Opening day

Cubs_Flickr_verndogsThe communion of saints lurks around every corner. This afternoon in my dining room, the 1941 Boston Red Sox starring Ted Williams—some say baseball’s best hitter—are playing the ’41 Cincinnati Reds. My son and my husband, the respective managers, are locked in battle across the Sherco board baseball game that my husband’s been playing since he was 13.

Ted Williams is long dead, of course, as are many (if not all) of the players who hit, pitch, and steal bases on our dining room table. Yet they live on. This paradox is no problem for Catholics. We thrive on contradictions, mysteries; we accept the presence of the dead among the living.

Resurrection surrounds us. On our vacation to Pittsburgh last summer, we set out to find the site where the slugger Josh Gibson played for the Negro League Pittsburgh Crawfords back in the days before African Americans stormed into the majors behind Jackie Robinson in 1947. Gibson, legend has it, hit more home runs than Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron.

As we leave the old park—now a little league field with Gibson painted on the dugout—we encounter a strapping young man who asks us about our visit. Believe it or not, he says that he is Josh Gibson’s great-grandson. Sean Gibson runs a nonprofit that matches at-risk grade-schoolers with college students to tutor and mentor them. Oh, and he runs the Josh Gibson Little League at the park where his great-grandfather once played.

My husband and I started schooling our children in baseball long before they went to actual school. My son, who played baseball through high school, can tell you endless facts about the game in the 1920s. He made it his mission to singlehandedly resurrect the name of George Sisler, first baseman for the 1920s St. Louis Browns, a fearsome hitter my son discovered by playing the aforementioned board game. My daughter played in a coed league (baseball, not softball, she’d want me to add) till she was 17 and the only girl. Chicago’s Wrigley Field is one of her favorite places in the world.

Baseball excels in teaching Catholic virtues, especially the big three: faith, hope, and love. It actually has an official term called a “sacrifice.” It never ducks the big existential questions. Baseball (especially for Chicago Cubs fans) breeds loyalty and fortitude in the face of disappointments and temptations to give up. It offers moments of fervent prayer and invitations to ponder competing visions of God’s will.

“Never teach children morals,” says theologian Stanley Hauerwas, “teach them how to play baseball. That’s how you learn moral authority.” What makes the game work as a school for virtues, however, is who teaches it to you: a dad who spends hours playing catch with his daughter, focusing on the positive; a mom who invests the hours needed to teach her son how to watch a baseball game, how to recognize the selfless or selfish choices of players, how to spot the cocky rookie who won’t heed the manager and will soon be on his way to the minors—all lessons about life.

The new baseball season is upon us. And in the dining room, Ted Williams just popped up to second base, dashing his team’s hopes for a big inning. Stay tuned.

By Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, 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.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

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Photo: ©Flickr/verndogs

Visiting the sick–it’s catching, part 2

kid hand flower RGBmgDzFCU…continued from last week

Serious illness requires a serious response. When Judy’s stepsister was dying of complications of diabetes, Judy visited her often. Her stepsister was unconnected to a church, and as Judy visited, she began to feel strongly that she should bring her own pastor to meet with her sister. “I didn’t want to push it on her, but I also felt an urgency,” Judy says. “A few visits later I just showed up at the hospital with Pastor Dan. They connected immediately, and he began to go visit her without me.” Judy says that through those visits, her stepsister found a renewed, strong faith in Christ. Judy’s pastor helped prepare her stepsister for death. “Before she died, she asked him to do the funeral. Through this experience, I learned to listen to what the Holy Spirit lays on my heart and act on it. I learned not to let fear of rejection or ridicule dictate my actions.”

Virtual visits are important, too. When Jonathan’s teenage son was struggling with alcohol, he and his wife made the difficult decision to enroll him in an in-patient rehabilitation program. To protect his son’s privacy, Jonathan and his wife chose not to tell their closest friends from their school and church. Instead, Jonathan sent an e-mail to his college buddy, who lived in another state. While the friend couldn’t come visit, he and Jonathan began e-mailing almost daily about the situation. Every so often, Jonathan’s friend would call a pizza place in his neighborhood and have pizza delivered to the family. “I told my two other sons, who were still at home while their brother was in rehab, that I hoped they would have friends like this guy someday,” says Jonathan. “He was a gift from God in the midst of a terrible time.”

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.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Visiting the sick–it’s catching

flowers_morguefile_gedcFrom the At Home with our Faith series on how families are doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The expression “I don’t have time to get sick” is a common one. Moving at a hundred miles an hour with work, the kids, and household responsibilities, we recognize that a day lost to coughing, fever, and aches will result in more work the next day. Too often we take our health for granted—not thinking about our throat until it’s sore or our digestive system until it malfunctions. But as rare as we’d like to believe illness is, our bodies are fragile, and none of us are immune from illness. Our response to those around us struggling with illnesses—both large and small—is an opportunity to be Christ to others.

Don’t ask, just do it. When a flu bug hit the house of Dave and Maureen, parents of five, the family went through a month-long period where one child or another was sick. Dave and Maureen were also sick themselves some of the time, and other times they were unable to leave the house because they had to care for their sick children. “Friends dropped off meals without even asking how they could help, saving me from feeling badly about actually accepting the help,” Maureen says. “One friend even brought over a sack of groceries—staples like milk and bread, and treats she thought we would enjoy. These gestures filled our stomachs, but most important, warmed our hearts, giving me the emotional boost I sorely needed.”

