Rights and Obligations of Parents to Educate Their Children

Recently my wife and I attended a home schooling conference. To be honest, half the reason we went was because we had managed to talk my parents into staying with the kids so that we could get out of the house without the kids for the weekend. I think we have managed that twice since we have been married. Not that we don’t like taking the kids with us you understand, but sometimes you just need some adult time.

Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised by the conference. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking over the program before we went, and the first day we really just kind of wandered to whatever talk was going on at the moment, at random, still I learned a lot and was happy to be able to catch a talk by Patrick Madrid. I have enough other experiences to fill probably two other blog posts, but I mostly want to talk about the last talk that we attended. This talk was given by Mr. Phillip Gray a Canon Lawyer and member of the St. Joseph Foundation.

Much of this post is directly from the talk Mr. Gray gave on the last day of the conference. I did a good deal of digging once I got home, but without him, this post would not have been possible.

I really want to talk about this, because I think it is something a lot of parents, home schooling or not, face when dealing with sacramental preparation for their kids.

There are a lot of important documents here, most of which I will link in the text and at the bottom, but also two that I want to mention up front because they have special significance here and are very helpful, The Charter of the rights of the family (which is right on the Vatican’s website) and Responsibilities and rights of parents in religious education (which you can get from Seton for about $2)

So here are the basics:

It is the obligation of parents to educate their children. Not only in their faith, but also over all. You might remember saying so when your child was baptized. Something along the lines of:

You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?

It is the obligation of society (that includes, but is not limited to The Church) to provide support, and not hinder in any way that education. (See the Charter of the rights of the family.)

And it is the right of the parents to determine what societal support (again including but not limited to The Church) is right for them and their family and their children.

So what does all of this mean? I am going to limit my discussion to sacramental prep because with general education there are country/ state / county / and other governmental laws and regulations that come into play. You can learn more about that on the HSLDA website, and that is a whole other can of worms that I don’t want to get into. Since Sacramental Preparation is only regulated by The Church we can talk about that here.

As the parent you have the obligation to train your children in preparation for the sacraments. You, as the parent, have the right (not the obligation) to use whatever sacramental preparation program that your parish, diocese or even archdiocese offers.
The wording of that is important. That means that it is not the director of religious Ed, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop who gets to determine what religious Ed program, or sacramental preparation program you use for your child(ren).
They cannot make it a requirement that you use their program, no matter how great it is, how much work they have put into it, or how much they really want you too. More than that, they cannot have higher standards for your child, because your child didn’t use the program they recommended, than they would for a child who did use their program.

It also means that the director of religious Ed, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop does not have the authority, again going back to the Charter of Rights of the Family, over how your child is to be catechized, and in no way may any of them usurp the primacy of the authority of the family.

I do want to make it clear. It is the job of the Priest or in the case of Confirmation the Bishop to make sure that your child is in fact, prepared for the sacrament, but that does not mean that they can make it mandatory that you use their program, or that they hold your child to a higher standard because you didn’t use their program.

Pope Saint Pius X said that in order for a child to be prepared for Holy Communion they must ONLY be above the age of reason, and be able to tell the difference between regular bread and the Body of Christ. This right to salvation, supersedes the knowledge we like to impart.

See theCongregation for Catholic Education where they talk about the parents as the primary educators and these programs the teachers in the schools the pastor or whoever else, are secondary to the parents. This is also backed up by Charter of the rights of the family and further backed up by Can. 793 §1 – §2
Having said that I want to repeat that it is the priest’s responsibility to make sure that a candidate is prepared for the sacrament. For example:

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

“Or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise” Otherwise the candidate needs to meet the three other requirements. But note that one of those requirements is not that the candidate used the parishes program. Priests do need to be a filter to make sure that candidates are properly catechized, but they and as parents you also need to know what that means. Remember that it is the Church’s role is to assist parents in the education of their children. That is by divine law. Because the family is the primal unit of society, and it is The Church’s role support the family.

Alright, so that argument might get you past Reconciliation and First Holy Communion, but what about Confirmation. In the United states under the USCCB there is complimentary legislation that states that the bishop can determine an age for receiving confirmation.

USCCB: Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.

It might surprise you to know, that the above arguments also apply to these age requirements.

The Congregation for Catholic Education in the 1998 case said, “Such complimentary legislation must be interpreted with respect to the general laws of The Church, (Reference 889 §2.) This making the Diocesan norm is subordinate to the general norms governing the reception of the sacraments.”

In this case, and according to Mr. Gray, and the majority of the others the Vatican sided with parents, and the Bishop was told he needed to confer the Sacrament on the child.

The Congregation for Catholic Education also said in the same 1998 case,

“Sacred ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them are properly disposed and not prohibited from receiving them.
… Indeed, the longer the conferral of the sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for it’s reception but deprived of its Grace for a considerable period of time.

and in the Council of Trent:

[Page 58]

ON CONFIRMATION
CANON I.-If any one saith, that the confirmation of those who have been baptized is an idle ceremony, and not rather a true and proper sacrament; or that of old it was nothing more than a kind of catechism, whereby they who were near adolescence gave an account of their faith in the face of the Church; let him be anathema.

It is clear from these two that if you present your child for confirmation and you have properly catechized them and they are above the age of reason then they should be able to receive the sacrament. But what does Canon Law say about this?

Can. 843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

You can clearly see that Canon Law confirms both what the Congregation for Catholic Education and what the Council of Trent has said.

