Tag Archives: parenting

Catholic grandparents: Pass on the baton of faith

August 12, 2014

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“Preserving Your Family: Parents and grandparents working together,” by Dick Bergeson. Self-published. 89 pp. $9.95.

bookimageFormer Minnesotan Dick Bergeson has published a little paperback of advice that he hopes will motivate parents and grandparents to get to work passing on the faith.

Bergeson, long-active in the Catholic charismatic movement and now a grandfather and great-grandfather, shares Scripture-based ideas intended to help reverse what he terms “the exodus from our faith” by younger generations.

He echoes the urging of St. Pope John Paul II for Christian communities to become “schools of prayer,” noting that extended families need to provide both teaching about the faith and the supportive culture that has virtually disappeared from today’s world.

While much of the advice is aimed both at parents and grandparents, Bergeson writes, “It is important for grandparents to be conscious of the extraordinry position they hold in their families.”

The older generations hold a critical role in the faith formation of the whole family not the least of which is because “they have gone through may crises in life and know how invaluable a deep faith in Jesus is,” he notes. “They have seen God act in their lives and in the problems they have faced.”

Praying for family members is primary, along with practicing and teaching a variety of prayer forms, continuing to learn about the faith one’s self, providing a sense of propriety amid shifting cultural trends and living a life of integrity.

Bergeson sees grandparental involvement as handing off the baton of faith to the next generation.

“Grandparents have always provided the spiritual backbone of the family,” he notes. “Grandparents have live through life and have experienced losses, failures, struggles, deaths and have been able to see how God has acted and been there through each one of these crises of life.

He adds, “If they don’t step in, another generation will be lost.”

Bergeson urges mothers, father and grandparents to be a blessing to children and grandchildren.

“This means we need to give them words of encouragement and loving direction,” he says. “We need to remind them of who they are as persons. . . . The most important thing we can do for our children is to make sure they know they are loved and appreciated in our families.”

The overriding goal for all should be to “lay the groundwork for our offspring to get to heaven,” he says. “This is the only thing that matters in life and should affect all of our actions.”

The book is available at http://www.preservingyourfamily.com.

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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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Catholic grandparents will want to follow Tom McQueen’s lead in passing their values to grandchildren

December 10, 2010

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Sacrifice.

Integrity.

Respect.

Friendship.

Happiness.

Forgiveness

These are just a smattering of the topics author Tom McQueen waxes eloquently about in “Letters to Ethan: A Grandfather’s Legacy of Life & Love.”

McQueen, a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years, writes about things many of us have wished we’d have said to our own children or grandchildren.

They’re personal stories, intimate thoughts.

They’re original, they’re borrowed, they’re recycled from the Internet.

But combined into 150 some pages in a Seraphina Press paperback ($14.95), they serve to remind us that we who have live much have much to tell and comment on, much to add to the knowledge base of the younger generations and maybe, maybe help them enjoy what we have enjoyed as well as spare them from some of the grief that we’ve caused ourselves.

This is a book full of quotes to savor:

  • “You can read all of the books and study all of the principles of religion and behavioral science and become very smart scholars . . . but none of that really matters . . . because the single most important purpose for living is to know people, to engage people, and to uplift people.”
  • “All true heroes have one thing in common. They all want to do the right thing. Heroes value the sacredness of humanity and will sacrifice their lives to preserve the life, dignity and freedom of their brothers and sisters.”
  • “One of the shocking realities in this world that will take you by surprise when you least expect it is just how quickly your life passes. One day you’ll be sitting in math class looking at your watch and wondering when it’s going to end and in the blink of an eye you’re taking your vitamin supplement to help with that arthritis that’s been bothering you lately.”

There are great lessons McQueen hopes to teach his grandson through these letters, lessons about taking risks, about choosing a life’s vocation (as opposed to a job or a career), about faith and about prayer.

