Tag Archives: children

Church points to impact marriage redesign would have on children, society

August 14, 2012

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Each family is a cell that is as vital to society as a cell phone is to communication. Photo/d:space Licensed under Creative Commons

Have you ever wondered why phones are called “cell” phones? If you already know this, you’re ahead of me: “Cell” doesn’t refer to a component in the phone but the fact that service providers divide up a city or region into geographic areas called cells which are equipped with a tower and radio equipment. Because of this structure, users within a cell can communicate with those in other cells.

Each cell plays a critical role in ensuring communication for the entire city or region. In a similar way, the Church teaches that each family is a cell vital to the function of society. According to the Catechism:

The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society. (CCC:2207)

Marriage is a private matter between a couple but the Church teaches that the broader society has an interest in the institution because it’s where children are most often conceived and raised. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 recognizes the family’s special role: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Caring for Children

Supporting marriage is a way of protecting children even though more emphasis is often placed on marriage’s legal and economic considerations. Congress, government administrative bureaus and agencies define the word ‘marriage’ as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

The Church doesn’t disagree with this definition but she views marriage and family also through a sacramental lens, focusing more on the welfare of children and their parents, who are the future of society. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states:

By reason of the vocation and social responsibilities of the person, the good of the children and of the parents contributes to the good of civil society; the vitality and stability of society require that children come into the world within a family and that the family be firmly based on marriage. The tradition of the Church and anthropological reflection recognize in marriage and in its indissoluble unity the only setting worthy of truly responsible procreation.

Unfortunately, many marriages today do dissolve without unity but that’s not a reason to re-engineer the institution. According to Pope Benedict XVI, “marriage and family are rooted in the inmost nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny.”

He continues,

Today, the need to avoid confusing marriage with other types of unions based on weak love is especially urgent. It is only the rock of total, irrevocable love between a man and a woman that can serve as the foundation on which to build a society that will become a home for all mankind.

Consequences for Society

If government redefines marriage ignoring the particular roles of husband and wife—and mother and father—children won’t get the guidance they need as they grow to sexual maturity, the U.S. Bishops wrote in their pastoral letter, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. Without this protection the State would effectively deprive children of the right to both a mother and a father.

In addition, they write, expanding the definition of marriage beyond that of one man and one woman would make the pattern of spousal and familial love and the generation of new life only of relative importance rather than fundamental to the existence and wellbeing of society as a whole.

Church leaders have foreseen some consequences of fundamentally changing marriage and family but ultimately some believe it would take a generation or more to know the full effects. Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote about the possibility of “a destructive ‘anti-civilization.”

Promoting stability in marriage and the virtuous life it entails, will ensure “the happiness and well-being of the nation is safely guarded; what the families and individuals are, so also is the State, for a body is determined by its parts,” wrote Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Casti Connubii.

Those parts, or cells, are superior to other communities, wrote philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand in his book, Marriage: Mystery of Faithful Love.

We cannot dwell any further on this important question beyond seeing the rank that marriage holds among communities and understanding that it represents in itself something far superior to all others, and that in itself it would glorify God as an image of the relationship of Christ and His Church even if no other communities existed.

Continuing to Share God’s Plan

Given how vital the cell of marriage and the family is to all of civilization, the Church will continue to share God’s plan for the holy institutions as they are attacked from many sides, wrote Pope John Paul in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio:

 At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the people of God.

 

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Ready for your close-up?

August 29, 2011

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Here’s a valuable lesson for budding actors — and for you and me

By Michelle Martin

Each afternoon when I pick Caroline up from her theater camp, the students perform short pieces from the plays they will be presenting for the other campers and their parents.

What impression do we give everyday to the people you see -- and see you -- all day long? "Remember," Catholic mom and columnist Michelle Martin writes, just as young actors learn, "you are always auditioning."

It gives them a chance to work on new pieces in front of a small and friendly audience, without the high-stakes pressure of it being their one and only on-stage performance, and it gives the parents a chance to see what their kids are doing all day.

It also is a teaching situation, both in terms of the actual pieces being worked on — the teachers don’t hesitate to stop the music and remind the children exactly how they are supposed to be singing or to correct a dance move — and in terms of general life lessons.

