The Power of Christian Parenting


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grandchild

 I’m a dad, a grandfather…and the superior of the Franciscans of Life.  Like many founders before me, I had a family before becoming, Brother Jay.  The youngest member of our family is my delightful granddaughter and everyone’s little princess, Katherine.  Katherine celebrated her first birthday October 2017.  Before going further with Katherine, allow me to construct the context for my reflection.

Election day, 2017, the residents of the state in which my family lives elected a transgender person to the State Legislature.  Some people were very pleased, because we have made progress in inclusiveness.  Other people were very upset, because of the moral questions that arise when one mentions “transgender”.

I’m not going to address said moral concerns, nor the legal and political ones either.  I want to address something more important.  Raising our children in a world that is changing very quickly, a world where many changes conflict with our values, culture and identity as American men and women.  This does not mean that change is bad.  However, we must not fool ourselves into believing that change is always good.  When something works, we keep it.  We get rid of what no longer works and replace it with something else.  Sometimes, we simply live with the void left by that which we jettisoned.

This takes me back to Katherine.  When someone approached me suggesting that Katherine’s parents move to another state to avoid “the immorality” taking place where they live, the immorality being the election of a transgender politician, my immediate reaction was to say that there is no state in the United States, nor country where everyone lives according to the absolutes of natural law, much less guided by faith and morals.

That same week I read an article in one of the conservative Christian newspapers.  The author reported on a very special occasion, the baptism of an infant.  What caught my attention, more than the faith of the writer and the newly baptized child’s family was the author’s reference to the Catholic Church as the Titanic.  He clarified that he believes that the Church will not suffer the fate of the Titanic and sink, but that it’s taking on water and things are out of control.

These two events made me think about how we react to a new life among us.  There seem to be some people for whom the birth of a new person is a source of joy and anxiety.  We rejoice in the birth of our children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.  We should always be aware the good and the bad in the world around us.  How else can be protect our children and teach them to protect themselves.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Those who talk too much about the bad, the ugly, the sinful, the tragedy and the disasters don’t enjoy the birth of a child to its fullest, because they are hypervigilant.  The author of the article that I read and the person who suggested that Katherine’s parents move to another state seem to be hypervigilant.  There is a danger here too.  While we should not ignore the evil in the world, we must always seek ways for our children to thrive despite the world around them.  This takes me to a third experience that I had this week.

parenting006My son-in-law, who is an internationally known photojournalist, always has a lens on hand to record Katherine’s milestones.  Just this week, he sent a photograph and a short video.  In the photograph, Katherine is on her mother’s lap, her eyes are glued on the page of a book that Mama is reading to her.  Katherine’s family: parents, uncles and aunts are avid readers.  From the first week home, everyone took a turn reading to her everything from Dr. Seuss to Cicero.  She seemed to respond to the rhythm of the reading and followed the reader with her eyes.

parenting005Recently she has started to walk.  She now picks up a book that’s interesting to her, takes it to her mother or father, climbs on the couch next to Mom or Dad and demands that they read to her.  Dad captured one of these moments with his “dadmera” (Dad’s Camera).  A few days later, came the short video.  Katherine picked up a book of her choosing, opened it, and started to read it.

Before we decide to send this baby to MENSA, let’s make it perfectly clear.  She was holding the book upside down and was making sounds as her little finger ran across the page, something that she probably sees her parents do when they read to her.

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Reading time with Uncle Julian!

Katherine never ceases to surprise us.  Her parents are devout Catholics.  Katherine has been attending mass starting the week after she was born.  For a long time, like most babies, she lay in her carrier and slept through the Holy Mass.  When she discovered her voice she also discovered the choir.  When the choir struck up a hymn, Katherine joined them with her melodic babbling.

