Little Way of the Family


Humility and the Holy Family

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One of the virtues of the Holy Family that I try to emulate is humility. It’s a challenging virtue, and easy to forget in this competitive, success-oriented world.

It’s so easy, in the day-to-day effort to grow in holiness, to become judgemental and preachy, especially toward those who don’t seem to share my values. “I can’t believe she dresses like that for Mass.” “Their children are completely out of control. They probably let them watch too much television.” “You can tell they’re using contraception. Otherwise they’d have had another child by now.” “I’m just glad we’re not like that.”

It plays out in the abortion debate too, with some pro-lifers more focussed on condemning than saving, overwhelmed by their anger at the injustice of it all.

We all do this, to one extent or another. It’s in our nature, and it’s certainly an integral part of our culture. We like nothing more than holding up others’ faults to make us feel better about ourselves.

The thing is, we may very well be “correct” in our assessment of others. The young woman may be dressed inappropriately for Mass. The family may be letting too much culture rot into their home, with the resulting influence evident in their kids’ behavior. The couple may be using contraception. But self-righteously pointing that out – and basking in the pride that we aren’t like them – will win no converts and help no one get into heaven.

What that will lead to is our own humiliation. For when we sin – and we will – others will see that as a confirmation that we were full of hot air. That all that talk of holiness was just another attempt to one-up the next guy. That it was all a lie. And we will be like the television evangelist caught in adultery or theft or some other scandal. Just another holy roller with skeletons in our closet.

Instead, we have be aware of our own sin (the log in our own eye). And we have to publicly acknowledge it’s presence and our need to overcome. We have to be little in our own eyes, and our words and actions should acknowledge that littleness. Then we can become an example to others of following the path to holiness. Then any good actions we do point to Jesus and not to ourselves.

The Holy Family – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus – is a perfect example of this humility. Mary did not go around preaching to the other mothers in Nazareth, pointing out their faults, making sure they knew that God had chosen her to be His mother and not them. Joseph did not try to become the next great rabbi or get followers of his own. Instead they tried to obey God’s will the best they could. They suffered the humiliation and scandal of a pre-marital pregnancy. They lived the life of a simple carpenter’s family, all the while keeping knowledge that would change the world held close in their hearts. They knew their limitations, that all the good that was to come would come from God and not from them.

As parents, this humility is doubly important. Our kids know our faults. We can’t hide them. If we aren’t genuinely humble, our kids will think (and possibly rightly so) that all our “religion talk” is simply a way for us to control and manipulate their behavior. I think that a lack of parental humility is one of the quickest ways to ensure that a child leaves the faith as an adult. During those difficult, rebellious teenage years, they will be quick to jump on any hypocrisy, any “do as I say, not as I do.”

If I tell them not to drink but put down four beers every night after dinner, they will find no reason to avoid drinking when they have an opportunity. If I tell them to be pure and then they find pornography in my internet history, they will decide that porn must really be ok. If I tell them not to lie then brag about cheating on my taxes, lying and cheating will become second nature to them. If I tell them they better love Jesus but they see no love for Jesus in my actions, they will put Jesus in the box with Santa and the Easter Bunny and walk away forever.

If, however, I tell my children that I am weak. That I make mistakes. That I am a sinful man just as St. Peter was. If I tell them these things and say that with God, however, I am working to overcome those weaknesses and that He is making me a better man. Then they will see the reality of the journey that I am on and the journey that God is calling them to. Hopefully they will decide that is a journey that they want to take.

I wrote this post for the Feast of the Holy Family, which was this past Sunday. Obviously, I didn’t finish it in time. Just another example of where I don’t quite measure up to where I want to be. And that’s ok. If I was perfect, I wouldn’t be here, I suppose.

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Blessed John Paul II: Teacher, Hero, Saint

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I am thinking today of our former Holy Father on his memorial. He was an inspiration to me as I converted. Earlier I described my conversion story, but what I didn’t mention then was that during my “searching” period in Italy, I actually saw Pope John Paul II. I was on one of my weekend jaunts to Rome, when I happened upon a very large crowd in St. Peter’s Square. After a bit I figured out that the Pope was speaking right there in the square! I couldn’t get close – he was barely a white speck to me – but he was a discernable white speck, even in the 35mm photograph I took and still have today.

To many in the world, I fear that John Paul II was just another historical figure, akin to a politician, one of those characters of the cold war who are only interesting because of the times they lived in. I fear they think the Church is canonizing him just because he was Pope, and that maybe they canonize anybody that was Pope. He was so much more.

He was a teacher. His books are marvelously accessible, and he broke such important theological ground, both in his work as a bishop and cardinal, particularly with respect to Vatican II, and as the Holy Father. He gave us a much more profound understanding of human sexuality, of our roles as male and female, and especially of the family.

