Daddy and Daughters Dance

Music is a large part of our lives; it is the manner by which we all know the experience of connection.  My daughters and I enjoy music immensely and it serves to help us grow closer in our faith and to often times to just have fun, laugh and giggle.  When the tempo is right, I am blessed to become once again their prince.  For that to happen, my youngest will wave her magic wand and sing, "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!"

The beauty of this time in our lives is each princess is still small enough, and I am strong enough, for me to lift them each off the ground for an imaginary waltz for the duration of a song or two before I need a break; it is a magical time for us both.  Sometimes, we find a special song that blends our faith and love for Christ with our day, such as Hungry (Falling on my knees), by Kathryn Scott.  We found the song on the drive to school one morning when my daughters wanted me to find a "girl's song"; flipping through our CD collection, I found this one.  We all loved it...and played it over..., and over..., and over again.

The song reminds me I am the father of two daughters, who will one day have their own relationship with Christ, directed by their own convictions founded upon Catholic principles and tradition.  In the present moment, it reminds me of our time together kneeling, holding hands, them squirming about and trying to recall the Lord's Prayer and then mumbling the parts they forget; when we don't know what to pray for, we leave it to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).  Also, it punctuates some morning drives to school with the windows down, cool wind rushing about, and us singing in fellowship together, praising our Lord and giving thanks for the mornings we have as the sun comes over our local hills to brighten our souls and warm the air.

Whether my daughters are dancing their new "ballet moves" or we are waltzing,  we share joyful moments and create memories we will each hold dear for quite some time to come.

We two alone will sing like birds i'the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


A time for solemnity and a time for joy

There is a time for solemnity and a time for joy.  May every parent embrace the love of our Savior, dance with their children in celebration, and share the song of joy leading to salvation.

"Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God for the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear child...I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have..." (2 Timothy 1:1-8).

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his obtain the joy of heaven (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1821).


Choice or Child? Ask your mother and your father

Exploring the value of your own dignity in life sets the foundation to understand your beliefs about an unborn child. To "ask your mother and your father", a thought experiment, provides an opportunity to look deeply at what circumstances lead up to your conception and eventual birth (if it can be known). Were you a child who was wanted?  Did you have parents or loved ones who modeled and expressed consistently from your earliest moments of development, what it meant to be lovingly committed to your care, even during life's adversities? Knowing this about yourself may cause you to understand in part the view you hold about the sanctity of a child's life.  And having a deep and examined conviction about your own value to others and yourself, will likely prick the conscience to action one way or the other.

The National Abortion Federation promotes the following points (among others):

  • "Throughout the history of legal abortion, anti-abortion extremists have used propaganda, misinformation, and outright lies to dissuade women from choosing abortion...
  • Most women base their decision on several factors, the most common being lack of money and / or  readiness to start or expand their families due to existing responsibilities...
  • Learn to stand your ground when discussing this important issue, whether at school, at work or in your place of worship...
  • At your school, make sure student health services provides Emergency contraception..."

Whatever the cause individually or collectively, to drive the NAF, it certainly is not toward the collective dignity of the person.

The miracle of a child is self-evident and needs no propaganda.  The value of a child exceeds any material gain. The spirituality and innocence of a child extends into a dimension measured only by the human heart.   The fellowship of a child with peers is life enriching, and within the context of school (and elsewhere) worthy of our greatest attention and protection.

When you and I are deeply aware (emotionally, spiritually and psychologically) of our own dignity in the presence of reminders given by the unfolding life of a child, there is no choice.  It becomes clear to our core, the fabric of our being, that a child is the reflection of our mutual beginnings, entitled to all of the love we have learned to give, or all of the love we have yet to learn.

Sanctity Of Life

Cradle of Faith

Once a month, my oldest daughter (age 6) attends Mass with her first grade class.  On a good day, I'll get there early (if I don't miss it all together) and have an opportunity to pray, meditate and read the scriptures, searching for what God wants me to know, before she and her classmates arrive.  But on days when I miscalculate my time, I will arrive moments before they enter the church.  Then it is a little more difficult to settle myself, collect my thoughts and center in preparation for fellowship. In either case, it is a delight to see her eyes open wide with joy in anticipation of her "Papa" sitting with her among friends.

My eyes, I am sure, open just as wide, appreciating she wants me there at this time in her life.  I find it so important to be at Mass with her, on her turf so to speak, when she is feeling most independent among her friends.  It seems like one of many opportunities to sow seeds of positive emotional impressions and excitement to uncover together a greater understanding of our relationship to our Lord and his Church.  As we sit together, I am mindful of holding her close as we listen to the readings, because I want her to feel secure.  She does.  I know this because she presses closer.  Don't we all enjoy that as parents?  When they press closer. We all know this time is fleeting, so they are gems each time they occur.

The daily reading is followed by our priest routinely asking the children questions, and my oldest darts her hand, along with many others, into the air to questions she is confident in answering.

