Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wisdom in duty

As I was trying to attack my daunting list of to-do's, I found, out of obedience, I had to scale back some of my commitments in order to fulfill my duties.  I was really looking forward to these "commitments" too. 

I asked a couple of close friends to pray for me.  I shared with them "My burden is light only because of My Lord, and I trust He will give me the grace to get done what needs to get done, but... at this point... He is going to have to provide a miracle... good news is, miracles are His gig!" 

My friend shared with me a wise and powerful prayer, and she even said it for me: 

"God give me the guidance to put an appropriate "size" on my tasks at hand, so my mind doesn't make them bigger than they truly are...” 

I pray for all my "friends" to find the peace that this little prayer brings.
Thanks Katrina!  :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Teach the Books, Touch The Heart


Published: April 20, 2012
New York Times

FRANZ KAFKA wrote that “a book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us.” I once shared this quotation with a class of seventh graders, and it didn’t seem to require any explanation.
We’d just finished John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” When we read the end together out loud in class, my toughest boy, a star basketball player, wept a little, and so did I. “Are you crying?” one girl asked, as she crept out of her chair to get a closer look. “I am,” I told her, “and the funny thing is I’ve read it many times.”

But they understood. When George shoots Lennie, the tragedy is that we realize it was always going to happen. In my 14 years of teaching in a New York City public middle school, I’ve taught kids with incarcerated parents, abusive parents, neglectful parents; kids who are parents themselves; kids who are homeless or who live in crowded apartments in violent neighborhoods; kids who grew up in developing countries. They understand, more than I ever will, the novel’s terrible logic — the giving way of dreams to fate.

For the last seven years, I have worked as a reading enrichment teacher, reading classic works of literature with small groups of students from grades six to eight. I originally proposed this idea to my principal after learning that a former stellar student of mine had transferred out of a selective high school — one that often attracts the literary-minded offspring of Manhattan’s elite — into a less competitive setting. The daughter of immigrants, with a father in jail, she perhaps felt uncomfortable with her new classmates. I thought additional “cultural capital” could help students like her fare better in high school, where they would inevitably encounter, perhaps for the first time, peers who came from homes lined with bookshelves, whose parents had earned not G.E.D.’s but Ph.D.’s.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Mother at Home - Chapter 4 - Mother's Difficulties

Why do so few succeed in obtaining prompt obedience from children? 

The biggest reason we as parents find it difficult to obtain prompt obedience is our very own lack of self-control.  Can a mother expect to govern her child when she cannot govern herself?  By our example, we must demonstrate meekness and equanimity in our homes.

As we all know, self-control, at all times, and under all circumstances, is one of the most difficult things to be acquired.  If we desire prompt obedience from our children, we must overcome ourselves, to be an example for our children. 

Abbott points out that “anger is temporary insanity.”  If you have had an encounter (or hundreds of encounters as the case may be) with a toddler, who is learning his place in the world, you have likely experienced anger that exemplifies this definition, perfectly…   Abbott recommends that we never let manifest the irritated feeling or give utterance to an angry expression.  We should discipline “with calmness and reflection”.

Abbott also points out that a lack of resolution can prove troublesome on behalf of the mother.  It is true that it is painful to a parent’s feelings to deprive a child of any reasonable enjoyment, or to inflict pain.  Therefore, we can be ingenious at framing apologies to relieve ourselves from this duty.  For me, blackout is no fun for anybody at my home; everything requires more thought, and the perpetrator is typically underfoot, all day…  It would be easier for me and far more convenient to justify the behavior to my benefit…  “Oh, he didn’t really mean to do that, did he?” 

Further to this point, Abbott, stresses “that you cannot allow maternal feelings to influence you to neglect painful but necessary acts of discipline.”  Discipline is hard on everybody, and it is difficult to see our children sad.  Nevertheless, Abbott states, if your “child does wrong, and you know that he ought to be punished; but you shrink from the duty of inflicting it; the behavior of such a mother is the most cruel and merciless enemy which her child can have.  You can do nothing more ruinous to your child.”  Such behavior on the mother’s part confirms his sin.  “Duty has told you to punish your child.  Inclination has urged you to overlook.  Inclination has triumphed; and your child has retired victorious and of course confirmed in his sin.”

The acts of discipline, Abbott states, must be serious and effectual, prompt and decisive.  One of my late cousins referred to the discipline of his children as “swift and severe.”  To date, I personally have met very few children more kind, loving, and obedient than his.  One good example of his I can recall, if his children did not put the silverware away correctly, he took all of the silverware out of the drawer and the child was required to put it all away, correctly before moving on. 

Abbott also points out that there can be a lack of harmony between parents on the subject of education. In discipline, father wants to do his duty and mother thinks punishment is cruelty.  If the father has bad principles and example, the mother must be more persevering and vigorous in her effort.  If a mother is vigorous in her effort, a father, in most cases, will soon feel confidence in her management.

Abbott helped me to understand my role in my children’s behavior and interaction with their father.  He points out that a “mother shall teach her children to be quiet and still when their father is present and she do everything she can to induce them to be respectful, obedient and affectionate to their father.  The more cheerful you can make home to him, the stronger are the inducements which are presented to draw him away from scenes into which he ought not to enter.”  I believe, as I have learned, as wives, we are the heart of the home, whereas our husbands are the head.  We need to create an environment, a loving environment in which our husbands desire to spend time.  A home, filled with chaos and disrespectful children would make any man want to work overtime…   Don’t get me wrong, we still have our share of chaos…  I could not live without the fun and noise our children provide.  They are just reminded to respect their Father and make his return home from work a pleasant one! :)

In summary, Abbott points out that we need to be self controlled, if we want our children to demonstrate the same.  This requires patience, obedience and self control on our part.  These cannot be obtained without the grace of God.  I believe each of these go hand in hand.  Patience, in particular, can lead to self control and obedience.  St. Thomas Aquinas defines patience as “moderated sadness in the face of an evil that cannot be removed.”  Our homes are filled with little evils that cannot be removed...  all day long; spills, lack of charity among siblings, temper tantrums, self-centeredness, among others…  Our homes are filled with children, perfectly behaved for their age.  We need to follow Jesus’ example of moderated sadness in the face of evils.  That was His entire ministry.  He moderated His sadness (rejection, blasphemy, ridicule, abandonment, denial, and ultimately abuse and murder).  He did not lose His cool, not even once, and imagine… He was surrounded by grown men and women, who should have known better.  Our children may not know better yet, because we may not have taught them yet. 

We need to cling to the Cross and entreat our Lord for the grace to be the grown-ups we are tying, with His grace, to raise.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Mother at Home - Chapter 3 - Maternal Authority Part 2

Abbott makes some other suggestions of importance regarding maternal authority.  He encourages mothers to be strong.  Each of our children is diverse in their natural dispositions.  “Some are very tender in their feelings and others are naturally independent and self-willed.”  Nevertheless, it is never safe to give up and let the child win on a contest of wills, notably with strong-willed children.  When a child has an unpleasant disposition, (is just ‘having one of those days) and, for example, hits sister and is not sorry and declines obeying, Abbott recommends that we handle this differently but do not overlook the fault.  He gives an example:   “My son, you have been doing very wrong ; you are ill-humored and must not stay with us any longer. I will carry you to bed.” Just before leaving him for the night she tells him in a kind but sorrowful tone, how much she is displeased with his conduct. Kneels by him and prays that God will forgive him. Leaves him to his reflections. He is thus punished because he hears his brothers and sisters happy down-stairs and feels how much wiser and better it is to be a good boy. “

Abbott explains that we are all disposed to ‘those days’.  As a result, we must learn forbearance and sympathy with children. A mother must use all in her power to soothe and calm.  He encourages us to “study the moods and feelings of your children and vary discipline to meet these changes.  When a child is in an excited state, remove him as much as possible from the power of temptation. Calculate a punishment to soothe him, like placing him in a comfortable chair with a pleasing book. “
Another bit of good advice Abbott gives is to never punish when the child when he has not intentionally done wrong.   We must learn to distinguish between accident and crime.   We all make mistakes; I do daily, sometimes minutely…  Our children should not be punished for an accident, however, we may need to punish for carelessness, which is a fault.  “Children ought to be taught not to do what will expose property to injury. Example, child crawls on the table and is punished for dropping & breaking the glass bowl that was on the table. The child should have been taught not to climb on the table.   Nevertheless, allowance must be made for ignorance of the child.