William, father of two young boys, stops by the nursing home with his kids to see his godmother,
who has Alzheimer’s disease. “In the beginning, I thought I needed to call first, to see if the timing was OK,” he says. “But then I realized that it didn’t matter when I came. If she was eating, we’d sit down with her as she ate. If she was napping, the nurse would usually wake her up. Liz was always so happy to see us, and I couldn’t believe how much joy our toddler brought to that Alzheimer’s unit. Normal little kid behavior that I wouldn’t think twice about at home became beautiful
and hilarious to all those people.”   …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.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Photo: morguefile/GedC

Your kid messes up–now what?

trouble_istock_funstock.floppedWhen children are small, we call their misdeeds “naughty.” As they get older, we may say they’ve broken the rules or are acting disobediently. Few parents use the word “sin” when describing something their child has done wrong, but when children turn away of God’s grace and instead hurt someone, they have sinned, and one of the privileges (although a difficult one) of parenting is to help our children turn back to the always-present love of God.

Acknowledge what the child has done wrong. Some parents struggle to see the good in their children and find fault too easily, while other parents only see the good their children do and are uncomfortable admitting their children make poor choices. The healthiest parents see their children as God does—as essentially good people who occasionally sin and need to be redirected into God’s love.

Bart, father of four boys, has this to say: “My wife and I have tried to respond as we think Jesus would have. To let the child know that God has already forgiven them, to assure them that we all make bad choices and that ultimately what matters is how we respond to the bad choice we’ve made. What can they do to repair any damage that has been done? How can they use the situation to help them make a better choice the next time? How can they grow in compassion for others who may have sinned against them in a similar way? In other words, we’re all on a journey of becoming who we’re meant to be and, through Christ, we can allow even our sins to become blessings to help us become those people.”

Good can come even out of serious sin. When Judy’s son Andy was arrested for drunk driving, he didn’t want his mother to come near him, he was so ashamed. But Judy prayed that she could continue to love her son as God did. “As parents we need to teach and discipline our children, but it must always be wrapped in love. We still have to face the consequences of our choices, but God’s love for us never changes,” Judy says. “It took a while for all of us to work through all the emotion.” After her son’s arrest, Judy gave her son the book Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper (Crossway). “Andy has told me that reading that book right after being arrested changed his life for the good.”

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.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Image: © istock/funstock

“But Mom, I am too old enough!”

Cute kid, a girl, playing with a smart phone in forrest.Your child can drive at 16, vote at 18, drink alcohol at 21. But other than these big milestones, parents receive little guidance on when the time is right for the many other rites of passage. There is no set age for when a child should start doing chores, when they’re old enough to go to the mall, when they should receive a cell phone or Facebook account. Thoughtful parents can ask themselves the following three questions to help determine if the time is right for a child to take on a
new responsibility.

What will my child learn from this? Every new step carries with it learning potential. Children who are held accountable for completing a daily chore or two will be able to better handle independence later. “Clay needs to throw his dirty clothes down the laundry chute,” says Jenn, of her 3-year-old. “Some days he likes to do it, some days he doesn’t, but regardless, it’s his job.”

Starting kids with jobs young, supervising them well, and continuing responsibilities into the teen years is an important way parents can help their children look outside themselves.

“Our teenage son sometimes complains about walking the dog each day,” says his dad, Francis. “He always has too much homework, or has less time this week because of sports practices, but we make him do it anyway. We are instilling in him that responsibilities outside the home don’t excuse us from helping the family.”

What are the risks? It’s a child’s job to try to become independent from their parents—and a cell phone, Facebook account, and trips with friends to the mall will all serve that desire to separate. But it’s the parent’s responsibility to understand the threats to a child’s safety, even as children insist everything will be fine.

Children will flourish when their steps toward independence are granted with caution and attention to both the benefits and risks. Children whose independence is limited in grade school will have a greater sense of self to draw on when they’re allowed to become more independent in high school.

Bart and Terri, parents of four boys in their teens and early 20s, did not allow cell phones until high school, and then required each boy to turn in the phone at 10 p.m. “It is rewarding to have our oldest son thank us for having restricted him when he was still living at home,” Terri says. “He’s now doing youth outreach work and is interested in studies showing the effects of limitless electronic use by teens.”

How is God guiding me? Mary and Joseph didn’t think their 12-year-old was old enough to be separated from their family, teaching in the Temple, but God had other plans. Conversely, 30-something Jesus wasn’t convinced it was time to turn water into wine until his mom nudged him into that job.

A deep faith can help parents keep their eyes on a bigger purpose than the question of the moment. “I am constantly praying that God guides me as a father,” says Mike, dad of two girls. “I find that having a consistent prayer life helps me in decision-making with my daughters because I am tuned in to the bigger picture of who God wants my children to become.”

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.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Photo: ©Flickr/hypotekyfidler.cz

A family “how to” for Holy Week

Jesus on Cross RGB mjBzWKCSomeone I know who works at a busy Catholic parish told me about the time she got invited to a Thursday night Pampered Chef party by another parishioner. Turns out the date was bad for her—and for the Catholic hostess, too, had she been paying attention. The designated evening was Holy Thursday. While there was surely some food preparation involved at the Last Supper, commemorating Holy Thursday is best done in worship as a community—not by witnessing the wonders of a gourmet garlic press.

The story reminded me of someone in my extended family who made a tradition of using Good Friday as a day to go shopping with her mom at an upscale mall. My mother-in-law was aghast and tried with each passing year to convince the young woman of the inappropriateness of hitting glitzy stores on the same day Jesus died on Calvary. Continue reading

Lent: Isn’t it time for an upgrade?

computerI was doing dishes in the kitchen last week when Jacob came in and started unloading the dishwasher. While dishwasher unloading is a job that belongs to the kids, I had not yet asked anyone to empty it.

“Who are you, and what have you done with Jacob?” I said to him. Jacob smiled—he knew what I meant. While I would never describe Jacob as lazy, he usually needs to be reminded to do his jobs around the house.

“Is this a new and improved version of Jacob?” I continued. “I like it.” Continue reading

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