One Sunday, they were at Holy Mass as usual.  Something interesting happened.  The priest invited called upon the congregation to pray together The Lord’s Prayer, which begins with the words, “Our Father . . .”   To her parents’ amazement, Katherine heard the word “father” and chimed in with her version in Babble.  We have no idea what goes on in the mind of a 12-month old child who sings at mass, joins in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

parenting002My son-in-law deserves to be the “Fatherhood Poster Boy”.  He’s an excellent father.  He’s a black belt in Judo and has taught Katherine some of moves.  She squeals in delight when Dad engages with her. As we have said, Katherine has a very intimate relationship with both parents.  The bond of love expresses itself in reading, and squeals of delight doing Judo with Dad.   It’s too early to try to analyze Katherine’s thoughts.  We can only observe and report the interesting things that we see.

This takes me back to St. Peter’s “Titanic” and the election of the transgender politician.  Are parents like Katherine’s going to find a haven where their daughter will never hear or see anything objectionable.?  Probably not.  Can they stop the world around them from changing for the good and the bad?  Not so sure that’s possible either.  Nor can they bring down the price of housing, healthcare, gas, utilities and other necessities of life.  Like every parent, Katherine’s will have to deal with today’s moral roller coaster, the political hurricanes that come and go, and ideologies that can do serious harm to our minds and souls.

When we look at this little girl thriving, despite everything that’s going on around her, we must ask ourselves the question, “Is anything impossible for God?”

If Katherine’s mother and father continue the “road less traveled” and continue to provide spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and natural stimulation in an environment where she can reach beyond herself, as is the case in the worship of God every Sunday and holy day, Katherine may not grow up untouched by our weakened humanity.  But she will grow up with a taste and a hunger for those blessings that strengthen us for the journey.  Those are: prayer, books, worship, play, exercise, discipline, nutrition, love and good role models.

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For Catholics and Non-Catholics — Gospel Cliff Notes — The Rosary


ROSARY

For Catholics, the month of October is the Month of the Holy Rosary.  Let’s clarify.  It’s not the only time of year when Catholics pray the Rosary.  October has become designated as the Month of the Holy Rosary, because on the 13th of October, Our Lady of the Rosary appeared for the last time at Fatima.  It was on this day that thousands of people gathered in Fatima, Portugal, saw what has been called The Miracle of Sun.  I’d like to leave the subject of the “Dancing Sun” to astronomers, philosophers and systematic theologians.  I am none of the above.  My formation is Spiritual Theology, once called Ascetic and Mystical Theology.

I’m writing this for the benefit of our non-Catholic friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors, many of whom believe that praying the Rosary is evil, because “one should not pray to saints, because only God is to be worshiped.”

Let’s clarify the first point.  When Catholics pray the Rosary we are not worshiping the Blessed Mother.  Those who are familiar with the Gospel of Luke should be able to recognize these words.

ANNUNCIATIONChapter one of Luke’s Gospel in the King James Version (KJV) of the bible tells us the following.

“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”   (Lk 1:28) KJV

During the Rosary, we pray the Hail Mary 53 times.  Pay close attention to the opening lines of the prayer.

Hail Mary, full of Grace.  The Lord is with thee.. Blessed are thou amongst women

We’re speaking to Mary with the words of the Angel Gabriel.  Who would dare say that Gabriel’s words are blasphemy or idolatry?  Was Gabriel worshipping Mary?

Absolutely not.  He is greeting her and in the greeting he acknowledges that Mary has a special place in God’s mind.  Catholics refer to such as “grace”.  Instead of saying “favored of the Lord” we simply say, “full of grace”.  After all, can one be favored by the Lord God and be devoid of his life (grace)?

Let’s return to Luke.  The Angel informs Mary that her relative, Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy.  Mary sets out to the town where Elizabeth lived.  One can safely assume that it was to lend a hand, since Elizabeth was an older woman.  Luke tells us

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:  And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Luke 1:41-42) KJV.

The Hail Mary continues with the words of Elizabeth  VISITATION

Blessed are thou amongst women, And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

At this point, we insert the Holy Name of Jesus, as a reminder that it is the Son of God who is the fruit of Mary’s womb.  We speak to the Virgin Mary using the words of Sacred Scripture.  Every Christian knows that the words of the bible are without error.  It is impossible for Luke to write something that Elizabeth did not say, much less something that is contrary to God’s revelation.

