Family Life: The Marriage Shield

by Ray Martin
What if there were a couple of simple things you could change about your relationship that could almost guarantee that your marriage would last a lifetime?  Could it be that easy?  Would you do it?

My grandparents were blessed to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary which was an even bigger deal since it was my grandmother’s second marriage and my grandpa’s third!  I recall how meaningful it was for them to have made it to that milestone.  When my mom passed away, I was the bearer of giving them the news and it was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do, but what was so touching was how they stayed up all night together sharing memories of her entire life.  I want that kind of relationship with my wife, to be there with her even in the midst of pain and sorrow, but how do people keep their marriages together over the course of a lifetime and why should we when relationships can be difficult to maintain?

Happier, Healthier And Wealthier

Steve Bollman, author of The Choice Wine which is a book and video series that highlights seven steps to what they call a superabundant marriage, begins by sharing research on the benefits to getting married and staying married.  He refers to the statistical data as a marriage premium meaning that married people seem to benefit greatly by being married.

  • Happiness: married people are happier than single, divorced, separated, or widowed people according to the General Social Survey, 1972-2012.
  • Health: People who have never been married have a 75% increase in poor health and those divorced have a 90% increase compared to those who are married according to the General Social Survey.
  • Wealth: Married individuals accumulate approximately four times the net wealth of those who have never been married or who are divorced according to the Journal of Marriage and Family’s study in 2002.

How To Reduce The Likelihood of Marital Breakdown

Bollman refers to the first three steps in The Choice Wine as a way to nearly Divorce-Proof your marriage meaning that statistically, the likelihood of getting divorced is nearly zero when following these behaviors discovered through the research of successful couples.  Over the next few weeks we will be going in more depth to these specific steps which I’ll conveniently call three “F’s” of Marriage Shielding:

  1. Fidelity
  2. Fiscal Stewardship
  3. Faith Devotion

The Legacy of Riley Leggett

Riley Leggett was Bollman’s father-in-law and is referenced throughout The Choice Wine.  Riley offered Steve some advice before getting married to his daughter that if he would eat dinner with his family every evening and sit with his family every Sunday at church, then their marriage was guaranteed to work out.  While this sounds almost trite or too simple, there is a lot of wisdom in this message.

  • Only 7% of families who eat dinner together five or more times a week experience a “great deal of tension.”  (Columbia University September 2005)
  • Only 17% of those who attend worship services on a weekly basis have been divorced.  (General Social Survey 1972-2012)

I hope that you’ll stick with me as we review these three F’s or what The Choice Wine calls their first 3 steps which dramatically reduce the probability of a marital breakdown over the next few installments of this series.  If you haven’t read or watched The Choice Wine, I highly encourage you to check it out.  More information can be found at www.thechoicewine.com.

Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Paradisus Dei

 

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Family Life: Spirits and Saints

by Ray Martin

Halloween is almost here and kids start getting all freaked out about ghosts and all of the evil characters from horror movies, but we can confidently say as parents that there’s no such things as ghosts, right?  After all we’re just organisms that developed over time from other species, but wait that’s evolution…and the bible says God created us, and then there’s the bible stories about angels and they’re okay, but when we die we die…except for the saints…who went to heaven and we pray for their help, but they’re not ghosts…I’m so confused!

Creation Vs. Evolution

There’s a seven step marriage book and video series called The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Pardisus Dei, the same company who made That Man is You.  Step four of The Choice Wine focuses attention on the conflict of science and reason versus religion and spirituality.  This is a highly argued topic that folks like to debate as if the right answer is one or the other, but there are scientists who wrestle with faith and have started out as atheists who then become believers through their research.

Charles Darwin’s writing in the late 1800’s on evolution are notably accepted as an explanation of how life developed on earth over millions of years, but this is not at odds with the creation story in Genesis.  Unlike the other animals and things created before, God both made and created man whom he “formed out of dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”  Nobel laureate Dr. John C. Eccles was a scientist from the 20th century who is credited with our current understanding of the brain and how thoughts travel across neurotransmitters.  We have a brain full of tiny paths, but the electrical currents traveling across those paths which are our thoughts come from our mind.  The brain is physical, but the mind is spiritual.  We can be made up of physical matter which evolved over time, and also be spiritual creations formed by a spiritual being, God.

