Thursday, February 4, 2016

Beautiful Souls: A Series on Parenting Pt. 2~ Why Bother With Holiness Training?

if you missed it, start with Pt 1: 
in which I gave you a realistic glimpse into our day-to-day routine

Now, onto part two!

Pt. 2: Why Bother with “Holiness training”?

Holiness in the home is the source of much grace.  Even if you aren't Catholic, (or homeschooling, or having your kids attend Catholic school, etc.,) I think the thoughts I will lay out here can, will and should be helpful.  I have eight years of parenting under my belt, I've given birth to five babies, and I do this everyday. I have learned much of this the hard way, and some of it has room to grow. ;) If you're tempted to blow me off, consider that every word I write has been weighed, and weighed again, and comes from blood, sweat, tears, and sticky stuff on my pants. The trenches of parenting, literally. To see some of my other writing on this topic, several years ago, I wrote this post for Catholic Mom about entertaining toddlers/ keeping toddlers busy! Just one example; see more on my articles by subject page.

We, as humans are born in original sin. So, when we make an effort at holiness, such as attending Mass, participation in the sacraments, seeking out a fully Catholic education, teaching our children how to work and learn, preparing them for First Communion, and teaching our children about the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as other tenets of the Scriptures, we will, in turn, receive much grace. Yes! It's true! We receive grace when we give our lives away for the sake of our children!  My cooking, baking, reading, and writing has been transformed by motherhood, and not only because I have less time to do them in! My desire to grow in faith looks totally different now that I am in the midst of this parenting stuff everyday. 

I have a memory of when I first became Catholic. After being so, so, so involved at my Presbyterian Church when we were newlyweds (I'm talking on every committee, at every Bible Study, at every special dinner and planning meeting and book club and ... more...) I asked the women's ministry director at our Catholic Church in Maryland if I could help out with anything. To my chagrin, she looked at me like I had two heads.  "You just had a baby... " she emailed me later. '"Isn't that your ministry? Isn't that enough?" she said.

It was humbling. But it got me thinking. After reading the book Boundaries (read the reviews and raves on Goodreads) repeatedly in our first years of marriage, and then yes, Boundaries in Marriage more recently (at the urging of my counselor and a friend of mine), I realized that my husband and my kids were a huge ministry in my life.  I was carving out time I didn't have  in order to be so involved with my previous church.  Now, I try to see my family as my vocation.  Other than that, I am a writer. I love to read and write, and I do so as much as God wills. When I can't make the book club at church or the playdate with some friends from Church, I don't beat myself up over it... at all. Boundaries, people. They really do matter! Take care of yourself and pursue your own interests, and your own personal vocation, with a passion and a vengeance! Believe me... if you aren't making time for your creative endeavors, and your life is tied up with exhausting meetings and overloaded with demands , set some Boundaries!

With my last post, I ended with some questions. These were those Questions: and now I shall attempt to answer them one by one. If you get bogged down, you could always save it for later, or read part and then come back to this and read it later.  These are the questions I will flesh out at length in the e-book. For now, consider these the "short answers" to your burning questions. ;) Then below I will get back on topic for today... Mass attendance/attendance at Mass. ;)

Q. How do we live our faith in the midst of the dailyness of everyday?
A. In our home, we try to model a certain atmosphere of grace, in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit. Because we live in community, we shun the idols of greed and selfishness, and we put on the humility of the Divine. This gives us several beautiful gifts, such as honesty, pure and sincere love, perseverance, and dedication to one another.  (And one could say the overarching swath of accountability). This has nothing to do with the murderous desire to win, which is nothing more than the rotten fruit springing from greed and the pursuit of material possessions. Does that mean I'm a hermit and have everything delivered to my door? No-siree. I still have to run errands, like everyone else. ;) And if I only shopped at Target, I would go insane.

Q. Why bother with devotions after dinner, and they know the Catholic prayers and some terminology from Mass and Religious Education?  
A. They’ve heard theological conversations and discussions between myself and Stephen.  But they need consistency of a higher order. When they see us doing it and living it,  I would hope they are not only catechized, they are inspired to live for God, and not themselves. Holiness in a nutshell.

