Catholic Mom Groups

Groups for Catholics have been steadily springing up nationwide. Many Millennials, disenchanted by the beige, formless, and often ugly strain of Catholicism they grew up with in the 1990’s, seek to claim the full inheritance of the faith passed along to them by creating groups which celebrate the good, true, and beautiful all while having a great time. However, it seems–at least to me–that most of these groups are for men.

mommys-26jun2011sm
Unlikely 50 Shades of Grey is on the book list

True, many of these men’s groups have formed as a way of countering the lopsided decades of wives and mothers being forced into the role of spiritual leader within families due to men abandoning their posts.  In many ways, the men’s groups are forming simply to counter the years of spiritual apathy contracted by husbands and fathers.

That being said, there’re so many Millennial women that long for (if not already enjoying) the company of authentic Catholic women, especially when it comes to the vocations of motherhood and marriage. My wife is in one which was started at a neighboring parish and loves it. The women she is now friends with are wonderful people with wonderful families. They are diverse in backgrounds, talents, hobbies, and interests which make their weekly get-togethers interesting. Anchored around the Rosary, these morning meetings provide excellent play time for the children and an opportunity for truly engaging conversation on an endless variety of topics. The guests of the respective host are treated to fun food, coffee, laughter and more.

Women need each other, especially for mothers in a culture where motherhood is scoffed at and authentic faith is mocked. These groups are also a wonderful opportunity for children to meet quality friends whose parents you’re not wondering about when your child goes over there to play. All the people my wife has met through her group (husbands & children included) have been people I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and inviting to our home or going over to theirs. These dinners, where beer, wine, and, if things are really going well, scotch flow along with excellent, stimulating conversation. Topics on anything from smoking meat to politics, liturgy to favorite authors, philosophy to music are discussed. These are the type of interactions humans need, especially those who are seeking to live in a counter-cultural manner (as in, wanting little to do with the destructive popular culture). Without these quality interactions it can become easy for someone to feel isolated, as if they are the only person in their neighborhood who reveres true truth, beauty, and goodness and doesn’t want to discuss what happened on The Bachelor last night or what so-and-so posted on Facebook this morning.

Anyway, I got carried away, as usual. The entire point of this post was just to share an image I made up for anyone who is looking to start a group of their own (because I’m a nerd). Feel free to use it. ☩

matresfidelis
Full Size

 

 

Baby Brought Back to Life After Delivery

Here’s a short video that will make you feel warm inside. After years of trying to get pregnant, Kate and her husband David were blessed with the news that they were going to have boy and girl twins. Unexpectedly, she went into labor at 26 weeks and the doctors told them that their little boy, Jamie, didn’t make it following delivery. Kate grabbed her baby from the doctor and put him on her chest, skin-to-skin, with David huddling in close. They talked to him, kissed him, hugged him, and prayed for him. Then, they felt a wiggle…

::wipes eyes:: I think someone’s chopping onions over here!

How to Raise Catholic Kids – 12 Points by Kreeft

Peter Kreeft is one of the best Catholic apologists of this generation. He is intelligent, witty, joyful, creative, and humorous. He is capable of writing impressive dissertations such as his classic Catholic Christianity which brilliantly articulates the teachings in the Catechism in ways few others are able. He is also capable of transmitting his wit and knowledge in a far more casual manner thanks to Twitter his account, @professorkreeft, which provides a steady stream of easily digestible tidbits sure to engage someone at any stage of their spiritual life.

Capture Continue reading

On Men Being Pastors of the Home

Our society is increasingly confronted with destructive cultural philosophies and principles (or lack thereof). We could go through the litany of vices popular culture espouses but most of them stem from the simple fact that our culture encourages people to lead a purposeless or shallow life. If one asked the average American what the purpose of life is, likely they will reply “to be happy”. Of course being happy is a great thing but saying happiness is your life’s purpose is basically answering “I dunno, I never really thought about it”.

The pervading culture is a destructive force and it loves purposeless people because they are easy targets to suck money and effort out of. As with any destructive force, people, especially children, need a safe haven where they can be healthy and recharge themselves before going back into the world every day. Children need a place safe where virtues are taught and talents are nurtured. The natural safe haven is the home, not just for children but for everyone in the family. But for a home to be a safe haven for the minds, bodies, and souls of family members, it has to be set up that way by the parents. It doesn’t just magically happen.

