Fast, yes, but not from candy

chocolate RGB mgyqtSyGiving up chocolate for Lent is one way to fast, but in Bringing Lent Home with St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families (Ave Maria), author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle offers different ways to fast for each day of Lent. Try some yourself and with your spouse and children—each is just for one day.

  • Today, fast from speaking ill of anyone, even if it is justified. Pray for them instead.
  • Today, fast from procrastination. If there’s something you need to do, do it in a way pleasing to God.
  • Today, fast from making excuses. Do what is asked of you.
  • Today, fast from being prideful. In everything today, give praise or credit to someone else.
  • Fast from technology today. Avoid TV, surfing the Internet, playing video games.
  • Fast from whining. If something disappoints you, offer it to God and trust him with it

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.

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Person to person

Pope Francis greets Catholic faithful as he arrives for his final mass on Copacabana Beach in Rio de JaneiroSome weeks back I went to hear Dr. Paul Farmer speak in Chicago along with his mentor, liberation theologian and champion of the poor Father Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru. Farmer, if you’ve never heard of him, is a Harvard physician, and a Catholic, who has almost single-handedly revolutionized health care for the poor in developing countries over the past three decades. I expected an audience of 100 or so, mostly of older folks. Instead I beheld a hotel ballroom packed to the rafters with nearly 2,000 people, almost all of them under the age of 25, many of them Catholic high school students.

What message did Farmer and Gutiérrez have for the throngs of eager young people who came out on this chilly evening? I could best sum it up in five words: “We must accompany the poor.” Not coincidentally, it’s the same message being advocated by Pope Francis, another favorite of young people—because they observe that he practices what he preaches.

They love that he invited four homeless men to join him for breakfast on his birthday. They love the story told by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who visited him in Buenos Aires several years ago: Then Cardinal Bergoglio made the airport pickup himself, in a borrowed car. “We passed all the great sights, but did I hear about them? No,” said McCarrick in a talk at Georgetown University recently. “The only thing I heard was, ‘Under this bridge is the worst slum in the city. I try to visit often.’ ” McCarrick stressed, “He doesn’t just reach out to the poor, but to the individuals who are poor.”

You saw the key word there: individuals. What if, this Lent, we found a way for our family to get to know some poor individuals in person, by name? “They have much to teach us,” says the pope to encourage us. Perhaps our local parish could help: The March 2014 U.S. Catholic magazine reports that during the weeks when Lumen Christi Parish in St. Paul, Minnesota hosts a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, parish families—children included—come in to host and have supper with them. What a great idea.

Our family’s monthly visits to a homeless shelter in Chicago, kicked off by one of my kids having to answer, “What is your family doing for Lent?” for a homework assignment, have been eye-opening. As “clothing ministers” on certain Thursday nights, we accompany folks as they choose from donated pants, shirts, socks, coats, hats, gloves, and (when we’re lucky) long johns. It’s been great to see my son and daughter bemoaning the lack of blankets or size 32 pants on a given night. My husband, to my great amusement, always seems to get the guys who shop just like I do, taking their sweet time browsing, patching together a decent outfit from odds and ends.

We all wear name tags—so we can learn one another’s names. Some of the guests at the shelter are nice; some not as much—just like the rest of us. And I learned that nope, not even homeless folks in Marquette Park want those old clothes with holes or giant ink stains. And why should they? I wouldn’t.

It’s wonderful to write checks for the poor; to donate clothes, toys, food. Bravo. But Paul Farmer, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Pope Francis suggest that we summon our courage and take the next step. Our children will thank us.

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.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Photo: ©Flickr/Semilla Luz

 

A thousand small compromises, part two

Couple winter walk RGB 2dMEpAK…continued from last week  

Prayer helps perspective. For Miguel, married for 12 years to Beatriz, compromise is easier when he is actively taking time to pray. “When I spend a few minutes in prayer at the beginning of my day, I find that our marriage flows better,” he says. “I have an easier time letting go of my own agenda and being able to compromise when I am prayerful.”

Conversely, Miguel noticed that during a recent rocky patch in their marriage, neither he nor his wife were praying. Continue reading

A thousand small compromises

Couple SmilingWhen Brian and Jenny, parents of three, were first married, they struggled with Brian’s attendance at the many gatherings of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins hosted by Jenny’s side of the family. Feeling that the gatherings were taking away from time with his friends and his life outside the extended family, Brian would often come late, leave early, or skip events entirely. “This led to frustration and hurt feelings on both our parts,” Jenny says.

Eventually the two decided that Jenny would tell Brian which gatherings she most wanted him to attend. Brian, in turn, would commit to attending those from start to finish, but with the understanding that he would get a pass on the less important events. “Interestingly, after I changed my expectations and took a more low-key approach, Brian joined me at most gatherings, and he was always at the most important ones. Now this is no longer an issue in our marriage,” Jenny says.

Compromise is a staple of any good marriage, but it can be elusive. Continue reading

Good night, to-do list

Midnight DeadlineEvery weeknight, sometime between 9:30 and 10:45 p.m., my husband will stand and say, “I’m heading up.” He climbs the stairs, stops in the bathroom, and gets into bed. This takes about approximately a minute and 47 seconds. He might read for a while. Then he falls asleep.

“I’m heading up” has become the cue for my mind to zoom around to all the things I meant to do that evening but did not. Did I make my lunch? Sign that school form? Oh look, I meant to wash those pots in the sink. Did I answer that one e-mail? As I check the computer, I’ll invariably find another e-mail or two that need answering. (I’ve discovered that legions of working women are e-mailing after 9:30 at night.) And then there’s the casual announcement by a child that a giant trifold board is required for the project due tomorrow. Calling it quits for the night is hard because my worth depends on how much I accomplished in the past 24 hours—right?

At Home with Our Faith has had “busy parents” in its subhead for many years. Somewhere back in the 1980s, it became an accepted fact that parents are ridiculously busy. The 1970s recession, plus the loss of many jobs that paid a real living wage, meant that many working- and middle-class people could no longer support a family on one parent’s salary.

Sometimes I wonder if the time demands of modern parents are beginning to rival those of pioneer parents who had to butcher their own meat and make their own clothes. Continue reading

Who does God want your kids to be? (part two)

RGB mhYpJXY boy on sled…continued from last week

Resolve to recognize fragility. The church calls parents “co-creators with God” of their children. From this vantage point we can see, more clearly than others can, the parts of our children that can stand in the way of their ability to become the people God means for them to be. One of my children struggles with stubbornness; another with impulsivity; one is working on becoming more honest; and one wishes to be more decisive. I know I am called to hold my children accountable and help them move past their struggles and do their best, yet I am also aware that children are fragile. If I push too hard for improvement, I risk causing a collapse of the progress we’ve made. Continue reading

Who does God want your kids to be?

SONY DSCFor your New Year’s resolution this year, consider a pledge to be yourself and to help your children be themselves as well.

St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Those words resonate strongly for parents. On the surface, we seem to have a thousand things to do for our kids—find the cleats, wash the uniforms, drive to practice, supervise homework, make dinner—yet at the same time everything required of us is summed up by St. Catherine. Our main job is to help our children become who God wants them to be. Continue reading

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