St Catherine says, “Bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus.” I have come to bring Good News. One of my ministries in the Body of Christ is to pass the faith down to the next generation; as moms, that is one of our roles. Our children are like our disciples.
I came across this quote and would like to share it with all the moms who are forming this next generation of soldiers for God. “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks, as if they were great and noble.” Who do you think said that? St. Teresa the Little Flower of Jesus? Mother Teresa? St. John Bosco? No, the correct answer is Helen Keller! I wonder if you are as shocked as I was at the answer. Yes, Helen Keller, a blind-deaf woman who could barely talk, not only is known for this quote, but also lived this quote. Look at her life and all the obstacles, handicaps and challenges she had to overcome to leave her mark on this world. She is truly an inspiration to us all. What a perfect quote for the parents of today who have chosen life. Along with choosing to have children and hopefully a quiver full, we have also chosen as Catholic parents to form these children in our Catholic Faith. We do this in a “noble way” one small task at a time, from changing diapers to changing attitudes. We train them up in the way of the Lord, as is said in the book of Proverbs, so that “when they get old they will not depart from it.” Hopefully, we lead them with wisdom and love from the day we walk them into their first kindergarten class until the day we walk them down the aisle on their wedding day. Maybe our wisdom and love will send them on a path toward a vocation where we witness their ordination as a priest or take their final vows as a nun. We must all bring honor and glory to God by being the best we can be. Then to teach our children to do the same.
First of all, I would like to applaud God for the freedom that we still have in our country to choose a Catholic education. Do not take it for granted, please! Because of it I found Jesus at the age of seven when I received Him, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, on my First Communion Day. I treasure my One, Holy, Catholic Apostolic Faith, as I know you do.
Today I hope to make three points:
- To Know God
- Character Counts
- “The Little Church” (Our Home)
TO KNOW GOD
Now we all know that we cannot pass on to our children what we do not know. In other words, you must know God and your Catholic faith in order to pass that faith to the next generation. Let’s examine ourselves for a moment. How well do I know God? How well do I know my faith? I was raised on the old Baltimore Catechism. Anyone who has ever read this Catechism remembers this question. Why did God make you? God made you to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him and to be happy one day with Him in Heaven. We have so many opportunities to get to know God. We have the Catechism, Catholic radio, EWTN broadcasts, books, magazines, bible studies, the Mass and of course Catholic Mom. There are also Renew groups, missions, other Catholic blogs, and the list is endless. In fact Pope Benedict XVI even called for a year of the “New Evangelism,” and the fruit was good. We need to be evangelized and to evangelize others. We must take time alone with God in daily prayer. He is a personal God and therefore it is in our daily prayer time where we get to know Him for ourselves, instead of just knowing all about Him. Be still and know that He is God and let Him speak to your heart. Make time for God! Take time to go to daily Mass or Adoration. Take time to read a spiritual book. Take time to walk around the block saying a rosary. Take the time to sit in quietness and listen for God’s still small voice. As we get to know God we will begin to love God because God is love. Then we will want to serve God and pass our Catholic faith down to our children.
Pope Benedict spoke these words at the Saturday night Vigil to the people on a World Youth Day:
“Deep in our hearts, we yearn for what is grand and beautiful in life. Do not let your desires and aspirations dissipate, but ground them in Christ Jesus. He himself is the sure foundation, the point of reference, for building up your life.”
Pope Benedict also said,
“Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God.”
Lastly Pope Benedict encouraged us to always remember, Christ is a person and not an idea. This is a quote from World Youth Day, Thursday’s welcome:
“There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all of our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to Him and as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among many other around us are so familiar. Furthermore, the Master who speaks teaches, not something learned from others, but that which He Himself is, the only one who truly knows the path of man to God, because He is the one who opened it up to us, He made it so that we might have authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy.”
