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? Continue reading

Should kids have their own cell phones?


A couple years ago, when our four kids ranged in age from nine to 17, nine-year-old Jamie made a comment that a child in her class had an iPhone. “Jamie, you need to start planning now that you’ll be the last kid in your class to get a phone,” Liam, then 14, said. “Not only will you be the last kid in your class, but most of the kids a few grades younger than you will get phones before you do,” added Jacob, 17. Eleven-year-old Teenasia chimed in, “Yep, only one other girl besides me in the fifth grade doesn’t have her own phone or iPod.” Continue reading

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

Get a jump on forgiveness, part two

Kids in parkas RGB mgDBGJcWhen our children need forgiveness. When Mike and Ellen learned that their 11-year-old son had been picking on a child with cerebral palsy at school, Ellen says she felt physical pain upon hearing the news. “The principal gave the details of what our son did,” she says. “I was ashamed of my son.” Ellen says that for about a week, she felt such fear about the person her son might grow up to become that she could barely look at him. Then she and her husband decided they needed to look at their son’s action, terrible as it was, as a cry for help. Continue reading

Get a jump on forgiveness

PolarBearPlunge_Flickr_RowdyRiderOn January 1, all over the country, people jump into freezing bodies of water in celebration of a new year. While “polar bear clubs” involve bravado, good cold fun, and sometimes too many Bloody Marys, they also have a more serious side. There is something about our human nature that appreciates a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to wash away the past and begin again.

Forgiving family members, friends, or colleagues has much in common with jumping into an icy lake. Continue reading

The more the merrier: Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas

angel trumpetmeS1X3YThis year, hand on heart, I saw Christmas decorations for sale on October 1. When I was little, we didn’t even start thinking about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

My family would spend most of Advent getting ready. We’d shop for a tree, pull decorations down out of the attic, stock up on wrapping paper, and make lists for Santa. Most years the grownups would gather for a Christmas Eve party, and we kids would struggle to stay awake late into the night. Continue reading