Are We Sacrificing our Children’s Future to the Evils of the Past?

Rather than warn about the dangers of communism, the objective of these authors seems to be to show even brutal communist leader, Joseph Stalin, in a favorable light.

One of my children transferred into a public school for the first time this year, as a junior in high school. I’d heard rumors. I watch the news. I was somewhat prepared for the 120px-Hammer_and_sicklechallenges. And, of course, there were reasons that I chose homeschooling for his primary years. That said, I’ve been astonished at the overt jabs made in his textbooks – particularly history – toward all that I hold dear.

Here just two examples that demonstrate an antithetical understanding of faith in God, completely separating faith from rational thought:

Franklin never denied the existence of God. Rather, he pushed the Lord aside, making room for the free exercise of human reason. (p. 91, referring to Benjamin Franklin)

You may see this as flowery prose. But I’ve read Franklin’s autobiography. Anyone who has studied Benjamin Franklin at all knows that he never “pushed the Lord aside.” To even imply that he did is disingenuous, if not malicious. On the very first page of his autobiography, Franklin refers to the “blessings of God. And on the second page, he states,

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all Humility to acknowledge, that I owe the mention’d Happiness of my past Life to his kind Providence, which led me to the Means I us’d & gave them Success. My belief of this, induces me to hope, tho’ I must not presume, that the same Goodness will still be exercis’d towards me in continuing that Happiness…

Does that sound like a man who would ever push the Lord aside? Read the book – there are plenty of passages that would directly dispute the textbook quote above.

Here is another example that again sets up a “rational vs. religious” disparity. This quote was taken from a packet the kids were given to study for the same class:

Despite the inroads of rationalism, nineteenth-century Americans remained a profoundly religious people – as they have been ever since.

Here is a quote that takes on religious conservatives. I found this among many in a completely degrading and dismissive article highlighted as a sidebar on p.301:

…the more recent evangelical engagement with politics that was labeled the New Christian Right sprung up in the 1980’s — epitomized by organizations such as the Moral Majority — mostly has been a conservative force of reaction against great changes in American society. The fundamentalist Moral Majority crystallized around the politcal issues of opposition to abortion and gay rights, as well as promotion of school prayer and vouchers for private schools. [emphases mine]

Not only did they demonstrate opposition to religious values, as seen above, but further on in the sidebar, they slammed religious motives by implying that Christians are bigots:

Unlike earlier evangelical reformers, they are motivated less by millennial perfectionism than by alarm at the growing diversity and secularization of American society, and they have joined with other religious conservatives in their political campaigns.

But along with a great challenge the writers have in seeing religious people as rational individuals with laudable motives, the book also appears to show unbelievable sympathy toward anti-religious political philosophies – particularly Communism – a belief system that Our Lady sought to halt by asking that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Catholics have long sought to educate the public on the dangers inherent within communist ideology. Saint John Paul II , through the Hand of Divine Providence, played a key role in the ultimate demise of the Russian communist empire (USSR).

Even in secular circles, most adults who grew up during the cold war have some understanding of the dangers of Communism, which was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th Century.

In an introduction to the Cold War, these authors seems to show communist leader, Joseph Stalin, in a favorable light, while they cast a shadow over President Truman (emphases below are mine):

“I am getting ready to go see Stalin and Churchill,” President Truman wrote to his mother in July 1945, “and it is a chore.” On board the cruiser Augusta, the new president continued to complain about the upcoming Potsdam Conference in his diary. “How I hate this trip!” he confided. “But I have to make it win, lose or draw, and we must win. I am giving nothing away except to save starving people, and even then I hope we can only help them to help themselves.”

Halfway around the world, Joseph Stalin left Moscow a day late because of a slight heart attack. The Russian leader hated to fly, so he traveled by rail. Moreover, he ordered the heavily guarded train to detour around Poland for fear of an ambush, further delaying his arrival. When he made his entrance into Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin miraculously spared the total destruction that his forces had created in the German capital, he was ready to claim the spoils of war.

These two men, one the veteran revolutionary who had been in power for two decades, the other an untested leader in office for barely three months, symbolized the enormous differences that now separated the wartime allies. Stalin was above all a realist. Brutal in securing total control at home, he was more flexible in his foreign policy, bent on exploiting Russia’s victory in World War II rather than aiming at world domination. Cunning and caution were the hallmarks of his diplomatic style. Small in stature, ungainly in build, he radiated a catlike quality as he waited behind his unassuming facade, ready to dazzle an opponent with hisbrilliant, terrifying tactical mastery.Truman, in contrast, personified traditional Wilsonian idealism. Lacking Roosevelt’s guile, the new president placed his faith in international cooperation. Like many Americans, he believed implicitly in his country’s innate goodness. Self-assured to the point of cockiness, he came to Potsdam clothed in the armor of self-righteousness. – p. 700 [emphases mine]

Please remember, Stalin is a man responsible for the deaths of over 20 million of his own people. But I didn’t find a word about his murder rate. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Granted, this is an American history book. But some back story may have been helpful as the writers describe our conflict with communists. Instead, the book explains that the Cold War was the result of land disputes in Europe after WWII, and American “distrust” of Russian motives. At the first mention of communism, here is the wording:

“After emerging victorious from World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union found themselves locked in a bitter rivalry that threatened to trigger nuclear destruction of the entire planet. At stake in this contest were not only national ambitions but also incompatible ideologies – capitalism and communism – that amplified popular suspicion and animosity. Americans feared that as agents of world communism, the leaders of the Soviet Union planned the destruction of the free market as well as individual liberty. Indeed, Americans became convinced, especially during the McCarthy “Red Scare” era of the early 1950’s, that the Soviet Union had organized an insidious conspiracy that reached into the State Department and Pentagon and compromised the interests of the United States. Playing on the fear of ordinary citizens, Senator Joseph McCarthy accused famous writers, filmmakers, and musicians of being Soviet spies and Communists intent on helping the enemy. Wars waged in far-off countries such as Vietnam aimed to halt the spread of communism, and a growing anxiety over imagined Soviet aggression served to heighten among the American people a sense of the United States having a special mission as defender of democracy and capitalism.” – 100 [emphases mine]

Communism isn’t the only philosophy looked kindly upon in this textbook. Socialism is painted not merely with sympathy, but positively. Just about everywhere I read the word socialism, it was juxtaposed with the “injustices” of capitalism. Beneath the photo of a campaign poster for “Eugene V. Debs” on the Socialist ticket, the caption reads:

Presidential campaign poster for Eugene V. Debs on the Socialist party of America ticket in 1904. The poster’s imagery appeals to industrial workers, miners, and farmers, and its slogan, “Workers of the world unite,” was a key call to action of the party to challenge the injustices of capitalism. – p. 573

When describing Debs, the book says that his party was never effectively organized to create change, but,

…he was eloquent, passionate, and visionary. An excellent speaker, he captivated audiences, attacking the injustices of capitalism and urging a workers’ republic. – p. 573


By 1911, there were socialist mayors in thirty-two cities, including Berkley, California, Butte, Montana; and Flint, Michigan….although torn by factions, the Socialist party doubled in membership between 1904 and 1908, then tripled in the four years after that. Running for president, Debs garnered 100,000 votes in 1900; 400,000 in 1904; and 900,000 in 1912, the party’s peak year. – p. 573

According to Vladimir Lenin, who led the Bolsheviks in the Communist Revolution of 1917, “The Goal of Socialism is Communism“. The tone of this book should be extremely concerning to all freedom-loving Americans. The most damning comment I found about socialism was that it didn’t gain much popularity. Otherwise, tenants seemed to be couched in rather idealistic terms.

But capitalism?

While some historians have argued that paternalism was part of a social system that was organized like a family hierarchy rather than a brutal, profit-making arrangement, there was no inconsistency between planter’s paternalism and capitalism. – p 269

Industrial capitalism — the world of factories and foremen and grimy machines — tested the immigrants and placed an enormous strain on their families. – p. 471

Many businesses used injunctions and “yellow-dog contracts” — which forbade employees to join unions – to establish open shops and deny workers the benefits of collective bargaining. Other employers wooed their workers away from unions using techniques of welfare capitalism – spending money to improve plant conditions and winning employee loyalty with pensions, paid vacations, and company cafeterias…. – p. 626

As I skimmed through this text, the distinct message was that religion and capitalism are bad. Communism and Socialism, on the other hand, seem to be held as superior alternatives to those values inherent in the fabric of our Republic.