Her enthusiasm is both inspiring and something I don't want to take for granted, as it needs encouragement to continue to grow.  That enthusiasm found in her fundamental joy to be at Mass with family and friends, is a valuable witness to the character of her spiritual identity, still developing, strengthening and more and more capable to carry forward by the dignity of her life the message of Christ in the context of our rich Catholic history.  But, how will she know that history?  She will know her Catholic faith the same way we learn of any history, by those willing to teach directly and those who teach indirectly by example.

As with many fathers, I share the wonderful burden to teach my children the Catholic faith.  The importance of that teaching will result somewhere between a firm Catholic identity or one that wanes and is subject to cultural influences. As fathers, if we are able to articulate and live a rich Catholic faith, then we leave a tangible experience and reference point.  If we live a Catholic faith that is sparse, then our children will likely have little investment in what we did not place significant value to ourselves.  It is a wonderful burden, and awesome responsibility.

As good teachers, we equip our children with what they need to sustain themselves in any of life's circumstances.  With a firm spiritual character, they become a source of encouragement to others and able to transmit to subsequent generations born into the cradle of faith a tradition that is magnificent.
How great things have we heard and known, and our fathers have told us. Declaring the praises of the Lord, and his powers, and his wonders which he hath done and declare them to their children.  That that may put their hope in God and may not forget the works of God: and may seek his commandments (Psalm 78:3, 4bc, 6c-7).


Be Still - Overcome Problems Related to Alcohol

At Mass this morning I was reminded of all the people I have come to know in one way or another who struggle with alcohol.  The process to recovery is not an easy one, and sometimes it can feel as though one's life is convulsing on the path of: stop, go, relapse, guilt, shame, recovery, stop and go again.

This painful path seems to dominate the mind's attention and dim the spiritual life, similar to the dimmer switch you have experience with in your own home or the home of someone else. At first your spiritual life may be bright, then with each passing day where an "adult beverage" is more and more the companionship of choice, the light slowly fades to the darkness you ultimately will find yourself engulfed by and abhorring. It may even lead you do doubt your own salvation and life of value.

Those around you, stand by seemingly and sometimes realistically distant perhaps after all the chaos has subsided, feeling helpless in prayer, "Maybe this time it will be different".  Each day that passes, you think this is your problem (or maybe you think you don't have a problem) and you are alone, but those around you constantly fear that phone call or text message that something has happened; the pain to a loved one's gut is followed by the punch that comes in the middle of the night startled from a restless sleep (no one sleeps deeply and at peace when someone is drinking to excess); or it may come while in a meeting or some other place it would be difficult at best to remain composed at the report of an accident or worse.

Eleven days into the New Year: Are you still praying that alcohol wasn't a part of your life?  Catholic brothers and sisters everywhere struggle with this in the silence of shame, while children, spouses and close friends are wiping away tears.  If one has had enough and they are blessed to have the support of their priest and loved ones, they are receiving spiritual guidance, encouragement and fellowship needed to overcome a life of captivity, supplemented by the assistance of professionals, like a doctor, therapist or psychiatrist.

However, maybe you don't think you have a problem and don't need help.  One way to begin the exploration of this is to be still and spend some quite time before the blessed sacrament at your parish.  You are Catholic and you might be long over due for the peace you will find in meditation, or just sitting in the quiet presence of our Lord to clear your head about what you would like to accomplish in your spiritual community.  There is no better place for spiritual counsel than with Jesus.  If you go, be aware of where your mind may drift if not mediating on God's love for you. Does it wander to the next opportunity for a drink? or plan for secret behaviors or cover-up before you get to the office?  Does it drift to someone in your life, who you love, annoying you with comments you may need to quit? Taking an opportunity to be still and sit in quite with our Lord is a good way to discover any vice or problem that needs attention, healing and forgiveness leading to reconciliation and action beyond praying to become what you want to be and the Lord has yet to reveal.  What have you got to lose?

If drinking is taking up more time than you are spending with your loved ones without alcohol, thinking about quiting is difficult; but with help and attention to the social, medical, psychological and spiritual characteristics of your life, and with prayer and support you can, as are many, make incremental progress every single day, to restore your dreams, hopes, relationships and living a life of meaningful change.

Today, in the Gospel according to Mark 1:21-28, we see Jesus rebuke a man with an unclean spirit and command, "Come out of him!" and "The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him."  Overcoming any sin that captivates us is jarring, convulsing at first.  But, the rewards to allowing Christ's influence are so great, but we do have to come to him in humility...and before someone is making that phone call or sending that text message on your behalf.

This year is still very new.  If you are struggling with alcohol, come to Jesus and learn of his teaching and principles to reorder your life.  Talk with your local priest and be healed by his guidance and the fellowship of others who support your well being.  Make an appointment today with your doctor or therapist.  Call your insurance company today to find out what benefits you may have to deal with this (If you don't have insurance, see the link below for a Facility Locator and search for a facility with financial assistance).  If you are uncertain if you have a problem or need to get help, consider the resources that follow.  Whatever you do, make the time to be still, spend some time in the quite presence of our Lord; your life will be dramatically changed.