Elizabeth continues

 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk 1:43) KJV

Gabriel had said that Mary’s son

 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:  And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.  (Lk 1:32-33) KJV

Gabriel and Elizabeth refer to Jesus as God.  Elizabeth uses “the mother of my Lord”.   The Jewish people recognized only one Lord.  That was God.  Elizabeth address Mary as the Mother of God.  The Angel informs Mary that her son will reign forever and that he is the Son of the Highest.  Neither Gabriel nor Elizabeth are stating the Mary is the mother of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).  She is the mother of the Son.  The question is simple.  Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God?  Do you acknowledge that Mary of Nazareth is Jesus’ mother?  Does this make her the mother of 1/3 of God? NO.  She is the mother of one of the three persons in God.  All three persons are the one God.  That’s why we can refer to her as “the Mother of God.”

And so, Catholics pray

Holy Mary, Mother of God Observe the closing statement in the Hail Mary.

Pray for us, sinners.  Now and at the hour of our death.

Is there anything wrong with asking another person to pray for us today and at the hour of our death?  Some may say that Mary cannot pray for us, because she is dead.  But didn’t Jesus promise eternal life to those who are faithful?   Observe this

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. … (Mt.17:3) KJV.

transfigurationMoses and Elias had been dead several hundred years.  Yet, they appear and speak with Jesus.  The disciples who are watching observe that they are real, not ghosts.  It’s not too difficult to believe that if Moses and Elias could be seen by the disciples, even though they had been dead for several centuries and that Jesus could converse with them, why should we not believe that Jesus’ mother is not granted the same or a higher privilege than Moses and Elias?  Jesus is the perfect son.  He would place his mother in stasis while allowing the prophets and patriarchs to live after death?  Jesus is not cruel.  We can safely conclude that Mary can pray for us, because she’s alive.

There is nothing wrong with asking someone to pray for us.  If I have an opportunity to ask the mother of praying togetherthe King to put in a good word with her son, on my behalf, I would be a fool not to take advantage the same.

To conclude, I’ll simply explain that we pray the Hail Mary’s in sets of 10.  Each recitation of the Rosary has five sets of ten.  The Psalms were originally divided into sets of ten.  Each set of psalms followed a theme.  So, it is with the rosary.  Five decades and each decade offers us a reflection on one of the mysteries in the life of Christ and his relationship to God the Father, the Holy Spirit and to his mother.  Christ would not leave her out of his circle of significant others.

The Father and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost are the same God as Jesus.  It’s obvious that any event in Jesus’ life is going to involve the Father and the Holy Ghost, front stage or back stage.  But they are present.  Because Jesus is human, as well as divine, he has another significant person in his life, just like us.  That person is his mother.  She is not part of the Trinity.  She is not God.  But she is the Mother of one of the three persons in God.  We believe that Jesus is God.

Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. PANTOCRATOR(Jn 6:68-69) KJV.

Peter makes a public profession of faith.  He identifies Jesus as the Christ or the Anointed One who is both God and Son of God.

This Christ has a mother, who is not God.  She is very much a human being.  As she is the mother of the perfect son, it stands to reason that the Father would not select a icon_to_Jesus_through_Marysinful woman to carry His son in her womb to be contaminated by sin.  Remember, Jesus has a human nature.  God the Father creates the sinless woman to be the God Bearer.

The Rosary has five decades.  We recite the Hail Mary using the words found in the Bible.  Catholics did not make this up.  We are not worshiping Mary.  In the first half of the Hail Mary, we are praising her, just as Gabriel and Elizabeth praised her.  Who would accuse Gabriel or Elizabeth of worshiping Mary?

The second part of the rosary is a petition.  We ask Mary to pray for us.  Given a choice between my mother praying for me and Jesus’ mother praying for me, I’m sure that Jesus’ mother carries more weight.  Even though my mother was a wonderful woman.  The very fact that she was MY mother, tells it all.  She was far from sinless.  Just look at me.

The Rosary is composed of words taken directly from the Bible.  The Bible does not lie.  The problem is not the Rosary.  The problem that some people have is that they want to apply their logic to God’s mind.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.(Is 55:8) KJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on September 29, 2017 at 2:43 AM  Leave a Comment