Abbott explains that we should not fall into the belief that your child is too young to obey.  We are ingenious at framing excuses for neglecting our duty…. Too young, no nap, too sick.  He gives a quote from a very judicious mother. “It is my practice to obey my child for the first year of their life, but ever after I expect him to obey me. “  The authority of the mother is to be established when a child is able to understand a command or prohibition expressed by looks and gestures. This is at a much earlier period that most parents imagine.

We are, however, to guard against too much severity.  When we discipline with composure and solemnity; occasions for punishment will be very infrequent.   We are encouraged to be affectionate and mild with our children.   When they have done wrong, we should feel not irritated, but sad; and punish them in sorrow, but not in anger.  Therefore, in all cases, children should be governed by kindness.   However, when kindness fails, and disobedience ensues, do not hesitate for a moment to fall back upon her last resort, and punish as severely as necessary.  Abbott explains a few such cases will teach almost any child how much better it is to be obedient than disobedient.   This does not mean it is prudent to be harsh, unfeeling and forbidding in our intercourse with our children.  “The most efficient family government may be almost entirely administered by affection, if it be distinctly understood that disobedience cannot pass unpunished.  Every effort should be to make home the most desirable place; to gather around it associations of delight. “

This is where our house rules have really become a tool in our discipline.  When my 5 year old asks to do something and I say no, he has, at times shot back with “I am going to do _________ anyway”, or throw some sort of fit.”  To this, I am able to calmly respond, you may absolutely do _____, it is your choice to disobey, but what is the discipline for not giving right away obedience?”  He responds, “black out”.  I reinforce, “okay, so if you choose, to do _____ you will be blacked out.  It is your choice; I believe it is a poor one, but yours nevertheless.”  This exchange is gentle, does not excite their mood, and also empowers them to make the decision.  With as much as my children despise blackout, to date, my 5 year old has never (in this situation) chosen the bad behavior.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Mother at Home, Chapter 2 - Maternal Authority

Chapter 2 – Maternal Authority, Part 1

Much of a mother’s happiness is dependent upon the good or bad character of her children. “How shall I govern my children so as to secure their virtue and happiness?”

Abbott speaks of obedience as perfect subjection and prompt, cheerful acquiescence in parent commands.  “Without this, all efforts will be in vain."  Children should submit  to your authority, not simply yielding to your arguments or persuasions or threats.  Whether or not your children can see reasoning for our request for obedience, they should obey promptly.  Sometimes give him your reasons, sometimes withhold them.

The best example I have of this, that my children were able to relate to, is an episode of Little House on the Prairie.  If memory serves, Ma and Laura were heading out to do chores.  Ma, having gone out first, told Laura to stay back, and not come to the barn (as she was accustomed to doing, every day).  Laura did not know why Ma had made this request, but she obeyed, no questions asked.  As it turns out, there was a bear near the barn and Ma needed to keep Laura away to keep her safe.  When Ma said “stay back”, Laura did not ask why, she obeyed without question.  As parents, we know what is better for our children, and they needn’t always understand why we ask the things we do, assuming they are for our children’s welfare.   We may, someday, encounter a situation where we don’t have the luxury of time to explain.   If we don’t condition them to obey, without question, in the case of Little House, what could have happened if Laura did not listen?

Abbott then goes on to explain how we can achieve this obedience from our children.  The most powerful tip he provides is “Never give a command which you do not intend shall be obeyed.  There is no more effectual way of teaching a child disobedience, than by giving commands which you have no intention of enforcing.” If we ask our children to do something, and we don’t plan to stand behind it, we then train our children to disregard our word; an absolute lack of respect. 
Abbott give a great example for enforcing obedience:

-MOM: “You have disobeyed me.”
-Mom seriously and calmly punishes (imposes real punishment that will be remembered)
-MOM: “It makes mother very unhappy to have to punish you.” She loves her little daughter and wishes to have her a good girl.”
-Mom leaves the child to herself for a little while. A little solitude deepens the impressions made.
-Mom returns, takes child on her lap, “My dear, are you sorry that you disobeyed mother?”
-Almost any child would say “Yes.”
-MOM: “Will you be careful not to disobey me again?”
-Child says “Yes.”
-MOM: “I will forgive you, so far as I can; but God is displeased; you have disobeyed him as well as me. Do you wish me to ask God to forgive you?”
-Child answers “Yes.”
-Mother kneels with her daughter and offers a simple prayer for forgiveness, and the return of peace and happiness.
-Mom then leads her out, humbled and subdued.
-Mom later that night putting her to bed affectionately reminds her of her disobedience, and advises her to ask God’s forgiveness again.

If you believe that you do not have time to discipline nor pay attention to your children, Abbott points out the fact that “Not one third of the time is required to take care of an orderly family, which is necessary for a disorderly one.”  I have found this to be true as our family has grown.  I simply do not have time for disobedient children.  It interferes with school, and with our day overall.  If a child is disruptive or disobedient, this cannot be accepted; as the price is too high for all of us.  If the little ones see their older siblings getting away with naughty behavior, it teaches them that it is OK to be naughty.  I have found, since assuming my role of Mother, they way God intended me to, I have more time, because I am not disciplining all day.  A big help for me now is that the older children are so clear on the rules, that the little ones have many sets of eyes and ears watching and correcting behavior.  Not that we don’t have off days…  we do; but they are fewer and farther between, and when they happen, the perpetrator is addressed promptly. 

Abbott also points out that a mother’s word is never to be disregarded, however, every judicious parent will try to gratify her children in their ‘reasonable wishes.’ For example, “Mom, may I have a couple minutes to finish my project?”

When Abbott speaks of types of lasting discipline (that won’t be soon forgotten), he recommends that we “cut off the child’s sources of enjoyment, among other things – do these so steadily and so invariably that disobedience and suffering shall be indissolubly connected in the mind of the child.”  As I have mentioned before, we employ “black outs”.  We learned this from Dr. Ray; I recommend anything from Dr. Ray.  A black out is removal of all privileges for the day (T.V., video games, dessert, seconds on meals, bicycle, scooter, trampoline, swimming, etc).  This is very effective, and painful for our children.  Click here for more information on rules and discipline.

Finally, Abbott points out that “if we fail to use this power for the purposes for which it was bestowed, the sin is ours, and upon us and upon our children must rest the consequences. When you meet your children at the bar of God, and they point to you and say, “It was through your neglect of duty that we are banished from heaven, and consigned to endless woe.”


On a side note, somebody asked me at what point do I expect my children to understand and obey our house rules and if a child is blacked out, as a parent, are we not sort of out of discipline options for the rest of the day?
As I tell many, my children are perfectly behaved for their age, which is far from perfect! :) You know, it has only happend a handful of times that after blackout, which is devastating for my children, that they have pulled any more stunts. We have, in those cases, extended blackout to the next day, and on occasion sent them to their room, away from any fun. We begin to discipline and enforce rules when our child turns 1 (don't touch, hit, etc), when they are 3, they understand the rules and are disciplined for not following them. We start blackouts when our children are 4. My 3 year old is well versed in Hail Mary Hugs, time in porta crib and a slapped hand. Blackout is devastating to all of my children ages 4 & up.

As my confessor said, don't lower standards, just expectations. It is so frustrating to correct the same behavior over, and over, and over... but he also said... right now we are sowing the seeds of love and will reap a bountiful harvest later... we won't always see the progress nor recieve instant gratification... but some day, our children will just start doing the things we have been teaching... and this, i have found to be true. I have also found, parenting, the way God calls us to do it, is the most humbling, trying... and sanctifying duty I have endeavored.  As trying as it is, however, I have also never found a more fulfulling, joy-filled, grace-filled duty. :) I thank God for it daily.

