Parenting is a chance to understand both the weight of the cross and the resurrection.
When our foster daughter was 2, we had to give her up for Lent. She had lived with us just over a year at the time, and over the course of that year her biological father had taken the parenting classes and met the conditions the court required for her to be placed in his custody. We knew that the timing of the return was such that she would be moved from our house right before Easter.
That Lent stands out as the most difficult of my life. Week by week, she began spending more and more time with her biological father. A full day. An overnight. A weekend.
Lent may be a time of sacrifice, but it’s also a time for welcoming others.
My four children were glued to the front room window when moving vans arrived across the street last summer. They watched each box and every piece of furniture make its way down the ramp and into the house while happily commentating, “They have a TV!” and “They might have a dog—I see a crate!” It was good entertainment and became extra exciting when my daughters jumped up and down shouting, “They have kids!” The house was most recently a rental for college students, so a family moving in across the street was big news.
What might God have in mind for your family this Lent? Try asking your kids.
Last Ash Wednesday Sister Angie Kolacinski, S.H. marked a cross of ashes on the foreheads of hundreds of adults and children who streamed into Holy Cross-Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. (It is staffed by the Claretians, who publish U.S. Catholic.)
“As I met with a line of children,” she writes, “I repeated a familiar blessing phrase, ‘Turn away from sin and believe in the Good News.’
“One 8-year-old boy stopped me short. As I marked his forehead, he looked at me and said in earnest, ‘But I don’t know how to do that!’ ”
Infatuation is easy, but love—especially parental love—is hard work.
In a recent meeting with all the players in our foster daughter’s case—social workers, attorneys, birth parents, adoption experts, and my husband and me—I was asked to give a summary of T’s progress since our last meeting, three months previous. I told the group all of T’s recent successes: being promoted up a level in gymnastics; behaving well (for the most part) in school and at home; scoring on grade level in reading and math. Thinking about how far T had come in the past three years, I smiled.
As Catholics, we are called to heal by loving.
Gary Chapman’s bestselling book The 5 Love Languages (Northfield Publishing) is a frequent reference point in our family. Chapman’s premise is that when we relate to those we love, we do so using five “languages”—physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gift-giving—to show our care and commitment. Likewise, we are able to receive the love of others in these five languages.
Children can learn from the mistakes of even the most flawed fictional characters.
The books I’ve read to my kids over the years bring back warm memories—everything from Goodnight Moon to Peter Rabbit to The Wind in the Willows. I knew somewhere deep down that with the help of these many authors, living and dead, I was passing on to my children a vision of a world full of wonder, encouragement, community, forgiveness, hope.
The genius of faith is that it gives us strength to face suffering head on, says Brian Doyle.
I’ll tell you a story. My wife is an art teacher for kids who are really really sick, a job filled with hilarity and pain, a job she loves, a job that makes her shiver and go for long walks in the hills. She spent a lot of time recently doing art projects with a kid who got sicker and sicker and endured oceans of pain and grew more swollen and weary by the day, and one day I came home to find my wife sad to the bottom of her bones. I asked her what was the matter and she said some things that haunt me still, and I think you should hear them.
Forgiving has much in common with jumping into an icy lake.
On January 1, all over the country, people jump into freezing bodies of water in celebration of a new year. While “polar bear clubs” involve bravado, good cold fun, and sometimes too many Bloody Marys, they also have a more serious side. There is something about our human nature that appreciates a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to wash away the past and begin again.
Baking bread can be a profound spiritual lesson.
I have a new living organism—for lack of a better term—to feed in my house. It is my sourdough starter, a beige and pasty mix of wheat flour, water, and yeast that lives in a glass jar in the back of the refrigerator. Once a week it visits the kitchen counter, where it is replenished with water, flour, and oxygen. I sometimes divide it and use half for sourdough crackers or flatbread.
Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn’t need to be one more “to do” on a family’s already packed December calendar. Jesus was born to bring peace, not stress. The word Emmanuel means God-with-us, and the antiphon of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that defines Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Write Christmas cards
Although some people dread the annual stack of cards, envelopes, and stamps, for Elizabeth and Franc the cards provide time for Advent reflection.