So much of the world, especially western society, promotes a childless lifestyle. In fact, it glorifies it. A life without children is so often seen as the new American Dream, where all you need to do is focus on yourself and perhaps a significant other. People believe that without children, you can do whatever makes you happy in life without needing to worry about something or someone holding you down. Children are seen as a burden to many, and being a parent as a lifetime chore.
Many view children as horrible, crying, screaming, dirty monsters that ultimately make life worse and prevent us from being happy, wealthy, and free. Maybe it is because they have seen families struggle financially, emotionally, or physically after having children. The idea of sacrificing for someone that is dependent, vulnerable, small, and needy is as much of a turn off as running into a burning building soaked in gasoline.
I guess it may be easy to forget that we all were babies, children, teenagers.
I believe that it isn’t that these people hate babies and children, but rather they hate the suffering that may come with having children. Children require time just as any other relationship.They need constant care and attention, and this means we need to sacrifice the time that we would normally spend doing things for ourselves. Children and babies push parents to limits of frustration, sleep deprivation, and so on.
I can say that because I know that my own parents struggled many days because of us kids. I know there were days my parents were exhausted after shifts, and yet they still invested the time into caring for us. I know it meant they had less time to do the things that they wanted to do, but they still found joy in doing what they had to do, which was loving us and making sure we had what we needed on a daily basis. Twenty plus years later, I can confidently say that my parents still loved us even when things were hard.
I am pregnant with our baby girl, Evangeline, and already Mike and I brace ourselves for ‘advice’ from people encouraging us to stop at one child, or to maybe try for one boy and one girl and then avoid more in every possible way. It is especially disheartening when the advice is coming from loved ones, or from people who have children and seem to voice regret from having one or two too many.
Parenthood means loving far beyond yourself, dying to yourself every single day. I may only be 6 months into my pregnancy, but even now, Mike and I have had challenges. We have had to make time for appointments. Mike has had to give up eating certain foods because some things just don’t sit well with me. I don’t sleep the same anymore. I can’t run on the treadmill for an hour every day so I can have a totally in shape, model body. Mike has to endure a woman that wears the baggies clothes most days because her normal clothes just don’t fit the same anymore.
This is only the beginning of changing challenges. The truth is though, I don’t need a perfect body, a perfect sleep schedule, or money to blow on material goods. Those things will not make me or my family holy.
I speak for Mike and myself when I say that we anticipate redemptive suffering which is something that many refuse to even acknowledge exists. We can anticipate sleepless nights. We can anticipate strain on our relationship. We can anticipate temper tantrums, marker drawings on the wall, spilt drinks, and pulled out hair. I do not want to deny us of sacrifices we can give to God out of love for the souls entrusted to us. I do not want to miss the opportunity to try and live as the Holy Family lived on earth and now eternally does in heaven. I do not want to say ‘no’ to God for his gift of life.
We need fathers. We need mothers. The world needs moms and dads who actively demonstrate love for the family that goes beyond wanting to fulfil their own desires. The World needs to see spouses who can’t have children naturally to seek to be parents to children without mothers and fathers or to the community around them. The World needs to see that parenthood is a blessing, not a curse; that children are gifts from God and not simply things we can take for ourselves as a right to have, nor deny when God lays them in our hands to care for them. If your call is to be married, to give yourself to your spouse in fullness and in love, that desire has a natural, God-given purpose: life-giving love, which may bring with it, parenthood.
Let us pray for all those discerning their vocations, that they may discern with willing and open hearts. Let us pray that couples discerning marriage are open to life. Let us pray that God may grant strength to parents struggling with their state of life, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Finally, let us pray for our world, that parenthood, children, and life may be celebrated and that we may all be thankful for the gift to emulate the love of the Trinity and of the Holy Family.
The world is at war. In physical ways, the devastation of violence and injustice can be seen during every nightly newscast.
In an even more troubling way, the world is also at war invisibly, with an enemy that it is not able to eradicate with guns or a strategic air strike.
The battle is almost as old as the world itself: the culture wars. From the earliest times in human history, man has found himself pushing back against societal policies that have threatened to overgrow the narrow path to holiness. Culture wars waged against the vulnerable of society – the unborn, the innocent; the ever-increasing divide between the wealthy and the poor; the battle of remaining virtuous and humble, in a world that proudly shouts, “Me! Me! And forget the rest!