According to Paul Kengor in his recently released book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism,

We won the Cold War in the political arena, but lost it in the classroom. If and when communism is taught at all in American schools, the communists are lauded for their idealism, their devotion to equality for women and minorities. Their actual track record – the politically created famines, the wars of aggression, the body count in the tens of millions – is too frequently passed over in silence. – p. 3

That has been my experience with my son’s text. While I merely skimmed the book, I could not possibly find room in this post to share all the mud slinging I found – whether directly or by insinuation – directed toward our Catholic values.

Communism is dangerous. Socialism is a leap in that direction and gaining in popularity among the young in America, as demonstrated by the huge popularity of Bernie Sanders, self-proclaimed democratic socialist, who ran against Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary.

Recently, a poll conducted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 58% of Millennials would rather live in a Socialist, Communist or Fascist nation than a Capitalist one. After surveying this book, I must say that I am not surprised. Sadly, few of those who responded to the poll could properly define socialism, communism or fascism.

My aim here is merely to shed a light on my own experience and suggest that you take a closer look at your children’s texts. You may be surprised.

I did meet with my son’s principal to discuss my concerns. He was very kind, and frankly, surprised by some of what I showed him. But do you know what he said? He told me that I was the first parent to speak out since they began using this book four years ago. Do you know what that tells me?

I was right to SPEAK OUT.

And YOU should SPEAK OUT too.

We should not stand idly by and roll our eyes at the anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, anti-American propaganda being imposed upon our children. Speaking out is the only way we can take back our schools. Action is critical. For if we allow our schools to mislead and even fail to educate our children about key events in the past, aren’t we dooming them to repeat it?








Tolstoy’s Warped View of Authority Served to Destroy in Russia the Institution He Held Most Dear – The Family. Are We Doing the Same?

The authority of the Church is necessary. It is that familial authority that secures the foundations of civilization. It reinforces the sanctity of sacred institutions such as marriage and family. This is the authority that, in love, could have protected Tolstoy’s beloved Russia.

Summer Reading

Given that even writing was on the back burner for a few months in favor of a demanding summer, I was a little surprised when I picked up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina 120px-Leo_Tolstoy,_portraitfor my summer reading. Maybe it was the relentless drumming of Russia, Russia, Russia over the airwaves every time I turned around. Or perhaps at a more subtle level it was the constant reference to socialism as a possible solution to our own country’s woes [Socialism, according to Archbishop Fulton Sheen is a “wet nurse to Communism” – Capitalism and Socialism Or Capitalism and Communism are Related?]. Or maybe I just really needed the intellectual stimulation that a classic would offer. Whatever the case, for a while I was basking in the sunlight and fragrance that only the most poetic language and intriguing ideas can offer. This man addresses issues that weigh on the soul of every human being. Family life, love, humanity and love of country. At some point I began to feel I’d found a kindred spirit in Tolstoy. Given the depth with which I was moved by his pointed defenses of the family, his patriotism and his romantic notion of traditional values and the idyllic lifestyle of the Russian farmer, I wasn’t exactly surprised by my infatuation. The more steeped I became in high society Russia, the more I began to wonder about the views of this man so driven to warn the world about the dangers he recognized in his own time – dangers that appear not so different from those I see in ours.

A Man who Cherished the Family

I began my research by turning back to the Introduction – something I am often loathe to do when it comes to classic fiction (In my experience, reading introductions takes away from the freshness of a novel). But in this case it was different. Reading the introduction made me all the more interested in Tolstoy and his writing. He witnessed tumult in his time as I do in ours, harboring great concerns about the direction of his beloved Russia. And he took to the pen to illustrate in a beautifully intimate way what he recognized as grave threats to a great country.

Anna Karenina was published only 40 years before the Russian Revolution of 1917. There are references throughout the book to communist ideology and to a distinct move toward nihilism in the way of sexual freedom and away from the traditional values associated with family life.

I was especially moved by these words in the Intro:

To publish such a book in the 1870s was an act of defiance, and Tolstoy meant it as one. By then the family novel was hopelessly out of fashion. The satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin noted at the time that the family, ‘that warm and cosy element…which once gave the novel its content, has vanished from sight…The novel of contemporary man finds its resolution in the street, on the public way, anywhere but in the home.’ The radical intelligentsia had been attacking the ‘institution’ of the family for more than a decade. Newspapers, pamphlets, ideological novel-tracts like N.G. Chernyshevsky’s “What Is to Be Done?”, advocated sexual freedom, communal living and the communal raising of children. Questions of women’s education, women’s enfranchisement, the role of women in public life, were hotly debated in the press. On all these matters, Tolstoy held conservative views. For him…family happiness was the highest human ideal. As Nabokov observed in his lecture notes on Anna Karenina, ‘Tolstoy considers that two married people with children are tied together by divine law forever.’ An intentional anachronism, his novel was meant as a challenge, both artistic and ideological, to the ideas of the Russian nihilists. — Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, p. ix (emphasis mine)

For his heroic defense of this foundational institution, I fell in love with Tolstoy.

But then I began to dig a little deeper.

A Man Who Misunderstood the Word Authority

I decided to Google Tolstoy and Religion, just to see where he stood with respect to the Church. After all, he shared with the Catholic Church a rather sacred view of family life. I wondered whether he was strongly convicted by Church teaching.

Apparently not.

Rather than find a great conversion story in his bio, I found that Tolstoy was actually excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901 for his vocal rejection of traditional Christianity. He responded to his excommunication with a rather revealing entry in his diary:

“A conversion about divinity has suggested to me a great idea…the founding of a new religion…the religion of Christianity but purged of dogmatics and mysticism; a practical religion not promising future bliss, but giving bliss on earth.” 

It turns out that his rejection of organized religion influenced huge numbers of people, including other writers, philosophers, critics and public voices; this growing rejection of authority grew into a crescendo of “intelligentsia” who rejected any and all authority in Russia, which ultimately led to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, out of which – ironically enough – came a despotic authoritarianism the likes of which no Russian ever could have imagined. Communist rule resulted in the deaths of over 20 million Russian citizens (Soviet citizens) and over 5 million Ukrainians.

In the August 1917 issue of The Catholic World, a theologian called out Tolstoy for his great responsibility in the promotion of what was ultimately an evil that worked to destroy all that Tolstoy, himself, held dear:

He devoted the last years of his life to a ruthless war against Christianity. By terms he strove to deform the content and the teaching of the Gospels, to sneer at and repudiate the fundamental theses of Christian dogmatics; to launch the most violent invective against the clergy; to nullify or deny the supernatural and moral influence of the sacraments of Christian life. The religion of Tolstoy effaces all the characteristic features of Christian revelation. Under the pen of Tolstoy and his disciples Christianity was stripped of its supernatural brilliancy…Tolstoy and his school promoted a radical socialism with mystical anarchistic tendencies and imbued with a hatred against historical Christianity.

According to one report I read, even Dostoyevsky, his contemporary and another of my favorite authors, accused Tolstoy of “promoting, in effect, a Christianity without Christ.”

I must admit that I was shocked and devastatingly disappointed to find that Tolstoy, who considered the family to be a sacred institution, was complicit in its destruction in Russia. And we should take this opportunity to learn from his serious mistake.

Like the misguided Ayn Rand, who fled from the destructive authoritarianism of communism a generation later, Tolstoy threw all authority into the same pot, rather than distinguish between the good and the bad. He believed the authority offered by the Church was as destructive as that offered by czar. But according to Archbishop Fulton Sheen,

Authoritarianism is based on force, and therefore is physical, but authority is founded on reverence and love, and therefore is moral. – Life is Worth Living, 5th Series

The authority of the Church is necessary. It is that familial authority that secures the foundations of civilization. It reinforces the sanctity of sacred institutions such as marriage and family. This is the authority that, in love, could have protected Tolstoy’s beloved Russia.