So when a camper asks when the auditions for the next play are, the answer is, “You’re always auditioning.” That includes when they are supposed to be watching and listening to other campers perform.

When campers are practicing how to introduce themselves for auditions, they are reminded that the audition doesn’t start when they walk out onto the stage and say, “Hello, my name is … . “ When they are waiting in the wings, that’s part of the audition too, so they should projecting a sense of calm and confidence, not fidgeting with their clothing and poking the camper next to them.

That’s a valuable lesson, for people who want to be on the stage and for the rest of us.

Sure, there are times in your life when you know you will be evaluated or tested or have to prove yourself. There are exams and job interviews and tests of faith and courage.

Character counts. Everything counts.

But those aren’t the only times when you have to comport yourself well, with grace and dignity and kindness. Everything counts. Character is what you do when no one is watching — a line that has been attributed to half a dozen speakers, but most often to legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Because, of course, someone always is watching. It seems trite to say that God is always watching, but that’s what Jesus tells us. In Chapter 6 of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Nearly as often, people are watching, but they might not be the people you think about trying to impress. Ask anyone who is the primary caregiver for a toddler: Is there any time those eyes aren’t trained on whatever you are doing, or those ears aren’t straining to catch what you have to say? I remember watching Caroline play with her dolls when she was small, and seeing her repeat interactions I had with her word for word.

What about all the people you see every day, the waitstaff and store clerks and bus drivers? What impression do you give them as you go about your day?

Remember, you are always auditioning.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Contact Martin at mmartin@archchicago.org.

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What’s in a name? A lot, if it’s yours!

November 24, 2009

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“My Name is Sangoel,”
written by Karen Lynn Williams
and Khadra Mohammed,
illustrated by Catherine Stock

Shaquille O’Neal was the name that broke the ice.

Across the United States a great angst was fomenting as families with non-traditional ethnic backgrounds named their children what to many “American” ears were strange sounding names.

Remember hearing folks ask “Why can’t they give their kids a ‘normal’ name?”

Recall being stymied in trying to pronounce unique names, those with unique spellings, and especially names from other cultures?

Then came the personable, photogenic and talented basketball player named Shaquille. Our ears started to get used to the sound of a name that wasn’t Tom or Dave, Jennifer or Jane.

The need for open-mindedness about unique names multiplies as refugees from around the world continue to flee war, hunger and oppression in lands where many names offer a test to American ears.

Authors Williams and Mohammed give us a different perspective on the phenomenon. In this colorful children’s book, readers learn what it’s like to be the African boy from Sudan who finds no one in his new country can pronounce his name.

Too different to even try

After his father is killed in war, Sangoel lives in a refugee camp until the day he and his mother and sister can emigrate to the United States.

Everything is new in this new land, and although he is only eight Sangoel is the man of the family, he takes responsibility to help his mother and sister make their way.

As the first-born son who as Dinka tradition has it is named after his father, his grandfather, and his ancestors through the ages, young Sangoel heeds his grandfather’s parting words: “You will be Sangoel. Even in America.”

That proves to be quite the challenge.

Hanging on to his name with pride, the boy despairs that no one in the United States — not the social worker helping his family resettle, not doctors, not teachers, classmates, coaches or soccer teammates — can rightly say his name.

Some don’t even try — an experience with which many an American with an ethnic last name can surely identify and empathize. People see an “ski,” a “wicz,” an accent mark or an apostrophe in a name and they don’t even attempt to sound out a pronunciation.

In this beautifully illustrated work from the collection of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Sangoel’s creativity enables him to teach others to say his name correctly — and to be accepted in his new environment without leaving behind the heritage of his native homeland.

Reading “My Name is Sangoel” — pronounced “Sun-Goal” — makes for a teachable moment, an opportunity to address at least one prejudice our nation of immigrants can live without. — bz

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Help for teaching siblings they don’t have to be rivals

November 4, 2009

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“Brown Bear, White Bear,”

written by Svetlana Petrovic,

illustrated by Vincent Hardy

The four-year old and the two-year old sat beside me, their eyes glued to the pages as grandpa read this cute little story.

Neither granddaughter moved a muscle until story’s end.

That’s a good children’s book.