Bollman in The Choice Wine goes on to share an analogy he heard to explain this using a cell phone.  All cell phones are tuned to a specific frequency.  We can see the phone, but not the cellular waves.  My phone is specifically tuned to my number, so it only rings or alerts me when someone calls or texts my number.  The brain & mind work like this as well.  The brain is activated by the mind which is tuned specifically to that person.  Evolution and biology can explain where our bodies come from, but not the origin of our minds.  Now back to the phone analogy, the frequencies tuned specifically to my phone exist even though they aren’t visible and if something happens to my phone like it breaks or is destroyed, people can still send text messages to my frequency.  My phone isn’t going to receive them anymore because it’s broken, but the frequencies tuned to me are still there.  This is a good way to think about what happens when we die.  Our mind is not made up of elements or matter.  It’s spiritual and so our body dies and returns to dust, but our spirit, our unique radio frequencies still exist.  They’re still out there.

Communion of Saints

This brings us to saints.  In the creed that we proclaim every weekend during Mass we say that we believe in the communion of saints.  St. Paul taught that we are one body in Christ both the living and the dead and so as Catholics we believe our spirits are in union with the spirits of those who are no longer living on earth.  How can we do that?  Even though their cell phones died and aren’t able to receive a call anymore, their unique frequency created by God is still out there among us and we can still call upon them through prayer.  We have to use a different means of spiritual communication but we acknowledge this when we come together as a community at Mass and you hear the priest say, “in union with all the angels and saints we exalt and bless your name and sing the hymn of your glory as without end we acclaim…”  In that moment we are placing our minds in the company of the minds of those saints and angels.  We do that at every Mass!

So, if you can accept that we are more than biology, that we have a brain and a mind, and that even when our brain dies that our spirit continues to exist, then it’s not so hard to believe that there are other people who have died, but lived such virtuous lives that we know without a doubt that they had to have gone to heaven.  Those people are the saints of the Church.  Is it a stretch then to think that through prayer we could ask those servants of Christ who have gone before us to still help us out?  This is why we honor saints through celebrations and feasts.  Their lives are examples to us of how to live the Christian virtues in our faith journey and we consider our minds to still exist in a spiritual along realm with theirs.

Saint of the Day

There are a ton of resources out there on saints, but one in particular that I have been enjoying is the saint of the day from Franciscan Media.  There is a link to it on the homepage of our website as well as in our mobile app.  There is an audio file that you can listen to or you can simply read their article on the featured saint of that day.  Our Catholic calendars that we get every year also have feast days of saints listed on them and you will note if you go to daily Masses or watch ours streamed online that the vestments worn by priests will often reflect a special feast from a saint who may have been a martyr.  You’ll see a priest wear red on that particular day.  Our priests will often talk about saints during their homilies.  Fr. Michael in the past two weeks has mentioned St. Faustina and St. Augustine.

Quick story- I was reading 33 Days To Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux referred to as the Little Flower.  She is known as a Doctor of The Church because of her writing on Divine Mercy and her philosophy called the Little Way which is a path for us to get to heaven by recognizing our littleness, trusting God, and striving for holiness.  While alive, she said that when she died she wanted to shower the world with flowers, roses specifically, so she is known for roses and people often think of her and ask for signs from her in the form of roses.  While reading about her I began to pray her novena which has reflections weaved into the 9 days of rosaries.  One day during that novena, a woman came into the office here at the Parish and asked if we could do anything with these roses that she had left over from a wedding and we gladly helped her bring them in…box after box, hundreds of roses made their way into our Parish office!  What’s even better is that I had been praying specifically for one of my children and she brought one of the flowers to my office which I dried and kept as a reminder that St. Therese heard my prayer.