This confusion remains in effect today, perhaps as a result of Tolstoy, Rand and other well-known writers, speakers and media representatives. Sheen addressed the confusion, which is no doubt worse, today, then when these thoughts were shared:

There is nothing more misunderstood by the modern mind than the authority of the Church. Just as soon as one mentions the authority of the Vicar of Christ there are visions of slavery, intellectual servitude, mental chains, tyrannical obedience, and blind service on the part of those who, it is said, are forbidden to think for themselves. That is positively untrue. Why has the world been so reluctant to accept the authority of the Father’s house? Why has it so often identified the Catholic Church with intellectual slaver?  The answer is, because the world has forgotten the meaning of liberty. – Communism and the Conscience of the West, 1948

In these days where Russia is so often in the news, perhaps we should acknowledge that, while we may stand in solidarity against the government that came to power in Russia in 1917, Americans may hold in common the threshold of a Russian people that sought to eradicate authority and thereby nearly suffocated beneath it.

This is where the West sits today. In a world that is increasingly hostile toward the idea of an organized Church. Of anything that resembles a moral authority, for authority has become a dirty word in the West. And yet, Christ, who is Christianity, exhorted us to submit to the Church. His Church.

We need His Church. Yes, she is made up of faulty human beings. Yes, some of her representatives have done horrible things. But that is exactly why we need her. Because horrible things are being done by people in every institution. Yet, unlike those institutions – which are also made up of sinners – from the beginning we were promised that The Holy Spirit would be with us forever, guiding the Church in all her work (John 14:16). That God, the Son, would never leave Her (Matthew 28: 18-20). Most importantly, we have been assured that the gates of Hell would never prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18).

It is critical that we understand this. As we stand here today, Americans share a lot in common with the Russians of Tolstoy’s time. The gates of hell are fast encroaching upon the institutions and values we hold most dear. How much have we already lost in the name of individual “freedom”? Are we going to follow Russia’s path? Will we make Tolstoy’s mistake? Are we confusing the authority of the Church with the authority of a rogue government? Like Tolstoy and Rand, will we ideologically lump them both together and toss them both out? If so, where will Americans sit in 50 years? Will history repeat itself in an ultimate display of irony, the likes of which the world has never seen?

We may want to think twice about how we’re addressing our nation’s greatest problems; because in the grand scheme of things, the Church may be our only safe haven from – nay, our only defense against – a culture that seems hell-bent on pursuing “freedom” (ahem. license) at all costs. At the rate we’re going, it’s only a matter of time before our most sacred institutions are destroyed as well.

The gravest danger to American democracy…is not from the outside; it is from the inside — the hearts of citizens in whom the light of faith has gone out. Keep God as the origin of authority and you keep the ethical character of authority; reject Him and the authority becomes power subject to no law except its own. — Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Whence Come Wars, p. 64



Leo Tolstoy and the Catholic Church, Fellowship of Cathoic Scholars Quarterly, Spring 2007
Anna Karenina, Introduction, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2000

Mother Mary, Mother Church and the Vocation of Motherhood

Just as it is the ordained Priest’s vocation to give a physical face to Jesus Christ in the world today, so also it belongs in a special way to mothers to give a physical face to the Church.

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

This month of May is dedicated in a special way to Mary, the Mother of God.  We recall how, on the Cross, Jesus entrusted Mary and the Beloved Disciple into each other’s care.  Madonna_with_child_and_angelsIn so doing, He gave all of His disciples into His Mother’s care and gave us Mary to be our Mother as well.  As the one chosen by the Father to give birth to His Only-Begotten Son, Mary serves as a resplendent example of motherhood to all who are her children as well as to all who share the noble vocation of motherhood.  Mary’s motherhood extends to us primarily because Jesus joined His disciples to Himself and made us members of His Body in the Church.  Mary, as the Mother of Jesus, is the mother also of His very Body, the Church.

Mary’s vocation as mother is also iconic of the motherhood of the Church.  As the most perfect disciple of Jesus, Mary reveals in her very person what the whole Church, comprised of many members, looks like.  The Church, being the Bride of Christ, gives birth to His offspring from the watery womb of the Baptismal Font.  Like Mary, the Church’s vocation in the world is maternal: Mary gave birth to Jesus in history; the Church gives birth to the Body of Christ in the present.  This is why the Church is referred to with a feminine pronoun (e.g., “she”, “her”, etc.) and oftentimes is called “Mother Church”.  Like all mothers, the Church gives birth to her children and nourishes them at her breast.  She teaches them and shares her wisdom with them.  She nurtures them and heals them with a gentle laying on of hands when they are hurt.  Sometimes she even needs to discipline them for their own good.  In every way, the Church is our spiritual mother.

Each and every mother for her part also shares in this iconic vocation.  Just as it is the ordained Priest’s vocation to give a physical face to Jesus Christ in the world today, so also it belongs in a special way to mothers to give a physical face to the Church.  Their motherhood stems from and points to the God who created them and who established His Church to communicate the new life of grace to all believers.  No longer is Eve the model of motherhood—the life she gave ended in death.  The Church, represented in the person of Mary, is the New Eve who gives a life that never dies.  May God bless all our mothers and grandmothers who reveal to us what it means to be alive in Christ Jesus our Lord!


The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.


Have the Courage to be the Parent Every Child Hates

My husband and I are tired of struggling alone with all this technology. For once, I’d like to make a shout out to other parents!!! Will you band with us and make the tough choice to rid the world of kids with technological appendages?

Recently a man used Facebook Live to air his cold-blooded murder of a 78-year-old man for all the world to see. I heard about it on the news that day; but it never really Smart_techoccurred to me that my kids might actually watch the video. That is until my 18-year-old approached me that evening, in complete disbelief, after having given into temptation. He held his phone up to me, offering to let me view it, saying it was all over the Internet.

I was mortified.

My child had actually witnessed  the murder of an innocent man.

He will never be able to erase that memory.

Normally, I would never have watched this video. In fact, I told him NO. That I wouldn’t watch it. But after talking with him, I felt some obligation to experience what he had experienced. To see how damaging the video might have been. To share his shock. So I gave in. I watched all five seconds of that disgusting video. And then I cried. Uncontrollably.

That night I couldn’t get over it. This is what our children are getting from technology.

My son is technically an adult. But that doesn’t make me feel one bit better. What about my other children? What about your children? What about all those kids out there with smart phones, tablets, laptops and who knows what other devices? Did you know the average child now has a smart phone at the age of 10?! How many of them have seen that video?

The FB Live video was unconscionable on several levels, all of which demonstrate a complete disregard and even an antipathy for the dignity of the human person. But despite the horrific nature of the video, the unbelievable use of social media to share it and the new low to which the world has sunk in terms of twisted “shock value” entertainment, this particular video isn’t really the point of this discussion. I mention it merely as an illustration of the world we are offering our children. A world of degradation and debasement that does virtually nothing to build them up as human beings, and everything to destroy them.

Why are we doing this? Why are we, as parents, following the whims of our children? Of a world addicted to the material? To the self? A world that clearly values pleasure as the Ultimate Good?

WHY ARE WE – adults who are supposed to know better – SO COMPLICIT IN PERPETUATING EVIL?!

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound harsh. Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your child is only using the Internet for good. Maybe your daughter leaves her phone on the kitchen counter willingly and only grudgingly checks it once or twice a night just to make sure no one’s trying to reach her. Maybe your son is only searching holy and virtuous websites and is never exposed to profanity, nudity, lewd humor or worse. Perhaps your children only use technology as a tool for productivity, and never for passive entertainment. Maybe they’ve never wavered in their love for reading and continue to scarf down a book a week, despite having instant access to texting, social media, Netflix and – should I say it? – porn. It’s very possible that all the access to the world at large has strengthened the faith of your children. And that you suffer from no friction whatsoever in your house when it comes to technology.

If so, then perhaps I have yet to meet you. And your children are definitely an anomaly. Because according to Common Sense Media, more than half of teens admit to being addicted to their phones and 78% of children check them at least once an hour. Not only do they check them, but they feel an obligation to respond to texts, etc. immediately.

Common Sense wrote a white paper, wherein they reviewed several studies on teens and  technology. In it, they conclude that

“multitasking, toggling between multiple screens or between screens and people — which is common for kids doing homework or socializing — impairs their ability to lay down memories, to learn, and to work effectively. Additionally, problematic media use can harm face-to-face conversation and undermine the development of empathy.”

