Catholic parenting is a tough business, and we need all the help we can get in raising our children to be holy. Daily, I employ the assistance of the saints and angels in heaven and my saintly brothers and sisters in Christ on earth for prayers and practical advice. My best parenting lifelines include a few favorite contacts in monasteries whose prayer request links are easily accessed online and who willingly pray for those of us on the outside who beseech their assistance.
Rarely do I receive an earthly reply to prayer requests sent over the Internet, but just http://catholicdaily.net/discerning/wp-admin/post-new.phpknowing that these urgent prayers for our children and other intentions are being heard and lifted up gives me great peace. Recently, I was blessed to receive a written reply with practical advice from a Benedictine monk who also promised his prayers for a particular child:
Peace, joy and wit must harmonize when you are communicating your faith to those who are struggling…don’t be afraid. Speak truthfully, lovingly and candidly. And be willing to joyfully suffer for him. All will be well.
All will be well… important words to keep in mind when the daily struggles and challenges of parenting seem to overwhelm me. Yet this platitude is not an excuse to shy away from actively parenting and creatively correcting naughty behavior, which is where my suffering often becomes real. Avoiding suffering leaves me tempted at times to simply dismiss or ignore a way-ward youth rather than deal with the situation head-on and risk meeting with resistance and forging into an epic battle of wills.
In the midst of a disciplinary struggle, peace, joy and wit do not come naturally to me. Annoyance, impatience, grumbling and self-pity do, but these won’t help me teach virtue or correct error any more than ignoring the problem will. Keeping close to God with set-aside time for prayer, scripture reflection and quiet morning and evening devotions helps build me up and strengthen my resolve to pick up my cross and follow Him even when it hurts and my natural inclination is to hide or withdraw.
A few days ago, one of my boys just couldn’t quite seem to pull his act together with regard to showing due respect and prompt obedience. The inspiration to respond with peace, joy and whit hit me. Instead of giving him a menial chore to help him work off his bad attitude (which often does the trick), I pulled a book off the shelf and told him he was not allowed to continue with his favorite pastime until the book had been completed.
My Life with the Saints, by James Martin, SJ, became my sons’ new mission on earth. He read without ceasing, not because he was engrossed with the content per se, but because he was very anxious to get back to his Nerf gun modification project which had been suddenly put on hold as a consequence for his wayward behavior. His grumbling and begging to be released from the requirement, attempts at bargaining his way out of the reading assignment, and bitter complaints about how boring the book was did not sway my resolve to enforce the sentence given. I joyfully suffered right along with him and offered up the annoyances, thanks to the monk’s sound advice.
Not long after the required reading was completed and his Nerf project resumed with a new and improved attitude, fruits from the forced reading began to fall. My son taught us about Blessed John XXIII’s witty sense of humor and lighthearted way of interacting with people. He shared Bl. Pope John XXIII’s teaching that each person must seek and find his own particular way to reach God and grow closer to Him. Hopefully our creative disciplinary measures will assist each of our children to find God in all things and to draw close to Him always.
Blessed John XXIII, pray for parents, that we may always remember to foster a sense of peace, joy, and wit as we fulfill our duty to raise up holy children. Amen.