12346460_10153633314486839_5906925426261359159_n
A quote being shared on Facebook that sums up today’s prevailing mantra. (Full disclosure: I love Bill Murray)

Unfortunately many of today’s parents are still children themselves. This is a problem especially in the upcoming parents of the Millennial generation (my generation). Lacking purpose in their routines, lifestyles, and goals, they are unable to create a home culture that contrasts popular culture.

‘Modern’ men are either too deflated, obtuse, or bashful to step into their natural position as a leader. Our culture tells us that any sort of “roles” in the context of marriage are offensive and archaic. We are told that masculinity is inherently oppressive. So what do most unprincipled men with little defined purpose do? They simply exist. Many are active in their family but only insofar that’s acceptable to popular culture. They let the culture change them instead of seeking to change the culture within their home.

I know many good guys who are husbands and fathers but hold no opinions on married life or parenthood. Many men can talk for hours about sports, hobbies, TV shows, and other extracurriculars but cannot coherently explain why they celebrate Christmas. Many of these men are punctual for things like dinner reservations, sports events, or movies, but cannot imagine committing to making it to Mass on Sunday. There are many good men that have been duped into believing they serve little beyond seeking personal happiness and, when convenient, helping their family be ‘happy’. In turn, the children find it very hard to break this pathetic cycle when they grow up. So what can be done?

The Solution

As we see in the marriage between Jesus and his Bride–the Church–there are indeed ideal roles for the two leaders of a family. The mother is called to be the ‘heart’ of the household. She embodies the subjective tenderness and love of the Holy Spirit. She, like the Church, gives to each of her children as according to their very specific needs. So what is the father? Well, he is the head of the household. Politically incorrect, right? But a heart needs a head just as much as the head needs a heart. There needs to be an objective beacon to help navigate love and tenderness in the proper direction. Tenderness without objectiveness is corrosive sentimentalism but objectiveness without tender love is overbearing.

son-learning-from-his-dad-how-to-shaveI submit that we need a renaissance of purposeful and strong husbands/fathers to be spurred by the awesome and manly example Christ set for marriage/family. If it’s true that the family unit is the “domestic church” as Saint John Paul II often stated, there must be a pastor of this church. There is, the father. It is up to them to guide their family’s spiritual life as a pastor would. The family is where a man can most appropriately and efficiently exercise the duties assigned to him at baptism, that of a prophet, priest, and king. It is urgent that men fight the spiritual apathy that resides within them and, in turn, their families. It is urgent that men find their purpose in the vocations of marriage and fatherhood and navigate their spouses and children to heaven.

If, as society still seems to agree, men are well suited as the protector of their family, they mustn’t only protect their family from physical threats. They must step up as and protect their loved ones from the far more pervasive spiritual encroachments. There’s countless hazards that seek to devour the family and it is the father’s primary job to keep them safe.

The Household Pastor: Prophet, Priest, King

Prophet-Priest-King_620

Of course, the first step for men is to get themselves spiritually healthy(er). If a man cannot walk what he talks, his family will know. How can he encourage the spiritual life of others if he has none himself? It’s hard to help people on an airplane until your own oxygen mask is first secured–don’t you pay attention on vacation? Only once men understand the importance of the interior life and the Church in their own routines are they able to help their family grow.

— — —

  • Be a prophet. A prophet is somebody who simply helps reveal the truth of God. They seek to educate others. Fathers can combat popular culture by explaining to their children the Christian roots behind nearly everything around us. They can teach their children about Christmas and the other secularized holidays. Scripture can be read in the household and applied to real-life situations. Early on, fathers can teach their family how to pray. It’s important fathers learn about their faith so questions can be answered as they arise and if they don’t know the answer they should educate themselves immediately so they can provide one (I can’t stand ‘not knowing’, myself). They should strive to understand their family’s needs through a commitment to listen thoroughly to them.
  • Be a priest. A priest, by definition, is a person who makes sacrifices. Priests connect people to God through prayer, sacrifice, and witness. Men need to pray and fast for their families. Men sacrifice for their family by giving up many of the things that appeal to them so that the people around them can be more comfortable and healthy. Providing witness is also essential. Men can lead by example by being the first in line for confession, they should offer a glimpse of their own prayer life by not being bashful, they should show their children how to behave at Mass and how to receive Christ with reverence. Men should strive to carry their crosses with grace and joy–a reminder I need often!
  • Be a king. A king is someone who leads. A good king is someone who leads with humility and love as Jesus taught. Jesus, the King of Kings, calls us to be gentle, loving, assertive, and virtuous leaders. A father should be at the service of his family rather than the other way around. The Catholic Gentleman summed it up very well:

“It is not chest thumping domination. It is not forcing others to submit to your needs and wants. It is the exact opposite—it is washing your family’s feet.

Put another way, kingship means embracing the lowliest and most thankless tasks. It means changing diapers, taking out the trash, listening to your wife and understanding her feelings and concerns. It means patiently teaching your children virtue through example and loving discipline. It means washing the dishes and rocking a screaming baby. It means leading by example, never asking of your family something you are not willing to do or have not done already. In short, it means laying down your life for those entrusted by God to your care.”

— — —

Finding purpose is the key to living fruitful and truly happy lives. Men must stand up and fight against the attempts to demoralize and desensitize fathers. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you need none of these reminders, so reach out to your buddies that might need some help being the best husband and father they can be in their own families. Ask them what the purpose of their marriage and family is. It’s said that we cannot keep our faith unless we give it away, we can start with our friends.

Saints Joseph and Michael the Archangel, please pray for the strength of Christian men, that we may have the grace to be virtuous, loving, and strong pastors to our families. Amen.

stjoseph
Saint Joseph, the model father, and Jesus Christ, the model prophet, priest, and king.

On The Prodigal Son, Artwork, and Fatherhood

I can’t be certain of where, but at some point over the last month I came across Rembrandt’s depiction of the Prodigal Son parable (pictured below). While I am sure I have seen this famous 1660’s painting before in my life, I have never actually seen it for what it is because I haven’t come across it since understanding the story that inspired it.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal | Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal | Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

A couple years ago, as I was in the process of finding the Faith again, I got the news that I would soon be a father. During this time I read something that catalyzed my formation as a Catholic man and father, it said that if there’s only one thing a Catholic father must read about fatherhood, it’s the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son. It pointed out the importance of understanding that a real father forgives unforgivable acts and is virtuous even when common sense begs him not to be. Not aware of this apparently famous parable, I turned to scripture to read just what this was all about.

After reading the short Gospel story, I sat in silence longer than the time it took to read. It was as if Jesus told this parable with me in mind. This story–depicted beautifully in both paintings pictured above–was the key to understanding my own past. True, many young people leave their parents in search of a selfish and “wild” lifestyle, squandering not only money entrusted to them but also the goodwill and trust of their parents; but not all children return to the open arms of unconditional forgiveness and redemption. I did. After reading the story a couple more times, I knew what kind of father I was to be.

So coming across the Rembrandt recently, the story moved me once again by being able to visualize this monumental moment in both the son’s and father’s lives in this story. This painting shows the story’s message: a real father doesn’t care about his son’s past because a real father doesn’t know how to stop loving his son. I picture the Prodigal Son making his journey back home after losing his father’s money and living gluttonously, selfishly, and sickly; he must have been terrified to face his father and tell him that he has lost everything, including his dignity. His stomach must have been in knots as his imagination probably raced with how his father would react once seeing what has become of him. And then I picture his father making eye contact while “still a long way off” in the distance after years of not knowing if he would ever see his son again, dropping whatever he was in the middle of and “running to him”. I picture the son embracing his father and not understanding how his father could be so happy with his return. I picture this being the beginning of the son’s much brighter future…all because he experienced the forgiveness and redemption of his father. Unfettered forgiveness, to me, is the most beautiful virtue a father can embrace because of its transformative power on their child’s life. True forgiveness changes lives. True redemption breathes new life into someone.

Just like our Father in heaven, fathers on earth are called to forgive and redeem. Without fathers (either heavenly or earthly), what hope do sons and daughters have in this world and beyond?

— — — — — — — — —

The Parable of the Prodigal Son


Luke 15:11-32

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild and dissolute living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”