Catholic moms, we serve a holy God who is not only our best friend, but also our Savior and our Lord. We know that Our God paid a great price in dying for our sins. We Catholics do not take lightly His Passion and bloody death on the Cross. This knowledge of the reality of the Truths of our faith comes across to others by the way we live our lives. This reverence can usually be felt when one walks into a Catholic Church to assist at Mass. This reverence is virtue in action and it is just what we need to pass down to the next generation. May our children know and respect the Sacraments and not take our faith for granted. May each time they receive the Eucharist be a “Holy Moment!” May each time they go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation be a moment of grace to not only confess, but repent: turn from sin and turn to God! One of our favorite priests always said, “Our faith is not taught, it is caught.” In other words, our children will not always do what we say; sometimes they will do what we do. Parents they are watching you. Are you being a good example?
In our vocation, as parents, it is a privilege as well as a responsibility to God, to train our children in godly character and virtue. Some say that a Proverb a day keeps the devil away. There are thirty-one chapters in the Book of Proverbs. Why not read one a day as a family or as a couple, then share around the dinner table? Proverbs is like a Rule Book—Rules can make us save. The Book of Proverbs could be thought of as the “Emily Post “of the Bible. (Bible Manners) I used to quote the Book of Proverbs to my seven children whenever I could to get my point across. We must pass our rich Catholic Faith down to the next generation. 2 Timothy 1:15 says, “He was established in faith, from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.” I ask you parents, are you establishing your children in their faith? You are daily forming their character, so do not take that lightly. It may very well be the most important thing you do in this life on earth. If we do not form their character, the world will gladly do it for us, but it will not be the right stuff. Just turn on the television and see what food for thought they are dishing up for our youth, and our adults for that matter. Children are like wet sponges ready to soak up all that is around them. Remember parents, they are watching and then copying you:
Be careful, little eyes, what you see.
Be careful, little ears, what you hear.
Be careful, little mouths, what you speak.
A brain is a terrible thing to waste! Parents, guard their little hearts. Are you training your children to have a well formed conscience? Are you teaching them to examine their consciences daily? Are you taking them to Reconciliation once a month? Are you going to Mass as a family every Sunday, at least? I used to take my preschoolers to daily Mass. Why? I needed the grace to do what I had to do as a mom of seven. I still need the grace. The amazing aspect of forming your children is, as you train your children in character and virtue, God is training you! For instance, how many toilet-training accidents does it take mom and dad to grow in patience? How many conversations with a “Mom, you know what,” or “Dad, I have to ask you something,” does it take to grow in your listening skills? How many sick children does it take to grow a heart of compassion? How many mistakes as a parent does it take to learn not only to forgive but ask for forgiveness? How many disappointments does it take to surrender to, “Thy Will be done?”
What a great opportunity the year of mercy gives us, to be a living example to our children of our Catholic faith in word and deed. If we are living by the Word of God and practicing our Catholic faith, they will too. If we are a praying parent, they will be a praying child. Fr. Peyton had the right idea, I think it was in the 60’s that he coined the phrase, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Father Peyton called all families to say the rosary together. He brilliantly decided to use the media to help and even asked Catholic movie stars to lead the way. Oh what God can do with one yielded vessel!
Training up our children in the faith is not always easy.
It was one of those summer days that were way too long and way too hot. I guess I should mention that we raised our seven children in Augusta, Georgia. As the day progressed, I had about one nerve left and one particular child was getting on it. If you are a mom, I think you know exactly what I mean. After repeatedly correcting one child for the same wrongdoing, over and over again, I became frustrated. Without God’s grace I could have crossed over the line to a land better known as “Mommy Rage.” What’s a mother to do? Being a child of God I began to pray to my Heavenly Father. It was more of a complaint, than a prayer. I said something like this, “Lord, this is tiring, I have told him and told him and told him!” What did my Heavenly Father reply? I remember as if it was yesterday! My Heavenly Father spoke in His still small voice to my heart, “Ellen, if he was already trained, I would not instruct you to train him up.” This was a breakthrough in motherhood for me. I saw clearly that training up the children in the way of the Lord was part of my job description. I embraced the challenge; I still do.