All Saints Day

We celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st.  We will have Masses throughout the day and I highly encourage you to attend, not out of obligation because I really dislike that term, but come because you want to celebrate this rich history of heroic people who lived here on earth just like us and left us an incredible witness of how follow Christ all the way to heaven.  If you want to start learning more about saints, start checking out the saint of the day that we link to from our website and app.  Perhaps there’s one that you may want to read more about?  The 33 Days to Merciful Love was a terrific read, so maybe that would be a good one to start with.  We are so lucky to have the Hall of Fame of Holiness as Fr. Michael likes to refer to the saints.

Hopefully the next time people are talking about creation and evolution you will feel more comfortable being okay with both.  There’s nothing wrong with believing in science and religion!  And as we celebrate the feast of All Saints, I pray that you will start to talk about and learn more about the many saints of our Church.

 

Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman and 33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley

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Family Life: Weirdos

by Ray Martin

You know the people with the bumper stickers, the rosaries on their rear view mirrors, the one’s who don’t have cable TV and spend too much time helping out at the soup kitchen?  They even go to midnight Mass for Christmas, what is up with those WEIRDOS!?!  Well they’re probably a strong Catholic family which is so counter-cultural that it seems flat out strange.  It takes more than a bobble-head of Jesus on your dash to be an effective Catholic family and that’s what we’re highlighting, the qualities that make a Catholic family great!

A Family Life Worth Repeating

In their book, Discovering God Together, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek offer ways to raise children to be faithful Catholic Adults.  They say that parents must “give (their children) an example of Catholic family life that is worth repeating in adulthood.”

  1. Parents have to offer a home life experience that appears to be better, not perfect, but more honest, intimate, generous and joy filled than their non-Catholic friends experience.
  2. Children have to come to understand that it is their parents’ love for Jesus Christ and their Catholic faith that are responsible for that experience.

This is obviously going to be a home life that looks very different than a secular or even non-Catholic but Christian household.

Rituals And Routines

Fortunately, our Catholic faith offers a liturgical calendar full of feast and holy days which become the rhythm of our lives.  They help us keep a tempo for the seasons of our spirituality touching all of the important aspects of our life in Christ.  This regular and repeated activity provides the opportunity for us to bond with one another and our community through the rituals of annual holidays, special celebrations of sacraments, and growth in discipleship.  This repetition forms strong and healthy attachment of children to their parents, a significant factor that will cause them to turn to their parents in times of trouble or to make good decisions as teens and adults.

Attachment is an emerging term in parenting and when children have healthy attachment with their parents, they go to them when they have problems.  They also make good decisions for themselves because they have good self-esteem.  What we see so often in children today however is low feelings of self-worth and rather than make good decisions, they turn to anything that will make them feel better in the moment.  Healthy attachment is a huge factor in helping children grow up to be successful adults.  So when we talk about routines in the church that provide people comfort, it’s because those repeated holidays, seasons, and traditions drive the attachment of children with their family.

Work, Play, Talk, Pray

  • Strong Catholic families work together in daily chores and projects around their home and community.
  • Playing together with fun activities like game nights or special celebrations like birthdays help bond the family’s relationships.
  • Catholic parents talk with their children and are considered to be spiritual directors of the household.
  • Regular rituals of prayer such as mealtimes or bedtime blessings in addition to weekly Mass.

Worshiping together weaves your faith throughout your daily life connecting God with your family.

In Summary Great Catholic Families:

  1. Worship Together– The Eucharist is our source of love we celebrate at Mass together.
  2. Pray Together– we live out our faith everyday through our relationship with God and our family.
  3. Are Intimate– being open and loving with one another.
  4. Put Family First– our family life is the most important activity in our week.
  5. Are A Witness & Sign– God changes the world through the example of our families.

Take these five examples of ways to make your family great and go change the world!

Sources: Discovering God Together by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek

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Family Life: Marital Conflict

by Ray Martin


Believe it or not, it is possible to have a disagreement with your spouse and come away feeling more in love with each other, but just like we all have different love preferences, we do not all have the same style of arguing.  In their book, “Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving the First Five Years of Marriage”, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek identify ways we can get through these heated moments so that you both come away having solved a problem together rather than tear each other down and allow it to blow over in hopes that it will not happen again.  So that’s what we’re working on today…arguing!

