Keeping Those Kids Catholic

About the title…Made you look! Sorry. I don’t have the answers for that. I only have observations, guesses, thoughts, encouragement and trials and errors just like the rest of you. Ask me when I’m dead and I’m sure I’ll be able to give you the oh-so-clear hindsight formula. For those of you who think you are endowed in perfect wisdom in this arena, good luck with that. If I were a betting woman I’d bet there’s a sudden heretic on your horizon. God has a way of humbling us when we need it.

I got a Facebook message from one of my 20-something, convert, and young mother friends this morning saying, “This is such a depressing article” with this link. My first reaction was, “What’s a nice girl like you doing reading America Magazine???  It’s like porn for heretics.”  She’s new to crazy Catholicism so she’s still learning what to avoid although she admitted “Jesuit” should have been her first clue. Parenting advice found in America Magazine really should just be ignored as a blanket rule. 

Now I don’t usually do the “mommy blog” thing, but Mother’s Day is coming up so I’m going to take this one on.

What can Catholic moms do if they want their children to remain Catholic? Let go.

Kristin Grady Gilger

May 04, 2018

When you have children, everyone tells you that your life is going to change. They mean this in both the best and the worst possible ways: There are the predictable losses (lost sleep, lost money, lost time) as well as the wholly unexpected gains of loving a child beyond reason, beyond yourself.

I’ll admit right off the bat that there’s definitely lost sleep, and those darling little cherubs break things, ruin things, and suck the life out of you, but I’m not really sure I ever thought these as losses.  I thought of them more as investments. Every little dollar they wasted, sleepless night I had, and endless days driving them to and from whatever was something else that I could offer up for their salvation and mine. Did I/do I always remember to do it? Not at every single turn but I tried to make some blanket offerings now and then to cover my exhausted stupor. 

What people do not tell you is that your children are bound to make unexpected and sometimes bewildering choices—and those choices have the power to change you. Children will shake your sense of identity, challenge your beliefs and fundamentally alter who you are.

Anyone who has tried to pass on their religious faith to their children knows this to be true: You can be a good Catholic and raise a passel of atheists. You can be a strident ex-Catholic and raise a priest—like I did. 

I see where she’s going but, really, temptation only has the power you give it. (Kind of sounds all Catholic Jedi-y, doesn’t it?)

Shaken identity? Yeah, this one rings true in this particular year. One Mad Dad has probably seen me have a couple nervous breakdowns this year alone, but I wouldn’t say they altered who I was. They actually made it clearer who I was. I am a child of God who needs His mercy, love and care, and sometimes, I know you’ll find it hard to believe, I forget that. I always had a fondness for the story of The Little Red Hen, and “I’ll do it myself!” has floated around my head a time or two or a hundred. Still, I think we parents and children both miss the spiritually symbiotic relationship we have with each other. We are each others’ paths to heaven. It can be quite blissful and far less adversarial when we keep that in the forefront of our minds.

My son would tell you that I have had a big influence on him. He dives into the world in the same way I do, with the firm intention of changing it. He works out his thoughts by writing them down. He believes in the healing properties of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a rainy day. But when it came to making the biggest choice of his life—to convert to Catholicism and become a Jesuit priest—I was left to wonder what influence I had had on him or whether I had wielded any influence at all.

I’m sure she hasn’t worked through her newly returned to Catholicism. As you’ll see, reading further, this is what she’s done. I’m just trying to figure out why America sees her as providing answers to keeping your kids Catholic when she didn’t even manage to do that for herself.

I will say this, I’ve seen many parents bewildered when their children didn’t follow the same vocation. For some reason, no matter how faithful they are, they see it as a slap in the face versus a calling from God. Different doesn’t necessarily mean rejection.  Sometimes it just means different.

Many of the good Catholic mothers I have talked to are just as bewildered. They did everything in their power to raise children in their faith only to see them adopt other religions or reject God altogether. Some say they were defeated by a culture that increasingly values the material over the spiritual, or they point to the rigidity of doctrine, failures of individual priests, sexual abuse scandals, boring services and bad music. Many blame themselves, although they struggle to say where exactly they went wrong.

And here we go. Would I expect anything less to be found in  America Magazine? You knew it was coming. All of these poor moms’ kids left the Faith because of the “rigidity of doctrine, failures of individual priests, sexual abuse scandals, boring services and bad music.” (The last one intrigues me.)

