Our [Imperfect] Family Rosary

“Continue to pray the Rosary every day.”
(Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia)

I don’t think there’s any practicing Catholic out there who would deny the importance of daily recitation of the rosary.  The saints, the Popes, and even the Blessed Mother herself invites us to pray it on a regular basis, promising great spiritual wealth and growth as a result of it.  And, I have no doubt at all that that is true.

childs+hands+holding+rosaryBut, for the vast majority of us, praying the Rosary daily is actually rather challenging.  Or, maybe that’s just me.  I am not sure if it’s that I lack focus or the ability to sit still that long, but when I am attempting to pray it alone (which, let me tell you, happens about 0.1% of the time of my life) or when I am driving (which is more realistic), I easily get distracted.  I do much better when I pray it aloud with other people.

But, the only people I am with on a regular daily basis are these tiny human beings that I call my children.   Which, hey, is GREAT!  Because, praying the FAMILY rosary is possibly an even more beneficial and spiritually efficacious type of prayer than praying it alone.

Maybe efficacious isn’t the right word.  Perhaps saying it’s a source of “great sanctification” is more appropriate.  Especially when your prayer partners are 5, 3, and 20 months old.

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Thank You NFL & Fox…

The Super Bowl was truly a family experience at our house this year.  At 4:30 or so, we grabbed snacks and gathered in the living room to pick the teams we wanted to win.

Hubby and I are both fans of Peyton Manning –  what a class act – so we chose the Broncos.  Our 9 year old picked the Seahawks because he’s contrary like that.   The 6 year old picked the Broncos because she wants a pony.  The 4 year old was rooting for “the ones with the green shoes.”

The older kids discussed (not for the first time since their playoff loss) why the Packers aren’t in the Super Bowl this year, and my husband and I explained that this is the exact opposite of every other football game we’ve watched all year.  They can talk as much as they want during the game itself, they have to be quiet during the commercials.

Then – kickoff.  Each time the game went to commercial I sat, perched on the edge of my seat, remote in hand, ready to punch the off button or turn the channel at any sign of scantily clad and objectified women, wardrobe malfunctions, twerking, or even crude innuendo.

Surprisingly, I didn’t need to use it.  From the positive family messages in the Cheerios spot

to the ad activism of Bank of America and Chevy,

the crude jokes, sexual innuendo and scantily clad women were kept to a minimum.

Then, the halftime show.  Now, my kids do not know who Bruno Mars or the Red Hot Chili Peppers are (though my 6 year old said she recognized “Give It Away Now”), but they bought the pre-game and in-game hype 100%.

“The greatest concert of the year?! I can’t wait!” my son shouted at the 2 minute warning.

We tried to prepare them for the inevitable disappointment that goes with the Super Bowl Halftime show.  My husband explained that while it *may* be the greatest concert of the year, the year has only had 33 days in it so far – so there’s not a lot of competition.  I remembered the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” that had mothers screeching in horror everywhere and wondered if I should tell my son to cover his eyes just in case.

Lo and behold – it wasn’t all bad.  Bruno and his gold lamé jacket squad were more Motown classy than pop star sassy.  Boy does that kid have moves!  The Red Hot Chili Peppers were in their head-banging glory and Anthony Kiedis (lead singer) even broke out his dress shorts for the occasion.

Both bands did what they do best, did it spectacularly, and didn’t need anything outrageous or controversial to put on one of the best halftime shows I’ve seen since U2’s 9/11 tribute and heart-shaped stage in 2009.

I know that many people complained that the ads and halftime show were as sad, pathetic, and boring as the game itself (that one touchdown the Broncos scored felt like an awful lot like pity points).  But this mom is grateful that I did not have to answer any awkward questions from my young children.

It wasn’t perfect…Since when do threesomes save troubled marriages Butterfinger?  And why is Uncle Jesse about to use your yogurt to trick a girl into oral sex Oikos?   Oh and Sodastream…I’m sorry but using seductive straws won’t get me to buy your soda? Fortunately the worst offenders were after halftime and after my kids were in bed.

Despite a few hiccups, I want to issue a huge thank you to the NFL and Fox for a family-friendly Super Bowl experience!

thankyousuperbowl

Remembering 9/11: Sharing & Praying with My Children

No adult can forget where they were or the emotional turmoil of September 11, 2001. Even if the frequency of our prayers or the urgency of our commitment to peace has wavered over the past 12 years, each September 11, we remember, we pray for our country, those who were lost, and those who mourn, and we recommit to working for peace in our homes, our families, and our world.

I sometimes find it hard to believe that while the emotions and images of that day are seared into my memory, my children will only read about it in textbooks and hear the stories second, third, and fourth hand. For them, September 11, 2001 will be like the Pearl Harbor bombing or the WWII concentration camps were for my generation – something understood intellectually, but not experienced emotionally.