Mothers never really retire even when their children become adults. One of my daughters came to me when she got engaged and said, “Mom, now that I am engaged what is OK according to the Catholic Church?” I knew what she meant, and I also knew the correct answer, but I said that I would pray and call her back. I prayed silently she would receive the wisdom of the Church as I called her back. Then I told her “Abstinence before marriage is dad’s and my view, and the view of the Church.” This same daughter wrote a paper for a college class called, “Why Choose Abstinence before Marriage” which my husband and I used as a handout when we taught Pre-Cana Classes.
We must lead by example. Teach the children that following Jesus involves the heart and the will. It is a choice, not a feeling. We must be patient if we are on a schedule or running late. We must choose to rejoice if the sun is shining or it is raining outside and we forgot our umbrella. You see, rainy days can be an opportunity to teach our children to dance in the rain or splash in the puddles. Parents, you set the tone for the day. They are watching you and listening too. You see in this life you are faced with a decision to make. Do you choose to be more like Christ and choose righteousness, peace and joy and live in the Spirit of God? Or do you choose to grumble along living in the flesh and choose sin? If it is your choice, it will be easier to make it their choice. God’s promises are true. He says that training will lead them to following. Many parents question God, “Why are my children not following you?” They must ask themselves, did they lay the ground work? If the answer is yes, God’s promise is true, they will return! They may rebel or question for a while, but they will return. The scripture of the Prodigal Son gives us hope and teaches us to persevere. My husband, the “theologian” Deacon Pat, and I have often had a passionate, healthy debate over this very subject. I say, “Pat, they will believe because we trained them up.” Pat on the other hand insists with the words, “Free will, free will! They get to choose.” Seeing that this could turn into a hundred-year debate, I went to a priest for counsel and advice. He had the answer to set the record straight. He looked me in the eyes with the compassion of a daddy, and said, “Ellen, that is how God makes saints out of the parents. Wayward children cause us to get on our knees in prayer.” I did not even have to tell Father how I weep over the souls of our children. Somehow the pause between my question and his answer gave him the time to detect the tears in my eyes. I pray more for conversion of souls now than ever before; not only for my family but also everyone in the room at Mass each time I attend.
Here are some practical ideas to implement. Teach them to place a rosary under their pillow to say as they go to sleep or if they awake in the night. Teach your child that when they hear an ambulance to stop and pray. Teach your children that a red light is really an opportunity to intercede, not complain. Teach them to defer by letting others go in line ahead of them. Teach them to be givers and not takers. Teach them to love the sacraments and to treasure their faith. Teach them how much Jesus loves them and to always choose to accessorize with virtue. Daily life gives us ample opportunity to grow in virtue. Teach them how to not only choose character and virtue, but to love character and virtue. God said, “I have set before you life and death; Choose ye life.” It is like an open book test, where God gives you the answers—“Choose Life—Choose Life.” God is looking for obedient hearts.
Actions always speak louder than words. Did you ever hear the quote? “I can’t hear what you are saying because your actions are speaking so loud that they are drowning out the sound of your words.” Be a good example. I was blessed to be able to witness two godly Catholic moms training their children in the faith. One mom had seven children; one girl and the rest were boys. I went into the Adoration Chapel one day, to pray. To my surprise, there she was with her seven blessings. What were they doing? They were praying the rosary out loud before the tabernacle, for Jesus’ ears alone. It was a holy moment indeed! Her boys were reverent and attentive from the baby to the nine-year-old. Then there was another mom, pregnant with child number five. Her oldest child was only about five. After Mass was over, all of her children would reverently walk up to the front of the Church, kneel down before the altar and quietly pray to their friend Jesus. I think that these little ones knew their Catholic faith better than most adults do. What a witness. What a holy moment. It is never too early and it is never too late to lead you child in the ways of the Lord.
Pope Benedict XVI said,
“Let us eagerly welcome these teachings and put them into practice. Let us look upon Jesus hanging on the harsh wood of the Cross and let us ask Him to teach us the mysterious wisdom of the cross, by which man lives. The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life.”