Did you know that Confirmation is supposed to come before Communion? If you have ever been to a Easter Vigil Mass when they bring in RCIA candidates and they do the confirmation before the holy communion. Believe it or not, that is the way it is supposed to happen. The doctrine of The Church states that the order of the Sacraments should be Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Communion. That is because confirmation completes baptismal Grace. Take a look at The Council of Trent.

ON THE SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL
CANON I.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.

And again quoting the Congregation for Catholic Education said in the 1998 case,

“Sacred ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them are properly disposed and not prohibited from receiving them.
… Indeed, the longer the conferral of the sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for it’s reception but deprived of its Grace for a considerable period of time.”

In conclusion, If you have instructed your child in the sacraments and they are properly prepared, then they can receive the sacraments. But what do you do if the religious Ed director, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop says no? It is laid out in canon law and is based on Mathew 18. If you have a problem with your brother, go to him. If he does not listen, take witnesses, if he still does not listen take him to The Church. That last step is where the St. Joseph Foundation comes in and can help you appeal your case.

You can learn more about the St. Joseph Foundation and how to contact them through their website

Lest you think that I am just reading into this what I want, here are most of the references to the original documents I have referenced above. I have linked to most of them in the text but in case you missed them or just want to get to them faster, here they are again:

The Code of Canon Law
The USCCB
Congregation for Catholic Education
Council of Trent
Council of Trent – The 7th session (where I pulled most of my information
Charter of the rights of the family (which is right on the Vatican’s website)
Responsibilities and rights of parents in religious education
St. Joseph Foundation
and the HSLDA website

 

Can. 793 §1. Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances.

§2. Parents also have the right to that assistance, to be furnished by civil society, which they need to secure the Catholic education of their children.

Can. 794 §1. The duty and right of educating belongs in a special way to the Church, to which has been divinely entrusted the mission of assisting persons so that they are able to reach the fullness of the Christian life.

§2. Pastors of souls have the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education.

Can. 795 Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.

And

Pope Saint Pius X said that in order for a child to be prepared for Holy Communion they must ONLY be above the age of reason, and be able to tell the difference between regular bread and the Body of Christ. This right to salvation, supersedes the knowledge we like to impart.

And

Can. 843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.
§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

USCCB:
Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.

Surprise – The New Bishop is Here.

bishop_salvatore_200(1)[1]If you have not followed me for a while, or are not a local you might not know about the troubles that the Rochester Diocese has been through in the last few decades. It has to be incredibly hard to be the bishop of a decent size Diocese, and especially one inn such a liberal area. Having said that, our previous bishop made some very questionable choices during his time in office. He even when so far as to detail some of them in his book, even saying that some of the things he was doing were against Church teachings.

Thankfully that Bishop has retired now, and the new Bishop has been put in place, The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano. Very recently (last week in fact,) it was announced that at least one of the changes made by the previous bishop has been reversed, lay men and women will no longer be giving homilies So there is some real hope that things will start to get back to the way they should be.

That being said, it is always nice to have a chance to meet the man himself. This weekend he surprised one of the parishes that we have been frequenting lately, with a visit to celebrate the installation of a new pastor.

I have to say, it was a thrill to see him in person, and to watch him celebrate Mass. The little details like during the procession, he took the time to walk to the rear of the church where there tabernacle is, and kneel before it, before he went up on the altar, and preforming the entire Mass himself instead of delegating the duties to the three other priests and two Deacons who were there, made all the difference in letting us know who he really is.

After Mass two really nice things happened. First, there was a brand new priest there. He is actually the son of one of the other NFP teaching couples in the area. As I was saying, after Mass our second son went up to talk to him, and before it was over, the new priest had given him a blessing. It turns out that it was the very first time he had ever given a blessing, so that was really neat. The second one was that the bishop stayed after Mass and met with everyone who wanted to talk to him. He talked to the kids, blessed the family and even my wife and the new little one. He talked to the kids about laundry, told them he does his laundry on Sunday afternoon, and asked them if they did their own laundry. Believe it or not, being able to talk to the kids about something so intergral to our lives meant a lot.

You would expect someone who has gotten to the level of Bishop to be able to give a good homily. Though I’ve seen some who really don’t. This was not the case for our new Bishop. He gave a very good homily, and I very much enjoyed hearing him talking about how we can’t separate ourselves from the world, instead how we must learn to live in it while keeping our Christianity. He talked about heeding the call to do what is being asked of us by God. He used himself and the new pastor as practical examples, saying both of them were happy, where they were. But when The Pope asked him to move to Rochester, and in turn he ask our new pastor to move to this parish, even though they had been happy with where they were, the came and they will serve in their new roles as they best they can.

In short, it was a very nice treat to have the Bishop show up for Mass.

For the Ones Who Don’t Make It Home

So have that beautiful wedding dress. Right now it is just hanging in your closet, and it will probably be out of date before your daughter is ready to get married.

But fear not. All is not lost. You can put that beautiful dress to a very good use again.

And I don’t mean wearing it to the store or just hanging around the house it in.

*** FAIR WARNING.THIS SUBJECT MIGHT VERY WELL BE HARD TO DEAL WITH ****

As it says in the warning, this is a pretty serious subject, so if you didn’t heed the warning, this might be your chance to bail out. I won’t be offended.

Ok you are still here? Good. Thank you.

Angel Gowns is a project helping parents and families of those babies who never get a chance to come home from the hospital. They take donations of wedding dresses, volunteers then make beautiful gowns for those precious little ones. Image-61-225x300[1]

I can tell you from experience that having things like this available, a gown, someone to come in and take pictures of our little one, and other support from NICU helping hands .org were invaluable.