Those whose children remain practicing Catholics have some ideas about why that may be the case, but they, too, are well aware that things could easily have turned out differently.

I find it interesting that she didn’t list their magic recipes. After all, she’s very willing to point out where people think they went wrong or where the Church is at fault. I think most of us whose children still practice the Faith, at this point, would sum it up with “BY THE GRACE OF GOD!” because, yes, we do know it could have turned out differently and still could.

In a recent survey of more than 1,500 U.S. Catholic women, commissioned by America and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, 73 percent of women who are mothers said their children remain in the church. Fifteen percent indicated that none of their children are now Catholic. The remaining 12 percent reported a mixed result: Some of their children are Catholic and some are not.

OK, personally, I think the 73% actually seems kind of high. What does “remain in the church” mean to America? Does it mean they’re in some sort of Christian denomination?  Is simply saying you’re Catholic enough to win that percentage point? I mean, I’ve seen some claim Catholicism like a nationality, but they only show up at Mass on Christmas and Easter and reject most doctrines.  Seems like a pretty useless survey. Yes, they’re all baptized Catholics, and once a Catholic always a Catholic, but we might want to strive for a little bit more.  How about next time you do a survey, America, you ask if their children embrace all the doctrines of the Catholic Church?

Those results closely mirror an informal poll of America readers for this article conducted by social media. Just over 25 percent of the more than 500 respondents said their children have left the church—a number that trends suggest will increase as the young children of many respondents grow up. Nationally, nearly half of all children leave the faith of their parents once they reach adolescence.

Umm, it’s like they didn’t read their own poll results. I thought 73% were still in? If so, how is it that “children leave the faith of their parents once they reach adolescence?”  Sorry.  Your behind being at Mass on Sundays is not an option around here. Rarely will a child take the Faith seriously if their parents don’t make it mandatory while their little brains of mush are forming. It’s not optional. In fact, I don’t care if they reach the age of 50.  It’s not optional. They’ll never stop hearing about it as long as I draw a breath. It’s not just a trivial decision to skip Mass and they will know it.  They may still choose that at some point but they won’t be able to say they just didn’t know it was crucial.

Creating a Catholic Identity

Many of the mothers who wrote to America sounded wistful about that reality. Kathleen Baxter, who lives in rural New York, said her youngest son stopped going to church during his sophomore year of high school. On Sunday mornings, he would stay in bed with the covers pulled up over his head, and no amount of cajoling could convince him to go to Mass. She did not take it well. “My first reaction was: I’m going to force him to go, whether he likes it or not,” she said.

Her first reaction was dead on!  Geez!  Some days I have trouble getting out of bed for Mass, too.  Waaa!  Again, we all need to learn to resist our temptations. 

She and her husband are now trying to let him find his own way, hoping that the example they set will tip the balance. Her husband is in the church choir, and Ms. Baxter serves on her parish’s pastoral council. Both serve as lectors and are involved in the adult Christian initiation program (R.C.I.A.).

Since you are involved with RCIA and other Church activities, I’m just going to assume somebody’s told him the Sunday obligation is an obligation and that it’s a mortal sin not to go to Mass unless some SERIOUS reason or illness exists. (I know it’s silly to assume such things these days but I’m going to go with it.) Bottom line, your son is going with mortal sin and you’re just going to say “I hope I’m a good enough model that he’ll come to his senses.”  Please. You’d better pray your sterling example isn’t the only thing your son’s salvation rests upon, because we all fall miserably short. Act like it’s life or death, because that is what we’re really talking about.

Also, I really don’t count on my children looking to me as an example. That’s why I try to surround them with as many other people who are not their parents for examples. I’m not delusional. I’m not nearly as cool as, really, anyone else in the eyes of my children. I’m mom. I am the proverbial prophet in my own land. The odds of my own kids realizing that I’m totally cool is slim to none until, maybe, they have their own teens/young adults and they come to realize it’s not a job, it’s an adventure! Remember how completely out of touch your parents looked when you were young? Remember when you realized they might not be so crazy after all? Yeah. Take heart. You’re probably totally awesome to somebody else’s kids.

 “I figure if I set a good example, maybe someday he’ll come back,” Ms. Baxter said before adding hopefully, “Maybe he’ll meet a Catholic girl!”