The Mother at Home - Chapter 1 - Responsibility

The Mother at Home: Raising Your Children in the Fear of the Lord
by John S.C. Abbott

Other than my husband, my sister Annie is my best friend.  Annie and I recently read the book the Mother at Home by John S. C Abbott (as did much of our Mother's Group).  The response was so great to this book.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the straighgforward nature of the author's work and, as with scripture... this book screamed "truth" to me.   Annie and I agreed to pull together an overview for our Mother's Group this morning and Annie agreed to share this work.  It is a wonderful, insightful, inspiring (and sort of intimidating) book.  I believe every mother would be better off for having read it.

Care and labor is necessary in training up a family. But no other cares are rewarded with so rich a recompense; no other labors ensure such permanent and real enjoyment. You, O mothers, have immortal souls entrusted to your keeping. Their destiny is in a great degree in your hands. Your ignorance or unfaithfulness may be the means of sinking them to the world of woe. Your fidelity, by the blessing of God, may elevate them to the mansions of heaven. You and your children may soon be ranging with angel wings the realms of blest spirits, if, here, you are faithful in prayer and effort to train them up for heaven. (from page135-136 of The Mother at Home.)

Chapter I - Responsibility

Abbott says as mothers "it is our duty to lead children to their Savior". He goes on to explain that "the world has been slow to perceive how powerful and extensive the secret and silent influence of a mother's efforts to improve her child in knowledge and virtue are. The influence which is exerted upon the mind during the first eight to ten years of existence, in a great degree guides the destinies of that mind for time and eternity." We, as mother's are with our children more than anybody in these formative years. We have all seen and heard ourselves in our children, which further reinforces Abbott's statement. It is true that there are other influences in our children's lives, but a "mother's may be the most powerful" because it is under our care and tutelage, primarily, that this formation occurs.

Abbot explains that it is rare that the child of a pious mother will be a dissolute one, who breaks away from all restraints and God may leave him to “eat the fruit of his own devices.” However the parent is asked to trust in God, "bow before the sovereignty of her Maker, who says “Be still and know that I am God.” Having done ones duty, however, divests this affliction of much of it’s bitterness."

He gives an example of a man who, raised by a pious mother, had lived a dissolute life, and when asked to go to church, he said "no". He was then asked what his mother would have wished for him to do. The man, with a tear in his eye, entered the church. As with St. Augustine and St. Monica, and God’s grace, a faithful mother's early formation and prayers can bring them back.

Our earthly happiness is at the disposal of your child. "His character is now, in an important sense, in your hands, and you are to form it for good or for evil”, Abbott explains. This subject and fact should make every parent tremble.

After I read this chapter, I began to better understand the gravity of my role as mother and this motivated me to stay on task.  As I have heard it explained by my confessor, "monks, sisters, and others of the consecrated life, live life according to a rule. Throughout each day, they have chimes that direct their attention and time to the next duty, be it prayer, meals, chores, etc." He explained that he had 3 minutes from the time the bell chimed to finish up the task at hand and move to the next duty. Stopping what I am doing to discipline my child or correct behavior is one of those chimes, regardless of what I want at that time. God commands me to. Given our home is our domestic church; it is fair to say that our children are our chimes, our duty, per se. When their behavior needs to be corrected or they disobey, it is our duty to correct the behavior or discipline them, right away; not simply overlook the infraction because it is inconvenient. I, have actually heard myself say out loud "no", I don't want to do this right now... that is, in essence saying no to God, and the only person, according to Abbott, in the long run who will take the blame for the disobedience of my child, is me, through my neglect.
I want to do the best that I can, and God has given me (and my husband) the grace to raise-up men and women that God will recognize and whom will recognize and obey His voice. I simply need to show the same obedience to God, in the duty He has given me, as mother, as my children are to obey their God-given duty in their formative years, Honor thy Father and thy Mother.

Abbott explains that "If you are consistent in your government, and faithful in the discharge of your duties, your child will probably through life revere you and be the stay and solace of your declining years. If, on the other hand, you cannot summon resolution to punish your child when disobedient; if you do not curb his passions; if you do not bring him to entire and willing subjection to your authority; you must expect that he will be your curse."

So, in summary, "If you are unfaithful to your child when his is young, he will be unfaithful to you when he is old. If you indulge him in all his foolish and unreasonable wishes when he is a child, when he becomes a man he will indulge himself; he will gratify every desire of his heart; and your sufferings will be rendered the more poignant by the reflection that it was your own unfaithfulness which has caused your ruin. If you would be the happy mother of a happy child give your attention, and your efforts, and your prayers, to the great duty of training him up for God and Heaven.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Raising Saints

As with home schooling, we have found that each of our children is is different, and the same discipline is not effective for each. Given that we are called to raise saints, this posed a bit of a challenge for Nathan and me.  If our children are going to be well formed, virtuous, and obedient to God in their adult years, we would have to teach them to obey us, for His sake, as children, while under our care and tutelage.

A host on Relevant Radio made an analogy of a rubber band to raising our children with love and discipline.  He said that as you pull on a rubber band, there is equal tension on each side, such as it is with discipline and love.  There should be equal parts of love and discipline.  If there is too much discipline and not enough love, the child will grow to be rebellious in nature and conversely too much love and not enough discipline creates a disposition of entitlement. This was GREAT advice.

In the book, The Mother at Home, John Abbott says, "If you are unfaithful to your child when he is young, he will be unfaithful to you when he is old. If you indulge him in all his foolish and unreasonable wishes when he is a child, when he becomes a man he will indulge himself; he will gratify every desire of his heart; and your sufferings will be rendered the more poignant by the reflection that it was your own unfaithfulness which has caused your ruin. If you would be the happy mother of a happy child, give your attention, and your efforts, and your prayers, to the great duty of training him up for God and heaven."  The Mother at Home - excerpt

Subsequently, a friend's Mother presented to our Mother's Group about parenting.  She is the Mother of a large Catholic family.  Her children are grown and they all are faith-filled and remain in the Church.  What struck me most about what she said was that she could take all of her children out in public without any worry of bad behavior, because "when I said sit, they sat."  I am embarassed to admit, at the time, I could not say that about my children and that was not their fault... Quite honestly, I was petrified to take all of my children out alone, in public, for fear of bad behavior and my inabilty to control them.  I talked this over with Nathan, and we agreed, that we wanted the same confidence in our children's behavior.  So how do we do this?

I often read Catholic Children's Treasure Box 11  by Maryknoll Sisters to my children.  In book 11, we found part of our answer.  The term "right-away obedience" really struck me.   There is a story about a little boy named John, who always gave his parents right-away obedience. This was what my friend's Mom was talking about...  In the story it reads "John gives right-away obedience.  When Mother calls he says, "All right, Mother." He came right away, no questions, no excuses.

The next question we had was, so how do we un-do all that we have done in our discipline and teach our children to obey, right away?  This called for vigilance on our part.  As providence would have it, a generous parishioner at our Church was able to get Dr. Ray Guarendi as a guest speaker.  What a blessing!!!  He stresses vigilance and accountability of parents in achieving obedience in our home (and therefore peace).  He says, "if we want a 1 in a million child, we need to be on in a million parents".  If our children don't respect our authority, it is not their fault, it is ours; we clearly never taught them that our role as parents is ordained by God and they are commanded to obey us via the 10 commandments.  Again, if we don't believe and employ this in our homes, our children cannot be expected to believe it either. I recommend anything by Dr. Ray!

As my confessor, advised when I confided in him my frustration with my children's behavior "Don't lower your standards, just your expectations, remember, they are still children.  With time and vigilance, one day you will wake to find your children doing all the things you have been teaching."   Do I always give right-away obedience to God?  Does He yell and scream at me when I, selfishly, choose sin over obedience?  No, he lovingly forgives me in the Sacrament of Reconcilliation.  I need to remember to do the same for my children.  Jesus' example is a tough act to follow, but it is the goal, nevertheless.