Take Care Of One Another

Oh man, I grew up in a house where most family gatherings ended in a knock down drag out fight with yelling and people getting in their cars screeching out of the driveway all in a huff.  It’s part of the reason that as an adult I avoid conflict as much as I can and I don’t look forward to most holidays.  I have this uneasy feeling about them as if things are just going to blow up by the end of the occasion.

It may sound crazy, but most disagreements can be solved when both people involved feel respected and cared for.  Well how do we do that?  Try asking if it’s a good time to talk about something, or bring your spouse their favorite snack or a beverage before going into it might be a great way to start.

What’s The Problem?

It’s important to identify the real problem.  Here is an example: recently I was being really grumpy with my wife, Brandi.  She had been on the Christ Renews retreat all weekend and the very next night was full of activities for one of our kids and the minute she got home, she was rolling back out.  She could tell that I was crabby and so she asked what was going on.  After a litany of my complaints about the amount of childcare I had been doing and work around the house, I finally got to the real matter which was that I simply missed her and wanted to spend time with her.  Now that’s an actual problem to solve than my bad attitude and complaints.  

Praying about the real problem and coming up with a solution are next steps, but you can’t do that until you’ve identified the actual issue from a calm and rational perspective.  It’s totally ok to take breaks if the conversation heats up because conflict is rarely resolved through yelling, but once both of you are back under control, it’s important to resolve the situation or it will come back.

Four Horsemen of  Marital-Communication Collapse

This leads me to what the Popceks call the “Four Horsemen” of communication collapse in marriages.

  • Criticism: complaints turned into personal attacks
  • Defensiveness: an immediate response that turns attention back at the other spouse
  • Contempt: comments that tear down the other partner or make them feel small
  • Stonewalling: one simply shuts down or stops participating in the conversation

Reflect Next Time

Feel free to print out the list above and hang it somewhere easy to find or refer back to it.  Next time you get into a disagreement or have a problem to solve go back and try to use some of these techniques to solve the problem together.  It’s worth a try.  Most couples don’t like to talk about conflict, but it’s a reality in any relationship.  The most important thing to keep in mind is praying for and forgiving one another.  Allowing an unresolved issue to continue to resurface will cause bitterness to develop.  Prayer, forgiveness, and tactical problem solving will ensure that you and your spouse continue to grow in love.

Sources: First Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek

 

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Family Life: Reflective Parenting

by Ray Martin

The more I read about good Catholic parenting, the more I start to freak out that I’m failing, especially when I read stats from sources like the National Study of Youth and Religion that said less than one out of three kids in the U.S. remain in the faith of their parents, but as in most things that seem daunting when you look at a big lofty goal, having a plan and following the lead of other people who have done it right can make the impossible more doable, so today we are wrapping up what we’ve learned from the National Study on Youth and Religion and figuring out how to make sure that our kids grow up to be Catholic.

If you missed a couple of our previous episodes, Micro-Churches was on the domestic church and how our children’s future identity is formed in the home, the second was on Super-Parents and how important your influence is to the future faith life of your children.  I encourage you to go back and watch them, but today we are looking into the nitty gritty of exactly how to be an effective Catholic parent and pass on our faith to your children.

Now we could fill a library with how to books on Catholic Parenting, so it’s not like we’re going to cover everything today, but we are going to at minimum offer some practical insight on what this looks like in today’s world.

Intentional And Reflective

In a presentation on the National Study on Youth and Religion, Justin Bartkus said that effective parents are intentional and reflective.  They provide an environment in their micro-church at home where kids grow up having observed that being a practicing Catholic is meaningful, that it’s a good thing and so it’s something that they will continue to have in their life as adults.  They will feel that way if they perceive that being committed to the faith is valuable, but they won’t if they see The Church as pointless.  They will look to their parents as a witness to make sense of what they learn from attending Mass or Youth Faith Formation, or Catholic School.

So for you Super-Parents, it’s critical to know how important your role is and have a purpose for passing on the faith.  In addition to that, you need to reflect on how you are doing.  It’s one thing to have good intentions, but that will only get you so far if you aren’t looking back on your family’s religious development.

