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At Home with Our Faith now in digital format

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To order or for more information, call Sara Bieszczat at 312.544.8184 or email

Screen ShotDigital edition format allows parents and parish staff to read the award-winning newsletter on their PCs, tablets, or smartphones.


He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

A recent study showed that brothers and sisters value different things in their relationship with their siblings. Sisters feel closest to each other when they are talking something over, while brothers feel the greatest intimacy when they are doing something together. Brother-sister combos also tend to forgo the talking in favor of activity.

Parents who want to help their children deepen their relationships with sibs can look for opportunities to let their children be “alone together.” The normal distractions of family life— sports practices, friends, cell phones—can make it difficult for siblings to spend quality time together.

Yet positive sibling relationships are worth pursuing because they are often the longest-lasting relationship in a person’s life. Here are a few ideas to make sure your kids get some time together:

• Sibling “dates.” You provide the cash and transportation, they come up with the idea. The catch—it can’t be a movie or arcade. This date is about interaction with each other.

• Sibling “sleepover.” Why should slumber party fun be just for friends? Sleeping bags, popcorn, and some flashlight tag in the backyard can turn a normal Friday night into a great memory.

• Take away the little kids. If you have a larger family, take the younger kids away for a couple hours and let the big ones spend some time together without worrying about including the young ones.

—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 2010 and 2011 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. 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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Step away from the laundry

I would be a much more spiritual person if I didn’t need to do the laundry.
Our parish offers excellent adult education programs on matters of faith and also has various types of prayer groups. The programs are offered in the evening on just about every day of the week, every church season of the year. 
And Bill and I hardly go to anything. 
We haven’t always been like this. As young adults, Bill and I attended Theology on Tap (Catholic speakers with beer to follow) religiously. We stayed after church for the Advent and Lenten series. We were involved.  Continue reading

Holy water: Dive right in

Did you know you’re allowed to keep holy water in your house? Don’t worry if your family room isn’t equipped with a baptismal font and you don’t have a stoup (holy water vessel at entrance of church) in your front hall. Take a special glass jar or a little Tupperware container to your parish priest and ask for some holy water to keep at home. If you wish, have kids decorate the container with religious symbols. Keep the holy water in a handy place and occasionally take it out so your children can bless themselves with the Sign of the Cross. Better yet, you bless them with a splash of holy water and a quick prayer.

 By Annemarie Scobey, from At Home with Our Faith newsletter.

Take a look at At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home–read a sample issue and check out our Moms’ Night Out  monthly discussion guides.  We offer very low rates for parish use.  And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Mom: Whose will be done?

There is no doubt that I am in charge.

A hundred times a day, my four children approach me with requests, questions, and reports that require me to respond in some authoritative way. Mom, can I download these iTunes? Mom, can you take me to John’s house? Mom, she took my doll!

Parents learn quickly, during the toddler years, that answers must be given decisively. Anyone who has uttered the words, “We’ll see,” after a request for a Popsicle knows that if you don’t want to talk about that Popsicle for the next half hour, you’d better come up with a yes or a no. Continue reading

God gets around

This past summer my sister-in-law taught a whole class of teenagers who had flunked religion. They came to her summer school class from Catholic high schools across the city. These students had their share of troubles. Many came from crazy family situations; the number living with even one parent was small. “What many of them really need is a social worker,” said my sister-in-law.

One day they discussed the Ten Commandments. Many students, having barely heard of them, declared which commandments they disagreed with (many). My sister-in-law asked if they had any codes of behavior about, for example, stealing. The students’ consensus was that while it was wrong to steal from another person, stealing from a large store (e.g., Target) was OK. Continue reading

Heart to heart

As a kid in Catholic school, I grew up learning a lot about Mary. She was the Mother of God and the mother of all people everywhere. She wore a white dress and a blue veil and had a serene, dreamy expression. She also had a visible heart, one crowned with flames and pierced with swords.

Though I admired Mary’s pastel prettiness, I always thought the Immaculate Heart pictures were kind of creepy. After all, no woman I knew had a transparent chest or an exposed heart. I always found that image foreign, off-putting, and bizarre.   And then I had a child of my own. Continue reading

Calling all feet

 I won’t forget the first time the whole churchful of us washed one another’s feet at Our Lady of Mercy Church on Holy Thursday. Some sat cemented to the pews, determined that no one have a chance to snicker at their bunions, their ugly toenails. Others took off shoes and socks and walked haltingly, bare toes on marble, up the aisles, to where someone washed their feet and they, in turn, washed the feet of the person behind them. The choir began to sing.

 A white-haired man knelt and took my 7-year-old daughter’s foot in his huge hands. Singing to her all the while, he poured water over her foot and tenderly dried it. “En la arena he dejado mi barca,” he sang, looking her in the eye, smiling, “junto a Ti buscaré otro mar.” (“All I longed for, I have found by the water. At your side, I will seek other shores.”) I pondered stealing the foot towel to dry my tears.

 I saw one woman, whom I had heard mutter, “I’m not getting my feet washed,” watching her neighbors return smiling to their seats. At last she sighed, unzipped her knee-length boots, and made her way out into the aisle. Jesus’ boat had apparently pulled alongside, and she had decided to climb in after all.