I am making a very personal request here. In these modern times when infant mortality is very low, we don’t like to talk about these things, but they do happen, and then they do, the parents and families need your help. If you can donate to a group like this, if you have a wedding dress that is just hanging in your closet, consider donating it to Angel Gowns. If you are a photographer, consider donating your services to <a href="“>Now I lay me Down to Sleep. And take a moment to check out these sites and see if there is anything you can do.

Thank you.

Again those links are:
Wedding Dress Donation: Angel Gowns
Photography: <a href="“>Now I lay me Down to Sleep.
Other support Options: NICU Helping Hands .org

The Sinner’s Guide To Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher – A Review

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family PlanningThe Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning By Simcha Fisher.

This book came highly recommended, so when one more person recommended it to me, I decided that it was time to get a copy. Well actually two copies, since the deal right now is if you buy the hard copy you get the kindle version for free. That worked out really well since my wife prefers hard copy and I prefer e-copy.

I should start this review by saying my wife and I have been practicing NFP for more than 14 years, and we have been teaching it for just over 13 years. So while I was excited about reading this book, we have some experience in helping people who have questions about the why’s and the where’s and the hows of NFP. We have heard many of the complaints, promises and hype about it. We have lived a lot of the pains and joys of it as well. And in the last few years we have gotten rather tired and probably jaded by all of the sunshine and unicorns side that you see most of the time.

This book, is not one of those sunshine and rainbows, puppies and kittens. Well maybe it is because, as anyone who has ever had a puppy or a kitten will tell you, that while they are super cute and there are some great benefits to having one, they can also be a pain. Ruined floors and furniture, torn up shoes, walks in the middle of the night that and unexpected puddle that gets your socks wet right after you turn the lights off.

So on with the review. This books starts with a disclaimer. This book will not teach you NFP. It will not tell you about all the different methods, it will not even tout one version of NFP over all the others. It won’t tell you about the dangers of using artificial birth control. So if that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you.

After the disclaimer, the first few chapters are about the realities of living with NFP. Why you might choose it, and some of the common arguments. And I enjoyed reading about them. Even though I knew it was the case already it was good to hear that other people struggle with using NFP as well. The chapters on why, biologically speaking, the struggle can be so darn hard was especially nice to see.

For a long time my wife and I called ourselves the NFP dropouts. After reading this book, the title no longer seems all that appropriate. While my wife says she already kind of knew this, believe it or not, outside of class, guys really don’t talk about these things. So it was nice to see that there are other couples out there that are just as much “dropouts” as we are.

I have only given this book three stars. And all three stars are for the first half to two thirds of this book. the last third of the book deals with, well, it deals with sex. Ok NFP is about sex. Not entirely, a good portion of what NFP is about is learning to listen to and interpret your wife’s body, in order to help prevent or to achieve a pregnancy. But that is just a start. NFP is about respect and love and intimacy that extends way beyond the bedroom.

While I suppose it was good information to get out there, and as one of the reviewers pointed out, that normally you would only find this kind of information in a very intimate conversation with a close friend, some times it would be good to keep more of that information to those close intimate conversations.

I am a prude. I will admit it. But, I am a prude who is willing to talk about just about anything in a one on one conversation. We have had couples ask us some of the questions that were handled in the last third of this book. So it is not that the subjects are “off limits” or something. The problem I had with this section of the book, was that it was no longer a close personal intimate conversation. If I had not been laying on the bed right next to my wife, I would have been really uncomfortable reading this. After all, if I were talking about this kind of stuff, I would have her there with me, so if I were reading it I would need to be sitting right next to her, even with that, I was glad she finished the book before me so that she knew what it was that I was reading. To say it made me uncomfortable would be an understatement. While I know there are those that would disagree with me, I feel that some conversations are best left to intimate situations when both the husband and wife are involved. So while I appreciate the effort Mrs. Fisher made in getting this information out, I kind of wish she hadn’t. As it stands by the time I was finished with this section of the book, I was soured on the whole thing, and really had to try hard to put my feelings aside to write anything positive about the book at all.

My last comment on this book is this. Who am I to say one person’s writing style is better or worse than another. So I want to make it clear that, that is not what I am saying. I know that Simcha has a very personal and rather informal style of writing. I do like her style for most of the things that she writes, but some things require a more formal style. I think if some of the subjects that I found uncomfortable were written with a less irreverent and a more formal style they would have been easier to deal with.

If you are struggling with NFP and feel like you are all alone out there, and if all you are hearing from the people around you is the puppies and rainbows side of it, this is likely a great book for you. If you have been using NFP for long enough that you know that it is a struggle and that there are other people out there like you, this book might be just more of what you already know. At best it will be an affirmation, at worse it will make you uncomfortable if your not reading it with your spouse.

View all my reviews

Since you know what I think about it, and you know my wife read it as well, here is her review.

Happiness and Trepidation

baby[1] a Few days ago my wife and I made kind of an announcement, and I am just getting around to writing about it. We always love sharing the news about our little babies, but this announcement came with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.





First, let’s start with the happy part. HEY everyone we are having a baby! We are so very excited about it. We wanted to shout it from the roof tops. So there we were yesterday shouting it from the highest roof top we know (Facebook.) We showed the picture to the kids. As a small aside, it is wonderful to see how many of them saw the ultrasound and not only knew what that meant, but also could pick out the baby. They were all very excited. The only concern we got from the kids was from our oldest. He asked, “does this mean I am going to have to learn to drive an even bigger van?”