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There’s a part of me that is okay with that. I don’t necessarily want my children to experience the frightening emotions of that day and the weeks the followed. I don’t necessarily want my children to know the shock of watching the attack on our country happening live on TV or sorrow of watching people fall from building sides and hearing the death toll continue to rise. I don’t necessarily want my children to feel the bitter emptiness of the New York skyline. There’s a part of me that wants to protect them from all of that.

However, if I engage only in an emotionless dissection of the September 11 event, my children will also never know the hope and unity that, if only for a short while, overshadowed the fear, sorrow, and brokenness of those days. I do want them to know the feelings of comfort we got from gathering as communities to pray together. I do want them to experience the unity of “one nation under God” that we were at that time. I do want them to know that divisiveness and partisanship have not always been the name of the game in Washington. I do want them to feel the peace and hope that came from the stories of ordinary people demonstrating extraordinary heroism and compassion.

So, I will remember 9/11 with my children – not with clinical facts, but with all of the emotion those memories raise in me. I will be honest with them about what it was like to witness evil that day, and I will delight in sharing with them the many, many ways we saw good overcome evil, light overcome darkness, and hope overcome fear.

9-11-cross-prayer

My grandfather was a POW who recorded interviews and about his horrific experiences in the German camps in WWII, and he presented me the model of how I plan to remember these events with my children. He never forgot the evil of that time in his life, but each time he shared a dark or frightening story, he followed it up with a story about goodness, about the human capacity for compassion and generosity, about the power of prayer, and about how he managed to find moments of true joy in the midst of tortuous pain and overwhelming fear.

Tonight and each year on this date, I’ll spend time remembering and sharing with my children the story of how we witnessed the Paschal Mystery of suffering and death leading to resurrection – of many tiny individual acts of good triumphing over a few big acts of evil. And then we’ll pray together – for those who were lost, for those who mourn, for those who still suffer from acts of terrorism, for our country, and for peace in our world.

Father,

We pray for all of the people who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. Comfort them and continue to guide them in your hope. Help us to honor the lives of those who died, through our thoughts and our actions, and grant them the happiness and joy of heaven with You. Fill us with love and forgiveness, and help us to live peacefully with each other.

As we see pictures and hear memories of the suffering and confusion of September 11, help us to remember all the good that you have put in Your world. Help us, most of all, to share Your love and promises with those we meet that are suffering and confused.

Amen.

adapted from
Peaceful Remembrance of September 11, 2001
Forty Days of Prayer for Children

(download PDF)

Do you talk about the events of 9/11 with your children?  Why or why not?  If so, how do you remember that day with them?

September11Children

Preparing the Inn

(NOTE: This is actually an article I wrote for our church bulletin way back in 2007.  I really have been wanting to get a blog together, but with a newborn baby and a toddler filling up my life, and my hands, I have been having a hard time finding the time, finger-freedom, and, heck, brain cells to write anything!  Though it’s a few years old, it’s still applies to THIS Advent.  Please enjoy!)

My family doesn’t hail from the deep South originally.  Though we have lived here 30 years or so, neither of my parents nor the oldest 3 of the 5 were born in Alabama.  Consequently, pretty much all of our relatives are located in the Northeast – where it snows and is cold in December!  Because of the long distance, it was rare in our early lives that we got to spend Christmas with the extended family.

Totally not us...

Totally not us…

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Put Down the Camera…and Slowly Back Away

I recently attended the last Mass of the school year at my kids’ Catholic school.  For those of you not familiar with the Catholic elementary school culture – each week the whole student body attends Mass together.  One of the classes “leads” the Mass by doing the readings, bringing up the gifts, serving, carrying up the processional cross, etc.

This week, it was the 4 year old Kindergarten class that finally got its turn.  They can barely (if at all) read so the readings were done one sentence at a time – and, I suspect, memorized.  The typical Kindergarten Mass characters were present including:

  • The girl who doesn’t believe the microphone will pick up her voice, so she shouts her line.
  • The shorty whose hairline is barely visible above the top of the ambo.
  • The boy who forgets how to pronounce at least one of the words on his construction paper mounted sheet.
  • The teacher frantically motioning that the children holding the psalm response poster board have it upside down.

It may not have been the highest of liturgy, but it was cute – and there certainly is something moving about watching 15 Kindergarteners belt out every word to “I Love You, Lord” and know (because I know their music teacher) that they understand it to be a song of praise to our God.

What’s not so moving:  15 parents in the back of church running around with video and digital cameras trying to capture every cute moment for posterity.

I have little kids – I have the boy who shouted into the mic when it was his turn to read part of the 1st reading last year, and I anticipate my daughter will be one who holds the poster upside down (she can be a little ditzy) – so I certainly understand the desire to capture the moment.

But at what cost?

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Taking My Kids to Mass: An Email Response

My Two Daughters

My Girls at Easter. It was kinda cold.