Start With A Goal

Back in our first episode, we defined the goal of Catholic Parenting as helping our kids recognize that being a devoted disciple of Jesus as a Catholic is meaningful and even necessary to living a life of joy and fulfillment.  That’s our intent.  How do we do that?

Model Successful Catholic Households

In our second episode, we covered the general findings of the NSYR and how less than ⅓ of Households in the U.S. are effectively passing on faith to their children and Catholics are not at the top of that list, but we can look to those homes that were effective and find out what we need to do to turn those stats around.

According to the NSYR there are four variables that parents either do well or don’t do well in teaching their children that faith is something they should want to have in their life when they grow up:

  1. Parents communicate why being Catholic is important.
  2. They authentically model what they say about being Catholic.
  3. They bring religious content into the life of the family through programs like Catholic School, Youth Faith Formation, Youth Group, CYO Sports, Camps etc.
  4. Most importantly, they help interpret how the faith relates to daily life through conversations, teachable moments, deaths in the family, conversion of the parent themselves.

You Are Not Alone

While it may sound scary as if all of the responsibility falls on your shoulders, there is a tremendous amount of resources available for you at the parish and greater community to lean on.  First and foremost, you need to make a personal decision that you want your kids to be Catholic when they grow up.  If that’s important to you, then it’s time to take a look in the mirror and figure out if you’re being a role model of the faith.  No one is perfect, but making changes little by little is our path to holiness.  St. Terese said to do little things every day, to trust God, and to strive for holiness.  And really, all of the intent in the world will not impact your kids as much as seeing you genuinely live the sacramental life of The Church.

Once you’ve made the conscious choice that you want your children to have our faith in their life, then you’re ready to plug in more to the parish, here are some practical things you can frequently do to put our faith into practice:

  • Attend weekly Mass
  • Pray before meals or bedtime
  • Pray rosaries in the car
  • Take trips to religious sites or attend mass at a church when on vacation
  • Go on a mission trip
  • Pray for loved ones when visiting cemeteries
  • Help your family get to know their priest or other mentors in the parish, invite them over for dinner
  • Volunteer at Mass as ushers, lectors, altar servers, eucharistic ministers
  • Teach or assist during summer bible school or Youth Faith Formation
  • Attend Fish Fry’s and Knights of Columbus Dinners/Breakfasts, be part of the community

A Community Of Faith

An effective Catholic family has a deep relationship with their parish community both on campus and at home.  They often have a strong relationship with their priests and other mentors because the Christian Community found at their church is a system of shared support and purpose.  It’s not enough in today’s culture to expect that just attending classes for sacraments will be enough to pass on the value of being Catholic to our kids.  We as parents have to talk to them and spiritually process what’s going on in our daily lives especially in those moments of crisis and loss so that our children will know that seeking a relationship with God as a Catholic is going to give them a future of meaning, purpose, and joy.

 

Sources: National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus

 

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Family Life: Love Preferences

by Ray Martin

Have you ever given your wife or husband a gift only to have them not appreciate it the way you had hoped?  I live in a house with a 2 car garage and when my wife Brandi and I were dating she would come over often with her dog and if it was raining or icy out and they would be a mess, so I thought, “hey her birthday is coming up I’m going to give her something thoughtful, something considerate…a garage door opener!”  This has gone down as one of the worst gifts she’s ever been given. See, we don’t all value affection in the same way and that’s what we’re talking about today, love preferences.

Marriage Bank Account

There’s a fantastic book by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek called, “Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving the First Five Years of Marriage and in it they discuss the fact that our level of fulfillment in our marriage can be thought of like a bank account meaning the relationship has a balance and there are things you do for one another that are like making deposits into this account, but if one person or the other isn’t really giving into the relationship, then the account can go into a negative balance.  I really like this analogy and often refer to it.  Once I sent Brandi flowers and even wrote a little note on a bank deposit slip to point out that I was intentionally making an effort to do something nice for her.  Sometimes though you do and do and do and the other person just doesn’t see any of that effort you are making to enhance the relationship.  That can lead one to think, “well what’s the point?” or feel unappreciated and this is actually one of the most difficult things for couples to change about themselves.  Honestly, it is the biggest reasons why relationships don’t work out.  According to the Popceks, the leading cause for marital breakdown is when people aren’t willing to love their spouse more than their comfort zone.  It’s not that couples aren’t compatible, they’re just unwilling to do what it takes to make their spouse feel loved.