I love babies. Not just my own but other people’s as well. If we are at a function were people have kids, you are likely going to find me holding one. I love100_4923 being dad. Some days my head feels like it is going to explode if I get one more question about why, why, why, or a child who does not want to do their school work, but at the end of the day I know that despite the headache, despite the piles of laundry that I still need to fold and have the children dump back into their hamper because they don’t want to put them away, this is why I am here. I love being a dad. I love being with the kids, wrestling, playing, building train tracks, drinking imaginary tea and eating imaginary cookies. I love teaching them new things and practicing the old, and over all just watching them become the people, that I know they will be.

100_4958So why, with all this joy, do I also have trepidation and sometimes even abject fear? Let’s start with the simple answer, it is a new life a new and precious, and fragile life, and I am not as sure of myself as I once was about these things. Despite all our medical knowledge and all the prayers, there is danger involved here, both for the new baby and mom. But let’s not focus on the big things.

How about the questions. As you probably know, this is baby # 11 for us. That is a pretty big number. Big enough that people, even good Catholic families, tend 2013-12-31 18.45.52to give you side ways glances, and ask you questions like How did this happen? Sometimes I actually look forward to these questions now, because I feel like I am prepared for them, usually because it is an opportunity to practice my snarky responses. But some times the questions come from people you didn’t expect. Sometimes even the people you expect to be supportive really aren’t and that is some times hard to deal with.

Some of the questions aren’t like that though. Some of them are just questions, but they hurt none the less. No matter how carefully they are asked. For example, my wife’s doctor’s nurse, a wonderful woman who is very caring and supportive had some background questions to ask, and the conversation went like this.

“How many pregnancies have you had?”
*My wife counting on her fingers* “15.”
“How many living children?”
“9.”

See, a simple question asked with respect and dignity and yet, it hurts. It is not because it was wrong of her to ask or anything, just hard to think about those babies that we will never get to hold.

So yes, while I am very excited, I am fearful. I am uncertain about my own abilities. We debated for a while if we were going to tell any one other than our very closest friends and those people who needed to know. (The God parents for example.) I was all for sending out birth announcements as a way of letting most people know. But my wife did something that reminded me that this is a reason to be joyful. She started telling people. She started telling them and letting them know how happy we were. And we are, and I am. So welcome to the world my little one. We can’t wait to meet you.
– Love Dad

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

This post was inspired by post a Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace


doorsKevin Cummings was one of the first people I met online. Even well before I got to know him (and I still don’t really know him I just like to think that I do.) I knew I liked this guy. He used to run a podcast called Short Cummings Audio. Short humor essays that he called Life — In Funny, Six-Minute Slices. I got his sense of humor, and that meant to me a lot.

As I talked with him several times I felt like I got to know him. Turned out he was Catholic and a father and well, just an all around nice guy. So when he started a new website called Seminarian Parents. I was interested. For a lot of reasons, but one in particular, my oldest son and maybe one of his younger brothers are discerning a calling to the priesthood. The blog is about the personal journey, both as a parent and a fellow Catholic from “mere mortals” to priesthood, and about the journey the rest of the family is taking around him.

A couple of days ago he published the article linked here. When I saw the article I knew I needed to share it with people. But I knew that I also wanted to say something about it. I want to try not to take any thing away from what Kevin has said here. I think he has some pretty important things to say on this subject, but I wanted to add to it.

I think very few people seek out a vocation. They look for jobs and friends and, do what feels right at the time. But a vocation is something completely different. Kevin Actually already wrote a piece on vocation that does a better job than I can of defining what vocation is. But in short it is about your life’s work. What it is that you are going to do with your life. That is so much more than just your job.

Like Kevin says in his post, Marriage is a vocation, albeit one that a lot of people don’t take seriously any more, but a vocation none the less. It is, in truth no less of a commitment than someone entering the priesthood. Priest’s make sacrifices to be a priest, and married people make similar but different sacrifices to be married. They are vocations, and they both require a high level of commitment. They both require a level of sacrifice.

When I was younger, after I was engaged to my wife, I thought maybe I heard the calling to the priesthood. I remember those questions swirling in my head. “Am I ready for that level of commitment?” And it hit me that even though I was only engaged at the time, I was because I was already talking about that level of commitment with someone else. It was not the level of commitment that turned my mind from one vocation to another, because while they are both different, they are both life long commitments.

I appreciate the priests who we know, and have made this wonderful choice to be priests. We actively encourage our children to look at religious life as a real choice and to pray so that if they hear that calling them they might be ready to answer it. We also try to teach them that marriage is the same kind of vocation, and requires the same kind of sacrifices, and requires the same kinds of prayer to discern.
Thank you Kevin for such a great post about opening up to Grace.

This post was inspired by a post Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

Fathers in the background – St. Joseph

st_joseph_the_carpente-242x300
Over the years I have given a lot of thought to fatherhood. I remember when I was in 7th grade, and I was reading Bill Cosby’s book Fatherhood. At the time my lab partner teased me about the book asking if I was going to be a father or something? Of course at that moment I said no. No, I don’t think I was looking at fatherhood way back then but it was a pretty funny book.

The truth is that even with such dubious role models as Bill Cosby, Tim (the Tool Man) Taylor, Michael Keaton and Ray Barrone I was pretty sure that I did want to be a father even then, just not yet.


*** I think that I should stop for a moment here and say that I don’t think of myself as a great father. I don’t even think of myself as a particularly good father. This is not one of those, “Look how good a dad I am” posts. I am just a dad who is trying to figure things out as I go.

