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Monday, August 5, 2013

Idols of Our Own Making

There are days this path to holiness really annoys me!  I'll be limping along, thinking I'm doing OK, getting closer to where I want to be, learning more, knowing more, more, more, more!!  Then I will have a sudden realization that I have been completely missing something - a sin, a failing, an imperfection.  Something so patently obvious, how could I miss it?  And I can choose to either wallow in self-reflective-guilt or accept the revelation as another chance to embrace humility.  I need a lot of those chances - to embrace humility.  Of course, wallowing in guilt is just a form of pride, so that is always a temptation...and it sure seems much easier, or at least more pleasant, than allowing myself to experience humility.  I do my fair share of wallowing, but with the grace of God I am SLOWLY learning to accept His requests to humble myself. 

So what did I realize recently?  First Commandment - making idols out of things other than God.  Surely I don't do that.... but guess, what?  I do.  Usually not with the intent of making them idols, but they become more important than God and therefore block my view of Him and block my path to Him.  We can make just about anything into an idol, even things that are "good".  What do you
"worship" alongside your worship of God?  Money, status, knowledge...?  I never considered this a problem, but now this past week with this realization, I have come to know that indeed I do have this tendency within me.  Just another step on the path to perfection - and one of those days when I am glad the way is sometimes covered in fog . . . .

God bless.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thoughts

Parents, having received the sacred gift of human life in your marriage, our Lord calls you to be holy models of Christian living in your "domestic church" who represent the loving union of Christ and His Bride, the Church. . . in a great many families today there has been a deterioration and loss of Christian values. . . parents often consider economics, physical appearance, or social status more important than becoming holy signs of the loving union of Christ and His Church. . . teaching Catholic faith and morals to their children is not even a consideration or possibility. For they do not know the faith themselves. The greatest tragedy is that many of their children have left the Church without ever developing into mature believing and practicing Catholics.  . . DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT?  (From Friar Mariano D Veliz, OP, Facebook Page)

First is the realization that our children are a sacred gift.  If we truly see them as the gift they are, then our perspective as parents will of necessity reflect that realization.  For if we see our children as gifts from God, we will align our lives and our priorities around the nurturing of that gift and the proper focus of our own lives as parents will shift toward God.

Unfortunately, I do not often see this attitude.  But I live in an "unchurched" area, and I am the only person with young children who regularly attends our parish church.  My older son is THE altar boy.  We have not had religious education for more than two years, with the exception of the confirmation prep class for last Fall's Confirmation.  Church, God, religious training is seen as secondary to just about everything else: school, sports, television programs, farm work, etc....  The loss of Christian values I see is a skewing of priorities more than anything else. 

I do think most of this comes from the parents' lack of knowledge of the Faith.  I sat in on the Confirmation Prep classes and was often appalled at what was being taught - or not taught.  This was not done maliciously, but occurred because parents had volunteered to teach, these parents had not been properly vetted but were only chosen to teach because they were the only ones to volunteer and their children were the ones preparing for Confirmation.  None of the Confirmed have returned to Church on any regular basis - the families have not returned to participate in the Sacramental Life of the Church.  One family would attend, but there are other difficulties and the Catholic parent is not often here and the non-Catholic parent is not bringing the children.  With the exception of this one family, the Faith is just not a priority.  In their list of priorities, it comes very close the the bottom.

In fairness, those of us born in the wake of Vatican II were poorly catechized.  I grew up attending Catholic Schools exclusively, but we did not talk about God or the Faith at home.  In response to family situations, I retreated into my own world which involved a choice to take God, Mary, Jesus as my true family - I found my Mother's 1962 St. Joseph's Missal and taught myself the Faith from that - I developed a deep love and trust and reliance upon God and the Church.  But I was unusual, for I held onto that all the way through high school.  Without the Church I most likely would not have survived to report back about my childhood.  It was my lifeline - God was foremost in my life, and at the risk of sounding like a Southern Baptist, Jesus was literally my Lord and my Savior. 

Then with unexpected swiftness, all that was gone.  I still believed, I still considered myself Catholic, but I became very angry at God and ceased to practice the Faith.  Within those years of anger, both of my boys were born.  It took another life event to bring me back to the Faith.  I can only credit those early years of devotion and utter reliance for my reconversion.  God had been calling me to return for quite a while, but it took a Divine 2x4 to bring me to my knees and rekindle my understanding of my dependence upon God. 

But if people did not have that early Faith - and so many of my generation have a weak and immature understanding - what are they going to turn to as their life progresses?  The world - the secular culture.  Will they raise their children in the Faith?  They will mean to, they will have every intention to do so - but without any understanding or knowledge of the fullness of the Faith, their passing on of the Faith will be lukewarm at best.  They will easily turn to New Age or occult practices because they don't know any better.  They will be absent from the Parish Life because they honestly do not realize the importance.

My older son chose at the age of 12 to join the Church.  I taught him using the "old" materials (Baltimore Catechism).  It was actually in teaching him that my old fire was re-ignited.  He is now, at 14, very serious about his Faith, and he has made me more serious about mine.  Recognizing my responsibility, understanding my role as given to me by God, has deepened my desire to grow toward holiness.  I take all this very seriously, because I know what the lack of God - the choice to be without God - does to a life.  My younger son has been expressing for a while his desire to be a priest, and talks about God and Jesus as if they are right next to him.  He's only five, but it warms my heart to hear him and watch him grow with the understanding that God is real and alive right here and right now. 

My husband has not returned to the Faith.  I take much responsibility for that - perhaps I shouldn't, but I do.  The older son understands to some extent why Dad doesn't attend Holy Mass - and he prays that his Father will return.  The younger son, asks why he has to go if Dad doesn't go and prefers to stay home with Dad.  For me, this is the most challenging part.  I do believe that BOTH parents need to agree with and practice the Faith, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their children.  It has been shown that when Fathers are more involved in the Faith Life, that children will tend to stay involved as they get older.  Fathers have a lot of influence here. 

That doesn't mean a Mother has no influence, but God created us Man and Woman - he joined us in Holy Matrimony and gave us a commission to raise our children to know, love, and serve Him; to love him with whole heart, mind, body, soul, spirit.....  This is best done within that structure of marriage, best done within the parameters given to us by God.  We need to return to a correct understanding of family.  We need to return to a full support of family.  Where to begin?  Now that's the million dollar question.  I fear we have lost a lot of ground when as a Church we didn't continue to emphasize correct Church teachings and left a generation or two or three to flounder around on their own in an increasingly hostile world.

These are just initial thoughts.  I may come back and add to them, edit them, but I think they contain a fair sampling of my current understanding on this subject.