Just when you think you can’t get all the gift buying, food preparation and card writing done in order to be ready for Christmas, we light that pink candle on the Advent wreath that says persevere, Jesus is on the way! It is a reminder of the importance of Jesus being born in our hearts and that the love of Christ is born through us touching those around us. Persevere with a heart that is grateful and able to look at this season with the love that was intended. We must ready our hearts, but learn a lesson of perseverance as well.
Every night that we are not having pizza for dinner, one of my children will say, “Chicken, again, we have chicken every night!” Of course, we do not have chicken every night, but eating other things that are not pizza and new things does not go well for these children, but I still ask them to eat it. It would be very easy to feed them pizza every night, but I know that is not the right thing to do!
Perseverance! This is what we need help with as parents. It is so simple to take the easy road when it comes to healthy habits, setting limits and faith. I could feed them pizza every night, but I know that would be really bad for their health. I think of the reading from Luke 18, “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” Jesus goes on to tell the story of the persistent widow who finally got the decision she needed from the judge. It was her perseverance that paid off in the end.
According to the National Study on Youth and Religion (2008), when teens were asked, “If you could change anything about your family situation, what would it be?” What do you think the answer was? Was it “Have them stop nagging me?” or “I want a later curfew?” No, the answer, surprisingly, was “to become closer to my parents.” This research was compiled by Christian Smith in his books “Soul Searching” and “Souls in Transition.”
The question that followed that was “Why are you not close to them?” Teens answered, “I don’t know how to do it.”
Family life is very busy! I went back to work outside the house three years ago and it was hard to find time to connect with my children other than ordering them around to get homework done, help with the chores and drive them to the next activity. Dinners always seemed like a stressful time when they were younger, filled with lots of complaints about the meal itself and fighting among the siblings. I knew it was important for us to gather as a family, but I didn’t realize how important it was.
“Researchers found that family dinner gets better with practice; the less often a family eats together, the worse the experience is likely to be, the less healthy the food and the more meager the talk. But soon, “legends are passed down, jokes rendered, eventually the wider world is examined through the lens of a family’s values. In addition, younger kids pick up vocabulary and a sense of how conversation is structured. They hear how a problem is solved, learn to listen to other people’s concerns and respect their tastes.” (“The Magic of the Family Meal”, Time Magazine, June 4, 2006).
Perseverance! I have to say it has gotten easier! This is also how I think about going to Mass. The more we do it, the easier it gets over time. And the benefits are priceless. Mass affords time for the family to be together for one hour without a screen in our face, a time for quiet reflection, a time for forgiveness and repentance, a time to gather with others in community to support one another and most importantly a time to receive the Body of Christ. This is the food that sustains us throughout the week and helps us become as Matthew Kelly has coined it “the best version of ourselves”. What more could you want for your kids?
And the passage from Luke continues, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
There is a beautiful and interesting scene in the new movie “Gravity” where Sandra Bullock says that she wants to pray, but she doesn’t know how. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Passing on the Catholic faith to our children is not an easy thing to do in today’s society it takes perseverance! The studies show that youth that grew up in faith filled homes, whose parents passed on the faith, passed on in school and religious education programs, did better in life. Their grades were better, their lives had better outcomes. This is what the Year of Strong Catholic Parents is all about! Learning how to better pass on the faith to our children is what we need to focus on. The initiative Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth can help your parish become more family sensitive by presenting parents with the research from the National Study on Youth and Religion, surfacing the needs of the parents, and creating a Strong Catholic Family Parent Team to begin to meet the needs of the parents in the parish. The more the parents are supported, the more of a chance the faith will be passed onto the next generation. This initiative helps your parish to see that happen! For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 312-534-8391.