I think despite the questionable role models, or the lack of good role models on TV, I still wanted to be a father. I still wanted to have kids of my own. Why? Well I am not sure, but I did.

Over the last few months, St. Joseph has become my hero. He really should have been all along but what can I say, I am kind of slow learner. For me it all kind of started with the little youtube video that always shows up around Christmas. You know the one. (Yes, it is a little silly, but the video is a beautiful reminder of what they faced together and how it would translate in our world.)
The important part to me starts right about 1:13 when friends of Joseph start to question what is going on. We don’t all face the same things that St. Joesph did in bringing a child into the world. We don’t face God being the father of our children, but we all do face a fair amount of uncertainty. One of those uncertainties, will be the people that we count among our friends before we have children. Some of whom will question our choices, and some, as happens to Joseph at 1:54 when 23 people un-friend him, some of them will abandon us altogether. Looking back at it now I say, good let them go, I remember how that felt. And I am not saying it is going to be easy.

stjoesephThat is another lesson learned from St. Joseph, some times being a father really isn’t easy. A personal example of that, one day before our eldest son was born we were told there was something wrong. So we had to drive over the mountains to Denver, and then once he was born. Because of a health condition we couldn’t go home again. It was a trying time, but that is nothing compared to what the Holy family had to deal with. They had to leave home and to go to a crowded city, where there was no place for them. Once they get there, having their baby be born in a stable. Then in the middle of the night being told, by an Angel, that you have to leave now. Not to go home, but go even further away to Egypt. It was a good thing that Joseph was a carpenter and could find work just about anywhere.

That brings me to the reason I chose the title for this post. Most of the time, in today’s society if you see a father portrayed at all, he is portrayed as a bumbling idiot, who some how manages to make money so his family can survive. He is often in trouble, with either his wife and some times his kids, and normally is the laughing stock for all of us. Yes, these are sitcoms, but are there really any good father figures on TV anywhere else?

In this we could all take a lesson from St Joseph. It is a hard lesson to learn especially in today’s culture, Being a good father is not about being the center of attention. It is not about your friends, either the ones who have stuck with you, or the ones that have abandoned you. Even when St Joseph probably had something to say it was not recorded. And yet he was still an effective father.

While it is unclear when he died, it is generally accepted that St Joseph died before Jesus was very old. Despite that, he spent enough time with him, teaching him and being a father to him, that when he did die Jesus and Mary were able to survive on the skills learned from his father. And yet, we never really hear about that. We don’t have any records or youtube videos of the afternoons spent in the shop working. We don’t have any accounts of Joseph spending time with his son, teaching how to play ball, or fix the house up or use the tools. We have to assume that he was an effective teacher because Jesus was also known as a carpenter, and known to be good to his mother.

So Today I think about St. Joseph. He is the role model that I want to follow. I hope that I am managing to do a good job of it, but I am likely not anywhere near as effective as he was.

A Father’s Prayer for His Children

Saint Joseph, I come to you with my concerns for the welfare of my children. I recall your anxiety when, to your surprise and Mary’s, Jesus was not among your relatives and friends on your return from Jerusalem. I too worry about my children. Many dangers surround the youth of today. Sometimes, in my loving concern for them, I may seem to them to be difficult or even harsh. Help me to remove the barriers that may come between my children and myself. I love my children and desire good and wholesome things for them. Good Saint Joseph, watch over my children and inspire me to know how to speak and act in love. Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for me. Amen.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the Virgin;
loving the Child Jesus as your Son,
you rescued Him from the danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.

Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials.
May your prayers obtain for us
the strength to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the crown of victory.
Amen.

I Herd That

DSC02308Recently I read a post by one of my friends and co-founders of Flying Island Press, Zachary Ricks called Going Straight. Before you read on, I am going to ask you to go read his post, most of what I am about to say is not going to make sense unless you do.

Ok you read it right?

No?

I’ll wait.

We’re good now right?

Before I get into this two deep let me say two things.

First, my farming experience has come as an adult. I don’t think it lessens it, but it does make it different. My experience is also on a much smaller scale, you might call it hobby farming, heck you might even call what I am doing just goofing around. Whatever you want to call it, it is different than what he has experienced.

Second, I am going to use some humor here. I am not in anyway meaning to lessen the message that Mr. Ricks is sending. He has a good message here and I am hopefully going to add to it and not take away from it. We are both using the farming metaphor to describe life, and well that just lends itself to some pretty humorous things. Not the least of which is the idea of two “old men” arguing about which kind of farming is a better metaphor for life.

Mr. Ricks starts with the premise that if you are going to get anywhere in life, if you want to reach your goals you need to look straight ahead and plow your rows straight by keeping your eyes on your goal. If you do then you will make nice straight lines. While I was reading this, I could not help but think about the very small amount of “creating rows” I have done. First, I will say that I have never done this with a tractor. All of our farming has been done by hand. The biggest power tiller that you can rent from your local supply store is the largest piece of equipment that I have used on our farm. That being said the tiller (and yes I know that is different than disking and that is different than plowing but hey I gotta start somewhere) I have used on the 3+ acres that we messed with this year, yanked me around until I was sore even after days of trying to pick the rocks out of the soil, and I never had anything that looked like a straight line. When we went back and use the furrower the story was much the same. Then we had a string guiding us and I was still all over the place. I guess it does not mean that we had a bad field, just that we had one that didn’t have straight lines as hard as we tried. So while I like the idea of keeping your eyes on the end of the field and getting straight to your goals, it is not something I really have any experience with.