And if that weren’t enough, our children are exposed to bullying, constant crass language, immoral behavior, immoral photographs, poor advice, and the incessant stimulation of pleasure iconography through photo after photo after photo.

Kids spend too much time with their peers; they are addicted to the likes and the shares and the comments and the … (fill in the blank here). They spend more time watching other people live their lives than actually living their own. In fact, there is a direct correlation between depression and the amount of time one spends on social media. According to government data released in November 2016, “the rate of suicide deaths among children between the ages of 10 and 14 has doubled. And yet, we continue to play the game.

I cannot begin to count all the conversations I’ve had with parents about this topic over the years. I’ve not met one yet that believes all this technology is fine. If you are the parent above, God bless you and please offer advice for the rest of us because virtually every parent I meet feels like a victim of the culture.

I don’t know about you, but my husband and I have been deliberating daily about the whys and wherefores of technology for years now. Our journey began several years ago when our oldest child saved his own money to buy an I-Pod. We had virtually no idea what an I-Pod was at the time. But we’ve been learning about that and more ever since.

The fact is that we can tell ourselves all day long that the benefits of technology outweigh the negatives. We can excuse our permissive attitudes regarding all this access by deflecting.

All their friends have it, and, well, what are we to do? They’ll be alienated without it. 

WE are the PARENTS! WE are supposed to be the first educators of  our children! WHY are we delegating that responsibility to complete strangers whose values are completely antithetical to our own? And if we’re not delegating, then at the very least we are passively allowing complete strangers to influence our children in ways that we cannot possibly even conceive.

In our house, I’ve sort of comforted myself with the thought that we’ve had restrictions. We’ve never allowed our children carte blanche with their phones, etc. Our teens didn’t appreciate it, but we’ve never allowed them to have their phones at night. They drop them off in our room by 9pm on school nights and 10 on the weekends. When friends stay over, all devices (including those of their friends) are turned in when adults go to bed. No phones at the dinner table. Internet restrictions, etc.

But as we pat ourselves on the back for having limits, we are screaming on the inside because we have this agonizing feeling gnawing at the pit of our stomachs that NO CHILD needs so much access to friends. NO CHILD needs so much access to the outside world.

And yet, ours have it.

How are we, as parents, supposed to raise our children to center their lives on God when our influence is reduced to a footnote that hardly compares to their world of social influence?

Do you walk around feeling alone in your convictions – believing this world of constant interaction and worldly access is wrong; but afraid to make the tough choice to say NO? Maybe you’re worried your kids won’t like you? Or maybe you’re worried they’ll feel left out?

Whatever the reason we’ve allowed our kids so much access in the past, couldn’t we render it irrelevant it if we just banded together?

THAT is the purpose of this post. My husband and I are tired of struggling alone with all this technology. For once, I’d like to make a shout out to other parents!!!  Will you band with us and make the tough choice to rid the world of kids with technological appendages?

For us, this video must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Because we’ve finally found the courage to say NO.

We’re asking you to join us. Your solution doesn’t have to look just like ours. I make no claims on what is the best solution – and we are absolutely open to suggestions.

First, I’ll admit that we didn’t take action with our 18-year-old. In prudence we decided that confiscating his phone would not be the best course of action. But we did have a conversation. That said, our 16-year-old doesn’t like us much right now. He has been reverted to a flip phone. His Internet access is now limited to our large, dated, living room computer – visible from any angle in our great room. Our almost 15-year-old daughter doesn’t own a phone. She has an I-Pod; but she has little access and has been forewarned that if anything happens to it, there will be no replacement allowed.

And the three younger kids? No chance they are getting their hands on portable technology. If I could speak to any parent of younger children, my advice would be – don’t even go there. Children have such vulnerable hearts and their perspectives are still being formed. Technology is far more dangerous than beneficial for them. Even in schools it is proving toxic.

Band with us. It may be hard to take a step back. But let’s each have the courage to be the parents that every child hates. Together, we can make a difference. Yes, it’s a sacrifice. Yes. People are going to think we went way overboard. Yes. Our children will call us extreme. But when it’s all said and done, do we want to be any other kind of parent? I mean other than extreme?

If extreme means we refuse to condone evil? I say, YES. If extreme means we’re all in for the sanctity of our children? I say YES. If extreme means we’re bucking the system? Going against the grain? I say, YES.

Because isn’t that what we’re called to do as Christians?

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by he renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2

It will be tough. But just remember,

Blessed are those what are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:10.



Is Your Marriage Lacking a Certain Chemical Element?

Do you watch all the ads with the lovey dovey smiles and the flirtatious eyes, and try to remember what that felt like? Do you recall the giddiness of being young fresh and so in love that even folding socks together was fun?

Valentine’s Day is upon us again.

Do you watch all the ads with the lovey dovey smiles and the flirtatious eyes, and try to remember what that felt like? Do you recall the giddiness of being young and marriage paintingfresh and so in love that even folding socks together was fun? Where even an accidental touch was electrifying and you called your love 100 times a day just to hear his voice?

If we’re not careful, love can become like a favorite shirt thoughtlessly tossed into the bottom of a drawer. Over time we tend to pile other things on top of it, passing it over from day to day without even thinking until some random thought, word or action sparks a reminder, and we realize that something very special is missing.

When I was in my early twenties, I began a cross-stitch project that I was sure would be a permanent focal point on my wall. It was a huge, colorful piece of country folk art, and it would have been beautiful. Today, six kids and fifty million ideas later, that piece of art has long been abandoned to the wasteland of forgotten projects.

Recently, my daughters and I were digging through my sewing box to find notions for their latest crafts. Sure enough, they found that old piece of material with the beautiful, but unfinished cross-section of a town, all neatly stitched in bright, bold colors. The finished portion would probably fill a 9×13 frame. They were awestruck. “Mom! This was sooo beautiful! Why would you leave it in a box?! Why don’t you finish it? How could you just put this down and walk away?”

How to explain that things came up? That I was too busy holding babies, doing laundry and feeding kids? And as time passed, my obligations only became greater, running kids from here to there. Other goals. Other plans. I never intended to set it aside for good. In the beginning, I only put it away during a busy time in my life. But then along came something else. And pretty soon, it was relegated to an old sewing box as I focused on making new curtains, pillows and bedspreads for our first house. And then along came the children and there were the sports and the play dates and school. There was always something that kept me from picking up that project.

And now?

I’m no longer interested.

Sadly, many marriages end up in the predicament. Sometimes we cast them aside, with every intention of getting back to them “later,” when life calms down. But then things don’t calm down, and our marriage becomes faded and dingy, lacking the bright color and excitement it once had.

Has our love dwindled?


It’s there; but it might be a little lethargic, perhaps suffering from a lack of oxygen.

It might do us good to breathe a little life back into our marriages – both body and soul.

While challenges in marriage can be complicated, the action of loving is not. Love is a verb. And we must take steps to love our spouses, no matter the condition of our relationship. A simple love offering can go a long way toward reviving that spark. Take some time this week to spend some special time together, sans distractions. And make that a habit. Talk. Listen. Pray together. Attend adoration together. And more than anything else, recognize the privilege you’ve been given by virtue of your sacred union.