The gist of the tale is that two grandmothers who compete for little Alice’s favor both gift her with bears. The bears, however, don’t get along with one another any better than the grandmas do as they vie to see which one of them Alice likes best.

Their teddy-bear version of sibling rivalry escalates to the point where young Alice needs to give both a time out — something the pre-school set will understand — and some good lessons follow.

‘Adult rivalry’ too

As much as this is a children’s book, adults who pay attention while they are reading it to youngsters have a good chance of picking up on the silliness of their “adult rivalry” for the affection of a child.

And I couldn’t help but wonder if Ellie (age 4) and Sarah (age 2) could transfer the bears’ poor behavior toward one another to the way they themselves sometimes treat each other. That’s going to take some work by adults.

But repeated readings are going to help with that, and sure enough, as soon as we turned the last page of this colorful Eerdmans book the plea came up: “Read it again, grandpa.”

That’s a good children’s book. — bz
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When baby No. 2 comes along…

September 11, 2009

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“Not Yet, Rose,”

written by Susanna Leonard Hill,

illustrated by Nicole Rutten

“Is the baby here yet?”

Every parent who has another baby on the way will empathize with the answer “Not Yet, Rose.”

Better yet, parents will want to read it to their toddlers — and because the story is so right on, they won’t mind reading it over-and-over — fact-of-life for parents of toddlers — because it offers such teachable moments.

Teachable moments for adults are there, too, for those able to get past the exasperation of their child/children and see the book’s parents as role models worth emulating.

Sibling rivalry is most likely going to happen later, for sure, but Hill’s gentle touch is sure to ease the mind of many a first-born as they wonder about their own life after the baby comes out of mommy’s tummy.

Will my life change? Will it be the same?

Do I want a brother? Would a sister be better?

Maybe I don’t want a brother or a sister at all!

Rutten’s illustrations with their soft palate and warm tones create just the right atmosphere for cuddling up with this wonderfully done book from Eerdmans.

Baby No. 2 on the way? Buy this book. — bz

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Baseball, kids and a child’s book to be appreciated by young and old

April 25, 2009

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“A Glove of Their Own,”

by Debbie Moldovan, Keri Conkling and Lisa Funari-Willever,

illustrated by Lauren Lambiase

All summer long it happened every day at Edwards School Playground on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

The grounder would stick in the shortstop’s glove, he’d whirl and fire to the pitcher — pitcher’s hands “out” — for the third out before the batter could step on first base, an old newspaper with the rock on top (so it wouldn’t blow away).

The four-five-six guys in the field would run in for their turn at bat, and the team that had been batting took the field. Inevitably somebody from the team in the field flipped his glove to one of the guys who didn’t have a glove.

That was baseball — and still is — in the free-of-all-cares world of kids and summer vacation, and it’s what makes “A Glove of Their Own” more than just a nostalgia piece, although the first few paragraphs above are evidence that it certainly is that.

As good a growth- and person-building experience as organized sports can be when caring, trained, thoughtful coaches and supportive parents make them so, there’s a special growing up that happens in pick up games — games umpired not by adults but by children’s sense of fair play, games not pressurized by league standings or playoffs, games in which kids don’t have to “make the team” but just show up in order to get to play.

This colorful, child-sized book won’t win any awards for plot, although it’s cute enough.

It won’t take a Newberry Award for creative writing.

Details in some of the illustrations will make the trained-eyed sports person wince: The hands of the batter separated on the bat? YIKES! The first baseman standing right in the middle of the base and the runner headed straight into him? Quick, dial 911!

But youngsters in the primary grades who like sports will love the story and its rhyming cadences. And the messages in this short, simple child’s book are sure to sew seeds of generosity and caring for those less fortunate, like youngsters who have to play baseball without a glove of their own.

I can’t wait to have my grandsons read it to me. — bz

P.S. — Franklin Mason Press, the publisher, has partnered with Danjulie Associates in a nonprofit effort to raise funds for sports equipment for needy youth. A portion of book sales are donated to selected youth sports organizations, and the company also will partner with groups to do book-selling fundraisers. For details, visit http://www.franklinmasonpress.org. And kudos to Jack Hannahan and Robb Quinlan, two Minnesota Catholic high school products, for their support of this worthwhile project.
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