Another great quote from the book The Mother at Home by John Abbott, speaks of raising obedient, virtuous children and therefore "good men [and women]".  "A good boy generally makes a good man." Said the mother of Washington, "George was always a good boy." Here we see one secret of his greatness. George Washington had a mother who made him a good boy, and instilled into his heart those principles which raised him to be the benefactor of his country, and one of the brightest ornaments of the world. The mother of Washington is entitled to a nation's gratitude. She taught her boy the principles of obedience, and moral courage, and virtue. She, in a great measure, formed the character of the hero, and the statesman. It was by her own fire-side that she taught her playful boy to govern himself; and thus was he prepared for the brilliant career of usefulness which he afterward pursued. We are indebted to God for the gift of Washington; but we are no less indebted to him for the gift of his inestimable mother. Had she been a weak, and indulgent, and unfaithful parent, the unchecked energies of Washington might have elevated him to the throne of a tyrant; or youthful disobedience might have prepared the way for a life of crime and a dishonored grave."

In Volume Six - Direction for our Times, by Anne, the Lay Apostle, I found some great advice.
"June 9, 2004

Mary (an unknown saint) Speaks to Mothers

... "I looked on my role of mother as a serious task. I saw each child individually and wondered where they would fit. I tried to help them develop their strengths, all the while searching for the character flaws that might cause them hardship. When I spotted something I felt might be a problem for them, I tried to help them conquer this flaw. These little acts of control or mortification should be praised in your small ones because as they grow they will then practice that same control or mortification as adults. There is no way to understand the importance of that early formation. Truly, believe me when I tell you that you will see your children as adults behaving the same way they did as children, so if a troublesome behavior is allowed as a child, that individual will practice that same behavior as an adult, only you will have little power to correct it. So watch your children closely and praise their little virtues with great constancy.  Praise and encouragement will win the day with little ones. When you do identify that little flaw, mothers, speak softly but firmly and explain how Jesus will help with any temptations. Do not criticize your children in such a way that they are embarrassed, as this is never a good thing and causing a child public shame results in the most serious of effects. But quietly and privately explain why such behavior is wrong and how it could hurt either someone else or the person committing the act. The little soul is so precious and must be preserved. We teach children how to clean themselves and how to feed themselves. We must also teach children how to clean and feed their little souls. Many of today’s children do not even know they have a soul, much less how to protect it and maintain it.  Mothers, treat this responsibility with the greatest of reverence."
Knowing that Nathan and I can do nothing without the grace of God and His will, we entrust our family to Him, humbly asking Him to teach us, to teach our children to be:  good, kind, Christian, humble, obedient, eager, chaste, confident children, who put God first and find the joy in every part of their day, including their daily crosses and to thank Him for them.  We entreat Him to help our family grow in holiness and to increase in us our faith, hope, charity, and self control. We also ask the same for our children's future spouse (if that is the vocation to which they are called).

As my spiritual director, correctly put it:  As Parents, our God-given role, is the highest calling! We are called to shape character, instill virtues and affect the world.

House Rules

  Being a parent is a great privilege. My husband and I have come to understand that the call to parenthood is a wonderful and challenging opportunity.  Who our children become, rests primarily on how we respond to the grace God gives us, to raise saints!  We have found that we cannot expect our children to behave according to our rules, if they don't totally understand them, especially if they don't believe there are consequences for not following these rules.  As a result, we have created "House Rules" for our home.  We have our "House Rules" posted on the fridge.  Each time we make modifications to the rules, we review them with the children, to be sure they understand the rules, and the discipline resulting in a failure to comply.  We have taken advice from Dr. Ray, and employed "Black Outs".  A black out in our home, is removal of all privileges for the day (television, seconds on meals, dessert, bicycle, skate board, etc.).  Saying "No" to Mom or Dad, hitting, or not giving right-away obedience are some scenarios in our home worthy of this discipline.  Other forms of discipline we employ are deductions in computer time, time in room, sitting on couch (arm in arm) with sibling with whom they were fighting, etc.. If the children's behavior is uncharitable to one another, we ask them to do a "Hail Mary Hug".  They simply hug each other while they pray the Hail Mary out loud, then ask for and give each other forgiveness and say "I love you." 
When the children speak uncharitably to one another, tease, or tattle unnecessarily, they are required to write the Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill".  I found a computer application for copy work for the children that is a GREAT tool for this form of discipline as well.  Startwrite enables me to type whichever commandment has been broken (Honor they Father and thy Mother and Thou Shall not Kill are biggies here) and the child then writes (my preschool ager traces) it.  When they break a commandment, my children are reminded that they are not only breaking our house rules, but God's as well; it is a sin.  They are reminded that sin hurts us all (the perpetrator, the victim, our whole family, and worst of all God).  They ask forgiveness from their sibling as well as God. 
I have attached our house rules if you are looking for a starting point.
House Rules

I recently read a great article in the Sunday Visitor that I hope to share wisdom from soon.  Here is the link to this GREAT wisdom for parents like us...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Virtue Scripture Passages for Children

Each week our children learn a scripture passage for virtue and memory work.  We review old ones and work on a new one during breakfast.  The verse becomes copy work on Friday.  I add new verses as they cross my path.  If you know of any other good ones, please feel free to share...  So many pearls of wisdom in the Holy Bible, for old and young alike!  :)
Daily Scripture Passages for Virtue, Memory, and Copy work

Monday, April 9, 2012

Adult Skills Classes for your TJED'er

After each of our children has received their First Holy Communion, they may begin their preparation for adulthood. Below is a list of opportunities they have, enabling them to grow into the person God has created them to become.   They simply need to let Mom and Dad know when they’d like to begin one or more of these opportunities and we will happily discuss the requirements, understanding that some of these may take several years to finish.

Adult Skills
(This list will continue to grow as we grow in our home school).
1. Baking
2. Meal Preparation / Planning
3. Grocery Shopping
4. Household Cleaning
5. Gardening
6. Yard Maintenance
7. Landscaping
8. Shopping
9. Auto Maintenance
10. Cooler Maintenance
11. Furnace Maintenance
12. Sewing
13. Safety (fire, people, chemicals, electricity, natural gas)
14. Wood Working
15. First Aid
16. Tutoring Children
17. Mentoring
18. Youth Ministry – Catechesis
19. Prep for Seminary / Sisterhood (Vocations preparation)
20. Physical Education
21. Pet ownership / care
22. Computer literacy
23. Computer (Web) Development
24. Blogging
25. Gaming Development
26. Construction
27. Electrical (circuit box, outlet installation, etc.)
28. Tool Safety (identification and use)
29. Floor installation (carpet, wood, laminate)
30. Plumbing
31. Foreign Language (Latin, French, Spanish, Hebrew, etc.)
32. Small engine repair
33. Robotics
34. Journalism / Family Newsletter
35. Poetry
36. Authoring (story writing)
37. Business entrepreneurial ship
38. Starting a business
39. Business Management
40. Project Management
41. Running and creating a Fund Raiser
42. Political Activism
43. Cosmetology
44. Fashion Design
45. Money / Investing
46. Law / Debate

Programs / Experiences we’d like them to have
(This list will continue to grow as we grow in our home school).
1. Group leadership
2. Public speaking
3. Musical performance
4. Compose and create music
5. Foreign language
6. Creative art
7. Lead and participate in colloquia
8. Use parliamentary procedure
9. Create and run successful business
10. Budgeting (checking/savings/cash on hand)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part VIII, Conclusion
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

In Conclusion

St. Augustine stated, “To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance).  No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude).  It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).”[1]  Embracing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, is imperative for successful mothering and the sanctification of the domestic church.  Children emulate what they see and a temperate mother demonstrates how to control her body’s senses, appetites, and emotions.  A courageous mother shows her children how to continue to pick up their crosses in the face of adversity, while a just mother disciplines her children, teaching them to understand that every action has a social consequence.  Finally, the prudent mother is equipped with wisdom in order to respond to the daily unexpected scenarios that arise with children, testing all the facets of the cardinal virtues.  Understanding what the virtues are, however, is a completely separate gift from putting them into practice.  Mothers need to remember what Pope St. Leo the Great once said: “Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.”  Mothers must pray for the gifts of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance because that is just what they are, whether infused or acquired, they are gifts of God’s grace.  As Stephen Covey writes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: “Good families—even great families—are off track 90 percent of the time!  The key is that they have a sense of destination.  They know what the ‘track’ looks like.  And they keep coming back to it time and time again.”[2]  The road to acquiring the cardinal virtues in motherhood is a staggering uphill battle, but a virtuous mother never forgets the track, since she is raising little saints that she hopes to spend eternity with in Heaven.

