Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why I Send My Child to Catholic School

It's official.  As of three weeks ago, I'm a Catholic School Parent.  After 15 years as a Catholic School Teacher/Administrator, I'm finally seeing life from the other side of the school handbook.  My son, just recently eligible for Junior Kindergarten is now a "Patriot" like his dad.

Sending my child to Catholic school was never really an option-- it's just something my wife (also a Catholic school teacher) and I always knew we would do.  We never really took the time to think about all of the things we hoped our child would gain from the experience.  After all, God has enabled us in some small way to try to provide those things for our students and their families for the last 15 years, so it just seemed natural.  

However, now that my child is there, I find myself constantly thinking about all of the ways I hope and pray this sacrifice impacts him.

Why do I send my child to Catholic school?  Because the parents, administrators, and teachers-- like me-- 
  • Respect my place as the primary source of my child's faith education.
  • Care more about my child's eternal/spiritual well-being, than his material/worldly well-being.
  • Seek to help form my child's conscience along with his intelligence.
  • Pray for my child . . . everyday . . . several times a day.
  • Will feel they've failed if my child can ace his tests, but he doesn't have a relationship with Jesus.
  • Know that school-- like the world-- is not perfect.  That since it's impossible to ensure nothing bad ever happens, the real key is how they teach my child to handle the bad situations that do arise.
  • Are trying to create a school environment where my child has the opportunity to learn understanding and forgiveness.
  • Want the best for my child, and love him as if he were their own.
My reasons reflect my unique perspective as both Catholic school educator and Catholic school parent, so I'm sure I've missed several things with this list.  I'd love for you to share your reasons in the Comments below, too.  May God continue to bless us all as we seek to provide the best for our kids!

Happy Catholic Schools Week 2012!

Want to read more?  A guy named Nick Senger wrote a list of 101 Reasons to Send Your Child to Catholic School.  Some are very funny.  All are wonderfully true.  Enjoy!

Recipe for Respect?

Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children, and when they pray they are heard. (Sirach 3:5)

Last week I shared this verse from Sirach Ch. 3, and I pointed out its connection to the Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and mother.

We tend to read this verse as a sign that God will bless us if we respectfully obey and care for our parents-- as if God is almost bribing us into good behavior. Since we know that's not the case, I propose a different interpretation.  Verse 5 of the third chapter of Sirach offers insight into the conditions necessary for growing faith-filled kids.  

Instead of looking at the verse as a "blessing," what if we look at it as describing the kind of parents and teachers we must be in order to grow faith-filled, respectful kids?  In other words, if we have learned humility, reverence, and patience-- qualities necessary for honoring our parents-- we'll be prepared to raise our kids to learn these qualities.

We only need to look at the last week of our lives with the eyes of faith to see that our Heavenly Father is constantly giving us opportunities to learn humility, reverence, and patience.  The idea at work that failed . . . humility.  Cradling a sleeping child in our arms . . . reverence.  Another traffic jam on the 5 South . . . patience.  The only real question we have to ask ourselves is: do we allow God to shape us through these experiences?

Heavenly Father, we pray for the humility to allow you to continue to form us into the parents and teachers you want us to be.  Soften our pride, awaken our sense of awe, and strengthen our willingness to endure suffering.  Give us the courage to teach these qualities to our children.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Honor Your Father and Mother

The Ten Commandments was always one of my favorite 8th grade morality topics in religion class.  As a teacher, I relished the opportunity to open up God's laws in a real-world, everyday-life way.  So many adults look at the Ten Commandments negatively, as if God were the cosmic enemy of fun listing the rules we dare not break. Teaching the Ten Commandments to 8th graders was an opportunity to catch them on the cusp of adulthood and do my best to help them form a healthy, positive outlook on living a moral life.  My goal was to show them that:
  1. Our Catholic Christian faith is real.  It is lived.  It is something that applies to each and every day of our lives.
  2. The Ten Commandments are logical, beautiful, wonderful guidelines from a loving God who wants His children to live a life freed from the bondage of sin.
Clip Art by Hermano Leon
In particular, the Fourth Commandment: "Honor your father and mother," has always been a source of the most animated classroom conversations of the entire year.  When I told them we'd be talking about parents, you can imagine that my students thought this was their opportunity to tell me how horribly mean and terrible their parents were. How surprised they were to discover that God (and their teacher) pretty much took their parents' side every time!

One of my favorite bible passages relating to parents and children is found in Sirach 3: 
For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother's authority over her sons. Those who honor their father atone for sins; they store up riches who respect their motherThose who honor their father will have joy in their own children, and when they pray they are heard. (Sirach 3:2-5) 
At length we discussed what it means to "honor" your parents.  We talked about "respectful obedience" to the requests of mom and dad.  We even distinguished between "obedience" (doing what one is asked), and "respectful obedience" (doing what one is asked with a heart of love and gratitude).  I explained that their hearts and bodies had to be in sync.  In other words, finally giving in to mom and dad after an argument, and then complaining angrily while doing what they ask-- there's nothing respectful about that.

Surprisingly, I didn't lose my classroom full of 14-going-on-21 year olds at that point. After all, here I was telling them the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear. In fact, this was about the time when they really started to tune in to the depth of God's whole plan in this commandment. You see, deep in the heart of even my most stubborn 8th grader was the knowledge of God's law and an overwhelming desire to have a good relationship with mom and dad. I found the kids hungry for anything that would help them get along better with their parents, even if it meant that they had to bite their lip when feeling the urge to talk back.