Be Still
by Steven Curtis Chapman


The Path to Peace Begins with Criss-Cross Applesauce

Everyday I am refining translation skills in a language I learned long ago; translating from Papa to Kiddo isn't always easy.  Like many dads, I am challenged to think about complex ideas and beliefs about our faith and to deliver them to my children in a way this is meaningful. As translator and teacher I have to also be mindful of actively reinforcing and shaping behaviors that point to and are consistent with our faith. Whew, tall order!

Today, Benedict XVI delivered a message entitled Religious Freedom the Path to Peace (January 1, 2011).  His message (see video here) dealt with religious intolerance, the emotional and physical suffering it causes; and in its gravest form, the death of innocent people. In my opinion, religious intolerance has the effect of bruising and disabling the spirit of people throughout communities and homes of the faithful everywhere, if parents are not actively providing countermeasures to emotionally deal with such severe transgressions in society.  Without proper teaching, our children will grow up to at worst be indifferent if not participants to intolerance, or at best they will "mature" into adults stunned to inaction, allowing the evils of their day to persist among themselves and their neighbors.

How does his message apply to me as a father of two young children?  Well, the message seems clear enough.  I have a responsibility to guide my children toward understanding human dignity, one's role in community, tolerance, mutual respect, control of one's impulses, concern for an another, forgiveness, organization of emotions and accountability for one's actions.   Our Pontiff put it this way, in part, in his address on how this theme relates to the family:
The family, the first cell of human society, remains the primary training ground for harmonious relations at every level of coexistence, human, national and international. Wisdom suggests that this is the road to building a strong and fraternal social fabric, in which young people can be prepared to assume their proper responsibilities in life, in a free society, and in a spirit of understanding and peace.
Our Pontiff also noted the role of justice in pursuing the path of peace by essentially respecting human dignity.  If my children are not taught to respectfully relate to each other and the family, how will they respectfully relate to others in the years to come? I infer from our Pontiff the obligation to instill a core value based on the love of Christ, so they will be able to participate with and endorse future leaders of world religions toward
[C]ommitment to promoting and protecting religious freedom, and in particular to defending religious consolidate the spirit of good will, openness and reciprocity which can ensure the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in all areas and regions of the world.
Setting the foundation for such lofty goals like this can be a challenge at home.   However, with creativity, it can be done and can be taught in "Kiddo".  For me, it is best approached by using what my children are already familiar with, for example Cris-Cross Applesauce.  When my children are tending toward more than the usual playful banter that is expected at their ages (four and six), and they start entering into an area of impulsive disrespect, then they are each timed-out to Cris-Cross Applesauce facing away from each other (to eliminate the impulse for taunting), with a quick "if you can't be nice, you cannot play."  Little ones get the message real quick: Nice = Play.  Before they are freed from timeout, they are each given plastic coins, the number of which is their respective ages.  To shape their behavior, as soon as they are sitting politely still and hands in their laps, I immediately reinforce positive actions (as I do elsewhere) with praises, smiles, a quick scrubbing of the hair on their heads with a joyful remark in proximity to, "Fantastic!  You did that soooo well and you both are such good listeners and polite!!  Give me back two coins each.  A couple more and you can play."

It doesn't take them long to realize (a) Play is more fun and (b) Timeout can be fun, too, but "I'd rather be playing."

My girls are not in timeout long, since each moment of sitting respectfully still is rewarded with relinquishing a coin and getting out of the sentence. Once in awhile, I create a little competition to see who gets out first, which makes an otherwise seemingly punitive experience a positive and challenging one.

The brief time it takes to implement this shaping of behavior (usually about 4-6 minutes), sets the foundation for:
  • Knowing mutual love and respect is the rule;
  • Accountability is required for improper actions;
  • Self-mastery of impulses is necessary;
  • Loving discipline is more times than not close at hand;
  • Forgiveness is expected.

These principles little by little are internalized, embedded in the brain's memory, where they are able to draw from and recall positive ways to interrelate with each other, reinforced by affectionate direction provided by your's truly.  As they grow older and more experienced, it is hoped by extension these principles and behaviors will expand beyond the world of stuffed animals and play.  The goals are long-term to be sure, but they lead to the path of peace our Lord lived.  Ultimately that peace creates the internal ability and awareness to share in the brother- and sisterhood of their peers.  This strategy is training ground for having the ability to mange themselves, which is useful to interrelating with those who believe and who do not believe in ways they are most familiar as Catholics. If I have done my job then, they will as our Pontiff points out:

[S]ee others as their brothers and sisters, with whom they are called to journey and work together so that all will feel that they are living members of the one human family, from which no one is to be excluded.