Well, if that’s not passing the buck, I don’t know what is! Yes, let’s leave it to the Catholic girl to make Catholicism mandatory at some point in your son’s life. Blech. Reality check, lady. I know plenty of Catholic girls who ain’t living the Catholic life. In a world where children have been left to raise themselves, “Catholic” is getting harder and harder to find.

She has reason to be encouraged. Study after study makes it clear that parents—perhaps most especially mothers—do have an enormous influence on their children’s religious choices. The vast majority of adults who adhere to religion were raised in households where religion was valued and practiced.

…and mandatory. When did parents start saying, “Whatever you want, honey!”? Can I just stop and say here that YOU ARE THE PARENT?!?! Would you ever tell your kid he could go ahead and just eat Fruit Loops unto his heart’s content??? Of course not.  (Again, let’s just go with a bit of supposed sanity.) You provide nourishment that’s good for the child, whether or not they like it, until they get to the age where they can possibly see the wisdom in it or they leave your house. 

When I asked Ms. Baxter about why she thought it was important to raise her children Catholic, her response was simple: “I was raised Catholic,” she said. Nearly half of the women in the informal America poll referred to the same thing, often using these exact words. They want their children to be raised in the same faith they grew up in. They feel the strong pull of a tradition that has defined their families, often for generations. Being Catholic is a big part of who they are.

People! Catholicism is not a nationality!!!! The Holy Eucharist really should have been the simple answer here but the blind are leading the blind and we can’t figure out why people are leaving the Church in droves. Tell them to “Let go!” and it’ll all get better?!?!  Ugh!

I’m sure there are some people out there reading America’s article and thinking it’s a great guide for parents. What is it guiding you to do? Uh, nothing? You need to educate yourself. Like most of America’s readers, I received a less than adequate education from Catholic school and early parish life. You know why I’m still Catholic? My parents told me about the TRUE Faith! Insisted I frequented the Sacraments AND dogged me. Did I always love it? Of course not. For many of those adolescent years and a smidge of my young adult years, I just did it out of duty and guilt. Yay for the conscience!  Persevering made me love it, because why? Just like everyone else today, THE GRACE OF GOD! I guarantee if my parents had let me choose to go to Mass, I probably wouldn’t have done it.  Teens are lazy by nature.  At some point, I actually listened to a homily for once. I soooo wish I could remember when the light switch turned on and I started paying attention, but I’m pretty sure it was probably around the first time my Faith was attacked. Suddenly the martyr stories I’d heard growing up became a little more real.  “Nationality” was no longer good enough. I had to learn my Faith. Persecution really is good for the soul, but you REALLY need to show the youth where it’s happening, because, for the most part, it’s pretty subtle. Until they see it for what it is, it can just erode the will.

That is certainly true for Kristina Ortega, a Los Angeles mother of two young boys, whose father immigrated to the United States from Mexico. “So much about being Catholic is cultural for me,” Ms. Ortega said. “I don’t know how to separate my Catholic-ness from my Mexican-ness.

Catholicism, for her, includes assembling altars for the Day of the Dead with her children and praying novenas after the death of a loved one. The family is part of a mostly Latino parish, another way of keeping the children connected to their culture, and the boys, who are 5 and 8, attend Catholic schools, as she and her husband did.

But the family is also intent on introducing practices of their own. “Part of Latino culture is that religion is something women do,” Ms. Ortega said. “It’s important to me that my children see my husband is engaged.”

As far as my highlighting goes…Yes, yes and yes. I’m from California and this is definitely true. Yay for her and her husband’s response to bucking that trend.

Both she and her husband firmly believe that a big part of being Catholic is not just believing in something but acting on those beliefs, something Ms. Ortega credits to her Jesuit education at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. They know their family is, in her words, “incredibly privileged,” and they want their children to “see what the rest of the world is like.”

The Jesuit church they belong to sits in the midst of a public housing project, which helps drive that lesson home. During Lent, for example, parishioners leave the church to pray the Stations of the Cross in the streets of the community. All four Ortegas take part.

Ugh! It’s like nails on a blackboard hearing “Loyola Marymount”. Yes, yes, many of us are privileged.  I mean our poorest of poor aren’t eating dirt cakes, but when looking at the rest of the world, it’s also important to see the martyrdom going on. We are actually free to practice our Faith (for the most part) without recrimination. Many, many, too many are dying around the world for the Faith. We have such a gift here, but we tend to squander that privilege. 