[1] Catechism, 1809.
[2] Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, (New York, NY: St. Martins Griffin, 1997), 9.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part VII
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

On Temperance

Finally, comes the last cardinal virtue, temperance.  As regards the hierarchical arrangement of the cardinal virtues, justice and courage affect the good of many more people than temperance.[1]  Kaczor and Sherman point out, however, that “in ranking the virtues, as in ranking the accomplishments of people, one may be better than another in a certain respect but not in another respect.”[2]  While fortitude and temperance serve the preservation of the good, intemperance is more blameworthy than being cowardly, in regards to the object or motive matter.[3]  Fortitude often deals with overcoming the fear of something outside of one’s control, while temperance regards control over one’s own actions.  Temperance is distinguished from the other cardinal virtues in that it refers exclusively to the active man and his personal look at his condition, his vision, and his will.[4]
The Catechism defines temperance as the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods.[5]  The virtue of temperance, properly speaking, concerns not intellectual pleasures, but rather bodily pleasures, specifically man’s appetites in eating, drinking, and sexual activity.[6]  In varying degrees, however, temperance also perfects the affective emotions of love, desire, joy, hatred, aversion, and sadness.[7]  Pieper explained St. Thomas Aquinas on this point: “the primary and essential meaning of temperare, therefore, is this: to dispose various parts into one unified and ordered whole,” while the second meaning of temperance is “serenity of the spirit,” inner order.[8]  Temperance is a virtue because man’s inner order is not a simply given and self-evident reality.[9]  Pope John Paul II further explained: “In our ‘lower self’, our ‘body’ and everything that belongs to it is expressed: its needs, its desires, its passions of a sensual nature particularly. The virtue of temperance guarantees every man mastery of the ‘lower self’ by the ‘higher self,’” control of passions so they do not prevail over reason, will, and even the “heart.”[10]
A mother’s control over her eating, drinking, and sexual activity might not seem to affect her parenting in the same quick-witted way that the practice of prudence does, but a temperate mother serves as an indispensible example of control to her children.  Kaczor and Sherman reinforce this logic: “The person who acts as if one or a combination of fleshly goods were the greatest good deprives himself (and the community) of full sharing in authentic human happiness.”[11]  We can only begin to imagine how an immoderate practice of eating, drinking, or sexual activity could destroy peace in the home.  In regards to eating, Pieper stated that fasting is the medicine, the discipline, the inner order of virtue by which the turbulence of sensuality is kept in check, which thus liberates the spirit.[12] 
St. Thomas understood that the pleasures of touch such as eating are “most natural to us, so that it is more difficult to abstain from them, and to control the desire for them.”[13]  Fasting helps a person to be more truly free.  St. Thomas wrote that “fasting is useful as atoning for and preventing sin, and as raising the mind to spiritual things.”[14]  Although fasting is difficult Kaczor and Sherman note numerous ways that this virtue can be acquired every day:
Opportunities to practice temperance abound and are as common as every meal.  Through small, everyday acts of self-mastery, the excellence of temperance becomes second nature.  Bishop Fulton J. Sheen recommends: “At least three times a day, deny yourself some tiny, legitimate pleasure, such as that…second drink, or the extra lump of sugar, in order to discipline your spirit and keep mastery over yourself for the love of god.”[15] 

Simply put, occasionally eating a toddler’s portions for instance, if done with a cheerful heart, has a healing power.[16]  St. Peter warns that mankind should “join fasting with knowledge” (2 Pet 1:5, 6).  St. Thomas expounded upon this saying that “in abstaining from food a man should act with due regard for those among whom he lives, for his own person, and for the requirements of health.”[17]  For this reason, for example, pregnant and nursing mothers should be cautioned on their forms of fasting.  It is common to hear that “a mother always fasts,” but it is necessary to be careful with this phrase; it can be a false comfort.  As with all the others, there is a mean of this virtue.  Motherhood has so many seasons that it calls for a constant reassessment of the call to fast.  For example, if a mother is pregnant or breastfeeding, she should eat enough to ensure her and the child’s health. 
The Church recognizes that each Friday is a special day of fasting.  In memory of Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday, mothers can decide with their families what they are going to abstain from, whether it is meat or dessert, etc.  Mothers can also model temperance as applied to the manner in which they teach their family to eat.  St. Thomas noted that it is inordinate to eat “hastily” or “greedily.”  Your family should not forestall the proper time for eating or fail to observe the due manner of eating.[18] 
            Beyond fasting, sobriety, and chastity, there are also quasi-integral virtues of temperance.  In this discussion we begin to see just how interconnected the cardinal virtues are.  Above, under the virtue of fortitude it is mentioned that anger is an emotion perfected by fortitude, however, anger in varying degrees, is also a virtue perfected by temperance at a secondary level.  Josef Pieper devotes a chapter in The Four Cardinal Virtues to the “power of wrath.”  St. Thomas Aquinas stated that “wrath is the strength to attack the repugnant [i.e. the vices against fasting, sobriety, chastity, and beyond]; the power of anger [whether in thoughts, words, or deeds] is actually the power of resistance in the soul.”[19]  One who is by bodily temperament disposed to anger is more readily angered and likewise their children.[20]  In other words, Pieper wrote that moderate anger is more easily and frequently hereditary.[21]  A mother practiced in tempering her anger is then more readily available to aid her children in acquiring this virtue as well.  Anger can be a grievous sin especially since it leads to things that are harmful to one’s neighbor.[22]  Quoting another, St. Thomas points out: “he that is angry without cause shall be in danger; but he that is angry with cause shall not be in danger: for without anger, teaching will be useless, judgments unstable, crimes unchecked.”[23]  Kaczor and Sherman explain, however, that although anger can be worse than intemperance because more people may be injured, intemperance is more blameworthy because it is more fully voluntary arising from pleasure than sadness as that of an angry person.[24] 
It is the duty of a mother, to check her anger in regards to the actions of her children in order to discipline her children that they understand how to image God.  St. Thomas explains: “the order of reason in regard to anger may be considered in relation to the mode of being angry, namely that the movement of anger should not be immoderately fierce, neither internally nor externally; and if this condition be disregarded, anger will not lack sin, even though just vengeance be desired.”[25]  Again, comparable to the virtue of fortitude, mothers can become temperate and masters of themselves only through a mildness and gentleness, similar to patience.[26]
Ultimately, in order to acquire the virtue of temperance, as with all the virtues, Christians can turn and pray to Mary, the Queen of Virtues; perhaps in studying her virtues mothers may humbly imitate a small portion of her contemplative nature.  Mary was the model of tranquility and serenity in regards to all things related to temperance.  Mary understood in a very profound way that if she injured her body, she injured Christ, the Lord of our bodies.[27]  Mothers can also heed and seek to obtain the “integral parts of temperance: shamefacedness (healthy fear of doing what is wrong) and honesty, as well as the already mentioned “subjective parts” or species of temperance: abstinence, sobriety, and chastity.[28]  In other words, temperance also requires studiousness, modesty, and self-mastery: purity of the eyes, memory, and imagination.[29]  Pieper wrote: “it has been said that only the pure of heart can laugh freely and liberatingly.  It is no less true that only those who look at the world with pure eyes can experience its beauty.”[30] 
Followers of Christ are called to become like children in order to experience the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Mothers are not only called to teach purity to their children, but also to learn from the purity of their children.  Children also teach mothers that living for Heaven requires extraordinary patience, humility, and a high threshold for discomfort, as Scott Appleby states, “God’s reign coaxes from us a lifestyle open to suffering of a kind which our children exact from us daily, hourly.”[31]  Children educate their mothers, and show them their shocking capacity for unconditional love (charity) the greatest virtue on which all the virtues rely. 

