Teach your children well

Madona_of_mercyThe first installment in our series asking parents to reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy–this week “Instructing the Ignorant.”

LaTonya and Jerrell, married 19 years, with three children between 5 and 15, bring opposite personalities to parenting. LaTonya is a take-charge person, with strong opinions of how children should behave, do homework, and use their free time. Jerrell, a researcher, describes himself as a “laid-back scientist” not only in his career, but in parenting as well. Slow to direct the kids, he prefers to watch them learn things on their own. Both see “instructing the ignorant” as a work of mercy that applies both in their own family and in the greater world.

“While we don’t really use the word ‘ignorant,’ I think the spirit of what we’re trying to do is instruct our kids in the right way to live,” says Jerrell. “My wife and I have really different styles, but our goal is the same—to raise kids to be adults whose morality and decisions are guided by their faith.”

LaTonya agrees. “My approach is to head off problems with the kids; my husband’s is to discuss the consequences afterward,” she says. “I think the main thing is that we both realize that children can learn something from every situation, and it’s our job to make sure that learning takes place and that kids aren’t going through their lives without thought.”

While few parents consciously consider this work of mercy as they go through day-to-day life, parents, more than most people, intuitively understand its power. “Instruction helps people to see things from a different point of view and invites them to conversion and transformation,” writes Patricia M. Vinje in The Encyclopedia of Catholicism (HarperCollins). For parents, transformation is the goal of parenting—we spend 18 years transforming the helpless baby we receive into a young adult able to meet life on his or her own. Good instruction leads to beautiful transformation.  …continued next week

By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for   four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

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Image: Ravensburg Madonna of Mercy (1480s), Staatliche Museen, Berlin




The Sunday side of the street

shadow_iStock_joelblitThe entrance procession to Our Lady of Mercy Church begins long before the servers start up the aisle. Take our family, for instance—we walk, or sometimes run, down Sunnyside Avenue, where our feet must by now have worn their own groove into the sidewalk, in the footsteps of thousands of families who have walked to Sunday Mass here for the last 100 years. Our procession includes a family footrace on a certain half block, decreed by our son years ago. At least we’re in good biblical company: Didn’t Peter and John race each other to the empty tomb?

We climb the steps into church, where Charles tells us his son is finally back in the country after serving in Afghanistan for several years. Whew. And here’s Carol, who grew up in the days before girl servers, who once told me how much it means to her to see our daughter serve so confidently. Continue reading

You don’t need all the answers, part two

mom and daughter(continued from last week)

Use what you don’t know. St. Augustine said, “God is not what you imagine or understand. If you think you understand, you have failed.” This mystery of God’s movement can help parents and children continue to seek God’s will for us. When Brigid, mother of four, lost her job, she explained to her four children, “Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all on the ‘God plan.’ ” Bringing faith into family life doesn’t mean providing all the answers. Rather, it means admitting that you turn over the struggle, pain, and uncertainty of life to God.

Allow the privilege of church attendance.  While we often speak of church attendance as an obligation, a study from Mississippi State University shows that children whose parents regularly take them to church benefit behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively. Continue reading

You don’t need all the answers

dad play with son outdoor at parkShortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, Angie’s daughter Charlotte, 8, was struggling with why the bombers would do such a terrible thing. Charlotte asked her mother question after question about the bombings, straining to get all the information so as to answer her big question, “But why?”

Angie answered as many questions as she could, but eventually she recognized that with the question of why, her daughter was looking for a worldview. So Angie changed her tactic. “I told her that the bad news is what is often reported, but God wishes for us to do good and most people strive for this,” Angie says. “I suggested that when she sees something good happening, she should pass it along to someone else, so that news is spread.”

A few weeks later, Charlotte approached her mom and told her about an act of kindness a boy in her class had done for her, explaining that she was practicing what her mom said about passing on the good news. Continue reading

Sit down and be quiet, part two

Dock on lake RGB mgPG0LePart one of this U.S. Catholic interview with Father William Meninger appeared on the Homefaith blog last week.  Here is the whole interview.

Do you think contemplative prayer is more valuable than prayer for other people’s needs?

Yes. In Chapter 3 The Cloud says, “This form of prayer is more pleasing to God than any other form, and it does more good for the church, for the souls in purgatory, for the missionaries than any other form of prayer.” And then it says, “Although you may not understand why.”

Now see, I understand why, so I tell people why. When you pray, when you reach out with all the capacity that you have for loving God without ulterior motives, you are embracing God then, who is the God of love.

As you embrace God, you are embracing everything God loves. What does God love? God loves everything God has created. Everything. Now this means that God’s love extends to the utmost bounds of an infinite cosmos that we can’t even fathom, and God loves every tiny atom of that because he created it. Continue reading

Sit down and be quiet

Meditate_Flickr_SusanNYCWhen you try to pray, do you fidget? Do you keep starting a grocery list in your head? Don’t worry. Just give God 20 minutes.  For the next two weeks At Home with Our Faith presents a U.S. Catholic interview with Trappist Father William Meninger on the practice of contemplative prayer. If you think you can’t do contemplative prayer because you’re too busy, or you can’t focus, Father Meninger says stoutly that such prayer is “not just for monks and priests, but for everybody.” 

When Father William Meninger left his post in the Diocese of Yakima, Washington in 1963 to join the Trappists at St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, he told his mother, “That’s it, Mom. I’ll never be outside again.”

It didn’t quite turn out that way. One day in 1974 Meninger dusted off an old book in the monastery library, a book that would set him and some of his fellow monks on a whole new path. The book was The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th-century manual on contemplative meditation. Meninger says, “I was amazed at the practicality of it.”

He began teaching the method to priests on retreat at the abbey. “I have to confess,” Meninger says, “that when I first started teaching it, because of my training, I did not think it could be taught to laypeople. When I say that now, I’m so embarrassed. I can’t believe I was that ignorant and stupid. It didn’t take long before I began to realize that this was not just for monks and priests, but for everybody.”

His abbot, Father Thomas Keating, has spread the method widely; through him it came to be known as “centering prayer.”

Now at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, Meninger takes four months a year from his monastic life to travel the world teaching contemplative prayer as presented in The Cloud of Unknowing.

He also had the bright idea to teach it to his mom once, while she was on her sickbed. But that’s another story.


How did you end up becoming a Trappist monk after being a diocesan priest?

I was very active and successful as a parish priest. I had worked in the Diocese of Yakima with Mexican migrants and Native Americans. I was vocation director for the diocese, in charge of the Catholic Youth Organization, and I somehow felt I wasn’t doing enough. It was quite difficult, but I loved it. I was not at all dissatisfied, but I felt that I had to do more and I didn’t know where I could do it.

Finally it came to me: I could do more by doing nothing, so I became a Trappist. Continue reading

When a parent is depressed

couple in trouble  RGB mhGwPtWA spouse of a depressed parent is often consumed with simply keeping the family moving forward. Surviving, rather than thriving, becomes the goal. Things like hugging one’s children, normal routines, and time spent listening can all fall victim to the parent’s exhaustion as he or she struggles to keep the family on course. Here are suggestions from Let Me Sow Light: Living with a Depressed Spouse by Amy Viets and Bernadette Stankard (ACTA):

Discuss the depression regularly.  It’s not enough to give an introductory explanation and assume the children understand. Every few weeks, talk about how the depression is affecting the family—and listen to concerns your children have. Children often believe they are the cause of the depression. Continue reading


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