Love Preferences

Recently, Fr. Tom during a homily said that love isn’t a feeling, love is a choice.  I think that’s a great segway to what we’re discussing here.  I’m sure that at some point you have heard the term “love language”.  In the Popceks’ book they use the term “lovestyle” which is a good way to think about it.  They identify three categories of styles that people tend to fall into in the way that they receive affection:  

  • Visual – all about the love notes, flowers and gifts.  I can see that you love me.
  • Auditory – tell me you love me, let’s talk so that I can hear that you love me.
  • Kinesthetic – show me you love me by doing something for me.  I need to feel loved.

One of the activities in their book is to sit down and write out 25 specific things that your spouse has done or could do that would make you feel loved and then share it with your partner.  I have to admit that this exercise is really challenging.  Brandi is direct and literal as she’s an engineer, so there have been times in our marriage where she’s said, “Ray obviously you’re upset that I didn’t do something, just tell me so that I can do it next time.”  I’m the kind of person that’s like, “I shouldn’t have to tell you, you should know me well enough to figure it out and do it.” There have been times where she’s pointed out that sometimes I don’t even know what I really need in order to feel appreciated causing her to throw up her hands in exasperation and say, “How can I love you when you don’t even know how you want to be loved?!?”

Obviously I have the wrong approach and it’s no wonder I’ve been through a divorce!  In an attempt to avoid a second, I finally wrote out a list for her and she did the same.  It was eye opening.  A random “I love you” text for no reason makes her day.  Text me in the middle of the day and I’m like Scrooge “Bah!  Why are you bothering me while I’m trying to work!”  She’s a words person, a little auditory and a lot visual.  I’m a kinesthetic spend-time-with-me kind of person.  It means the world to me when she or even our kids hang out in the kitchen after dinner rather than retreating to their rooms.

You could think of these different love-preferences as your currency.  If you want to make a deposit into your marital bank account, you need to do it in a way that you’ll get credit for by your partner.  Just like banks don’t always accept bills from foreign countries, our spouses don’t always receive our efforts because of their style.

Time For Reflection

One thing that can make or break a marriage is taking time to reflect on your relationship and discuss how you both are doing.  It sounds awkward and it can be at first, but setting aside time to say, “hey I noticed that you brought me coffee this morning and I really appreciated it.” goes a long way and reinforces that you both are making effort to go in the right direction.  So, when are you going to do this?  People talk about the importance of date nights, but that’s not regularly all that practical for many of us especially with small children…or older children with activities…or people who take business trips…or those with no children but lots of volunteer activities… (see where I’m going with this?  There’s always something.)  A great way to guarantee time to reflect on your relationship is to participate in a marriage retreat.  We are putting one on this October 7, 2017 here at the parish and it’s just a one day deal.  Come in the morning, listen to Fr. Alessandro share some insight into God’s plan for our marriages and have an opportunity to reflect on what is going well and what could go better.  We will have time for prayer and reconciliation and end the day with a private Mass followed by a candlelight dinner.  Sign Up Here

Taking time to figure out your own love-preferences and then sharing them with your partner is a relationship changing experience.  And it’s important to note that this isn’t just something for people who are on the verge of a break down or anything like that.  Everyone’s relationship gets better when you make intentional effort to be more of what your spouse needs you to be.  Troubled relationships can be saved, but great marriages can get even better.

Next Time

I promised some examples of good Catholic parenting and that’s what we’re going to talk about next time when we turn our focus back to practical things you can do to pass on our faith to your kids.  See you then!

 

Sources: Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving the First Five Years by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek

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Family Life: Super-Parents

by Ray Martin

There’s that mom whose Instagram feed shows the decorated cake she made that’s all tricked out with intricately detailed fondant cut-outs of dinosaurs and palm trees or a Barbie dream castle…we often think, “wow she seems to have it all together, what a super-mom!” Good news! You don’t have to be a cake boss to have celebrity status at home because parents truly are superheroes…to their kids.