[1] Ibid, II, II, 141, 8.
[2] Kaczor and Sherman, 311.
[3] Pieper, 125; Aquinas, II, II, 142, 3; Kaczor and Sherman, 316.
[4] Pieper, 147.
[5] Catechism, 1809.
[6] Kaczor and Sherman, 297 & 302.
[7] Torraco, Part B, 2-2 & 3-3.
[8] Pieper, 146-147.
[9] Ibid, 148.
[10] Pope John Paul II, General Audience, November 22, 1978, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1978), [accessed October 2, 2010].    
[11] Kaczor and Sherman, 45.
[12] Pieper, 182.
[13] Aquinas, II, II, 141, 7.
[14] Ibid, II, II, 147, 3.
[15] Kaczor and Sherman, 309.
[16] Pieper, 183.
[17] Kaczor and Sherman, 319.
[18] Aquinas, II, II, 148, 4.
[19] Pieper, 193.
[20] Aquinas, II, II, 156, 4.
[21] Pieper, 196.
[22] Aquinas, II, II, 156, 4.
[23] Ibid, II, II, 158, 1.
[24] Kaczor and Sherman, 395.
[25] Aquinas, II, II, 158, 2.
[26] Pieper, 195; Kaczor and Sherman, 404.
[27] Pieper, 156.
[28] Kaczor and Sherman , 298-299.
[29] Ibid, 316.
[30] Pieper, 167.
[31] Scott Appleby, “’Suffer the Children’: The Education of the Christian Parent.”  Communio, Summer, 1988.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

5,480 Wounds Jesus Endured During His Passion

This is a wonderful video tribute to Blessed John Paul II.  It is set to the song 5,480 (How many knew) by Paul Linsey. 

Pope John Paul II Tribute from maxtmh on GodTube.

As Saint Bridget for a long time wanted to know the number of blows Our Lord received during His Passion, He one day appeared to her and said:  "I received 5480 blows on My Body.  If you wish to honor them in some way, say 15 Our Fathers and 15 Hail Mary's with the following Prayers (which He taught her) for a whole year.  When the year is up, you will have honored each one of My Wounds."  Click here for prayers.

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part VI
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

On Fortitude

Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good.  By its nature fortitude also perfects the spirited emotions of hope, courage, fear, despair, and anger.[1]  In other words, fortitude gives the ability to resist temptation, overcome obstacles, conquer fear, and face trials and persecutions.  It is a resoluteness of mind to endure any kind of danger, endure any suffering.[2]  Pieper wrote that human fortitude realizes this essential image: “man accepts insecurity; he surrenders confidently to the governance of higher powers; he ‘risks’ his immediate well-being; he abandons the tense, egocentric hold of a timorous anxiety.”[3]
One of the first examples Pope John Paul II drew upon in his 1978 General Audience on fortitude is the courage a mother experiencing difficulties with an already large family has in rejecting advice to end her pregnancy, and how she recognizes the sacredness of her pregnancy in doing so.[4]  Although familiar, this is an extreme circumstance.  There are countless heroic acts of fortitude, “little deaths” in motherhood known only to the mother’s conscience and God.  These little sacrifices could be as simple as waking up with a smile on your face for your children, gifts of love from God, after an interrupted night’s sleep, or cleaning up the spilled beverage for the third time with a joy in serving.  Kaczor and Sherman wrote that “small acts of goodness lead to more, and eventually a stable disposition to seek what is truly good.”[5]  Mother’s learn to die to self, a form of “white martyrdom.”[6]  They learn to temper and tame their emotions.  Kaczor and Sherman explain that “passions such as anger, fear, or desire are not considered in a general way good or evil.  Once a passion is brought into human action, however, this act of reason and will, though motivated by passion, has a character of good or evil.”[7]  The passions call for “neither praise nor blame” but, for example, being overly angry to an unreasonable degree may be blameworthy.[8]  While on the other hand, St. Thomas discussed how anger in action modified by reason can be found in a virtuous person.[9]  Anger brings about the realization of the need for discipline, which is indispensible in parenting.  When a mother is brave through anger, she makes a choice and acts steadfastly with purpose.[10]
St. Thomas wrote specifically about what is required of mankind to have the virtue of courage: the exercise of four related habits: magnanimity [confidence – not pusillanimity (shrinking back), or presumption (ambition, or vainglory)], magnificence (the ability to accomplish great things), patience (“suffering well” brings one to beatitude) and perseverance.[11] 

St. Thomas cites Scripture for an example of pusillanimity (Col. 3:21): “Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged."[12]  Kaczor and Sherman expound on St. Thomas’ writings that “pride may be at work when people maintain their (belittling)[pusillanimity] viewpoint of themselves, thereby not shouldering the duties that they are capable of carrying,” to be a father or mother to a large family, for example.[13]  Vocations such as this take magnanimity, not to be confused, however, with vainglory.  Living a virtuous life always requires a delicate balance, a finding of the mean of a virtue.  The second habit, magnificence, may help a mother to have the goal of raising her children to be holy and virtuous, while recognizing that any success she has is through the grace of God. 

The third required habit of fortitude is patience.  Patience requires a preparedness of the mind, an act of prudence.  Kaczor and Sherman remind us of how Jesus was the best teacher of patience.  “Knowing all things, he waited for others to learn.  Capable of all things, he himself grew in wisdom and stature as a human.  Aware of the future and end of all people, he nevertheless related to them in time as they were.”[14]  This is the patient understanding that a mother is called to.  Discussing this third habit, St. Thomas pushed the virtue of patience a step further to the necessity of humility.  “Now it belongs to fortitude of the mind to bear bravely with infirmities of the flesh, and this belongs to the virtue of patience or fortitude, as also to acknowledge one's own infirmity, and this belongs to the perfection that is called humility.”[15]  How often do parents know more than children, but do not humble themselves to patiently wait for them to learn?

St. Thomas discussed the final habit of fortitude, perseverance, as a special virtue since it consists in enduring delays in virtuous deeds so far as necessity requires.[16]  This means abandoning the vices opposed to perseverance: being headstrong, stubborn, or opinionated, wanting one’s own way rather than what is right. [17]  For this reason, Kaczor and Sherman note that “grace is especially important for perseverance.”[18]  Motherhood constantly asks mothers to persevere and work with their faults, educating them through prayer and with the graces that especially come through the sacraments, in order to be virtuous in the home.  Pieper stated that “endurance, not wrathful attack, is the ultimately decisive test of actual fortitude,” since the “uttermost strength of the good manifests itself in powerlessness.”[19]  As Pieper explains, the Gospel message of offering your other cheek when someone strikes you is not to be taken literally, but it signifies a readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse, without bitterness against the attacker.[20]  Christ did this on the cross; mothers do this, albeit to a lesser degree, every day in their homes. 

Ultimately, how can mothers acquire the cardinal virtue of fortitude?  God graces them with the first step in the right direction: the vulnerable state created by each new stage in motherhood with its host of questions and doubts.  Pieper noted, “without vulnerability there is not possibility of fortitude.”[21]  Christians are assured that if they ask God and pray to the Holy Spirit for patience or simply the virtue of fortitude in general, those prayers will be answered.  Pieper wrote that “The supernatural fortitude bestowed by grace, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, pervades and crowns all other ‘natural’ modes of Christian fortitude.”[22]  Acquired habits are perfected by God’s graced gift of hope: “hope for eternal life is properly a gift, and that without this gift there can be no such thing as truly Christian fortitude.”[23]  St. Thomas stated: “Hence it is not presumptuous for a man to attempt the accomplishment of a virtuous deed: but it would be presumptuous if one were to make the attempt without confidence in God's assistance.”[24] 

[1]Catechism 1808; Torraco, Part B, 2-3 & 3-2.
[2] Kaczor and Sherman, 227.
[3] Pieper, 138-141.
[4] Pope John Paul II, General Audience, November 15, 1978, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1978), [accessed October 2, 2010].    
[5] Kaczor and Sherman, 279.
[6] Ibid, 250.
[7] Ibid, 254.
[8] Aquinas, II, II, 125, 1.
[9] Ibid, II, II, 123, 10.
[10] Aquinas, II, II, 123, 10.
[11] Kaczor and Sherman, 227.
[12] Aquinas, II, II, 133, 1.
[13] Kaczor and Sherman, 285.
[14] Kaczor and Sherman, 287.
[15] Aquinas, II, II, 123, 1.
[16] Aquinas, II, II, 137, 1.
[17] Ibid, II, II, 138, 2.
[18] Kaczor and Sherman, 290.
[19] Pieper, 131.
[20] Pieper, 132.
[21] Ibid, 117.
[22] Pieper, 141.
[23] Ibid, 141.
[24] Aquinas, II, II, 130, 1.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tragedy in China

Shocking Photo Shows Baby Forcibly Aborted in China at 9 Months
by Steven Ertelt | Beijing, China | | 4/3/12 3:15 PM

"The one-child policy in China is coming under fire again and this time because of a shocking image of a baby who was a victim of a forced abortion at nine months of pregnancy submerged in a bucket of blood and water.
The web site Prison Planet originally reported on the shocking photo and says the baby was a victim of a forced abortion because the parents were already parents of another child and Chinese law prohibits most residents from having a second baby. Stories of forced abortions and sterilizations are very common and thousands of such abortions occur annually — sometime up to the last weeks before birth."


Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part V
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

On Justice
The Catechism defines justice as the constant and firm will to render to God and neighbor what is due.[1]  The word “jus” means “right” and indicates the right thing itself.[2]  Pieper wrote that “Through justice the will is applied to its proper act.”[3]  Applying the virtue of justice is a constant need and is gravely significant because as Josef Pieper stated, “Every external act is of social consequence.”[4]  For example, when we speak, we are heard, when we use something it is someone’s property.[5]  Fostering the cardinal virtue of justice helps humans gain confidence that their external acts are of good consequence, that they respect individual rights and the common good.  Justice is the fundamental principle of existence and coexistence in community here on earth.[6]  Ultimately, however, humanity’s hunger for justice, insatiable here on earth, turns us to God who “is justice itself.”[7] 

Applying the cardinal virtue of justice to motherhood is not as straightforward as the application of prudence to the maternal role.  Pieper quotes St. Thomas on the subject:
“Justice properly speaking demands a distinction of parties.”  Because father and child are not entirely separate individuals, because the child, instead, belongs to the father, and the father feels toward the child almost as he feels toward himself, “so between them there is not a simpliciter iustum, the just, simply,” not justice in the strict sense.  Because the loved one is not properly “someone else,” there is no formal justice between those who love each other.[8]

Although there is no formal justice between a mother and her children, there are many ways to attain the virtue of justice in the home, especially in regards to the virtues categorized under justice.  Mothers can teach their children justice by following the Ten Commandments, tithing, demonstrating the importance of obedience, and teaching their children to be just citizens.  Teaching a child to be just can be as simple as writing a thank-you note or telling someone “thank you” in person; this is an important moral act according to St. Thomas.[9]

Pieper writes that “in the affairs of the world, everything depends on the rulers’ being just.”[10]  In a sense this phrase could easily be reworded for present purposes as “in the affairs of the [home], everything depends on the [parents’] being just.”  Christopher Kaczor and Thomas Sherman, S.J. authors of Thomas Aquinas on the Cardinal Virtues, give several examples of what the virtue of justice looks like in motherhood: it allows one to act with joy and ease and does not give too much liberty to the children in the wrong situations so that they might become evil.[11]  For instance, another virtue connected with justice is vengeance.  As St. Thomas says, vengeance outside the order of divine appointment usurps what is God’s and is sinful.[12]  Kaczor and Sherman expound upon this and note that parents have due authority to raise their children properly.  It is a parent’s duty to care for, love, and educate their children in knowledge and character, and they can train them with discipline or due punishment.

The virtue of religion is another virtue St. Thomas connects with justice, and this virtue clearly lays out acts to be undertaken in the home.  Under the virtue of religion, it becomes clear that man can never be even with God, and children can never honor their parents, the ones who gave them the gift of life, enough.  Likewise, a parent should act in such a way that it is not difficult for their children to give them honor.  A mother should demonstrate the providential love of God to her children.  Kaczor and Sherman play out a wonderful example, observing that, if parents ask a child to “say please,” they remain before and after resolved to give the child something if she says please.  Likewise God gives mankind what He has promised them if they just ask in prayer: “Just as a mother works to better the child through making him use good manners in making requests, so too God intends our perfection through prompting us to commune with Him in prayers of petition.”[13]  Mothers need to ask for His help continually, because in doing so they “acquire confidence in having recourse to God” and “recognize in Him the Author of our goods.”[14]  Kaczor and Sherman describe what all mothers come to discover: “although God is the best and most worthy of our time and attention, there are circumstances when we should focus our immediate attention on other things, even though at these times God can remain our final end and the ultimate reason we do whatever we do.”[15]  For example, the seasons of motherhood which need to take into account the needs of the children (i.e. something as simple as diapering) could prevent or enable a mother to attend daily Mass.

Justice is the constant and firm will to render to God and neighbor what is due.  A mother’s actions affect her children; quite simply her behavior is reflected in their behavior.  Parents are the first and foremost teachers of the faith and its virtues for their children, but in return children teach their parents to perform morally good actions.  It may be discouraging when misbehavior is mirrored back at parents, but at the same time it is therapeutic.  St. Thomas Aquinas stated that, “The punishments of this life are medicinal rather than retributive.”[16]  The just man uses his goodness for himself but also for others to a higher degree than the brave or temperate man.[17]  For justice is not about man’s passions as are fortitude and temperance, but it is about man’s relations with another.[18] 

[1] Catechism, 1807.
[2] Kaczor and Sherman, 67.
[3] Pieper, 68.
[4] Ibid, 62.
[5] Ibid, 62.
[6] Pope John Paul II, General Audience, November 8, 1978, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1978), [accessed October 2, 2010].    
[7] Ibid.
[8] Pieper, 54.
[9] Kaczor and Sherman, 197.
[10] Pieper, 89.
[11] Kaczor and Sherman , 109 & 66.
[12] Aquinas, II, II, 108, 1.
[13] Kaczor and Sherman, 162.
[14] Aquinas, II, II, 83, 2.
[15] Kaczor and Sherman, 158.
[16] Kaczor and Sherman, 129.
[17] Pieper, 65.
[18] Kaczor and Sherman, 79.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part IV
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

On Prudence
St. Thomas Aquinas defines prudence as “right reason applied to action.”[1]  The Catechism further states that prudence guides the judgment of conscience.[2]  It perfects the mind so that it is able to discern the true good in all circumstances and to choose the right means of achieving it.  Prudence is also called “practical wisdom,” and being practical it must be carried out and lived.[3]  Prudence is the first and most important of the cardinal virtues.  It is the cause of the other virtues being virtues at all, as its “right reason” in regards to the moral life, measures and informs the other virtues.[4]  Mother Teresa summed this up when she said, “Thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity.”[5]
            Modern parent educators at work in the general public often use the buzz phrase “parenting in the moment,” in order to pinpoint and develop how caregivers parent on the spot, in the heat of the moment, when they could be quite possibly at their wits end.  Mothers everywhere are faced with this scenario countless times in a week, a day, or even an hour.  A key factor in succeeding at this parental transformation is missing from the secular vantage point: the cardinal virtue of prudence acquired not only through natural means but also supernatural means.  Josef Pieper, author of The Four Cardinal Virtues, stated prudence entails acting in the moment, “situation conscience” (solertia); a mother quickly wraps her mind around the unexpected situation and decides with extreme quick-wittedness and clear-eyed objectivity.[6]  Prudence is infused for the purpose of eternal salvation at Baptism, but this prudence is limited; there is a “fuller” prudence that is acquired and guides man in all matters relating to human life.[7]  Particularly helpful for mothers disciplining the same mischievous behavior under the pressure of a host of household tasks as Pieper states, is prudence’s special nature concerned with the realm of “ways and means” and down-to-earth realities.[8]  “Prudence as cognition” includes, most importantly, the ability to be still in order to attain objective perception of reality, and in addition, the patient effort of experience.[9]  Beyond the concept of practicing over time, how do mothers gain this virtue, where do they start?