There is no magic pill that will liven a marriage relationship. Love takes time. It takes sacrifice. And it takes commitment. Here are just six thoughts to keep in mind regarding this amazing sacrament that is marriage on this very special day. Perhaps contemplating the profound nature of your relationship will help to ignite the flame of desire and spark the passion of commitment:

  1. You have been chosen and called, therefore, as husbands and wives to be for one another the living experiential sign and expression of God’s love by sharing with each other the gifts of uncompromising love, unconditional acceptance, ceaseless dedication, total fidelity, and untiring service. These are the signs of God’s love, and this is what makes God present in the Sacrament of Matrimony. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love

  2. How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father?!!! How wonderful the bond between two believers, with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh. In fact, they are truly two in one flesh, and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit. Tertullian, quoted in Familiaris Consortio, by Pope John Paul II

  3. The basic error of mankind has been to assume that only two are needed for love; you and me, or society and me, or humanity and me. Really it takes three: self, other selves, and God; you, and me, and God. Love of self without love of God is selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful…Duality in love is extinction through the exhaustion of self-giving. Love is triune or it dies. —Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married, p. 43

  4. In spousal love, the body of the beloved assumes a unique charm as the vessel of this person’s soul, and also as embodying in a unique way the general charm and attraction which femininity has for man, or virility has for woman. Spousal love aspires to the bodily union as a specific fulfillment of the total union, as a unique, deep, mutual self-donation. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy, p. 47

  5. Romance is almost sure to die; love, however, does not have to die with it. Love is meant to mature, and it can do so if that readiness for sacrifice implied in the original self-giving of marital consent is alive or can be activiated. The idea that true love is prepared for sacrifice strikes a chord that perhaps our preaching needs to touch on more. As Pope John Paul II says, “It’s natural for the human heart to accept demands, even difficult ones, in the name of love for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person.— Cormac Burke, Covenanted Happiness, pg. 24

  6. Matrimony crushes selfishness, first of all, because it merges individuals into a corporate life in which neither lives for self but for the other; it crushes selfishness also because the very permanence of marriage is destructive of those fleeting infatuations, which are born with the moment and die with it; it destroys selfishness, furthermore, because the mutual love of husband and wife takes them out of themselves into the incarnation of their mutual love, their other selves, their children; and finally it narrows selfishness because the rearing of children demands sacrifice, without which, like unwatered flowers, they wilt and die.— Archbishop Fulton Sheen, The Cross and the Beatitudes, p. 41-42

  7. Do not forget that true love sets no conditions. It does not calculate or complain, but simply loves. – Saint John Paul II, Jubilee of Youth

Guest-Post: Introducing Paula Zwenger

In marriage, those small blessings we can offer our spouse tend to go a long way. Paula Zwenger captures their beauty in her poem, “This Man of Mine”

Recently I camthe_marriage_of_mary_and_joseph-_engraving_by_s-a-_bolswert_wellcome_v0034533e across a poem by Paula Zwenger that really speaks to the subject of sacrifice in a beautiful and inviting way – particularly as it pertains to the vocation of marriage. I wasted no time in asking if she would allow me to post it here. Thankfully she said yes – please enjoy her contribution below:


Easing Into the Ordinary

Who doesn’t love a good party – times when you gather with family and friends, partake of really delicious food, and wile away hours in fun and games? Perhaps you commemorate festivities by exchanging gifts, traditional mementos or souvenirs?

Life is full of reasons to rejoice. We make merry at birthday parties, graduations, or if good health and grace allow, high-number anniversaries in our vocations. We may travel different paths to arrive at our milestones, and express our thanksgiving in unique and creative ways based on our cultural traditions, but the logistics of our celebrations hold a few things in common.

Each one starts with preparation, building anticipation proportionate to the length and importance of the feast. Do you need to choose and send invitations? Are out-of-town guests expected? Where will they stay? Who plans and executes the menus for meals (don’t forget that Aunt Susan is allergic to nuts and Cousin Joe is diabetic)? Is special clothing required? Will there be a photographer? What about decorations? ‘To-do’ lists span columns or pages and require many hands to accomplish.

Finally . . . the ‘big day’ arrives! Everything goes off without a hitch (or not).  You spend yourself in joy, creating memories to last a lifetime. You may even arrive at this day exhausted by your preparations, but still luxuriate in what goes right, and bask in the joy on faces of those around you. This is what life is about – the very feasts that help make life worth living. Gratitude is simple to attain and acclaim in the midst of such blessing!

Then . . . a new day dawns. The party is over. It’s now time for post-celebration clean-up and return to day to day living. No more dancing in the streets, or aisles, or banquet hall – now you roll up your sleeves and return to work.

As Catholics, our faith tradition provides us with a liturgical calendar of seasons which help to focus our prayers, thoughts and actions.  We cherish the beauty of an extended Christmas season, which lasts far beyond the influences of secular society. Yet even with all the opportunity for special feasts and solemnities, we can wax nostalgic for the beauty of the crèche and stockings and beautifully lighted tree as it comes to a close.

In fact, in our house we’ve been known to ‘extend’ this season, as evidenced by holiday decorations, by as long as two weeks into Ordinary Time. If your family is anything like mine, everyone is excited to put up Christmas decorations, but no one is excited to take them down. The house looks a bit empty for awhile when the colors, lights, and precious heirlooms have been stowed away again for another year, out of sight.

This year, once again, I was dreading the chore of ringing out Christmas and ringing in ordinary time. My husband, Patrick, and I had talked on January 6th, the traditional calendar date of Epiphany, about needing to take things down on the following Saturday (the day this poem arrived to be written).

That morning he, an early riser by nature, held to his usual schedule while I slept in.  I was upstairs longer than usual, puttering around and reading online articles while listening to the local radio station, not looking forward to the chore ahead.

As it turns out, a plan beyond my own was already in motion. You might say I had a little ‘epiphany’ of my own about easing into the ordinary – which prompted the poem below.

This Man of Mine

I’ve never fully understood, not even ‘til today
how bonds we formed so long ago have blessed us both to stay
It’s got to be a gracing, giving strength beyond our own
that holds this love together all through choices we have grown
You take two different people and conjoin them up for life,
a model tried through centuries, this husband with his wife

He’s not given to praising and perfection’s not his game
but oh, he works in many ways at loving, just the same
Today, for instance, when I rose, ‘to-do’ list on my mind
I came downstairs with heavy sigh and what gift did I find?
The tree and lights, near put away (Epiphany now passed)
he did a chore I didn’t like without it being asked

Some frown at my believing and they wonder at my hope
yet every day, some way I’m blessed with gifts that help me cope
My answer is in trusting full that come good days or bad
this sacramental bonding tarries not as passing fad
It’s choice each morn on rising new to honor and to bless
in ways the other may not know, or ever even guess

I don’t pretend all answers in this riddle that we live
but time and time again it seems we get more when we give
I share with you if you are blue that times can turn around
not Pollyanna pandering but truth that I have found
I’ll write the blues when they appear but sunshine rays this day
right now it’s time to ‘walk my talk’ with no more word delay

I’ll find the chore that blesses him and makes for brighter day
I’ll love it into being and amend my past delays
When gratitude is lacking I will turn my heart to prayer
And offer even that to God who meets me in His care
There’s nothing that I cannot do when guided by His call
In loving you, in loving Him, whose mercy saves us all



Paula Zwenger
is a wife, mother, and grandmother who, upon finding herself an empty nester, tried on the hat of rhyme loving writer. It fitted very well. Her joy manifests completely while taking the ups and downs of life and wrangling them into poetry. She also has a passion for creating rhymed treasure hunts with a Catholic flare to celebrate the faith and learn a thing or two along the way. You can find her musings at


The Unholy Family

Most of us were born into an unholy family. Actually, that family – unholy as it may be – is the best way for each of us to make our way in this world, the greatest vehicle known to man for our sanctification.

What do you get when two fallen people fall in love and commit to spending the rest of their lives together, struggling through this thing called life, climbing, stumbling, and familyclimbing again; pulling each other up when we fall, sometimes tripping over each other along the way?

You get the precious seed of a holy family.

Your marriage may not be perfect. No worries. So long as you remain committed through the ups and downs and ins and outs of your relationship. Because the commitment itself will provide you both with the room you need for that seed to take root and germinate.

Marriage gives love the structure, the shelteredness, the climate in which alone it can grow. Marriage teaches spouses humility and makes them realize that the human person is a very poor lover. Much as we long to love and be loved, we repeatedly fall short and desperately need help. We must bind ourselves through sacred vows so that the bond will grant our love the strength necessary to face the tempest-tossed sea of our human condition. – Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love

And what do you get when those two people give themselves completely -at least to the extent that two fallen human beings can give themselves – to one another in love?

This is when love can produce life, and through this act that delicate greenery breaks the surface of the ground, growing more beautiful by the day through the waters of baptism, the nutrients of love and sacrifice provided daily by the parents, with the light of Christ shining down from above in grace and mercy.

This is when you get a family.

You may be thinking, My family doesn’t come close to that image. When you look at your family, you may be discouraged by what you consider to be an infestation of individualism and idiosyncrasies. No one seems on the same page at the same time and polar opposites can be found in every corner. You may be worried that your family may never blossom.

Yours may not be a holy family.

In fact, yours may be an unholy family.

That’s OK.

Most of us were born into an unholy family. Actually, that family – unholy as it may be – is the best way for each of us to make our way in this world, the greatest vehicle known to man for our sanctification.