Lauren Schumacher of Centennial, Colo., who has sons almost the same age as Ms. Ortega’s, is just as adamant about the importance of “doing Catholicism.” “You want them to know it’s not just about the prayer,” she said. “You also have to help those who are poor and help [your children] realize how fortunate they are.”

This is something she and her husband frequently remind their sons in conversation, but it is also something they put into practice in small ways, like visiting nursing homes, distributing blankets to the homeless and joining other parishioners who take gifts to disadvantaged families at Christmas.

Perhaps more important, Ms. Schumacher and her husband try to set an example by curbing their own materialism. “We try to live within our means. You can say that all day long, but if you’re not giving to the poor or if you’re living some elaborate lifestyle, it doesn’t resonate as much,” she said. “I work on my materialism so they don’t see me buying stuff all the time, stuff I don’t need.”

Great, but do your children know the doctrines of the Faith, TOO? I mean, Protestants do the same thing. The Catholic Church has always been helpers of the poor and I strongly recommend it, but we also share the Faith as well as food. We are missionaries all the way around, not just in material goods.

Ms. Schumacher and her husband teach their faith in other ways. They follow the rituals of Lent and Advent, using calendars to help their children follow along. They place the figure of baby Jesus in their Nativity scene on Christmas Day. Their boys collect statues of saints. The saints, Ms. Schumacher said, are a big hit, especially St. Jude and St. Michael the Archangel, who occupy places of honor on her sons’ nightstands. “Every time they go to the church store, they want a saint statue,” she said. “I have to rein it in.”

Bravo! Making the saints real is super important. They’re not just fictional characters to entertain. They are examples for us all. They are our friends.

But most powerful, she said, is prayer. Ms. Schumacher remembers praying about what now seem to her like “ridiculous things” when she was a child. “I think back now and say, ‘Was I really praying about my bad skin?’ But at least you’re talking to God. That’s what I want for my kids.

“You want them to know it’s not just about the prayer. You also have to help those who are poor and help [your children] realize how fortunate they are.”

And the Sacraments, Ms. Schumacher. Don’t forget those. That said,just forming a friendship with God, the angels and his saints on trivial things is a great lifelong habit, one we all need to be reminded of again and again. Everything should start with prayer.  None of us nails the “Catholic thing” once and for all. We constantly give into, in full or in part, the seven deadly sins, right? That’s why confession. 

Also, to all of the parents out there worried about your child straying here or there or leaving the Faith altogether, this is one of my favorites! We have our very own angels for a reason, but so often we forget about them or ignore them. Almost all of us have been guilty of that at one point or another.

I humbly salute you, O you faithful, heavenly friends of my children! I give you heartfelt thanks for all the love and goodness you show them. At some future day I shall, with thanks more worthy than I can now give, repay your care for them, and before the whole heavenly court acknowledge their indebtedness to your guidance and protection. Continue to watch over them. Provide for all their needs of body and soul. Pray, likewise, for me, for my husband, and my whole family, that we may all one day rejoice in your blessed company. Amen.

Back to Ms. Schumacher…

Each night before bed, her children say their own versions of prayers, which draw out concerns they rarely voice in other ways. “I can ask my 7-year-old about his day at school, and he’ll say he liked recess, and that’s about all the elaboration we get,” she said. “But before bed, he might say, ‘Oh, God, could you have Jamie be nice to me tomorrow?’ or ‘Please don’t let me have that dream.’

Sometimes these prayers prompt her to ask questions, but just as often, she leaves the matter up to her son and God, confident that the prayer itself is the comfort he seeks.

While the author has been trying to go the usual seamless garment route, the juxtaposition of the Baxters and the Byrnes, up next, is a good one. I mean, just off the bat, which family strikes you as having the greater chance of having at least some kids remain Catholic? The one who just hopes they’re a good example or the one who EXERCISES the Faith and makes their kids do it despite the adversity in their lives or maybe because of it? Not giving up the Faith when you’re struggling is a powerful example and, since we all struggle at some point, we can all show that example.

Sophie Byrnes of Streamwood, Ill., has three grown children she raised on the importance of prayer—prayer she describes as being as essential as breathing and eating.

She was brought up in a home where her mother insisted on the family rosary every day. Sophie says she remembers feeling a little resentful on summer days when she was kneeling inside the house while her friends played, quite audibly, outside. “But I always knew at a young age that your faith will help you in life,” she said.