St. Thomas Aquinas lists eight quasi-integral parts of prudence.  The first five: memory, understanding or intelligence, docility, shrewdness [quickly finding the middle term], and reason fall under prudence as cognitive virtues, while foresight, circumspection, and caution, command and apply knowledge to action.[10]  Second, Pieper, in summarizing Aquinas, states: “the attitude of ‘silent’ contemplation of reality: this is the key prerequisite for the perfection of prudence as cognition, which perfection in turn involves three elements, namely: memoria [memory], docilitas [the ability to take good advice], solertia [composed readiness for the unexpected].”[11]  The first Christian is a perfect guide.  Does not the Mother of God exemplify “the attitude of ‘silent’ contemplation”?  Mary’s countenance was contemplative although the events in her life were chaotic as she traveled nine months pregnant to Bethlehem, searched the crowds for her twelve-year-old Son, and knelt at the foot of the cross.  St. Thomas Aquinas stated that “man has a natural aptitude for docility [being taught] even as for other things connected with prudence. Yet his own efforts count for much towards the attainment of perfect docility [teachableness]: and he must carefully, frequently and reverently apply his mind to the teachings of the learned, neither neglecting them through laziness, nor despising them through pride.”[12]

Mary is the perfect example and in the words of Blessed Mother Teresa she will help to “make your house – your family – another Nazareth where love, peace, joy and unity reign, for love begins at home.”[13] 

God also places countless others in a mother’s life, however, to prepare and inform her to practice prudence.  The Gospel message preaches virtuous living in the actions of holy mothers, but often in motherhood counsel is also needed.  This is a significant reason why there is the proliferation of mother’s sharing groups, especially since in the modern world it is not the norm to house extended family under one roof and have another mother figure just down the hall.  St. Thomas Aquinas states, “those who need to be guided by the counsel of others, are able if they have grace, to take counsel for themselves in this point at least, that they require the counsel of others and can distinguish good from evil counsel.”[14]  This perhaps explains why Pope John Paul II implored all of the faithful to pray that the Holy Spirit give us the gift of good counsel.[15]  Josef Pieper further develops Aquinas’ words:
There is no way of grasping the concreteness of man’s ethical decisions from outside.  But no, there is a certain way, a single way: that is through the love of friendship.  A friend, and a prudent friend, can help to shape a friend’s decision.  He does so by virtue of that love which makes the friend’s problem his own, the friend’s ego his own (so that after all it is not entirely ‘from outside’).  For by virtue of that oneness which love can establish he is able to visualize the concrete situation calling for decision, visualize it from, as it were, the actual center of responsibility.  Therefore it is possible for a friend—only for a friend and only for a prudent friend—to help with counsel and direction to shape a friend’s decision or, somewhat in the manner of a judge, help to reshape it.[16]

For this reason the counsel of a prudent friend of the faith undertaking the same vocation of motherhood whether 100 feet or 1,000 miles away is priceless. 

A true friendship with God through prayer, modeling Mary and the prudent advice of other mothers, and turning to the grace of the Sacraments are indispensible in cultivating the cardinal virtue of prudence along with an on-going education of the conscience.  The cultivation of prudence then amounts to applying it to personal, living, experience.  Pieper stated that “desiring the good does not make a decision prudent; but real understanding and proper evaluation of the concrete situation of the concrete act does.”[17]  Mothers also need to know what prudence is not.  To be imprudent is to be thoughtless, indecisive, negligent, blind, and remiss in decision, and of course disobedient towards the commandments.[18]  It is to be overly anxious about temporal things over spiritual matters.

Finally, there are multiple ways to help people know that they are on the right path to acquiring the virtue of prudence.  Josef Pieper lists characteristics synonymous with prudence: being the filter of deliberation; purity, straightforwardness, candor, and simplicity of character, and standing superior to the utilitarian complexities of mere ‘tactics’.[19]  These mere ‘tactics’ in this case amount to the secular approaches of parent educators teaching parents how to “parent in the moment” without the virtue of prudence, without faith.  Josef Pieper also wrote that humans can “receive ‘practical’ assurance and reinforcement from several sources: from the experience of life as it has been lived; from the alertness and healthiness of the instinctive capacity for evaluation; from the daring and humble hope that the paths to man’s genuine goals cannot be closed to him; from rectitude of volition and of ultimate “intention”; from the grace of direct and mediated divine guidance.”[20]  And of course, mothers must remember that a “life of friendship with God must not be construed in the sense that it is immediately ‘given’ or realizable in smooth and ‘harmonious’ development.”[21]  Mothers understand that there are so many ‘seasons’ in life, the ebb and flow of parenting often parallels the hilly ascent towards the virtuous life.  Pieper reminds us of how intensely the great saints loved the ordinary and commonplace.[22] 

[1] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, [accessed October 10, 2010], II, II, 55, 3.
[2] Catechism, 1806.
[3] Kaczor and Sherman, 16.
[4] Pieper, 6 & 31.
[5] Mother Teresa, “God Had Sent the Family to Be His Love,” The Co-Worker Newletter, Spring/Summer, (Wauwatosa, WI: Family Life Council, Inc, 1989).
[6] Pieper, 9-13.
[7] Ibid, 14.
[8] Pieper, 11.
[9] Ibid, 13.
[10] Aquinas, II, II, 48, 1.
[11] Pieper, 14-17 & 22.
[12] Aquinas, II, II, 49, 3; Kaczor and Sherman, 31.
[13] Mother Teresa.
[14] Aquinas, II, II, 47, 14 ad 2.
[15] Pope John Paul II, “First General Audience of John Paul II,” General Audience, October 25, 1978, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1978), [accessed October 2, 2010].
[16] Pieper, 29.
[17] Pieper, 35.
[18] Ibid, 8 & 19.
[19] Ibid, 10.
[20] Ibid, 18.
[21] Pieper, 36.
[22] Ibid, 39.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part III
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

On the Cardinal Virtues
The theological virtues are the foundation of the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance which are also known as the moral, human, or hinge virtues because all other virtues are necessarily related to them.[1]  The cardinal virtues themselves are necessarily related to each other; they are so interconnected that one can not exist without the others.  For example, temperance needs fortitude, fortitude works for justice, and all the cardinal virtues rely on prudence.  In The Catholic Catechism, John A. Hardon, S.J. discussed the relationship of the cardinal virtues: “they are treated as special virtues, each occupied with its own proper type of situation, without denying that they overlap, or that one flows into the other.  Thus fortitude is temperate and brave, for a man who can contain his lusts can well control himself in danger of death; and if he can face death unflinchingly, he can also withstand allurements.”[2]

Although the cardinal virtues can be infused as a gift from God, the nature of this gift is limited to what is necessary for salvation.  However, Jesus called all human beings to perfection in His Proclamation of the Kingdom, and this perfection requires acquiring virtue through experience, time, repetition, and habit.  A virtue of this nature allows the mind to govern and train emotions.  Paralleling the differences between mothers with varying temperaments and natures, there are a variety of ways mothers can become accomplished in the virtues.  The journey through motherhood must be embraced, whatever it may entail, for it is sinful if a person does not acquire the virtues when they could have or should have.[3]  The Catechism states: “Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace.”[4]  To attain and maintain the cardinal virtues, mothers need to freely cooperate with the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Understanding and embracing the cardinal virtues is so important that they were the topic of Pope John Paul II’s first four General Audiences.  He was continuing the plan of the late Pope John Paul I who had first discussed the theological virtues in his General Audiences, and the primacy of the virtues in the prevalent talks of two vicars of Christ in the modern day should not be left unnoticed.  All the faithful, and most fundamentally mothers, who can claim the title of the first teachers of love to the tiny lives in their wombs, should take note of the importance the popes gave to learning and applying these virtues.  Mothers everywhere need firm attitudes, stable dispositions, and habitual perfections of intellect and will, especially in the heat of a parenting moment, and the key to this kind of self-mastery is acquiring the moral virtues. 

[1] Catechism, 1805.
[2] John A. Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1975), 198.
[3] Christopher Kaczor and Thomas Sherman, S.J., Thomas Aquinas on the Cardinal Virtues, (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press at Ave Maria University), 2009, 39.
[4] Catechism, 1810.