In God’s Book—CHARACTER COUNTS!! The Book of Revelations says, “Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates.” Also, “She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.) “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”
“THE LITTLE CHURCH” – OUR HOME
Our Catholic homes are to be, the “little church.” The home should be where the fundamentals of our faith are taught, supported, and lived out. Our home is the place where our children can ask questions and get answers. We should send our children to school with a prayer said from our heart. We should welcome our children home with arms of love. Home should be a loving place where are children are able to make mistakes and learn from them. We must teach our children not only how to be forgiven, but also how to forgive. Home must be a place that we are loved on a good day when we are full of joy and on a bad day when we are out of sorts. If a child does not feel loved in the home by their parents whom they can see, how will they be able to understand a God who loves them whom they cannot see? Many times I have asked my prayer partners to intercede for me when there was a child that I was finding difficult to love; the twos or teens are sometimes challenging ages. What I did not do is make the child feel that it was his or her problem. Training a child out of a certain behavior is an act of love, done in love. The adult as well as the child must choose to walk in virtue. Before we go out to all the nations and win the world to Christ, we must start in our own home. You see the home is our mission field. The home which is called the “little church” is our mission on this earth as mothers and fathers. Never am had I more convinced of how important a mission it is as when I look around at our society.
Marriage and family are under attack! “Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.” Build the walls of your home deep in prayer so that no storm of life can knock the walls of love and unity down. Build your children so full of character that they are strong enough to stand, even if they have to stand alone against the temptations they face. Teach them to stand strong for their faith even if the temptation is coming from their best friend or a family member. Are you equipping your children to go out to the world and evangelize, or is the world evangelizing them? Be aware—there are wolves out there, some in sheep’s clothing!
In this world we will have much tribulation, but our God can overcome it all. If we learn how to lean back on His everlasting, strong Fatherly arms, we come to realize just how amazing His grace is. My friend Jane Anne has eleven children. She said to me the other day, “These children are my sanctification.” Oh how I had to agree. The bible says, “A woman is saved through childbirth.” I have come to realize that it is not just the birthing of my children that grew holiness in my life, but the daily laying down of my life for them in sacrificial love.
What has been the fruit of my “little church?” I have watched my child being rejected by her classmates when a new girl in a private school. What did I do to help her through this bad experience? I prayed, I listen and I became her best friend. She now, as a married woman with children, is welcoming to all she meets. I have watched the baby of our family whom I gave too much attention and assistance, grow from an “enabled child” to a capable man of God. I have watched one of my middle children rise to the occasion, by quitting college to help me with his grandpa who was dying. In my “little church” he was my Simon of Cyrene, helping me to carry the cross. I have seen a daughter who was too shy to speak up in class grow in so much confidence that she was chosen to be the captain of her high-school cheerleading squad. I have seen one daughter overcome a huge obstacle in her life. She could have given up because the cross was so heavy, but she did not. Instead this daughter grew stronger in her faith and in her confidence. I am the most proud as a parent when I see my married daughters training their children in virtue and the Catholic faith. In my “little church” that I call home, I have had children who are a listening ear when I am down and offer a pray when I need hope. I have had children travel miles to see me when I was the new girl in a town and homesick for family. As parents, we are building a “little church” to support, pray and love one another. It may take some time; you may not see the fruit right away, but never stop to hoe, plant, water, and weed. I promise you that it is worth the effort. I encourage you to build your “little church,” your family with your time, your talent and your treasure. Children grow up so fast. Parents, you cannot “re-wind” their childhood. I repeat, build your “little church” well! Give it all you’ve got! Helen Keller said, “When we do the best we can we never know what miracle is wrought, in our lives or in the life of another.”
I would like to end with a final quote from Pope Benedict XVI which he spoke at World Youth Day. The Pope said,
“Dear friends: be prudent and wise; build your lives around the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you afraid and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, your brother and Lord, the Son of God Incarnate, who gives meaning to the entire universe.”
I challenge you to pass your Catholic faith down to the next generation. Why? Because God said to!
Copyright 2016 Ellen Mongan