Well one of the reasons that we make straight lines in our fields is that we want to be able to use equipment in helping us to continue the growing process. We want to have it help us spray the crops to keep the weeds down and of course water. If your lines aren’t straight, then when you run your equipment through you’re going to run over some of your crops.

What does this have to do with life? Simple. If you don’t keep your eyes on where you are going and keep your “lines straight” you are going to have a hard time later, some of the work that you did in the past will get lost, because you didn’t do it in the right order, or it was off track. You might even waste time redoing things because you didn’t understand enough to have done it right in the first place. You might find yourself at the end of the field, (the end of a project) only to realize that you plowed the wrong field. These are very real dangers, and very good reasons for keeping your eyes on your final goal.

Crew_working_DSC02345While I don’t have any experience plowing and making strait rows, one of the things that I do have some experience in, is herding animals and pulling weeds. For me, while the idea of keeping your eyes on your goal makes a lot of sense, I find myself having to make sure that not only am I headed in the right direction, but also that the animals that I am trying to herd are going there as well. That means taking my eyes off the end goal. That sometimes means running around side to side to keep the strays from wandering off. It means some turning my back on the goal so that I can run back and get a sheep that has decided to be stubborn. It is these side trips that can, from time to time, tell you if an animal is sick, tell you if you have missed a spot where they could graze, figure out which ones of them are the leaders (if you don’t know already,) and in general get a good look at your animals. Some times you even learn that you and a new sheep needed a bath.

These side trips in life, let you know what you are missing. You might find things that interest you, they might give you ideas about future projects, or help you to realize that you have a problem. While you always want to keep an eye on that end goal, you don’t want to be chasing “sheep” all day, some times it is good to move from side to side and look at things from a new angle. You might just find out something about yourself that you didn’t know before. But you to want to keep an eye on where you are going so that you don’t end up getting completely side tracked and not making it to your goal.

As for the weeds, well, while you are down on your hands and knees pulling weeds it is a good idea to know where in the field you are, but over all that can some times make things worse. If you have ever worked on a really large project, one that felt overwhelming, you likely know the virtue of just keeping your head down and moving forward, because if you look at the end goal too much you will get depressed because it seems too far away. Along with not letting your self get overwhelmed, there are things that need a level of detail that you can’t give them if you have only half your focus on them. If you are weeding along with your eyes on the end of the field, to make sure that you are in your row, then you might start pulling up the plants that you are there to weed around. Sure, it might mean that you accidentally change rows, or that you reach the end of the row before you realize it (won’t that be a pleasant surprise,) but it also means that you have given the little details the level of attention they need.

If you look closely to this picture you will see that the thing I have around me is a baby sling.  There is a baby in there, but I am also using it to help me hold the apples I pick. I am such a good dad. Here baby, hold these apples that are bigger than your head.I don’t think any one way is right. Mr. Ricks points out that not keeping straight means that it will take you longer to reach your goals. He is right. Some times it feels like it takes way too long to move the sheep from the barn to the pen only a hundred feet away, but as I said some times it gives you a new perspective. Then again some times it is just down right annoying. When you are trying to get ready for work and need to get the sheep moved, the chickens fed and the children all up and started on their day before you get yourself out the door.

Can life be described as one farming metaphor or another? Likely not. I guess what I am saying here is that you have to be flexible. Everything in your life is likely there for a reason. If that means you get to make nice straight rows, awesome. If that means that you spend a while running after sheep, or down on your hands and knees in the dirt, well that is part of life too. Keep open, keep flexible, and don’t get discouraged if your life is not always straight, you can do better next time.

Thank you to Zachary Ricks for the great post, and wonderful ideas. You can learn more about him and what he is up to at his site Mad Poet Files Trust me you want to keep an eye there, beyond being wise, he is also a wonderful story teller. His book Battle Hymn is awesome and I am eagerly awaiting the next one in the series.

Rules For Dating, A Guide For Teenage Boys. – A Response of Sorts – With Updates

After some serious thought, I have updated this article a bit.  I think you will like some of the changes, and all of the important things are still here.
Today I read an article that I really liked. Teenage Dating for Girls Part I “Teen Dating for Girls- Part II.” Having girls that are not yet teens I was interested, and I wanted to see what the author had to say.  One of my favorite things was that she openly said,  These are our rules, they might be different for other families, but these are some basics.  I really liked that.  Too many people kind of say, hey these are our rules and should be everyone else’s as well. I am going to say right up front that I am following the same line. These are our rules. They might work for you, they might not, but they are our rules, you don’t have to like them. (See the warning message on the side —–> )
However, it struck me as I was reading this, that while this was a list of the rules for girls it should also be at least a starting point for a list for boys.  After all, the boys that are taking our daughters out are just as much in need of guidance as our daughters.  More importantly, our sons need guidance on what is expected of them if they want to date.

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The great thing about a list like this is that many of the rules apply in both directions:

You need to be at least 18  display a certain level of  maturity before you can start dating.

     While this is not a hard and fast rule, it should be a good rule of thumb.  But, why wait so long?  Well the answer is simple.  Dating (courting) is really about trying to find a mate.  Since this is a list for boys, they are looking for someone to be their wife.  If you are not serious about being ready to get married you should not really be dating.  
I have had some time to think about this rule.  While is still mostly stand behind it, I think putting an arbitrary age on it is a bit problematic.  My wife and I started dating early and at that point in time I really was looking for someone to marry.  I think the age limit really needs to be more of a maturity limit.  So I have reworded the title. 
     Let me clarify here, dating is not the same as going out with a mixed group of boys and girls, even if there is some obvious pairing.  The more obvious the pairing the more likely it is that a chaperon is necessary, but this is not the same thing as dating.  This is the time when young men and women should learn to be around each other.  See how the other reacts without all the other social pressures of actually dating and the need for “romantic interests.”