 Give your kids the gift of Holy Week this year. Consider it a long weekend: Instead of soaking in a hotel swimming pool, they can soak in the essence and the drama of being Catholic. No more complaints that Mass is “always the same, week after week,” as Holy Week bursts with once-a-year moments. 

 The Holy Thursday procession with the three oils for anointing the sick, the baptized, and the confirmed this year.  The foot-washing, and later the stripping of the altar and procession with the Eucharist to where it will remain, candle-lit, until midnight. Can you return with your kids to pray late in the night?  Try asking them whether they have what it takes to stay up with the Lord, after they’ve just heard the gospel of the disciples nodding off this very night when Jesus had asked them to stay awake with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Or climb into the car and set off for some late-night prayer visits at neighboring churches.

 On Good Friday, the only day of the year without a Mass, we line up to kiss and embrace the cross. Young and old, we bring our sins and sorrows to the feet of our Savior. Can your family try a day without TV today? Perhaps you can find a living Way of the Cross, too.

 Holy Saturday: Watch the priest place symbols of Christ on the new Easter candle: “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, alpha and omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages!” he proclaims, before the candle leads us into the dark church for the Easter Vigil. Cheer for the newly baptized, who stand before us beneath a downpour of water and grace and are hauled in, dripping wet, by Christ, who still knows how to fish even though his dad was a carpenter.

 We’re not just recalling history here either, not just hearing the tale of a man called Jesus, crucified and raised long ago. “I am with you always,” said Jesus (Matt. 28:20). Christ in our miscarriages and our cancers, in our births and deaths and in one more macaroni and cheese dinner. “Christianity is not an intellectual system, a packet of dogmas, a moralism, Christianity is rather an encounter, a love story; it is an event,” said Pope Benedict XVI a few years back. Amen. Let’s use Holy Week to help our children fall in love with Christ.

By Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, from the archives of At Home with Our Faith newsletter


Take a snow day this Lent, part one

The analogy of Lent as a desert has never worked for me. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and except for a year spent in Chicago, I’ve lived here my whole life. When Lent arrives in Wisconsin, winter is only half over. Last year, Ash Wednesday in Milwaukee was ushered in with a blizzard that closed every school and most businesses in the metro area. To me that snowstorm is a fitting beginning to what Lent should be about every year. 
Lent, when done right, should begin by shutting everything down. Last year’s blizzard turned what would have been a typically complicated day—school, practices, errands—into a very simple one. All six of us home together, shoveling and eating vegetable soup. It can be hard to see what in our lives is essential if we never take time to step away. Lent provides the opportunity to take a spiritual snow day. It is a time of “closing” some of the non-essentials in our lives. 
The interminable snow and ice of Wisconsin’s February can be a spiritual analogy for Lent just as surely as the more traditional dryness and sand. When I struggle to see God’s presence in my life, it is usually because I’m in the middle of a situation that seems impossible. If I turn one way, there’s cold wind whipping on my face; the other way I’m hit with freezing rain. 

If the desert analogy of Lent is about being alone, a winter analogy of Lent has to involve people. Winter makes you want to huddle. While we know well the story of Jesus spending 40 days in the desert by himself, I doubt that if he lived in a different climate, he would have gone into the cold, snowy forest alone for the same amount of time. Winter alone can be dangerous. Lent alone can be dangerous, too. 

Perhaps in no church season is the community as important as it is during Lent. In looking into ourselves and seeing our own brokenness, we need to be around people who are doing the same. Jesus himself recognized that he shouldn’t be alone in his most difficult hour—and desperately asked his disciples not to leave him by falling asleep. 

The icy winds of Lent require us to find people to huddle with. The prayer, fasting, and almsgiving of Lent underline the importance of this community huddle. We pray and fast with our community, and then we give alms to those who need our help. Though Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, we turn out at church in great numbers. We know we belong together on this day. We know we cannot be alone in the cold.   …next week, part two: What should be “closed” for Lent?

By Annemarie Scobey, from the archives of At Home with Our Faith newsletter

Moms, dads, and the spiritual works of mercy

Parenting offers daily opportunities to live the spiritual works of mercy, based on Christ’s teachings and Christian practice since the apostles.

Counsel the doubtful: When we take time for a short heart-to-heart to build up the confidence of a child who is filled with doubts about herself.

Instruct the ignorant: When we teach kids a new behavior (“’Stupid’ is not a word we use”) or a better way of doing something (“how to clean a drawer”).

Admonish the sinner: By calling our children on the wrongs they do, when we’re tempted to just let them pass.

Comfort the sorrowful: When we offer a long hug after a bad day.

Forgive injuries: When we teach children how to say, “I’m sorry,” and use the words, “I forgive you.”

Bear wrongs patiently: When we teach kids the right way to live yet patiently accept the limits of their stage in life.

Pray for the living and the dead: When we whisper prayers for our living children and those lost to miscarriage or death.

By Annemarie Scobey, from the archives of At Home with Our Faith newsletter