Most Influential Pastors

If you missed our last article, we were talking about Micro-Churches and how our homes are the domestic church where our identities about a lot of things in our culture are formed including our faith. (You can go back and watch or read it here.) This week we are diving deeper into that National Study of Youth and Religion that I mentioned specifically more of their overall findings. The first important thing to note is that parents were found to be the “most influential pastors” of their children.  More than priests, youth ministers, faith formation teachers, etc.  Parents:

  • Define the role faith ought to play in life
  • Set a glass ceiling of religious commitment which children rarely rise above

All other formation only matters if it is important to mom and dad, but we as parents don’t realize the incredible power of influence that we have. Why? Because cultural scripts say the opposite. We hear all the time that teenagers never talk to their parents or that kids learn about things like sex at school or from friends, but that’s not true and when it comes to religion if parents model that faith is important, then their kids stay involved.

Secret Sauce

Here are some sobering facts about the current transmission of faith among youth in the U.S. Overall, Catholics, Jewish, and Mainline Protestants are less likely ten years later to be more religious or to have grown in their faith. The NSY&R found that among their study:

  • 29% of youth stayed plugged in to their religion
  • 25% had a shallow decline
  • 13% had a steep decline and were not very involved anymore
  • 25% never were religious in their home and probably won’t be

At first glance this can sound grim, but if you look at the homes that were successful in having their kids continue to be active in their religion, the secret ingredient was that parents showed that faith is important and they were involved which indirectly gave them the opportunity to talk about religion at home. No other influence comes close to matching the influence of parents on religious faith practices of youth.

What’s My Super-Power?

Recently, one of my kids was with me after 5pm Mass and there was a visitation in the gathering space going on as we were leaving. As we walked through the crowd, he noticed a display table that had photos of the deceased, an old coca-cola can, a ball cap from his favorite team, and a small metal train. My son asked me why there was a train on the table and I explained that the man who passed away must have been into trains, so his family brought one for people to remember that about him because it symbolized something that he liked. As we walked out to the car, I asked my son if this were my funeral, what kinds of things would he want to set out on a table to symbolize me? “Coke Zero!” he shouted. (I drink bourbon or rum and coke zero at home…apparently a lot…) Thankfully he didn’t answer Captain Morgan. “Anything else?” I hesitantly asked. “A camera because you like to take pictures…and…your phone. You’re always on your phone.”

Ok, I was hoping at minimum for a guitar since I love to lead worship and maybe, oh I don’t know, a crucifix or rosary or something faith based! Nope. Drinking, taking pictures, and ignoring my children by looking at my phone is apparently what I’m known for!

The thing is, we don’t even realize that our kids are watching. They are observing. They are forming their identity off of the things that we think are valuable. If we want our children to grow up and believe that being a devoted disciple of Jesus as a Catholic is meaningful and even necessary to living a life of joy and fulfillment then we have to show them that by genuinely witnessing that in our own daily life and then talking to them about it. That’s our super-power! That’s the tremendous call that we have as stewards of God’s children that He has entrusted to us. We read in Luke 12:48 “much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

The key question that children answer when they are forming their personal identity is “Does this matter to my parents?” Show them the value of our religion by your participation in the life of The Church. Talk to them about it. You don’t have to have all of the answers or be a theology expert. Faith isn’t about that, it’s about being a witness and following the will of God for your life.

Studying this research and listening to what my kids have to say about me lately has been eye opening and scary, but we can begin to work together on how we can make a difference and start to change those statistics of children who remain Catholic. Plug in to the parish. Get more active in our community and start talking to your kids about it. There are tons of amazing families who I see doing this at Ascension, but I know there could be more.

Stay Tuned

Next time, we’re going to unpack what successful Catholic households look like and offer practical ways that we can be more intentional in forming the faith of our micro-church at home.

 

Sources: National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus (YouTube)

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Family Life: Micro-Churches

by Ray Martin

Our homes are these magical little culture breeding environments. Oh, not just bacteria…with six kids and two dogs, our house is crawling with nastiness, but that’s not what I’m referring to. Today we’re going to talk about Micro-Churches.