Getting to know the Family; being friends first

    Just like the list for girls the list for boys should include that if a boy wants to date a girl, he should be willing to spend time meeting her family and spend some time with them.  This is also true of the girl.  She should have a good idea of what kind of family he comes from.  Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters might also be able to see things that our starry eyed young man can’t.
    To that end, being friends first is a huge deal.  It is not always true that you will build a friendship before a romantic interest begins because some times they happen at the same time.  Again remembering that dating is about finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with, and that while you are young it is very easy to be blinded by those romantic feelings.  If you have time to get to know the person first it makes that “happily ever after” that much easier.   Besides it is a lot easier to get to know someone’s family when you aren’t under the pressure of trying to impress them because you are romantically interested in one of them.  If you have spent time hanging out working in their garden, playing with their brothers and sisters, talking with their parents you will have a much better idea of who it is you are getting involved with.

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     Girls who want to date my sons, if you come to my house it is not a test.  It is not a trial, you are not there to be judged.  You are there to make friends, to learn and understand, to see the young man that you are interested in, in situations that you might not have seen him in before.

Being a Gentleman Is a Must.

Dear my sons.  
I really hope that I don’t have to tell you this.  I really hope that you have seen me treat your mother and your sisters with a level of respect that helps you to understand what it means to be a gentleman.  I don’t always pull your mom’s chair out, and I joke about opening doors and letting them go in first (dragons) but it is incredibly important stuff.  If you are not a gentleman around your date and I see it, I will say something about it.  
Love,
Your Dad.
When the tools are put away and it is time to go out on a date there are some things that you leave behind, on the farm as it were.  This is just a short list but it should give you a good starting point:
  • Swearing (you should not be doing this anyway.)
  • Passing gas and burping.
  • Talking about your bodily functions or those of the farm animals, (Unless that is a serious part of your conversation.)
  • Chewing gum or your food like a cow (sheep.)
  • Watching the TV and not your date. (I know every place you go has one up on the wall, remember that what is on TV is never as interesting as the person sitting across from you or maybe next to you.  NEVER!)
  • Discussing where the food you are eating comes from (again if this is not a serious part of your conversation and even then, once it is on the plate this is generally considered bad form.)

There is a flip side to this of course.  The woman who you are dating should know how to act like a lady.  I won’t say that…

Ok guys, let’s make this simple. we live on a hobby farm.  We have animals, and we go and plant and pull weeds and generally get messy and gross at times.  Your sisters are not excluded from this work.  In the same way that you are not excluded from doing dishes, laundry, and general house work.  We are equal opportunity mess makers.  Your date should understand that.  See the section above about being friends first.

Crew_working_DSC02345

What am I driving at here?  Think about your sisters.  When it is time to put the tools away and head off to church or nice dinner think of the way they act and dress and are treated. That should be a good measuring tape for your date.   If the young woman you are dating does not think enough of herself to dress appropriately for a date, what is she going to think of you?  Again, understanding what you want for each other is very important and why getting to know someone well before you start dating is important.  Some young women dress, well um let’s just say immodestly, because that is what everyone else is doing. But some young women do so because they feel that is the only way they can get and hold your attention.  Here is a hint: If that is the only thing keeping your attention on her, your relationship is in serious trouble.  Let her know that you have more respect for her than that.  If she feels that way, it is likely that what she needs is a friend and not a date.  I am not saying that you can solve her problems.  I am not saying you should even try.  I am not saying that she even has a problem.  But I think that there needs to be a level of understanding between you before you start dating.


Asking Permission Or Maybe Not

While I still stand behind this idea, I also think that it is, well, let’s just say that there are some difficulties here.  
First, thinking that asking a persons parents means that they are then going to say yes to you is a mistake.  A person, even a child does not belong to their parents.  This is particularly true in the case of romantic relationships.
Second, we are talking about a commitment for the rest of your life.  If we are talking about “The Question” this is not something that should be sprung on any one ever.  You should have some long and serious discussions about this way in advance.  Keep in mind that a person is never truly free to say yes, if they are not also truly free to say no.  Yes, a strong enough willed person will be able to make the right decisions no matter the circumstances, but very often we feel outside pressure.  If you already have the approval of their parents are they going to be worried about disappointing their parents if they say no?  
When it come to “The Question” I am a big proponent of popping the question part really being a show and tell for family and friends.  You should have already talked about this in depth, and maybe even asked the person in private, so that when they are standing there in front of their family, friends, a crowded restaurant, Yankee Stadium and you ask “The Question” you really should already know the answer.  (Hint: it helps the world at large around you if you are good actor and can act surprised, but if not, remember this is not really for them.)
In short asking permission can be a very slippery slope.  
There is also the reality that not all families are traditional. Many parents, fathers especially,  don’t respect the rights and boundaries of their daughters.  This can complicate things when or if you ask permission.  Again, these are discussion that you should have with your potential date / spouse before hand.   See my section on being friends first.  If you are already friends having this discussion with them, while it might be a little awkward won’t be totally out of left field. 
This can be a pretty scary thing to do. But remember that it is a sign of respect for both the woman you are dating and the family she is coming from.  I did not ask your Grandfather’s permission to date your mother.  I didn’t ask his permission to marry his daughter, and I am sure that to this day, that colors our relationship.  I am sure I will never measure up to what he believes his daughter deserves, but I also suspect that I would be a great deal closer to that measure if I had, had the courage to ask.  Have courage.  Be strong.  And know that once you have asked the hardest part left will be asking her.
Again I am going to point to the section on being friends first.  Getting to know her family.  This becomes important when it comes time to ask.  It is much easier to ask someone a difficult question when you have mucked out stalls with him, or whatever it is that you might do together.
So let’s sum it up here guys.  You should not start dating until you are serious about being ready to spend the rest of your life with someone.  You likely should not take someone you can’t see yourself spending the rest of your life with out on a date.  You should be a gentleman, your date should be a lady.  Remember that you want to live happily ever after.  You might date someone who you can’t live happily ever after with, and that is ok.  That is part of the dating process, but you should not go into a date, or start dating someone with the intent of not following through.
I want to thank Everyday Catholic for giving me the inspiration for this post.
I know that some people are going to  disagree with me, please feel free to let me know in the comments, but I will warn you that if you are not respectful I will not post your comment.