Later, during an abusive marriage, Ms. Byrnes prayed just to get through each day, and she taught her children to pray, too—not formal, rote prayer, but the kind of prayer that consists of talking to God. These conversations took place at all times of the day. “We never left the house without praying,” she said. “If we left at three different times, we said a short prayer each time. Whenever we got in the car, we prayed to get home safely.”

The most important conversations, though, took place in the evenings as the children got ready for bed. Each of her children had a list of people they prayed for each night. One of her daughters got so caught up in the practice that her list grew to 50 people. “When someone got on her list, they never got off,” Ms. Byrnes said with a laugh. “It was tiring.”

She said not going to church was never an option for her children, but she does not think once-a-week Mass was the most important part of their Catholic upbringing; it was making God part of their everyday lives. Ms. Byrnes taught religious education and got involved in her parish and insisted her children do the same. They were altar servers and lectors, sang in the choir and went on mission trips.

“It can’t be just sometimes,” she said of the practice of religion. “What doesn’t work is telling your children about God and not practicing it by your own example. What doesn’t work is if you don’t make God real in your life and your children’s lives.”

All three of Ms. Byrnes’s children, now in their 20s and 30s, are practicing Catholics. She has seen seven grandchildren baptized—baptisms she no longer posts pictures of on social media or tells many friends about because so many would find it a painful reminder that their own grandchildren are not being baptized. “I’m sure,” she said, “that would be the greatest hurt in the world.”

OK, I’m wondering where the title of the article is going to come into play. Ms. Byrnes is certainly a stellar example and even one of overcoming adversity and her kids are all practicing Catholics. Why wouldn’t we just focus on her since she’s achieved the title of the supposed goal of the article? Notice, Mass not optional?  

Nancy Berube of Spencer, Mass., does not yet have grandchildren to be baptized, but she has been thinking about it. Her oldest son and his wife are practicing Lutherans, her daughter attends Mass occasionally, and her youngest son “professes to fear that lightning will strike him if he crosses a church threshold.”

Raising her children in the Catholic faith was extremely important to Ms. Berube, who once seriously considered becoming a nun. Her husband, although not Catholic, was supportive of her commitment and got involved in their parish as much as she did. Several years ago, he converted to Catholicism, completed an online Catholic study program, joined the parish council and began serving as a eucharistic minister.

Ms. Berube, meanwhile, has become an associate of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, the order of women religious she considered joining as a young woman. The lay associates gather for prayer, Bible readings and retreats, and they work to promote a variety of social justice and human rights causes across five continents. The work gives Ms. Berube, a family physician, a Catholic community beyond her parish and a way to practice her faith in ways that are meaningful to her.

OK, what’s missing here? She’s very involved with the parish and her groups but there’s no story on how she raised the kids? It’s all kind of about her. 

Ms. Berube has tried to talk to her children about the central role that Catholicism plays in her life and that of her husband, but these attempts make them uncomfortable. Despite the fact that two of her sons are in the U.S. military, which “gives them orders all the time, they don’t like being told what to do by their mother,” she quipped. Besides, she does not believe in a “hard sell for religion,” and she does not want to drive a wedge between them and herself and her husband.

Really, the story doesn’t say, but it appears that the Faith suddenly is being talked about as her children are adults. It’s a bit too late to start that conversation. It’s a way of life. If you don’t make it so when they are children, you don’t have a lot of hope of getting it through to them as adults. It seems like she doesn’t want to drive a wedge. Honestly, I never get why talking about the Faith, if done with love, has to do this? I mean, somebody has influenced child #1 to be Lutheran. Has he severed ties with them?

So she waits.

“I find the church [to be] a source of great joy and would love to be able to share that with them. However, it has to be on their own terms,” she said. “They’re thinking people; they’re very moral and upright, and I think their Catholic upbringing has affected their sense of what is right and what you can and can’t do in the world.”

Waits for what? For the kids to stumble across Catholicism? A lightning bolt to knock them off their high horses? Miracles do happen, but sometimes those depend on our cooperation despite feeling uncomfortable about it. I’ve had so many friends give in to the trap of, “Well, I’ve talked about it but I can’t keep talking about it.” Why the heck not??? I HATE it when people say that to me. You’re their loving mother and father! Yes, you have to know the proper time and place and you have to pray to the Holy Spirit, big time, but you can have a keep having adult conversations with your children. Knowing you love them goes a really, really long way even when we do things imperfectly.