The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or pathos, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial…

…The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down the chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day he was born.

This is, indeed, the sublime and special romance of the family. It is romantic because it is a toss-up…

…When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family, we step into a fairytale. – G.K. Chesterton, On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family

But how, given the widely varied personalities involved in a family, the different values and goals, the wild adventures and the unknown outcomes, do we grow holy in that environment? How can we begin to turn in the same direction, linking arms as we walk through this vale of tears, climbing together to the summit of heaven?

We sacrifice.

We serve.

We let go.

We love.

(15) The human family, disunited by sin, is reconstituted in its unity by the redemptive power of the death and Resurrection of Christ.[37] Christian marriage, by participating in the salvific efficacy of this event, constitutes the natural setting in which the human person is introduced into the great family of the Church.

(21) Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise the many and varied forms of division in family life. But, at the same time, every family is called by the God of peace to have the joyous and renewing experience of “reconciliation,” that is, communion reestablished, unity restored. In particular, participation in the sacrament of Reconciliation and in the banquet of the one Body of Christ offers to the Christian family the grace and the responsibility of overcoming every division and of moving towards the fullness of communion willed by God, responding in this way to the ardent desire of the Lord: “that they may be one.” -Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 

So we keep working. In our roles as parents, and in our roles as children, we sacrifice. We serve. We let go. We love.

And when we fall, we get back up and we begin again. Through reconciliation.

Through the life-giving love of the sacraments, the nutrients of our daily sacrifice, and by the grace-filled rays of Christ’s mercy, little by little, our families can become holy. That is when that tiny seed, planted in marriage, germinated in love to become a family, will begin to bloom. And the fragrance will intoxicate the world with its beauty.

But for now…

Face it. Your unholy family is the most amazing adventure you’ll ever find in this life. And the more wild the adventure and the higher the mountain you must climb together, the sweeter the victory when you reach the top.

Let us be grateful for our unholy families, and let us pray that we can unite ourselves to His Cross; that the Blood of Christ will wash away our sins, our pain and our tears along the way. Ultimately, may our families experience the joy of a love that is absolutely and completely self-giving, and together may we find the fruit of salvation through the embrace of the cross.




The Advent that almost Wasn’t.

Despite our best intentions, by their very force the material obligations of the Christmas season can push the more spiritual Advent activities aside.

Most of us aspire to lofty ideals during Advent:

“O, Lord, I anxiously await your coming and offer all that I am and all that I do for love of You, looking forward with all my heart to uniting myself to You in the celebration of your Incarnation.”advent-wreath

But often we fall somewhere between the ideal and the overwrought, overstressed, if not practical sentiment:

“Lord, could you just hurry up and come already, so we can get back to a regular routine?!”

And yet, who can blame us? Many of us already feel like we’re drowning, barely afloat amidst the trials, tribulations and regulations of every-day family life – getting little Joey to piano, Susie to violin, Harvard to debate practice and – in our case – homeschooling from morning till night, along with meal planning, grocery shopping, housekeeping and more. Then – every year around this time – here comes a great millstone of joy around our necks – otherwise known as Christmas lights strung from here to high heaven, perfectly appointed trees and wall to wall decor, shopping, hospitality, parties, family pictures, cards and letters, never-ending trips to the post office, planning, budgeting, charitable giving, baking and traveling. (Sometimes don’t you just want to curl up in your empty manger and hide from all the demands of boxes, bows and bounty until it’s all over?)

And after all the material traditions are said and done, we’re supposed to do what? Advent wreath? Candles? Special attention to Sacraments? Added Prayer? Sacrifice?

Sadly, despite our best intentions, by the inherent force of their nature,  the material obligations of the season often push the more spiritual Advent activities aside. To the point where we look back around Gaudete Sunday and realize that all those candles and Jesse tree ornaments, prayers, extra Masses, rosaries and reflections have been lost along the road of good intentions, somehow caught up and blown away in the wind before we even realized they were gone.

At least that’s what happened to our family this year.  And from the looks of all the beautiful houses and the over-the-top parties and show-stopping hospitality – where every dessert is perfection and the air is filled with the scent of pine needles and cranberries – I’m probably not the only one.

It seems that Advent has ceased to be about, well, ADVENT. Yes, it’s still about getting ready for Christmas.But it’s not about getting ready for Christmas.  There is no time of year when the contrast between how we look on the outside and how prepared we are on the inside can feel more stark. Sometimes, with all the joy surrounding the exterior, the lack of attention I’ve paid to my interior life is that much more highlighted for me. I begin to wonder if I’m not one of those “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead man’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27-28). Maybe it’s not that bad; but often it comes pretty close.

This is particularly the time when we should shed all the excess and train our eyes on heaven. On the things that really matter. Instead, every year the celebrations get earlier and earlier; the bar gets higher and higher; the obligations pile on and on.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Unlike Lent, which lends itself to reflection and sacrifice, coming as it does before Spring  and at the end of the long, drawn out quiet of winter, Advent is often glossed over by all the demands of the season.

What is the solution? And when I say “solution” I mean “practical solution.” Because chances are, all the obligations are not going to go away. Sure, we can disband everything that is not necessary; but for most of us, many of these traditions are here to stay. Try as we might, we’re still going to have decorations, get-togethers with extended family and friends, family pictures, Christmas cards, shopping and the like.

Yet, Christ is still calling. Whether we listen or not.

In our home, we have always had two Advent traditions. Every morning we read the stories of salvation history and place our special Jesse Tree ornaments on the Tree. Every evening we light a candle on the Advent wreath and read from one of Arnold Ytreeide’s Advent books.

But not this year.

Somehow what we used to think were crazy Christmas schedules for us as a family have multiplied into several crazy Christmas schedules – one for the family, and separate ones for each of our three teens, who all have their own Christmas obligations, whether through school, work, youth groups, or other affiliation. With everyone running around  we’ve not been able to schedule “family time” for much of anything. In fact, this year I hadn’t even found our Jesse Tree ornaments until a few days ago. And that was only because I’d had a huge awakening.

On Gaudete Sunday, it occurred to me that Advent is half over. I was shocked to realize that through the first two weeks of Advent, we had yet to light a single candle. My youngest children have had no reference to Advent other than the pink and purple candles sitting front and center in Church,  or the words we speak at prayer time or during open discussions around the table. Other than random moments, there has been no effort –  organized anyway – to help them prepare their hearts and minds for Christ.

It actually hit me that perhaps we should just give it up this year. Why not just get ready for Christmas and give Advent another try next year? I mean, what else can we do when the demands of the world won’t STOP?

But something about that idea just didn’t feel right. After all, what is all this “stuff” for, anyway? If we give up, aren’t we just releasing the most important if least demanding Person of the season? The One quietly waiting to gain our attention? Can I actually look myself in the mirror if my solution to the busyness of the season is just to put away the Advent candles and save my prayers for less demanding times?

No, I can’t.

So I looked at the calendar. Realizing we still had ten days left, tonight, we took action.

My husband pulled out the wreath and the kids lit the candles. One teen was at work; another was somewhere studying for a test. But four kids sat around the table and gazed at the three candles flickering before them.

Tonight, we spent time reflecting on the story of salvation history. We talked about the creation and the fall; We read about how Christ represents the Second Adam. How Mary is the new Eve. In brief passages, we read about God’s covenant with Noah; with Abraham. We placed our Jesse tree ornaments on the Christmas tree. Not the second tree we normally put in the classroom, but the family tree. And we didn’t read the Advent book we normally read; we focused on the story of salvation. In other words, we changed things up a bit in the interest of time. But that’s OK.

We gathered. And we read together. And those teens who weren’t around? They noticed the Advent wreath on the table when they returned. They may not have been a part of the conversation, but they remained part of the tradition. The reminder brought back all the years they had sat around the Advent wreath. They noticed.

For the next ten days, our family may not STOP. But we are going to PAUSE. If not twice a day, at least once. We’ve found the wreath; we’ve found the ornaments. We’ve made time for the sacrament of Confession. We are moving forward.

Our Advent may be brief. It may not be perfect. It may be missing some piece that would be “just the thing.” But it will be Advent nonetheless.

It will be a PAUSE.

And that PAUSE will matter.

