Little Way of the Family


Advent is Upon Us
December 10, 2013, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Advent, Children, Culture, Daily Life, Family Time | Tags: , , ,

Hard to believe there are two purple candles already burning on my kitchen table. Hard to believe that Thanksgiving has passed and the leftover turkey is a pleasant memory. Hard to believe I haven’t posted since October.

It is a time for reflection and preparation. Our Lord has given me opportunities for reflection that I would rather He hadn’t: health issues kept us busy throughout the month of November. Kept me from blogging. Put us way behind on our decorations. (Yes, that’s important!)

It has put me in a reflective mood, though. The little worlds we build up for ourselves can come crashing down so easily. When we treasure the wrong things, we are crushed when we lose them.

In this life, nothing is more important than faith. In this world, nothing is more important than family. Sure we treasure those things in our thoughts and promises and declarations. But what about our actions? Do we treasure them in our actions? Or are we dismissive and impatient? Do we neglect, thinking that God and family will always be there, but this TV show/game/work opportunity will be lost if I don’t act now?

Treasure every little grace from God. Treasure every moment with your family. That is the best way I know to keep the oil in the lamp, ready for Him to come.



Superhero Movies
August 25, 2013, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Children, Culture, Family Time, Sin | Tags: , , , , ,

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With the announcement of Ben Affleck as the new Batman came a hubbub of debate in a Yammer group at my work over the pros and cons, along with much angst and passion. As Batman was my childhood favorite superhero (I still remember when in college I eagerly awaited the first Batman movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson), I of course had my opinions. My biggest regret, however, was not the choice of the new Batman. My biggest regret was that there was a very strong likelihood I would not be able to share this upcoming movie with my children. In that case, I won’t see it at all.

We went through similar issues when the Amazing Spiderman movie came out awhile back. My youngest son, a big Spiderman fan, saw the commercials (no matter how little TV you let them watch, it seems like the commercials always filter in), and he badly wanted to see it. Dutifully, his mother and I looked the movie up on Parent Previews and quickly found that the movie was deemed even more violent than the previous incarnations of Spiderman, and included a man’s arm being ripped from his body. We decided to pass.

It doesn’t make me feel good to say “no” to allowing my children to see these movies. I want them to be entertained, and I very much enjoy being able to share the characters who I enoyed as a youth with them. I’ll even go further and say that the “simplistic” story of Good vs. Evil as portrayed in the comics has, historically, been a good and enriching thing for kids, just as those kinds of heroic tales have often been a good thing.

Two things have happened to spoil that. First, in attempting to aspire to a higher level of art, the comics have become morally ambiguous. Second, and maybe this is the same underlying problem, the comics have geared themselves to adults, and to that end have incorporated violence, sexuality, and immorality to such an extent that they are no longer appropriate viewing for kids. That is a big problem and irresponsible behavior by the movie-makers.

I believe in the free market. In this case, however, we have people who are marketing movies that children want to see, but making them for adults. Remember, these are comic book characters. Kids have every reason to believe that they should be able to see a movie about a comic book hero. “Adultifying” (I love making up words) a kids movie to such a degree that kids really shouldn’t be watching it is irresponsible. It corrupts children. You can’t just say that parents are responsible for what their kids watch, so I can do what I want. Sure, parents are responsible, but some parents won’t be. Parents are responsible for keeping their kids from playing in the street, but that doesn’t give you the right ot drive down a residential street at 100mph.

I’ll let my kids watch some of these movies, as long as I am right there to cover their eyes at the scary parts. Some, like the recent Avengers movie, are basic stories of good vs evil. The bad guys are scary but caricatured, and the good guys are flawed but unambiguous. The Dark Knight, however, (the one with Heath Ledger as the Joker) was pathological. The bad guy was a scary man who revelled in doing horrible things and was only defeated by a Batman who was willing to do bad things himself. This is the kind of movie that could scar a kid. I’ll let them watch Lord of the Rings, because the bad guys, while scary, are eventually defeated by purity, by self-sacrifice, and destroyed by their own evil. These are good messages.

Why can’t we have movies like the Michael Keaton Batman, or the Christopher Reeves Superman? Movies that are intelligent enough for adults but still watchable by children? I’m tired of seeing movies that I would have longed to see as a child only to find out that there is no way my kids should see them. It’s cruel of movie studios to put out movies like that, lures to children but inappropriate for those same children. The question of why they do it is an interesting one, but that’s a different post.



A Different Approach to Family Prayer Time
July 31, 2013, 9:40 am
Filed under: Children, Devotions, Family Time, Passing on the Faith, Prayers | Tags: , , ,

Recently, we shook up our family evening prayers, and it’s been such a blessing that I thought I would share it.