I think of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep for the one and I always see that as a mother parable. The shepherd doesn’t find the sheep and say, “Hey sheep, what do you think about coming back? Oh, you don’t want to? Oh, OK.  See ya.”

A lot of time a shepherd’s crook is used to yank the sheep back. Why does that always get overlooked?!

These mothers have learned that we do not control our children’s choices; we only control our response to those choices.

And we can also very much control what we say to our children, and THAT is our responsibility. We can’t let their reaction or ignoring of what we are saying scare us from our duty to speak the truth. Yes, it’s not always easy, but sometimes we just have to acknowledge that and get to the truth at hand. On more than one occasion, I’ve had had to say, “Hey, this isn’t easy for me to say but I feel you really should be doing x,y,z, not doing x,y,z, should consider x,y,z, etc. BUT I love you and  you have to remember that I’m at fault if I neglect my duty to say something. You’re going to do what you’re going to do, but it just needs to be said and I can’t shirk my duty because I know you’re going to be uncomfortable. Now let’s eat!” Do we always do it perfectly as moms? Nope. Some days we’re too emotional, angry, forget to say a prayer before talking, etc. I know I’m not perfect. My kids sure know it and rarely miss a moment to let me know that in their own way. Still, we can’t use that as an excuse to do nothing.

While Ms. Berube waits, she considers what St. Monica could have done to make St. Augustine behave himself during most of his early adulthood. “He came around, and he was way more messed up than my kids are,” she said with a laugh. “But I understand her wanting him to be part of something that gave her joy because you want to share your joy with them.”

“Some other kid is worse” isn’t my bar. In fact, since everyone’s different, I think applying a bar is useless and stupid. What Mrs. Berube ignores is that St. Monica didn’t just pray. She showed her heart through her tears and she did tell St. Augustine what she needed to tell him.

From St. Augustine’s “Confessions”:

7. Woe is me! Do I dare affirm that thou didst hold thy peace, O my God, while I wandered farther away from thee? Didst thou really then hold thy peace? Then whose words were they but thine which by my mother, thy faithful handmaid, thou didst pour into my ears?

This next part kind of smacks of having your child’s vocation revolve around mom. That’s definitely something she needs to “let go.”

Letting Go

When my son, Patrick, announced that he had decided to enter the Society of Jesus, my husband and I were incredulous. “If you want to be a priest why not become an Episcopalian priest?” I asked him. “That’s the church you were raised in, and you could still get married.” I did not need to finish the sentence. Patrick already knew that what I really cared about was not some hypothetical daughter-in-law; it was grandchildren—preferably lots of them.

I have always thought Patrick would make a great husband and dad. Like his father, he is playful and loving and thoughtful. He actually likes to talk about his feelings, and he never asks much for himself. He is the kind of guy who will take your hand without warning and hold it close and tell you that he loves you.

No matter where he is, he notices babies. We can be in line to order coffee, walking through a museum or pushing a cart through a grocery store, and he will spot one in a mother’s arms or peeking out of a pack strapped to a dad’s back. His reaction reminds me of the stuffed toy glowworm he had when he was small—something bright and warm lights up inside of him.

He does not often approach these babies—that is too creepy for a single man, especially for a priest in these tendentious days—but you can tell he wants to. And when he is around his friends’ or his sisters’ babies, when he does not have to worry about what people think, he will get down on the floor with them and play like a kid and hold them so close it’s as if he’s inhaling them.

And? We always assume that someone who would make a good priest wouldn’t make a good father? Why? I mean, in reality, they are fathers to many. The priesthood isn’t a default for those who wouldn’t make good husband/father material. 

I know now that there was something else calling my son, something even more compelling than babies, and that is the call—the vocation—he ultimately heeded. It took me several years to accept his decision; I am still working to fully understand it.

Sigh. I’m not really getting any good insight from the long-time, anti-ex-newly returned Catholic here. It’s so interesting that the thrust of most of the article were examples of people just letting their kids do whatever to the detriments of their soul but the lady who has a priest for a son, who is presumably seeking to live a life which is God-centered, is the one struggling so much.