Because that PAUSE will allow us to put all the other “stuff” into perspective. Rather than wait for the “perfect” opportunity to pull out the Advent wreath or the Jesse tree ornaments, we will schedule time each day – the same time. No matter that one family member is at work or another out with friends. Anyone home will be invited to participate. But if we wait for everyone to be ready, we’ll never be ready. If we wait for all the stars to align and the the time to be right, they will never be right.

We’ve lit our candles. And we plan to keep lighting them. Until the moment comes when we get to meet the bridegroom (Matt. 25:1).

The Advent that almost wasn’t…is here.



5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Raising Catholic Children

Like all parents, there are several things I wish someone had told me when I began parenting. I’m learning little by little; but perhaps some of my experiences might help those who are just getting started with little ones before they, too, look up and realize their time and influence may be fleeting.

Our oldest son is a senior year in high school this year. This is an exciting time for him. But as parents, we count the days we have left with him before he leaves for

Holy Family - United Kingdomcollege. The next two kids won’t be far behind – in less than five years, half our children will have graduated from high school.

This time in our lives has been the impetus to much reminiscing on my part.

Like all parents, there are several things I wish someone had told me when I began parenting.  Particularly about how to raise kids who leave our home with a desire and will to follow Christ in their thoughts, words and deeds. I’m learning little by little; but perhaps some of my ups and downs might help those who are just getting started with little ones before they, too, look up and realize their time and influence may be fleeting.

The advice may be worth what you pay for it; but here are my top five tips to parents with little ones:

1. Don’t be so paranoid.

We kept our kids from things like Pokemon and from Harry Potter, etc. because I’d seen all the questionable articles. I wanted to play it safe. (I say “I” because my husband would have been a little more laid back about these things.) A few months ago, our family went out for ice cream, and the shop we were in was showing Harry Potter on TV (why there was a TV in an ice cream joint is a discussion for another time:)). My teens joked at the time about how I never let them read or watch anything when they were young; shortly thereafter, my 17-year-old read all the Harry Potter books. He said they were pretty good. Not worth all the hype, but enjoyable. I don’t remember what all the fuss was about years ago, but I’ve seen no repercussions thus far. And he’s already moved on to other things.

Shortly thereafter, Pokemon Go became all the rage. My boys were right in the middle of it all (I’ve lightened up in my “old” age). But their interest faded within a week and they’ve both moved on in this area as well.

When my kids were little, I drove myself crazy trying to make sure they weren’t involved in anything that might make them stray from the Faith or might lead to other dangers.  BUT… I knew other moms who let their kids do plenty of things that I restricted (within reason) and their kids grew out of them almost as soon as they tried them.  Now those kids are well-adjusted and seem to make good decisions where they count.

Not only have I noticed that a little bit of gentle “openness” on the part of moms doesn’t seem to have harmed their kids, I’ve also learned that a more anxious approach to the world can have damaging effects that I hadn’t anticipated.

Case in point, I think my oldest especially (17), but to a certain extent my second too (15), have sort of written me off as “paranoid” and not particularly the voice of reason about things related to the culture. They haven’t been disrespectful about it, but I’m definitely getting that vibe.

Not only am I not their “go-to” person regarding cultural issues, but I don’t know whether I’ve really prepared my older kids to confront the “big” issues they will face in the world.  Are they capable of discerning right from wrong on their own? Of saying “no” themselves when all their friends are saying “yes”? I hope they’re ready, but I am beginning to second-guess my original strategy.

While second-guessing myself does me no good, I have to say that I wish I had been relaxed about more things when my kids were younger. Even when I didn’t let them do things, I wish I would have been more “sneaky” about it – redirecting instead of saying “no.”   (Lest you think that “no” is the problem – I did substitute the things I wouldn’t let them do with positive things.  But they remember the “no”s.)

If we do our best to completely control their environment for them when they are young, when are we teaching our children to use their own judgement?  In my case, I taught my kids right from wrong, but when kids are young and mom controls the environment – with a penchant for the word “NO”-  is she helping them to check things out and discern for themselves when the stakes are low so that they can make good decisions when they are high?  But the stakes are high, you might say.  Yes, I always thought they were high, too. In my mind, they were high for everything from books to movies to shows to video games to friends to school to (insert issue here).

However, now they really are high. Driving, alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, etc.  And while my kids have yet to fall in those areas (at least to my knowledge), if they do come across challenges, I don’t know that I’ll be the first one they turn to for advice, frankly because they may be worried about my reaction. Additionally, I sometimes wonder if by making everything a big deal, I’ve made nothing a big deal – in other words, is it possible that my dependability for insight has been watered down? Am I the mom who cried “wolf” one too many times?

Bottom line – if my eight-year-old brought home a Pokemon card (or some other questionable toy or game) from a neighbor today, I would treat it no differently than any other toy  (granted, there are exceptions to this rule; e.g. Ouija Board.)  And I’m sure it would disappear within a day or two.  If it didn’t, I would probably use the same technique they recommend for toddlers – get rid of the card when he wasn’t looking and then redirect his attention to something fun and good, without using the word “no”.

2. Help more; require less.

Let me preface this commentary by saying that my parents are both retired military, with over 20 years of service each.  That should give you some understanding of my own upbringing.  Needless to say, when my older kids were little, I had chore charts, responsibilities and expectations. I wanted to raise independent children who could do for themselves.  When I dropped them off with a babysitter, they waved goodbye and ran to play. (I was put off by those little kids in play groups who wouldn’t let go of their mothers’ legs.  I thought MY kids would never do that.)  The first three could all read at age three – no lie.  They were capable and very independent. When they asked for help, if I had taught them the task in the past and I knew they could do it, I would explain that they needed to do it themselves.

Perhaps you can already see the problem with that angle.

While I may have taught my older kids a great sense of independence and a strong work ethic, did I model a sense of compassion or a helpful spirit?  Thankfully, some of my kids are naturally helpful.  But in some cases they do not bend over backwards to help siblings, and frankly, with my expectation that they do for themselves, I may have failed to teach by example in that area.  They all help if I ask.  And they’ll do any chores required of them.  But ideally, they would all help when not asked. They would look for places to serve (whether at home or in the world). And they would be joyfully willing to help when asked by a sibling  (I’m treading on thin ice here, because there are times when they all serve and some of them always serve).  But I have a feeling I could have better cultivated a sense of service and cooperation, and am trying to make up for it now. By the way – on a selfish note –  all those kids I knew who were so attached and needy of their mothers when they were young? They are still attached, if not needy. That concept is awfully attractive to a mother with a senior who can’t wait to become an independent entity. He is capable of taking care of himself and more than excited about demonstrating his ability. We are definitely proud of his accomplishments. But right now, I’d give anything for a little attachment🙂.

3. Make family time FUN.

When my kids were younger, we celebrated what we called “Family Fun Night” every Friday.  I planned various activities, whether a craft, bike ride, board game, or what our family calls “Tickle Monster.” Those nights are some of the best memories our family share together.  But as the family grew and the age gap from top to bottom widened, I took my foot off the gas. Partly because I was busy and tired. The last thing I wanted to do every Friday was plan family entertainment on top of an over-scheduled week. Family Fun Night morphed into movie night – easy and low stress – which in the grand scheme of things, has not produced many memories. Movies run together in our minds and there is little family interaction when everyone hangs out with their eyes glued to the television.

My advice? Keep the FUN in Family Fun Night. You’ll never regret it. If necessary, let something else go. If you don’t, you’ll have teens who find friends more important than movies and going out more important than staying in. Movies don’t strengthen relationships. Laying out blankets in the grass and counting the stars – does. Serving finger food in various shapes for dinner and having everyone make pictures with their food – does. Hanging out around a campfire and roasting marshmallows – does. And even if you argue that those things still won’t entice the teens – they may and they may not. It depends on the teen. But even if they don’t, the older kids will be able to reminisce on great memories when they walk in on the fun, and they may just surprise you and join in.

And what does family fun time have to do with Faith? As a Domestic Church, the family is a child’s first and most important contact with God and with Godliness. Is there anything more attractive and inspiring than joy?

4. Place God at the center in action – not just word. He is a Person, not a belief system.

I remember listening to an atheist professor in college. He told us some crazy things. Among them, he said that Christianity was created to suppress the poor, and that the rich pooled the New Testament to encourage sacrifice as a “virtue” among the downtrodden.

