Thursday, March 25, 2010

Memphis Conference - Live It! Notes (finally complete!)

Note: This the outline of my talk, but it's quite incomplete relative to the talk since it's missing a lot of little pieces and stories that fill it in and bring it to life.

Live It! Restoring the Culture through Faith, Education and Family Life

I took our catechism study group to a talk by Archbishop Chaput about Faith in the Public Square. After his talk, he was asked about what we should do about “Catholic” pro-abortion politicians. His answer – It’s my job to try to change them, it’s yours to replace them. And he pointed out a big group of teens in the audience.

Here’s a related quote from his book, Living the Catholic Faith: Discovering the Basics:
'Go, make disciples of all nations was the last command Jesus gave to us before returning to His Father. It's a big one. How can simple people like us convert the world? That brings us back to Mary, and to the apostles at Pentecost. They changed the world by letting God change them and work through them. We don't need to be afraid. We need to be confident in the promise made by Christ Himself: 'I am with you always, to the close of the age.'

Don't be afraid of the world. The Holy Spirit is on your side. Charles Spurgeon once said, 'The way you defend the Bible is the same way you defend a lion. You just let it loose."

This relates well to something Pope John Paul II said in his Letter to Families:

“...experience shows what an important role is played by a family living in accordance with the moral norm, so that the individual born and raised in it will be able to set out without hesitation on the road of the good, which is always written in his heart.”

This is great reminder of what a powerful impact that "Who we are" has upon the education of our children - especially in the long term. The Holy Father further elaborated:

“Through Christ all education, within the family and outside of it, becomes part of God's own saving pedagogy, which is addressed to individuals and families and culminates in the paschal mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection. The "heart" of our redemption is the starting point of every process of Christian education, which is likewise always an education to a full humanity.”

Homeschooling is not a sure bet as far as keeping your children Catholic. Confusion about "protectionism" - evil does not come solely from the outside world, since we have a fallen nature. It is essential to develop an understanding of what is good and help our children learn to love it (through parental love, prayer and the sacraments, study and good example).

Manifesting God’s Love to Your Family and to Others

Charity Fails ...

Example of air bag video from fail blog (You can watch the video here, where I had to just describe it in the talk).

St. Paul wrote about charity fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."
 Humility problems: There is a grave danger inherent in trying to a witness to the truth of Christianity for others and that is, without God’s grace and great humility, sometimes the externals become more important than the deeper realities and we succumb to pride. Like the Pharisees.

Don’t live your life as a reaction to the culture, but to Christ’s love for us. Live the best life you can and that *will* be an example. Beware of extremes – especially well-intentioned ones. (There but for the grace of God go I.)

Respect for children (CCC 2221-2228) We talk about respect in different ways which sometimes confuses people. There's a certain kind of respect we owe to our parents and grandparents or those in authority. There's a related, but different, kind of respect we owe people under our authority, especially our children, since they are made in God’s image. And our love should reflect God’s love which is unconditional.

Parental Responsibility (CCC 2221-2230)

Problems of materialism – spoil your kids with love, not things, and never let things be a substitute for affection.   Rummage sale problem. Candy bar example. :)

Supporting Each Other

We need each other! (more about this in the 3rd talk)

Ora et Labora (work AND pray) – Remember that you can pray for the courage to do what is right even when it’s hard or scary – God always answers this kind of prayer!

We are all imperfect and need each other’s help!

Model good problem-solving strategies to your children

Witnessing in Every Day Life 

“Joy is the Gigantic Secret of the Christian.” (Chesterton)

Among other things, a good model for our children in dealing with the world e.g. Grocery Store Conversations (respond with love even when you get sick of hearing "Wow, you have your hands full!")

Be Not Afraid

On the spot (fishbowlishness) for large homeschool families can be intimidating sometimes, but the world needs that challenge from us, and in the right context, those challenges are good for our children and can actually strenghten their faith. Two slightly silly examples: The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Waltons, The Homeschool Parade Story.

Avoid Certain Aspects of Culture
Secular ugliness
Problems with Protestant thinking (also see CCC 819)

Learning Cultural Discernment
“It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.” (essential for reading a newspaper!)

Develop your lens of faith and your skeptometer
       This requires knowledge and application. Includes a well-formed conscience, appreciation and conviction for what is good and true. Skeptometer to recognize and filter out what is wrong.

Enjoy age appropriate modern culture together; chat and make distinctions.

Note not only the bad, but also rejoice in the good!
        Essential for bridge-building – recognizing the good in others. It is an essential component in trying to help someone to the truth to recognize what we have in common.

Beware of Political off-balancing
We can’t surrender our Catholic thinking to the political party we favor.
If our children should be familiar with the songs, stories, heroes, customs and traditions of our country, they should also be taught the culture, stories and traditions of our Catholic faith.