The Church has had the weapons needed to wage war all along, but many times the noise of the world has been successful in drowning it out. As long as the faithful are seduced by ideas of winning political victories with petitions and protests alone, as long they are content to “tsk tsk” at their Sunday fellowship over the state of “things” and as long as the Church Militant is content to wage these culture wars on their own merit, on their own intelligence, on their own – they will lose. If the battle is fought on the world’s terms, it is lost.
So then, if the culture wars are spiritual warfare, then perhaps what is most needed are spiritual weapons.
The Serenity Prayer, for one, strikes right at the heart of these attacks on culture:
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things the I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things that I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.”
To be serene, to be untroubled about things in this world that are beyond control. This can’t mean wilful ignorance of evil. It is simply an invitation to trust. Trust God the Father – He knows the plan. Trust Christ – He has already overcome. Trust the Holy Spirit – He’s already at work. Trust the Church – the Spirit gives her a broader picture of what has been set in motion. The Book of Psalms echoes this call: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act.” And in this trust, the world will find its peace.
To be courageous is to be brave in the face of injustice. This can’t mean reckless and ineffective action. It is simply an invitation to serve. Christ did not win the world through politics – He wins it by loving it to His death on the cross. Think globally, act locally – grassroots ministries in parishes that are dedicated to elevating the respect and dignity of every loved child of God – these will be much more powerful displays of truth to the world than any political fray waged on its own. Ministry often takes more work, more time and more sacrifice – it is frightening to give up comfort for service. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is courage personified. One cannot stop a bemused smile, imagining the formidable holy woman turning from heated debates and clucking tongues, instead stooping down to embrace a man suffering leprosy. In this courage, the world will know victory.
To be wise is to be a vessel of God’s plan. This can’t mean inaction or an excuse to endlessly “just wait and see”. It is simply an invitation to pray. With so many causes crying out for justice in the world, it is overwhelming to even consider where to begin making amends. Often, the passionate begin emphatically preaching when quiet examples of service would be a more powerful witness. Often, those longing for peace are content to stay with their books and study groups when dramatic work needs to be endeavoured. Wisdom is what moves a holy heart to the appropriate response at the appropriate time. Timing and discernment is everything! And only petitioning God for His wisdom as a guide can correctly direct the soul into effective battle. King Solomon, the wisest king in history, boldly claims that “the multitude of the wise is the salvation of the world”. Oh, that the mind and heart of all humanity were so united with God in prayer that a wise choice would seemingly be the only one!
Christians, it is time to engage in battle! Let the Spirit lead the Church from defence to a decisive strike to the heart of the culture wars. Heaven will win when the Serenity Prayer is lived and breathed every day by every soul yearning for the Lord’s peace to reign.
Christians, the duty and the mission is clear – be at peace in trust, be tireless in courageous action and above all, pray for the wisdom to know the difference!
I’m delving into a new topic today – this is my first post about fatherhood. It’s a recent development in my life. At the time of writing, I’ve been a father for 6 months, to a little girl named Evangeline.
Now, to many people, it might seem strange for me to even claim to be a father. Why? Because my daughter Evangeline is a six month old fetus.
I’m not going to go through all the arguments about the nature of an unborn human being – there are innumerable other blogs about that. Let’s just say this one is addressed to those who’ve accepted the obvious reality that human beings begin as zygotes, and then grow up, rather than materialising ex-nihilo at birth (the belief that our Canadian legal system is based on… but I digress).
What I realised recently is that even among those who know better, we often still don’t view our first roughly 9 months of parenthood as real parenthood. We talk about being mothers and fathers-to-be, but we’re not. We say we’re going to be moms and dads, but we already are. And in the same vein, we prepare materially for our child, but do we pray for them?
That’s the question that hit me a few months ago, and I realized that not only was I missing out on a way to grow closer to my wife and daughter, but I was also failing to protect and care for her. I may have known that she was a living human being with an immortal soul, but I wasn’t acting like it.
In the physical sense, I was doing everything I needed to do, but I wasn’t using the spiritual means I had for her good.