My wife started a subscription to the Magnificat about six months ago, and that his been a great boon to her spiritual life. We were inspired a couple of months back to incorporate it into our family prayers, and it has evolved into something special. Here is what we do:

Setup
As always, family evening prayer takes place in our bedroom where there are no distractions of TV, computer, toys, telephone, or food. We have a little prayer corner with crucifix, statue of the Blessed Virgin, and a few icons as well as a Bible and Holy Water. To this we added two candles, the kind you find at the store, in tall glass containers with a picture of Christ on them.

Procession and Hymn
Yes, we have a procession! Mom, Dad, and oldest daughter sing the hymn, usually accompanied by music off of youtube (I continue to be surprised, finding music to almost every Catholic hymn on youtube). We will sing a capella if we have to. The younger three process in with the crucifix and candles.

Prayer Leader
Dad leads the prayers. We choose either the Magnificat evening prayer or night prayer, which are based on the prayers from the Daily Office. I start us off and pray the introduction as well as lead us through an examination of conscience.

Server
Our second son is the server. He is too young to be an altar server at Mass, but he longs to be, so this lets him live out that desire now. He takes the book from me and presents it to each reader in turn, bringing it back to me as necessary.

Readers
There are three key readings: the Palm, the Word and Mary’s Magnificat or the Canticle of Simeon. These are done by Mom, oldest son, oldest daughter, and even occasionally the younger kids with help from Dad. We have a special place in the room where the reader stands.

Intercessions
Dad leads the intercessions. After those of the Church, each person adds their own special intercessions.

Group Prayers
After the closing prayers, we prayer our group family prayers:
Our Father
Hail Mary
Glory Be
St. Michael
We will also add any others here that the younger kids have to learn for school, though that won’t be an issue till the fall.

Latin Prayers
Our summer project has been to learn our core prayers in Latin. We did the Ave Maria in June, the Pater Noster in July, and we are now working on the Gloria Patri for August. So at this point each person (even the 4-year-old) says their Latin prayer of the month as best they can. Then as a group we pray the Latin prayers we have already learned.

Collection and Announcements
Yes, we do a collection and announcements, but only on Sunday nights. Added on behest of the kids, we moved them to only once a week just to keep bedtime from getting too late. The kids are responsible for deciding what charity the collection will go to. The announcements are nice because they give the younger kids a little taste of public speaking.

Recession and Closing Hymn
And we end it with a hymn and a recession of the crucifix and candles. Then it’s off to bed!

The whole thing takes about half an hour. The blessings it has brought are:

1. All the kids are enthusiastic about prayer time. They have ideas for how to make it nicer and more holy.
2. The nightly prayers aren’t rote and they can’t be rushed.
3. Our nightly prayers are united with the nightly prayers of the Church, and the kids get a taste of the Divine Office.
4. Everybody participates and has a unique role.
5. We are praying more and better and enjoying it as a family.

So that is our new prayer tradition. I would love to hear about your family prayer traditions!



Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

This Friday is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and as such, it is a great day to perform an Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home.

What is the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

From a practical perspective, the enthronement is a ceremony in the home in which a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is placed in a position of honor and certain prayers are made. The enthronement can either be done with the assistance of a priest or by the parents themselves.

From a spiritual perspective, the enthronement is an acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is our King, and He reigns over our household. Of course, He is King and reigns regardless of whether we acknowledge it, but the enthronement does two things:

First, it reminds us of Christ’s kingship in an ongoing way, so that we might remember to act in accordance with this truth.

Second, it consecrates our home and our family to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. In consecration, we are separated from the common, dedicated to sacred use. This sanctifies our living space, making our home a more holy place and giving us additional graces so that we might have strength to live our day-to-day discipleship as we rededicate our family to Christ’s service.

The enthronement, as a devotion, helps us to ensure that we are Christians in every part of our lives, not just on Sunday mornings.

Below are two websites with slightly different formulas for the enthronement.

Enthronement Link 1

Enthronement Link 2

Both sides have a wealth of information about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and about Enthronement.



Radical Parenting Tips for the 21st Century

The 21st century, with the Internet, cell phones, gay marriage, condoms in public schools, and a 50% divorce rate, poses unique challenges to parents. We want to protect our children from predators, from themselves, and from the moral corruption that is running rampant in our society. This requires a radical response from parents. Anything less puts our kids at risk of following the world’s way of life and not God’s. Here are some radical tips to put into practice that radical response.