Last week I wrote about taking my kids to Mass, about being the monkey bars for my two year old to climb on for about 46 minutes of the hour. I was a little worried that I was going to offend some parents who either have absolutely no problem with their children at Mass (you know, “that family”), or that I was going to offend the people who have it even rougher, (the other “that family”). We sat next to the other family at Christmas this year. Despite chocolate chip cookies (my kids were wondering where their cookies were), countless books, and the kind of toys that are perfect for pounding on a wooden pew, these kids were a wreck and had a tough Mass. I felt for the parents and spent a good portion of my post communion time praying for them.

In fact, I did get one email with some pretty strongly worded suggestions – from my wife. Read More

I am the monkey bars.

I am the monkey bars. It doesn’t matter the Mass – early or late, long or short, loud or silent, engaging or reflective – my daughter spends nearly 46 minutes climbing on me like I am some sort of human jungle gym. It’s worse for my wife. She was the human pincushion. Sophia used to spend most of Mass poking my wife in the face, stick her hand in my wife’s mouth, and trying to rip her glasses or earrings off. I don’t know why this started or why it has stopped, but at least now it is just the climbing of Daddy mountain every Sunday.

The latest excitement occurred last night. During a pause in the Eucharistic prayer, my daughter blurts, “Is it done?!” “No honey, shhhhh, we have to go get Jesus and then pray and then its done,” we responded quietly amidst the laughter of our neighbors. Communion happens. Our pastor is quietly reflecting after just making Jesus physically present for 600 people in the Eucharist, and Sophia asks again, but even louder, “IS IT DONE?!” This outburst was loud enough for Father to turn in our direction. I’m not as embarrassed as I should be (What? It’s funny), but I’m not thrilled about it either.

Taking my kids to Mass is hard sometimes. Sometimes all I feel I get out of Mass are bruises and frustration. There were Masses Liz and I spent most of our time out in the gathering space chasing kids or quieting a baby. Some weeks it didn’t feel worth all the work, I felt like I was getting nothing out of it. Those are the weeks I have to remember that I don’t just go to Mass for me. Yes, I go to pray, hear scripture, and receive the Eucharist connecting with God in such a physical and intimate way that nothing else can match it (on earth), and that connection is for me. But I also go to Mass for others.

I bring my kids because, as hard as it is, when they are little, don’t get it, and struggle just to sit in the pew at all, I know that the practice of going to Mass takes time and I want them to get good at it. The good news is, I can see it paying off in my 6 year old daughter, Ella. Yeah there are weeks she spaces out during the homily (There are weeks I space out during the homily. There may be weeks priests space out during their homilies – I kid, I kid.) But she actually prays and responds and knowing that I am helping to cultivate some connection to Mass is a huge pay off for me.

I also bring my kids to Mass because my Church needs us. The older people need to see young families committed to the faith. Other families need to know there are others in the same boat with the same struggles. And frankly, as a youth minister, I want teens to see my family at Mass so someday, when it is hard to get to Mass, they figure out a way.
Mass has been such a gift for my family and me. I can’t imagine my life without it. For my life it is worth the sacrifice of tough schedules and irritating, irritated kids.

No judgment on my fellow young parents just trying to find 4 solid hours of sleep and an adult conversation not about diapers and how the carpet has been newly ruined. I get it, I’m with you in this. I want you to know that I am praying for you and that Mass has been worth it for my family and my marriage. Hope to see you this weekend at Mass – Jungle gym, bloodcurdling screaming, awkward questions in the silence, and all.

I cry at movies.

I cry at movies. Sometimes I think this is totally understandable. At the end of Saving Private Ryan, I sobbed as big fat tears fell down my face. I couldn’t stop thinking about men who had maybe died so my grandfathers could come home. I know, I’m a of bit of a wreck in this way, but I can’t help it, I’m an emotional guy.

I cry at a lot of movies, but no movie makes me cry like Field of Dreams. I played a little baseball in high school and so that whole baseball theme has a lot of emotional energy for me. (“Emotional energy”? What a pansy thing to write. What is wrong with me? Sorry. Moving on.) The part when Moonlight Graham steps off the field to save the little girl from choking and you know that he can’t go back; he can’t go back to his dream of playing baseball – wow. Almost crying just writing about it.Ray meets his Dad Field of Dreams

The real movement from normal human to puddle of tears, uncontrollable cry snot, and quick breaths between sobs comes when Ray’s dad comes to the field to play and Ray says, “Hey dad, how about a catch?” Niagara Falls. I was concerned I may have some unresolved father issues (Dad, if you are reading this, I’m sure it’s nothing), but the more I thought about it they were tears of thanksgiving for a dad that I did get to play catch with, a lot. I had a great father who coached my baseball teams, but also helped with homework and took me to church and watched Holy Grail with me despite my mother’s protests.

Yesterday when I cried watching Tangled, Disney’s revamp of Rapunzel, I had a bit of an epiphany (I know, I had an epiphany while watching the movie Tangled, I’ll take epiphanies where I can get them). Read More