What the Pope Said

Vatican PopeLike everyone else, I was very interested in what Pope Francis had to say in his most recent interview. I had seen a couple of the summaries of the interview from both the secular and non secular media. While a couple of them did an ok job talking about the high points. I think most of them, especially the secular media missed an important point. I think, there was one really over arching message.

What was that message you may ask. Well before I tell you I am going to give you the same advice many others have given. And in the process I am going to echo Reading Rainbow. “Don’t take my word for it.” Go read the entire article here. It is rather long but it is really worth your time.

You went and read it right? No? Well before you continue you really need to read the article so here it is again.

I don’t think that I can cover all of the topics that Pope Francis talked about. I don’t have a hope of being able to analyze it as well as some of the professional journalists or and more particularly the theologians. Having said that let me give you my thoughts on this interview.

First, Pope Francis did not say anything new. He really didn’t. 3-popes

To understand what I am talking about let’s start here. This picture or one like it has been circling the internet likely since the first day that Francis became Pope. And a lot of people are making a big deal of the differences between Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the now Pope Francis. But I think that this picture says it much better than anything else.

All three of the last three popes have had different styles it is true. Pope John Paul II helped bring the teaching of the Church to Her members. He needed to make himself and through him the church, more accessible to the people. Think about World Youth Day. Pope Benedict XVI was an academic and he helped us to understand why the things that Pope John Paul II showed us were true. He did this by digging into the history and doctrine of the church. He was harder to love, harder to understand, harder to follow. Not because he was unlovable or even unlikable, not because he was hard to understand, not that we could not follow him, but for one simple reason. He knew, in depth, in great depth why it was that the things that Pope John Paul II said where true and he gave us those lessons even if they were very deep and hard to understand. He challenged us to learn those things that were hard for us to learn. Pope Francis is challenging us again and sometimes makes us uncomfortable. He builds on both of these by taking what both of them have done and showing us how to apply it to our lives. But not just by telling us, but by getting down on his knees and kissing the feet of the sick and the imprisoned, by embracing the poor, by loving those around us that we sometimes think are unlovable.

pope-francis As I said Pope Francis is not saying anything new. But, but, but, you say. And I say wait a minute. In the last 50+ years the Church (meaning her members, all of them) have had a huge learning curve. Vatican II basically took the teachings of The Church and opened them up to Her people making them more accessible to everyone. In doing that it caused a bit of a stir. Everyone from the youngest child sitting in the pew learning his or her catechism for the first time to the Pope and everyone in the middle has had to run just to keep up with it all. And some of us have done so very well, some of us have failed miserably and everywhere in between. I don’t know where I fit on this scale but it is likely near the bottom. The teachings are not changing, it is that we have been given the opportunity to really understand those teachings and there is a lot for us to understand.

We have looked to our priests and bishops, our cardinals and especially the Popes for guidance and teaching. The Inauguration Mass For Pope Francis

What Pope Francis is saying (and this is I hope what he is saying) is that there is a great danger in turning inward. Having spent the last 40+ years learning about what Mother Church teaches us we want to focus on that, to the detriment of actually following those teachings. We focus on one teaching or even a group of teachings and ignore the over arching message of the church. Instead it is time to turn around and share what we have learned. And not only share it but live it.

Yes, The Church teachings tell us that contraception is wrong, but we can’t condemn those that use it. Yes, abortion is a terrible thing, but we can’t hate the people who have had them or even those who preform them. Instead we have to love them. All of them.

What is going on here is that Pope Francis is saying that we need to stop focusing on the things that divide us and focus on the things that bring us together. After we have healed those wounds only then, can we start talking about the things that make us different.

For example, don’t ignore that a couple is living in sin, instead embrace them, Love them, give them of yourself. Help them to understand what we have been taught, what we have been given the opportunity, through the last two Popes to understand. We, the members of The Church, have lived through a time where we have been extremely lucky. We have been allowed to have the time to learn and understand the teachings of the church. With the three best teachers possible.

Now it is our turn. Instead of slapping the hand of those who are not following the teachings of the church, it is our job to reach out and take that hand. But the hand is not enough. We need to grasp it firmly and pull the person close in an embrace. For many of us (myself included) that is going to be hard. I have learned to hate those sins within myself and it is easy to translate that outward into hating another who has the same sin. But That is not the right way. We have to instead love them, the way that the last three Popes have loved us and give them the chance to learn what we have learned.

The only other thing that is not covered by what I have already said is that the Pope said prayer was important. That also is nothing new.

Once again here is the Article with Pope Francis

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