Having very little foundation in Christianity, what that professor said seemed reasonable to me. I hadn’t been to church much growing up. So I was tempted to take him at his word. After all, he had the PhD.  But I thank God nearly every day for the two students in our class who questioned his theories. They were certain and confident that what he was saying was wrong. They weren’t argumentative. They weren’t disrespectful. But they asked questions that pointed out the irrational nature of his conclusions. I was amazed. I remember thinking as I sat there, “I wish I had their faith. Even if believing in God is only a crutch, I want that crutch.”

Years later when I converted to Catholicism, I was determined that my children would not only know what to believe, but they would know why they believed, like those college students years before. Whatever happened, I did not want them to doubt. I wanted them to KNOW, as I finally know, that Christ is The Way. So I talked to them early and often. I read to them. I catechized them.

But now that our influence over our older kids wanes and our days together dwindle, I often wonder – have I shown them?

Have I been joyful?

Have I been at peace?

Have I been generous?

Have I loved?

I taught my kids plenty of prayers; and I taught them frequent participation in the sacraments; but did I teach them to know Jesus as their best friend? Have I demonstrated that He is mine?

My oldest knows all the right words to say. He knows what we believe and why we believe it. (And that’s one thing I wouldn’t change – so if you are leaving the catechesis of your children to Mass attendance or to their religious education class, then I’d add an additional tip — make sure your children know their Faith. You are their first educator; their faith is too important to leave to chance.) But when my son gets out in the world and is tempted to turn away, the choice to remain faithful will be easier to make if he feels that he is being faithful to a Person, a Friend.  Have I properly introduced him to that Friend; and have I helped to cultivate a lifelong friendship? Or have I been so focused on the What and the Why, that I neglected the Who?

DO teach your kids to KNOW. But make sure you imbue them with a knowledge of the heart, not merely a knowledge of the head.

5. Remember that No family is perfect but YOU are Perfect for Your family.

I know this is an obvious point in theory; but often our emotions don’t follow the obvious. I spent years thinking that everyone else knew more than I did about how to be a good parent. There are times I’ve actually asked God, “Why did you give Child X to me instead of to that person over there?” Not because I was frustrated with my child, but because I felt the virtue I saw in another person would lead my child to holiness a lot faster than my vices would.  But the truth is that we all see the challenges and the sin in our own home and wonder what we are doing wrong.

The older I get, the more I realize that we are all learning how to be parents. Your weakness may be another parent’s strength. But other parents are watching your family and wishing for the strengths they see in you. We are all fallen creatures. There is no perfect family. (For more thoughts on that subject, read here.) God has a plan for your family. There is no home in the world that will contribute to the sanctity of your children like yours. God wants them in heaven; but He has entrusted their souls to you. That is no mistake. Our Lord has great faith in your ability to seek His grace daily and to turn to Him when you fall. Thank goodness for that, because there is nothing like parenthood to bring you to your knees.

Parents’ Prayer for Their Children

O God the Father of mankind, who hast given unto me these my children, and committed them to my charge to bring them up for Thee, and to prepare them for eternal life: help me with Thy heavenly grace, that I may be able to fulfil this most sacred duty and stewardship. Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me to be gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful; and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence, and the excess of severity; and grant that, both by word and example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety, so that at last I may, with them, be admitted to the unspeakable joys of our true home in heaven, in the company of the blessed Angels and Saints. Amen.

O Heavenly Father, I commend my children to Thy care. Be Thou their God and Father; and mercifully supply whatever is lacking in me through frailty or negligence. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour Thy grace into their hearts, and strengthen and multiply in them the gifts of Thy Holy Spirit, that they may daily grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so, faithfully serving Thee here, may come to rejoice in Thy presence hereafter. Amen.

(Prayer borrowed from Catholic Online)

When Your Family Doesn’t Measure Up

Sometimes I wonder whether God laughs or cries as He watches us taking notes on other families. Does He roll His eyes as He watches us hold onto every off-handed remark that offers any clue about their daily routine, and then shake His head as we rush home to regroup?

Do you spend an inordinate amount of time looking around at other families and trying desperately to figure out how they do it? Do you openly admire your friends, while secretly sad familytrying to get a handle on that green-eyed monster that lurks just below the surface?

Are you beside yourself as you try to figure out how it is that other families bear each other’s burdens and have each other’s backs while your kids bicker over the meaning of the word of and would gouge each other’s eyes out rather than build each other up? Does the love and respect other kids show their parents have you in tears as you think about your sassy high schooler with the Jeckyll/Hyde personality?  Are you bewildered by the fact that your friends’ children always seem to choose the right path while yours aren’t even on a path?

Sometimes I wonder whether God laughs or cries as He watches us taking notes on other families. Does He roll His eyes as we hold onto every off-handed remark that offers any clue about their daily routine, and then shake His head when we rush home to regroup?

What a great family – What do they do that we don’t do? Ooh – they attend daily Mass. Better add that to our schedule – Check! This family prays the rosary as a family every day – ooh – gotta figure out whether that’s a decade or the whole rosary. Whole rosary – OK! Better add that too – Check! And this other family reads the Bible together every night. (Are there enough hours in a night?) Well, if it will help our family to be more holy, I’m all in – Check! That family is amazing – a seminarian in the family- they have no cell phones and no television. Oooh. Check? Nope – this other family is great too – seminarian and a couple of national merit scholars – and they have both cell phones and television. Good deal! Check!

Sadly, you could emulate every single activity of every family to whom you look for wisdom and insight regarding that amorphous concept of holiness, without ever being able to secure the same results. In fact, you are more likely to wreak greater havoc in your own home by trying to follow the routines of this family or that family, rather than discerning exactly what it is that God asks of your family.

God loves you.

And He loves your children.

He loves your children so much that He loaned them to you – not to that family over there. He placed your children in your care because He knew that you would be the best parent to help your individual children make their way through this life equipped to spend forever with Him in the next. He has great faith in your ability to turn to Him as your guide, and He trusts that by His grace, you are more than capable of preparing your children for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Your children do not need the perfect routine. More than anything, they need you. They need your love. They need your patience. And they need you to live your Faith in a way that best reflects the light of Christ.

Sure there will be tension in the family. Sure there will be difficulties.  Just as there are difficulties in each individual human soul. But just as your relationship with God is unique to you, the relationship between God and your family will be unique as well. So don’t look around to see what your neighbors are doing. While it seems like a great idea to seek guidance and example, more often than not it leads to depression and a sense of failure.

How Faith manifests itself in our families will be unique to each and every family, depending on an infinite number of particularities. More than anything else, the soul of the family must be animated by God. Just as He must be at the center of each individual’s  life, He must also reign at the core of the family.

Recently, I found a great book about family life, published in 1921. Believe it or not, although it was nearly a century ago, at their core, families back then faced problems not so foreign to the ones we face today. The author offers great insight:

In the home where God is rightly honored, it is realized that children cannot honor God without honoring their parents, and parents will understand that they cannot honor God without respecting each other and living mainly for the children. It is easy to see that with such a spirit animating children and parents, the family circle will truly be “Home, Sweet Home.” 

The most beautiful families, like the most beautiful individuals, are too busy living their Faith to look around and measure themselves against their neighbors. They are busy measuring themselves against the only measuring stick there is – Christ Himself. And to the extent that they don’t measure up, they ask for His grace to help them improve:

Of course, every family will have its misunderstandings and annoyances. That is life. There is no escape from it. But the home wherein God is supreme will be able to meet these vicissitudes in a way that will make them a blessing. Some of the homes that I have known were those where affliction had abounded; for the peace and comfort which God knows how to bestow on His own, also abounded there. If you would save the home, therefore, and have it the dearest place on earth, begin by putting it on the foundation of Faith. If after you have done this, the home is not what it should be, it will be exceptional. (emphasis mine)

And for those of us that worry about friction in the home,

We must not forget that we have not here a lasting city, but that we seek one which is to come. A certain worldly man has said that our home is our heaven. Our home may be very dear to us, but the best home will have many annoyances and afflictions to remind us that our true home is not here, but hereafter. – You and Yours: Practical Talks on Home Life, by Martin Jerome Scott, cir. 1921, p. 8-9



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