Being a Father Right Now
I see pictures quite often on the internet, of children born at the same age as my own daughter. And the fact is, some of those babies live and grow up, but many of them don’t. These first few months may be the only time on earth that I get with my child. But even if they’re not, I don’t want to let it slip by without being the best father to her that I can be.
Everyone knows that when you become a parent, you get advice from just about everyone, and a depressing amount of it is just awful. I don’t claim to be someone who knows everything about being a dad. In fact, I think it’s pretty sad that I didn’t connect the dots and start purposefully praying for Evangeline every day for months.
But let this be my one piece of parenting advice so far. If you’re a father to an unborn child, be a father right now. Don’t waste your first months of fatherhood. Pray for your child, and make sacrifices for her. Don’t wait until you hold your child in your arms to start being a father.
For anyone who might be looking for a place to start, I’m going to share the simple prayer that I wrote, and pray every day. Maybe it will be a starting point for you to write your own prayer, or just inspire you to pray from your heart for the good of your own child, or someone else’s child.
I’ve formatted it so it can be used by anyone to pray for a specific unborn child, and the child’s parents. Just replace the pronouns, or whatever else you need to.
Lord, in your mercy, preserve and protect your child, N, from all danger. Keep her safe and secure within her mother’s womb, that she may receive the baptism of salvation.
For the sake of the passion and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, let this little one be washed in His blood, and saved from all stain of sin and evil.
In accordance with your perfect will, I humbly ask that You also preserve and protect N, her mother, and N, her father, and bestow on us (them) in Your generous love every grace and blessing, that we (they) may raise N in the heart of Your Church, and teach her to know Your Truth, and to observe all that You have commanded.
We entrust our prayer to the sure intercession of Mary, our blessed mother, and of St. Gerrard, Blessed Imelda, and St Catherine of Siena.
This past weekend, I had the absolute honor and pleasure of attending the Ordination to the Priesthood of one of my great friends, Fr. Stephen Marsh. He was ordained this weekend with three other men. Though it was a long journey, Fr. Steve has finally arrived, and this new chapter in his life has only just begun.
While being at his Ordination Mass, I was overcome with such gratefulness for our Priests and awe for their sacred office and how God is present to us in them. However I was also saddened to know that they are so often taken for granted, and that many Priests do and have grown cold.
When we look at Salvation History, we see throughout it the great lengths that God has taken to give us this gift of Salvation, to show us his unconditional love for us, as well has His mercy and justice. We see this in a big way in scripture with the levitical priests, who offered sacrifices on our behalf. We also see this through God giving the Israelites the Manna in the desert to nourish them.
With the death and resurrection of our Lord, this did not end. It changed. With our Priests, they offer the one unbloody sacrifice of our Lord on the cross, made present at the altar, for us and with us, at Mass. This was commanded by our Lord Himself that it be done. Jesus offers Himself to the Father and also nourishes us in the Eucharist, as he is the new Manna, the Bread of the Angels. He is present in the Eucharist in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
What a great responsibility and gift our Priests have been given, being entrusted with this sacred duty of offering us the Sacraments, without which we would not be saved. It brings me to tears, this fact that Our God loves us so deeply, so that He deigned to make real to us now, make available to us now, through his Priests, our salvation. When we sin, and put this salvation at risk, with a firm resolution to never sin again, and a good confession, we can return to our Lord. What great mercy!
St. Francis de Sales said “O my child, bethink you that just as the bee, having gathered heaven’s dew and earth’s sweetest juices from amid the flowers, carries it to her hive; so the Priest, having taken the Saviour, God’s Own Son, Who came down from Heaven, the Son of Mary, Who sprang up as earth’s choicest flower, from the Altar, feeds you with that Bread of Sweetness and of all delight.’
We need to remember this gift always, and pray always for our Priests, that they remain good and holy, and always advancing in virtue. St. John Chrysostom said that “If priests sin, all the people are led to sin. Hence every one must render an account of his own sins; but the priests are also responsible for the sins of others.” What a great and divine duty our Priests have.
Please keep the newly Ordained Priests in your prayers, as well as all of our current Bishops, Cardinals, and Priests, that the love of God and His Church in those who have grown cold may blaze bigger than ever before, and for the rest, that their love for God and His Church would continue to strengthen and grow. May we always be grateful for our Priests, as without them, we would not have this great gift of Salvation available to us.