He was a hero. This is a man who became a priest durin the Nazi occupation of Poland, a bishop during the communist regime. He risked his life on a daily basis to bring the faith to others. And once he had the world stage, he made the boldest statement of all. He could have stayed safely in the Vatican, out of controversy and out of harms way. But he went to Poland – almost forced himself there against the wishes of the communists. And he took them to task on their own turf. He gave the people of Poland – and the people of all Eastern Europe – a voice, and he was one of the great catalysts for the miraculous changes that seemed to take place overnight.

He was a Saint, no doubt about it. He met with and forgave the man who tried, and almost succeeded, to kill him. He suffered at the end of his life, in a very public way, showing the world that old age, that the slow decay of disease cannot and does not take away an ounce of a person’s humanity or value, and he stayed at his post until the most painful end.

I am so lucky to have lived during the lifetime of such a man. If only some fraction of his holiness might rub off on me I would be assured of finding my way to the feet of our Lord when my time comes.

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us!



St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Her Little Sacrifices

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We often think of St. Thérèse in terms of simplicity of life, the life of a joyful young woman in a cloistered convent. She is the Little Flower, which almost has some kind of 60s flower-child connotation.

She was, indeed, a gentle soul, and she did, indeed, live a simple life. Her spiritual life was, however, built around the concept and practice of self-sacrifice.

“I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies,” she wrote.

I find the concept of obscure sacrifice to be compelling. We all love to make sacrifices when we get noticed for it, don’t we? We all have “white martydom” syndrome. Do we hesitate to share with others how hard it is sometimes to raise kids? How many times, in an argument with our spouse, do we tell them just how much we have given up for them? When we give up desserts or alcohol or something else for Lent, do we make sure everyone at work knows about it? Do we make a big deal to people about not eating meat on Fridays?

But obscure sacrifices, hidden sacrifices. Aren’t those the sacrifices we are commanded to make? Didn’t Christ say that if we fast we are to wash our faces and not let anyone know we are fasting? Didn’t He tell us to not let the left hand know what the right is doing?

It doesn’t take much. St. Thérèse said, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” We have to pick up those pins, and marriage and family life provides ample opportunity. Let’s not squander that opportunity by trumpeting our great self-sacrifice. A little humility would be in order on that front. We should remember that St. Thérèse performed her little hidden sacrifices when she was suffering from a tuberculosis which would take her life at the age of 24. We should remember that St. Thérèse went through a Dark Night of the Soul, herself, and was tormented by temptations and a grave crisis of faith. If she could persevere through that without complaint, we can persevere through our daily pains with a smile on our face.



Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Heavenly beauty and splendor of the Father,
You are the most valued Heavenly treasure.
New Eve, immaculate in soul, spirit and body,
Created of the godly seed by the Spirit of God,
You are the spiritual Mother of mankind.
Pure Virgin, full of grace then and now,
Your whole being was raised Heavenly in full glory,
To be elevated above all the hosts within the Kingdom of God.
O Heavenly Mother, Queen of Heaven and earth,
I recognize the glory of your highest title,
The Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Loving Mother, dispenser of endless blessings,
You who continuously intercede on our behalf,
Please present my need before your loving Son Jesus.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I know that you are now presenting my need before Jesus,
For you have never turned away those in dire need.
Mother dearest, I await your favorable answer,
Submitting myself to the Divine will of the Lord,
For all glories are His forever and ever.



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.



The Seven Spiritual Weapons of St. Catherine of Bologna

Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Bologna. Here is a good summary of her seven spiritual weapons to be used against temptation. Given the amount of temptation the 21st century has to offer, I think we need these weapons!



Spare a Moment Today for St. Joseph, Especially if You are a Dad

With Divine Mercy Sunday falling on May 1 this year, the optional memorial for St. Joseph the Worker is pretty much destined to be optioned out till next year, but if you can, sometime in your busy schedule, spare the foster-father of Jesus a few moments. He is a wonderful example for all who toil, but especially for those of who are dads.
Below is a prayer to St, Joseph the Worker, which I pray each time I sit down at my desk to start my work day. It really helps to keep the ups and downs of “working for a living” in perspective.

Glorious St. Joseph, example for all who are engaged in toil, pray with me please to obtain the grace that I may work in the spirit of penance and so make atonement for my sins. . . that I may work conscientiously, keeping devotion to duty before my personal feelings. . . that I may work with thankfulness and joy, holding it an honor to use and develop by my labor the gifts I have received from almighty God.
Pray with me that I may obtain help to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience-and never shirk duty because of weariness or because of difficulties encountered. . . and that, before all else, I may work with a right intention and with detachment from self, keeping always in mind the hour of my death and the account I must give then for misused time, for neglected talents, and for good not done, and for any foolish pride on my success-a fault so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all in imitation of you, Joseph most faithful! This shall be my motto in life and death. Amen.