Q. If these are moldable, shapeable souls, how are we working to make them someday saints? 
A. Often, they have their own commentary to add in to our dialogue. Madeleine (our three-year-old) recently asked if Mary was helping us get to heaven! (Yes and yes!) We're not here to meet their every material desire. We need to meet their needs~ physical, spiritual, emotional~ but, after meeting our own needs, we also must confront and root out the sin that causes hardness of heart, tantrums, dishonesty, and ultimately, a lack of grace and a slothful nature.
They’ve observed the babies in our family getting baptized, and that's one example of a means of grace, which ultimately liberates us from the idols of culture and the sins of hearts and souls enchained to sin.

Q. How are we helping them along, so that they eventually become beautiful souls?
A. Each day, I’m patiently trying to teach them to dress themselves, find their own shoes, put on their own coats. The Montessori Method at work. I wrote more about The Montessori Method here (my first ever article for Catholic Mom!).   I would hope that as they see me and Stephen doing this, they will in turn treat their siblings with the same Golden Rule philosophy. Even as littles they can show Jesus to one another, and if/when they see it modeled, they will follow suit.

These questions are what I want to answer in this upcoming series.  So look for more depth on those issues in the future. ;)

Today, I want to talk about Mass attendance. the question is: Why bother with Mass/church attendance?

It’s simple.  Just a few of the things our children absorb by osmosis. Just by showing up, just by being there, they can:

You probably already knew that. but wowzers! That is a lot. Just by making a habitual practice of attending weekly Mass, the culture of your family, and the culture of kids’ lives 
changes completely.

First, they hear the Word of God.  Later in life, I hope the familiarity of the Scripture, Psalm, and Gospel readings will resound in their memory. I hope the things they need to know will pop into their heads when they need to remember it. When they're inspired to "practice hospitality," I hope that the words "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," will inspire them to bring the needy into their home, or give money to the poor, or give food to the homeless. I pray that as they do that, something special will happen to their hearts. When we show hospitality to others, little else has the power to give us the ability to empathize.  And isn't empathy one of the most powerful ways of loving that we can experience this side of heaven?!

Secondly, the heart of Mass is to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. “Church” is good, but “Mass” is better, because we have the real presence. While I do not have any children old enough to receive, we are going to be shepherding five (and maybe more!) children as they make a profession of faith and receive Jesus in their First Communion, and in every communion after that. So I'm sure I'll have a whole bunch more to say about that in a few more years.

Next, thirdly, we desire that they learn the prayers, hymns and creeds of the Church. Why? Our desire is their holiness.  We want to protect them and nurture them as they grow older. Ask Stephen, and I know -I’m sure- his desire is the same as mine. Deeply, we both desire that our children grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. While Protestants believe very often that "it is finished," means we need not "try so hard," or perhaps "strive" after holiness and good works, we believe that while justification was accomplished and the good news of the gospel means forgiveness, our salvation is ongoing. What does that mean, other than the very Protestant philosophy that "sanctification" is continuing to happen?  Well, "actual grace" from receiving Christ in the Eucharist gives us the energy and strength (and yes, even knowledge and self-awareness!) that we need to grow in Christ. It gives us the ability to live in keeping with the standards- the very high standards- laid out in Scripture.
On my way to visit my friend Libba in Atlanta this past weekend, I was following a car that had the license plate "Sista." For some reason I found this funny! ;) If you follow me on instagram, you might understand the other pics. 

Then, fourthly, we want our children to learn to tithe. Again, even if you are not Catholic, this should be a value you that you honor in your home and teach your children. Generosity and unselfishness must, must be learned early on. In such a wealth-infused, greed-informed culture, selflessness must be drilled into them from an early age. So that, when they are independent and grown, it is a natural habit. Just like attendance at Mass!!! Generosity is such an important trait and moral habit. In it, we will see our children blossom in love and discover the truly beautiful aspects of life on this earth. "He who is generous will be blessed," and AMEN! do I ever believe that with all of my heart.