We have spent countless hours talking about what it is like to be a Jesuit living in a community of religious men, the spaces he seems to fill in the lives of other people and what he hopes to accomplish. I ask him—often—whether he is happy. And I have begun going to church again, this time with a lot less willfulness and a great deal more humbleness. I am giving Catholicism a second chance.

I have come to realize that, as a mother, I have two choices, and both involve letting go. I can surrender my son to a choice I would not have made for him, or I can acknowledge what I do not know and what I cannot control and walk with him.

Good on the return, but at some point you have to realize it’s not about you. It’s about God’s plan for your child and his/her salvation. Everlasting life or everlasting death. This is what always seems to be so crucially missing from this article.

Patrick would put it this way: Motherhood, like any vocation, is a calling—the voice of another calling us to something more. Sometimes the voice that is calling is God’s. Sometimes it is that of your children. Sometimes it is hard to tell them apart.”

This article also appeared in print, under the headline “Passing on the Faith? ,” in the May 14, 2018 issue.

Sigh. This whole long thing was a lot less about passing on the Faith or keeping your kids Catholic and a lot more on what makes moms happy and not so happy. 

Parents, I encourage you to live boldly in Christ and his Church, but live humbly in yourselves. This isn’t about our pride, our culture, our “nationality.” It’s about the salvation of our children. Are we going to do everything perfectly? Never, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Pray, rely on the Sacraments, and fight like hell to keep our kids from spending eternity there. If you don’t fill your kids heads with your thoughts about the Church, the world most certainly will fill their heads with thought about everything BUT the Church.

If your kids have left the Church and you feel like you have (or are wondering if you have) made mistakes in that area, tell them that! Share your heart and mind with them. Don’t beat yourself up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and realize that all things are still possible with God but don’t be a passive player in this life. Keep going after those lost sheep.  #HappyMothersDay


15 thoughts on “Keeping Those Kids Catholic

  1. “Rarely will a child take the Faith seriously if their parents don’t make it mandatory while their little brains of mush are forming.”



  2. I have been begging God lately to give my children a Saul of Tarsus moment. I even told Him I’d be ok with the lightening and the horse (as long as it didn’t kill that child) to convince them of the truth. All of them are “practicing”, but none of them have their hearts in it. I pray for them and keep going. Hopefully some day they will come to believe as much as their Dad and I.


  3. I found out very recently that my oldest granddaughter, via her own statements on twitter, is gay and effusively pushing the lavender agenda, rather than facing her feelings, like a Catholic and addressing it, as her grandfather has his marital abandonment, with public celibacy and supporting Catholic, longstanding, teaching. It is heartbreaking.

    I will always love her, but I cannot stand with/support her choice in this.

    Kyrie, eleison.



    1. Karl, that is your loss and I’m sorry that you are choosing not to accept her. She will probably miss you in her life. It’s sad.


      1. As usual TT, you fail to understand the difference of loving the sinner but hating the sin. To apply your logic, he’d have to accept the actions of his granddaughter if he she was shooting heroine too. Sorry. When you love someone you don’t support their death physical or spiritual. Karl is in a position where he has to endure refraining from extra-marital physical relations too. He’s the perfect person to support his granddaughter in chastity because he’s got a very similar walk.


  4. Shooting heroin is a choice. Being gay isn’t. It’s this kind of unwavering belief that God does not accept gays that causes so many LGBQT kids and adults to turn to suicide. He may still love her but his lack of acceptance is what speaks loudest.


    1. Engaging in sodomy and/or masturbation is the choice one makes that is unacceptable to those that love them. YOu, again are comparing apples to oranges. Having the propensity for drug addiction or same-sex attraction may not be a choice but to act on it is.

      And, no, it’s not acceptance or nonacceptance of one’s action that causes suicide. It’s mental illness which is further exacerbated by separating oneself from God via sin.


      1. Another of my children, Aunt to my granddaughter, who was our oldest and remembers the tumult of her parents marital quagmire, I remember, for her confirmation which I attended, spoke of a young boy, Daniel(only God knows where he is now), she liked at the time. She was about 14.

        Couple of years later, I learned of my daughter, yes, the same one above, having had a breakdown after involvement with a married woman, from her closest sibling, whom to thus day remains closest(relationship closeness), another daughter.