Each and every one is worth your time to read. Each and every one is worth sharing — maybe with your own progeny. — 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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Wisconsin mom finds God everywhere — and so will you

June 19, 2009

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“When’s God Gonna Show Up?”
by Marge Fenelon
Wisconsin mom finds God everywhere -- and so will youMarge Fenelon will tell you she doesn’t know when God is going to pop into every-day life, but she has a knack for finding the divine in just about every aspect of human existence.
Fenelon’s brief, two- and three-page stories come from the things that happen in her home, in the ophthalmologist’s office, as the van starts making a funny noise, you-name-it. They’re often funny, mostly poignant slices of the life of a 21st-century wife and mom, and they’re not unlike the incidents in your home and mine.
What Fenelon does, though, is find God lurking in the corner, creeping into mind, finding a way to influence her thinking and her actions in all those every-day moments.
Great conversation starter
Fenelon suggests you don’t read this book from cover to cover but one scoop at a time — a story a week. There is a lesson in each chapter/story, and each is worth savoring, processing, reflecting on. And those book follows the church year chronologically, with a special back section on feast days.
Each story ends with two elements to help readers get to that reflective end: They are questions — “What does Scripture say?” and “What does my heart say?” — that teach (the Scripture piece) and force readers to internalize the lesson.
I can see how a formal faith-sharing group could use a chapter as an easy way to get a discussion started, especially a moms’ group.
But I also can see spouses sharing this book — “Honey, you’ve got to read this and tell me what you think!” — and finding their communication blossoming.
Fenelon writes a regular column for the Catholic Herald, the Milwaukee archdiocesan newspaper, and thanks go to Liguori for getting this 163-page paperback into circulation.
The best thing about “When’s God Gonna Show Up?” is that reading Marge Fenelon’s wonderful book, you’re going to start finding God in your life, too. — bz
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Do you know where you came from?

December 12, 2008

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“Disguise,”

by Hugo Hamilton

What’s your earliest memory?

You’ve heard from parents and extended family stories from that part of your life for which you have no memory because you were just too young to remember.

But what if you discovered that maybe you hadn’t been told the complete truth about those early years?

What if there was evidence that the people who call themselves your parents may not be your parents at all?

Hugo Hamilton gets inside the mind of a character in that very scenario. It’s a novel that traps you into reading to the end.

Who are we, really?

The setting is Germany, and the story starts during World War II and flips back and forth between the generations and decades after the war and 50 some years later. Hamilton offers us a wonderful sense of place in every one of the locales he takes us to.

And as much as “Disguise” offers plot as a main device, it’s really character that is in the spotlight, and not just for the family whose story is drawing us in.

How is who we are and where we come from — and who we come from — important to what we become?

What impact is there on our psyche in knowing our ancestry, or, more to the point, of not knowing? What does it do to you when you can’t trust — or don’t know if you can trust — your own parents? If you don’t belong in a place, where do you belong?

How do you know when you’re home?

No formulaic ending

“Disguise” isn’t a book I’d jump up and down to recommend. By grade, maybe it’s a “B+” thanks to the absolute beauty of the prose.

But I do recommend this Harper title (www.HarperCollins.com).

We need to read literature that doesn’t have the formulaic endings of best-selling novels where you know before you start that the hero will conquer evil. — bz

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What if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

October 27, 2008

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“for one more day,”

by Mitch Albom

“Tuesdays with Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” have made Mitch Albom a best-selling writer, and it’s a modifier he deserves.

Albom has an ear for dialogue, a knack for description and a grasp of real life that all ring true in his prose.

Readers won’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming into investing themselves in this fictional piece that explores a man’s relationship with his parents. It’s a story well told, and one with you may find steals bits and pieces from your own family relationships.

How much of “for one more day” is autobiographical for Albom is a question that gnawed at me from beginning to end. But we don’t have to know the answer to appreciate where Albom takes us as we follow along with his character’s “one more day.”

While main character Chick Benetto’s father definitely plays a role in the drama, it’s Benetto’s relationship with his mother that takes center stage, and that makes this book unique.

The best parts? The interludes when Chick tells about the times when he “stood up for” his mother, and those times when he didn’t.

How much can a mother’s love make up for the latter? Read “for more more day” and find out. — bz

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Peter Kreeft passes pearls of wisdom to next generation

October 16, 2008

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“before i go,”
by Peter Kreeft

Oft-quoted in Catholic circles, Boston College prof Peter Kreeft has compiled 162 — what, statements? pearls of wisdom? life’s lessons? — in a tiny-yet-thick Sheed & Ward book subtitled, “Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters.”

I can say there area 162 of them — whatever you want to call them — because each is numbered.

Few are longer than one page. Most are just a paragraph or three or four.