Fifth, community and good works are the crown of Mass-goers.  This is the triple scoop, chocolate covered sundae with a cherry on top to people who are faithful to church. I know from experience, that having  great big group of people you know, love, and trust come and attend your wedding is a gift that little else can hold a candle to.  As our children grow, friendship and community should win out over competition and jealousy. When we have true community with others, our blinders fall off (or they should). 

“Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

We should have a "What, you too?" moment with our nearest and dearest, rather than comparison, bitterness, and greed winning the day.

Sixth, the culture of the Mass is absorbed, as I said, by osmosis. But when you bring that into your lives, you’re bringing it back into the home. Even if you cave to nursery, or (HORRORS!) you use the cry room, just by being there, the very culture of the home changes. Why?  Because you are making a concerted effort at being dedicated to the holiness of the Church. Your children are changed by being in a church.  Don’t believe me? I think you would gain wisdom if you asked any Catholic, especially your clergy.

Seventh, holy means “set apart.” As we absorb this culture, we shed the culture of greed, the culture of selfishness, the culture of pride, the culture of materialism, and yes, the culture of emptiness. Many in our culture have blinders on. They do not realize that a chase after stuff is a chase after wind.  They do not realize that the song lyrics of the nineties have made their home unchaste. "Vanity of vanities.... all is vanity." (Song of Songs). We exchange these things for the things of God. These are higher things. Not in a “I’m better than you” sense, at all, or even in a "Us vs. Them," but rather, a humbling participation in the work of God. (And I hope that as you read this, no one feels this is me putting myself on a high horse. If you know me in person, you know that I am a real person, with real struggles, real sins, real moments and seasons of depression, and someone who is medicated for Anxiety/Depression. In no way am I better than you or anyone else. :-) ;)
~taken in downtown Atlanta. An installation of earmuffs on a large stone.~

Holiness in the home. It directs our every word and deed! Perhaps we long to teach them a favorite hymn from our childhood.  Immediately, we are humbled! Because what do we think of first when we think of “Music” in the home? Perhaps it is Pop music on Spotify, and little girls dancing to Barbie music or Disney soundtracks!  “Higher” things, literally, are bringing us face to face with the difference between what they hear in Church and what they hear every where else.  There is nothing dirty or problematic about Sofia the First (I don’t think anyway…), but when you’re teaching them “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” you’re teaching them that material goods are just one way that God blesses us from above. When they hear "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee," music originally written by Beethoven, it takes their minds to higher things. Joy, the Divine, and Eternal Rest. When we are living by faith, we see things differently- literally

Some things I didn't address, but a question that all of this stuff brings up, is:

~How does mere church attendance lead to holiness in the home? (something to unpack even more on another day)

~Why is the real presence in the Eucharist so important?

~How will this impact the rest of my kids' lives?

~What if they rebel... and if so, why would they rebel?

As I write this book, I’m setting out to answer,
Why bother with….
(Let’s break it down, again)

*Attending Mass
*Participation in the Sacraments
*Seeking out a fully Catholic education
*Teaching our children how to work and learn in holiness
*Preparing them for First Communion
*Teaching them about the tenets of Scripture

Adding my Link to PHFR and 7 Quick Takes

Thank you for reading Beautiful Souls pt. 2. When I’m done with this series, I will make it available as an e-book. If you want to do me huge favor, see the share buttons below, follow along on Twitter, #beautifulsoulsebook, and don't forget to hit subscribe in your Feedly. Now, tell me: What do you think about this topic? Have anything to add concerning Mass attendance or holiness in the home? I want to know! ;)


Amy @ The Salt Stories said...

Lots of great questions and thoughts obviously for faded in the stickiness of real motherhood.

We bring our daughter to mass, because she watches us. She sees us participate in mass, turn toward God, sing as a community, and receive communion. She is learning so much by literally being present even when she is wiggly.

Tacy said...

Yes. And she can also absorb that holiness at home by your choices.