        Years pass, with my children knowing that my love for them is ALWAYS theirs, while my approval and support may not be when they wander from long held/taught Catholic belief/teaching. My oldest takes up with and lives with another woman, even moving to Houston, Texas, with her. I even visit and stay with them for a week, during their “soujourn”, remaining “close” to my oldest, but our understanding, remained unspoken and consistent between my daughter and I. Obvious love but quiet gentle, distance.

        A couple years later, they part.

        Another yearish passes and my daughter brings up
        an old trip she and two fellows took to see, Ani Defranco, in Buffalo, a few years earlier, in a phone conversation we had. She was surprised, but not completely, that I recalled that trip AND the guys she
        travelled with. Then, she tells me that she is dating one of them.

        Fast forward a few more years after she married him and had two grandsons.


        1. I called her one day, distraught over having been seriously tempted by a Jamaican lady I met.

          The gorgeous lady and I spoke, first about her, when I asked her how someone like her, at 56, could possibly still be single.

          She was a private investor in NY, self-made millionaire, well educated, polyglot, refined, softspoken, drop dead gorgeous lady, 4 years younger than I, at the time.

          She told me her story and sort of asked me a rhetorical.

          Transitioning to that question, her story concluded with….I have been on, maybe, 2 or 3 dates in the last 10 years, Karl. YOU KNOW WHAT MEN WANT, KARL?

          So, I replied. They want your money and they want to sleep with you!

          She smiled, acknowledged that my conclusion was on the money, then said THE MAGIC WORDS.

          But I am an old-fashioned, Catholic girl. I will sleep with no one, until I am married to him!!

          Which she immediately followed with, but you have no ring on, Karl, what is your story?

          Well, then it got interesting.


  5. I told her my tale of marital woe, during which she questioned me with educated, experienced Catholic interest, concluding with something close to:

    I have never met a man like you. You mean that you were a virgin when you met your wife and she abandoned your marriage and took everything from you and you remain faithful to your vows?

    I replied, yes.

    She pondered the reality that I was a virgin at 25, abandoned at 35 and faithful at 60.

    We talked at length and the attraction was VERY MUTUAL, but inside we both knew reality, both being practicing Catholics.

    To shorten this: she asked me to a very important event in her life because her brother, who had planned to be there, died suddenly of a heart attack, about 3 months before and she had no one to “be there” for/with her.

    I went with her and participated with her, but then, THE MOMENT OCCURRED.

    As we embraced, for about 2 min, which I wanted to last forever, but passed so quickly, both of us had teary eyes. As our embrace ended, I said:

    I have to tell you this. If I were a free man, I would ask you out in a heartbeat.

    Before I could do further, she interjected:

    But, you are not free. So, we cannot be. Let me kiss you once.(Then she did so gently on my cheek). Then, let me walk from your life.

    Which was exactly what happened.


  6. Then, in the wake of this I called my oldest daughter, yes THAT DAUGHTER.

    Lovingly, she told me how naive I was and that it should have been clear to me that God’s hand was in this.

    She told me that the Jamaicam lady had needed to meet a man like me, because then she knew that there had to be others, like me, but who WERE available.

    Then she said, you needed to meet her, too, because after what you have been through with mom, you needed to see that there ARE WOMEN LIKE HER.

    That daughter, herself, has been through the wringer.

    Later, in that same conversation my daughter told me that my having never dated after being abandoned, had made her life so much easier because my choice to remain faithful never forcef her or her siblings to make a choice between their mother and the woman “on my arm”.

    She said it would have been horrendous because although she loves her mother, she has no respect for her because she is an unrepentant adulteress.

    She said the woman you would be with, would likely be easy to love. “But, you never made me face that choice.”

    Then, she told me:

    Your grandsons are Catholic because of grandma(my mother whom she loved dearly) and because of you!

    I am nearly in tears writing this.

    But, if you want tears, go read the comment here and listen to the song, which I am singing, and which is dedicated to this daughter, who, VERY LITERALLY, saved my life:


  7. This same daughter, God’s tremendous gift to our family,
    believes that, ultimately, your sexuality, is your CHOICE.

    She has walked the walk.

    As with me and as with her, it is our choice.

    Sometimes the going gets rough. Because we have lived through those travails, we understand the trials of others and will not withdraw love from those who are challenged in their understanding of love.

    But, neither will we support what may well lead those we love, to Hell.

    Our lives and our choices, not always perfect, are there to show love.

    My wish is that the brokenness between my wife and I, even after all these years, would be healed, for all of our children and grandchildren to see:






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s