Do What’s Right Even When It’s Tough

Avoid Perfectionism (and related anxieties)

Don't be afraid of not knowing something (and swallow that pride!). Many great things can follow the phrase, "I don't know, let's find out!"

...know what you say you know: know what you know and what you do not know; get one thing well before you go on to a second; try to ascertain what your words mean; when you read a sentence, picture it before your mind as a whole, take in the truth or information contained in it, express it in your own words, and, if it be important, commit it to faithful memory... This is the way to make progress; this is the way to arrive at results; not to swallow knowledge, but to masticate and digest it. (Cardinal Newman)

Be a good cultivator

Cultivation is essential because what your children love is even more important than what they know. Ah, and all of these things should be used within reason of course!

Note: A huge part of this is simply being there for our children. Nurtureshock notes on socialization and how babies learn language. (I'll try to find these references and add the quotes later - feel free to remind me if I forget!)

1. Foster initiative, even though it can be messy or disruptive.

2. Model good attitudes and virtues.

3. Allow small children to help you when they ask - even if they aren't *very* helpful. (cf. Maria Montessori)

4. Provide children with opportunities for success - especially if they are struggling with something.

5. Beware of unreasonable expectations.

6. Avoid condescending materials and attitudes.

7. Remember that patience is a key virtue in this regard and, finally, don't forget to ask for God's grace!

Thinking like a Catholic

(need to add link to handout on resources for thinking like a Catholic)

The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. (The Roman Catechism, a.k.a. the Catechism of the Council of Trent, as quoted in CCC #25)

Summed up in the Great Laws of Love, the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Four Marks of the Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent and essential source.

Goes beyond just overtly religious matters (like liturgy) and affects things like how we treat other people and how we make decisions in life. (add note with Winged Watchman quote)

A few key examples:

Above all - Charity

Respect for the Dignity of the Person (see CCC 1929-1933) and consequences for disabled, unborn, children - especially sympathy because we are also fallen (cf. Matthew 18, the parable of the debtors)

Unity of Truth/Faith AND Reason

Scripture AND Tradition (CCC 103, 113) - e.g. Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Liturgy of the Hours (both of which are rich in scripture and tradition)

The Virtue Lies in the Mean

Knowledge Does not Equal Virtue (because we have a fallen nature)

Principle of Subsidiarity (CCC #1883):

The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which 'a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

Helping Our Children Love the Beautiful

Many people don't recognize that children have a great capacity for beauty and mystery, partly because they aren't concerned, like bigger people are, about completely understanding things.

Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment. Here it is important to recognize the fundamental value of parents' example and the benefits of introducing young people to children's classics in literature, to the fine arts and to uplifting music. While popular literature will always have its place in culture, the temptation to sensationalize should not be passively accepted in places of learning. Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour. (Pope Benedict XVI)

The beautiful and the good, ultimately the beautiful and God, coincide. Through the appearance of the beautiful we are wounded in our innermost being, and that wound grips us and takes us beyond ourselves; it stirs longing into flight and moves us toward the truly Beautiful. (Cardinal Ratzinger as quoted by Fr. Schall in the Order of Things)

e.g. Introduce beautiful music, literature, etc. even when people think they're "too young"

Preserving Catholic Culture:

  • Help your children have positive experiences with priests and religious - e.g. adopting a seminarian
  • Liturgical Seasons and Catholic Customs - Can be celebrated in different ways - traditions, projects at home, daily liturgy via Mass or Liturgy of the Hours, celebratory foods, etc.
  • Don't try to do it all - start simple and focus on a few things - e.g. straw in manger for Advent, bean jar in Lent
  • Literature, Poetry, Art and Music - wonderful example: Saving Name of God the Son (Bethlehem Books)
Aim at appreciating the best of old AND new.

C.S. Lewis in an essay on the value of reading old books:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.

He also wrote in the same essay...

Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.
Family Conversations are Incredibly Formative
St. Edmund Campion and the Value of Learning
Cultivating a Love of Learning in Ourselves

Turning to God

Devotions: Sacraments, Adoration, Family Prayer (e.g. Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, Daily Mass, Litany of the Saints (handout)

Passing Along the Faith

Propose, don't presuppose (further reading can be found at CCC 2224 and Handing on the Faith in an Age of Unbelief by Cardinal Ratzinger).

Parents should do a lot of inviting their children to do good things, require the essentials but try to make (some) other things open to the joy that comes from freely choosing the good.

Cardinal Ratzinger said:

Do not presuppose the faith, but propose it... Faith is not maintained automatically. It is not 'finished business' that we can simply take for granted. The life of faith has to be constantly renewed... And since faith is an act that comprehends all the dimensions of our existence, it also requires constantly renewed reflection and witness. (Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism)

Simple Prayers to Teach Your Children:

Glory Be

"Lord, tell me what you want me to do with my life and I will do it."

Lord, may all the world burn with love for you.

I love you Jesus, my Lord and my God.

Totus tuus.

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