The Don’t’s

  1. Don’t let your kids on Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites. There is nothing positive to be gained from a child or teen being on those sites, and there are so many ways they can be hurt.
  2. Just pull the plug on cable TV. It sucks money, time, and vitality from the family. There is little of value on cable TV and much that is dangerous. Do our kids really need to see who’s sleeping with who on Jersey Shore or the Real World? Do they really need to know about the glorified life of Teen Mom?
  3. Don’t allow video games into the house. As with cable TV, video games are, at best, a colossal waste of time. Time that could be spent in reading, music, hobbies, or sports.
  4. Keep the computers and phones out of the bedrooms. The internet is one giant near occasion of sin for everyone, especially teenagers. Even the “good kids” can be tempted by porn that is one click away. Keep the computer in an open, highly trafficked area, and monitor its use religiously,
  5. Kid’s don’t need cell phones. Well, not all the time. If there is a legitimate need – such as for calling home when an after school or weekend activity is finished, then get them a simple no frills phone and let them use it during those times. The rest of the time, it is back in the parents’ possession. Texting, sexting, and camera phones are another huge opportunity for sin.

The Do’s

  1. Pray together as a family. Morning prayers, evening prayers, and grace before meals. That’s a minimum. From there, move on to the family rosary.
  2. Eat dinner together as a family. Turn the cell phones off. Turn the TV off. Pray, eat, and talk. You will be surprised what you learn and how much you enjoy it.
  3. Go to Mass together. Don’t divide and conquer; replan those weekend activities around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Nothing is more important.
  4. Father’s, bless your children before bed. You are a priest in the domestic church. Your blessing counts.
  5. Fill your children’s lives with good things so there is no room for bad. Kids who are at ballet lessons aren’t out with questionable friends, getting into trouble, and they aren’t sneaking onto internet sites better left un-surfed.
  6. Start Family Fun Night and don’t miss it. Give your kids a reason to want to be home with you. Make them feel they will be missing out if they spend Friday or Saturday night with their friends.
  7. None of these steps should be radical, but our culture makes them that way. Our lustful, gluttonous, voracious culture tells our kids they must have everything, especially freedom they aren’t ready for yet. It is our job as parents to put our foot down on the brake and stop the insanity.



5 Ways to Have a Hobby without Compromising Family Time
December 21, 2010, 12:34 am
Filed under: Children, Family Time

A not infrequent complaint of married couples and especially of new parents is that they no longer have time for their hobbies. Most force the issue and accept the negative consequences, a selfish attitude, that just seems contrary to the whole idea of family. The solution, however, is not that a mother or father, husband or wife, is no longer allowed hobbies. Rather, one can take a positive attitude, that the hobbies of a spouse or parent can be a source of enrichment for the family. To do that, the hobbies must be integrated into the fabric of the family. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to bring hobby and family together, taken from my personal experience.

  1. Take ’em Fishing
  2. I grew up loving to fish. My wife grew up without a clear idea of which end of the fishing pole to hold. (Kidding!) When we moved to South Carolina, I badly wanted a boat. Many of the men I know at work have either bass boats or ocean-ready center consoles. Both of those are hardy, wind-in-your face kinds of boats meant for serious fishermen. Instead, I chose to purchase a bowrider with a big windshield and plenty of seating (and a much smaller price tag). So my hobby is now my family’s hobby. I never go fishing without at least some of the kids, and usually the whole crew.

  3. Back Yard Horiculturalists
  4. When we first purchased a house, I started a vegetable garden. I always enjoyed growing things, and eating the fruit of my labor was a great feeling. But with multiple babies, the garden went fallow. That changed when my son took an interest. Now the kids all get to pick out which seeds will be planted, they learn about composting and germination, and frosts and planting zones. We do it together. It might be a ragtag garden, but it is a garden of love.

  5. Finance is a Hobby???
  6. My wife is a businesswomen, through and through. She has brought the kids to her business and has set them up managing their own money. They receive an allowance. They plan for donations to the church, for a fixed amount to go to savings, and then are free to spend or save the rest. They end up saving the bulk of their (fairly small) allowances. In sharing her passion for business and finance, Mom has taught them to treat money seriously, as a grace from God, but not to worship it.

  7. Relive Your Childhood
  8. My wife enjoyed dance as a child, and so she steered our eldest daughter in that direction, where she has thrived. They are currently working together, choreographing a piece for my daughter to dance at a talent show.

  9. If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em
  10. My dancing daughter also has developed an interest in musical theater. After playing chauffeur for three separate shows, I decided that I might as well have something more interesting to do than sit in a lobby. So I auditioned, and she and I just finished a three-week run starring in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at our local community theater.

The hobbies are there – fun, challenging, and intellectually and spiritually fulfilling. They don’t have to take away from family. With a little creativity, they can bring the family together.