Parents (and teachers), the bottom line is this: no matter how maturely they may sometimes act, children are children, and they are called on by God to honor (respectfully obey) you! As bad as things can sometimes get, particularly with teenagers, and despite what they say in front of their peers, I haven't met one yet who wouldn't give an arm and a leg to have a stable, tension-free, loving relationship with you. This is what God designed when he gave us the commandment: honor your father and mother. To grow faith-filled kids, we need to lovingly, firmly, and consistently remind them of this truth. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Helping Your Child Find Happiness in Life

Jesus Calls Andrew & John

The Search for Happiness
Judging by the number of articles in popular magazines and talk show experts discussing it on television, finding happiness would seem to be no simple matter.  To the world, happiness appears to be an elusive mixture of so many things: financial success, personal fulfillment, career satisfaction, all tied together by a healthy dose of high self-esteem and more.  

Getting all of these pieces into place and doing so at the same time is practically impossible.  It's no wonder so many people are unhappy!  And, since finding happiness for yourself seems so difficult, helping someone else to find it would seem to be impossible.  

And yet, every parent wants his or her child to have a happy life. With the world being such a crazy, mixed-up place, it couldn't possibly be a simple matter to set your child on a path to finding happiness in life, could it?

I believe it can be.  

However, you first have to strip away the confusion caused by the competing messages of the modern world.  Do that, and you begin to discover the path to finding true happiness-- a path that can then be made visible to children.  

Don't get me wrong-- financial success, personal fulfillment, career satisfaction-- these are blessings from God, but they were never meant to be replacements for the true source of our happiness: God Himself.  We do our children a disservice if we lead them to believe that they'll find true and lasting happiness in the things of this earth.

Guiding Your Child
Two references from the Catechism of the Catholic Church combine to form a powerful message:

27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.

2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. . . Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones."

Since they have been created by God, for God, our children will only find true happiness in Him.  Good Father that He is, God has a plan for each of them, something the church refers to as their vocation.  

Therefore, the way to help your child find happiness in life is to teach him or her that material and personal circumstances are not the source of our true joy.  God is.  By seeking and doing His will (their vocation in life), they'll discover a deeper joy-- one that transcends temporary circumstances, life's ups and downs, and forces beyond their control.  

In an address at the Vatican today, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of parents in helping children discern their vocation: "by their genuine faith and joyful married love, [parents] show children that it is beautiful and possible to build all your life on the love of God.” (

Heavenly Father, help us to teach our children to discern Your will for them.  In doing so, we will have set them on the path to true happiness in their lives!

As always, I welcome your comments, thoughts, and feedback below.

Further Reading

Special Thanks
To my wife-- for her help in working out the details of this post!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God."
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. (Jn. 1:35-42)

Reading today's Gospel makes me wonder: 
  • If John the Baptist had not pointed Jesus out, would Andrew (one of the "two disciples") have completely missed an encounter with the Son of God? 
Most likely!  For Andrew, it took someone to "point out" God because Andrew wasn't yet able to recognize God on his own. And, thanks to John the Baptist's nudge, Andrew not only discovered God's Son, but he also started on the road to becoming a disciple of Jesus.

Like Andrew, our children often need someone to "point out" God to them. Thankfully, each day is filled with moments of beauty, love, happiness, and even sadness-- moments that reveal God in all of His glory-- but that require a nudge for our children to recognize. Since we want to start our children on the road to becoming lifelong disciples of Jesus, it's important that we begin to "nudge" them toward acknowledging God's presence. This kind of loving and tender attention is necessary to grow faith-filled children.  As Blessed John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio, part of the role of parents is "to illuminate and organize temporal realities according to the plan of God, Creator and Redeemer." (#5)

Image: Michal Marcol /
Here are some everyday events in which we might consider saying "Behold, the Lamb of God!" to our children:
  • The beauty of nature-- An amazing sunrise or sunset, a rainstorm, an amazing view.
  • Family gatherings-- birthdays, anniversaries, sacraments, a nice dinner out together, a vacation or holiday.
  • Friends-- The help of a true friend, a playful afternoon, a difficult conversation that leads to reconciliation.
How often do we "point out" Jesus to our children and students? What are some ways you do this for your children?  I look forward to reading your comments sharing the ways you say "Behold, the Lamb of God!" to your children and/or students.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Leave Room for God's Resolutions

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jer. 29:11)

How do you feel when you read these words? Take a moment to read them again, and imagine your Heavenly Father is speaking directly to you.

Did you hear it? He has a plan for you in this new year. Of course, God knows that this is the time of year when we all make plans for ourselves-- we resolve to be better husbands, better wives, better parents, better Catholics/Christians, healthier people, and so on.

What about leaving room for God's "resolutions" (plans) for you in 2012? Though none of us can know exactly what those resolutions are as we stand here on the first day of the new calendar year, one thing is overwhelmingly certain: we will not discover God's plans for us and for our families unless we leave room for Him to work.

So as you're writing out your list of resolutions for 2012, consider leaving #1 blank.  Let that empty space remind you of how you're leaving room for God's plans for you and your family to unfold during 2012. Let that empty space remind you to pray for God's resolutions to become clear to you, and to pray for His grace to embrace them in your life. Encourage your children to do the same.

Need some motivation to get started?  The quote from Jeremiah continues: When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me. (29: 12-14)

I ask that you pray for me and everyone who reads this-- for the strength to leave room for God's resolutions this year. Be assured of my prayers for you!

As always, I welcome your comments, thoughts, and reflections.