And the book’s concept is excellent. How many of us have had that thought that we’d like to get down on paper things we’d like our children to know?

Not 162 great thoughts

I usually love this kind of work, because I can pick it up and read for just the bit of time I might have at that moment and grab a great thought to wrestle with. There are a number of those great thoughts in “before i go,” but there aren’t 162.
And, after hitting a few too many trite ideas among those numbers, I came close to crossing out a few and doing a recount.

I mean, “Stop and smell the roses?” Bet that didn’t take too long to come up with.

“Each day is a gift from God?” I think Sister Jude covered that pretty well in the first grade in 1957.

Tossing out the banal bunch and eliminating some of the really dumb statements would make Kreeft’s work very valuable for personal reflection. The man has a knack for putting ideas in concise, memorable sentences. It’s a real gift. Here are just a few examples:

“It’s better to be happy than to be right.”

“Be good, but be you.”

“All life is liturgy. All words are creeds. All times are Sabbaths. All places are churches.”

Advice worth sharing

And there is great advice, too.

Instead of complaining about how busy you are, simplify reasons for doing anything to three things: because it’s morally good, because its a practical necessity, or because it makes you happy.

Take seven minutes each day to thank God for seven specific things.

“Forgive everyone. Forgive everything. Forgive always. Forgive everywhere.”

Kreeft gives readers a really good explanation of grace, has a great message on how to respond when we fail — and we all do and will — and this wonderful take on the Beatitudes:

“If the poor are blessed, then let’s stop envying the rich.”

However…

The world isn’t black and white

At times I found Kreeft to be polarizing and divisive. My world just isn’t as black and white as Kreeft’s, and I sure don’t have all the answers, as Kreeft’s writing implies he does.

Although he writes the self-righteous prose of an expert, he takes a cheap shot by demonizing “experts,” for example. And in some of his thoughts he comes off as a prig, making unproven generalizations such as, “they don’t teach the lives of the saints in religion classes anymore.”

That’s pure B.S., and just the kind of false statements that get repeated and repeated until zealots believe them to be true. That’s one statement Kreeft should be ashamed of making.

I like the technique of making lists, to a point, but the list thing gets old after a while. Sometimes, too, others did it better years ago. Take his 10 points of “What is ‘A Good Person?'” The Boy Scouts nailed that concept in their 12-point creed — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent– a list that sounds suspiciously like Kreeft’s 10 thoughts.

It boils down, though, to you gotta take the bad with the good.

You go from No. 105 where the bad Kreeft is saying something as dumb as God is a comedian because he invented dog farts, to the very next page where he suggests we practice everyday what you do and don’t want so say and do on the last day of your life.

Dog farts? I expect better than that. But I forgive him. — bz

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Good tools for passing on the faith

July 18, 2008

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“Learning Centers for Advent and Lent,”
by Doris Murphy

Doris Murphy is doing her best to make it painless for families to grow in their Catholic faith.

From her experience as Director of Faith Formation at St. Bridget Parish in River Falls, Wis., Murphy has gathered easy projects that parents can work on with their children, projects that will help these “first teachers” of their young ones develop the foundation for a life enriched by the knowledge and traditions of Catholicism.

As she has for First Reconciliation, First Eucharist and the Whole Community in earlier books put out by Twenty-Third Publications, Murphy utilizes the learning center approach to enable parents to be those first teachers of the faith that they are called to be for the seasons of Advent and Lent, too. In the learning center methodology, the parish gathers needed material and instructions, then invites parents to use age-appropriate activities that have hands-on tasks, that invite talking with their children about their faith, all the time reinforcing material the children may be learning in their faith formation textbooks and classes.

It’s handing on the faith through example, through family rituals and through conversation. As important as the projects’ purposes are, maybe even more important is the time a parent spends with a child around something of a religious nature: It enables adults — the most influential people in a child’s life — to both tell and show a child that their own faith is important to them and that it’s a faith full of meaning and history, something to be greatly valued, remembered and cherished.

For Advent and Lent, Murphy’s workbook of just over 100 pages offers fun, easy, purposeful ideas that any parish, any director of faith formation, any catechist or any parent will find helpful.

It’s a how-to book from the word go, full of practical projects and turn-key materials, and DREs might find these ideas are worth a try. If they work in River Falls, Wis., maybe they’ll work for you. — bz

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