk, working with our hands in manual labor, or at home raising children, or whatever our vocation entails, each of us is called and is capable of becoming the person God wants us to be. This time of pandemic is not a waste of time. Rather, we can offer up any suffering, anxiety, or inconveniences which it has caused us as a sacrifice to Jesus, and we can use the experience wisely by growing in holiness and deepening our prayer life, and especially by calling on our Mother of Mount Carmel to help us.

The Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel begins on July 8 and ends on the feast day, July 16. One way to join in the novena is to receive email reminders from Pray More Novenas by signing up here. Let’s beg Our Mother the Queen of Carmel to intercede for us with God for our individual and collective needs and petitions by praying the novena together.

God Bless You!

More Than Sparrows – A Gospel Reflection

Image by Oldiefan from Pixabay 

“Do not be afraid,” he says. “Even all the hairs of your head are counted.” How comforting to know that God is aware of and looking out for every detail of our lives and wants to provide for us in all of our necessities. If he knows the number of strands of our hair, how much more is he intimately familiar with our needs, problems and desires. We are never alone in our trials and struggles; Jesus is always with us, watching over us. In addition, he has given us his Mother Mary, the best of mothers, to care for and protect us. With Jesus and Mary, we have friends in the Church Triumphant and can depend on the constant intercession of the saints in heaven to assist us.

On the Value of Human Life

In today’s Gospel, (Matt 10:26-33) we are told that we are “worth more than many sparrows.” Our lives are precious and valuable to God. On the value of human life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude.” (CCC 1700) Because we are created in God’s image and likeness, each human being is important to him. In order to preserve and fulfill that dignity, we are expected to persevere in faith and good works and to strive to grow in virtue and holiness to become more like God.

Life Under Attack

The sanctity of human life is under attack today. Examples are abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty. Human life is degraded and devalued very often in more subtle ways such as gossip and discrimination Some have forgotten that people are more important than things, and that every life has value, no matter how healthy, productive, or planned. Along with becoming actively and prayerfully involved in Pro-life efforts, how can we advance the culture of life that the Church seeks to preserve and proclaim?

Building the Kingdom of God

Not all of us are called to be on the front lines of the Pro-life movement; however, we can promote the value of life in our everyday activities and encounters. There are so many ways we can build others around us up. The most basic thing we can do is to love. We are called to love, even when it is hard; even when we don’t feel like it. Do we take the time to be the light of Christ and a life-giving presence to everyone we are in contact with from day to day, even on days and in moments when it is not so easy? Showing love and mercy are easy and effective ways to affirm the dignity of others and to help build up the Kingdom of God.

The World Needs More Love

It may sound simplistic but it is true that knowledge and love of Jesus is what is lacking in the world today. When we know Jesus, we discover his love for us and that we matter to him. It follows that when we are aware of our own dignity and value, we are inspired to share love and spread the gospel to everyone we meet. Knowing that God truly loves us and cares for us, we can’t help but desire to extend that love and mercy to others. Undoubtedly, there are people all around us who are suffering in ways we are not aware of. A smile, a friendly greeting, an offer of prayer – these are all ways we can help others to realize their own dignity and value in God’s eyes. Mother Teresa encouraged us to, “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” She also said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” The world needs more love – are we willing to be the ones to share it?

George Floyd and the Greatest Commandment

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

We probably all thought the year 2020 would be forever remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic alone; however, the focus was shifted on May 25, 2020, with the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, caught on video, by a police officer while three other officers stood nearby. Protests, followed by nights of looting, burning, and violence, ensued in cities across the nation. Cries of racism and police brutality have been met with impassioned reactions from all sides. How are we, as Christians, called to respond to the situation which has developed in our nation?

Today’s gospel message can help us to know where to begin when faced with issues such as racism and how to address it. We are all called to follow the ‘greatest commandment,’ which Jesus made clear when questioned by the one of the scribes. In response to the scribe’s request to know the “first of all the commandments,” Jesus responded:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)

In all our undertakings, Jesus declares, we are to love God and others. To be fruitful and productive, compassion and understanding must preface any attempts at dialogue and discussion about racism. Each side must humbly admit its mistakes and imperfections in order to work toward a peaceful resolution to differences and prejudices.

There are inadequacies on both sides of the race issue. White Americans must admit that there are vestiges of racism still present within our society. There is more that we can do to create opportunities and help break cycles of poverty and dysfunction which unfortunately exist in many African American communities. Loving others as Jesus instructs us to involves attentively listening to the grievances of these communities and working toward solutions to remedy the problems which exist within them. If each of us examines our own heart, we may find traces of prejudice and lack of charity and understanding toward our brothers and sisters of color that we have overlooked or not acknowledged.

There are problems on the side of the protesters as well. Certainly, racism exists in certain individuals and groups; however, the solution to the problem is not to react with violence or lawlessness, but with love and forgiveness. It is necessary to peacefully call attention to the problem, but to do so in a lawful and appropriate manner, respecting God’s laws and civil authority.

African-American conservative commentator and political activist Candace Owens, in a recent YouTube video, expressed her passionate disappointment in the Black community for “demand[ing] support and justice for the people in our community that are up to no good.” While reiterating that the actions of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death are inexcusable and that they should face justice, Owens also rejected the attempt to elevate Floyd to a “martyr for black America,” citing his criminal record from the past and the evidence that he had not fully reformed at the time of his arrest. Owens urges African-Americans, instead, to work toward personal accountability and to improve the situation through peaceful means.

Beginning with humility, we can move toward loving one another and forgiving past transgressions. Loving God and loving neighbor can only sincerely occur when preceded and accompanied by faith and prayer. The path to a greater, more peaceful world begins in the heart of each individual. When we allow ourselves to be changed and transformed by God through prayer and the sacraments, then we can proceed to go out and change the world around us for the better.