There was this National Study of Youth & Religion that started back in the 90’s and I’ve been watching a video recently by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus who conducted the research and interviews and they describe how household members process pieces of moral lessons and media and faith and form a little micro-culture that shapes the future of the children raised there. The family then in turn brings their culture out into the community where they have an influence of the culture there.  So good or bad, our homes are little culture shaping factories.

This is why the Vatican II Council coined the phrase “domestic church” in reference to our homes. They said that parents should be the example and first teachers of the faith to their kids encouraging them to discover their vocation or calling in life. Now we’re used to hearing people say that “God has a plan for us” and it’s in the home where we learn how to discern what that mission is.

There’s a beautiful quote by Pope Francis on our day to day faith life. He said, “It is important to have a daily relationship with [God], to listen to him in silence before the Tabernacle and deep within ourselves, to speak with him, to draw near to the sacraments. Having this familiar relationship with the Lord is like keeping the window of our lives open so that he can make us hear his voice and hear what he wants us to do.” It’s not realistic to think that we can develop this relationship with God on a daily basis at Church. It’s got to be percolating at home too.

Catholic Parenting Goal

So, what’s the goal of Catholic parenting? Many would say it’s helping our kids and spouses become saints. Which is fine, but what does that really look like? I’m finding that it is up to us as parents to help teach our kids how to hear God’s voice and discern what He wants them to do with their life, which then results in their path to sainthood.

How do we do that? Well that Vatican II Council said that we need to have a “vocational approach to life”. That’s going to look much different and counter-cultural than most of our neighbors. It requires being authentic in hearing God’s voice and being open to the things that will present themselves to us when we follow God’s will. Frankly, it means that we as parents have to show our children a faith life where love and grace is the foundation that’s going to satisfy the desire of their hearts, and that will cause people in our lives to notice that there is something different about us, something meaningful, something joyful. And in doing that that, our families can change the world.

What does success look like? We will be able to look back and know that we did it right when our kids recognize that being a devoted disciple of Jesus as a Catholic is meaningful and even necessary to living a life of joy and fulfillment.

Here To Help

That study I mentioned also stated that parents are the “most dominant influencers” in the culture of a household, that magical mini-culture developing organism. They said that whatever level of faith the parents have forms kind of a glass ceiling and the children of that home usually don’t go beyond that level of commitment to their faith.

We at Ascension are here to help you be successful in your mission of raising future saints who know God’s voice and follow His direction for their life, but you have to be the director, the one who says, “we’re going to Mass this weekend”, or “how about I run you over to youth group and then I’d love to hear what you thought about it?”

Nothing we do at the Parish matters without your endorsement. So, here’s what we’re doing at the Family Life office to help equip you to be successful. We are studying resources on parenting and marriage to share with you. We understand the craziness of daily life, but we’re also highly aware of the efficient ways that we can receive and share information. So all that you need to do is plug in with us.

How To Connect

Subscribe to our kcascension YouTube channel, follow us on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll find our videos that we will be posting. We will recap the information that we’re sharing in a blog post on kcascension.org and in our weekly bulletin that you can pick up after Mass on the weekends. Please share this stuff! Share it with your friends online, grab an extra bulletin and give to a fellow parent to talk about.

Ultimately, we want to offer you something meaningful, something valuable, something that actually works, so that you can more intentionally shape the culture brewing in your home life and in return, that faith shared by your family will bless our Parish because of the love of Christ that you are pouring back into the culture our community and the world. We look forward to seeing you again here soon!

 

Sources: Love is Our Mission, National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Justin Bartkus, and Discovering God Together by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcek.

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Hot Topics Speaker Series: Immigration And Islam

Immigration and Islam: Principles for Discernment

As Catholics, we know we are expected by the teachings of the Lord to love and offer hospitality to those in need. We are also called by our Lord to protect the innocent. Do these commands create an irresolvable tension when it comes to immigration and Islam? Listen to Dr. Troy Hinkel, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mission for the Holy Family School of Faith offer principles of discernment for Catholics on this sensitive yet crucial issue.

Recorded live Friday, March 31st at Church of the Ascension.

For more info please contact woleary@kcascension.org.

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