At a recent children’s Mass that I attended, the Gospel reading for the day was from Luke 12:49-53 where Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Christ continued to explain that father would be against son, mother against daughter, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and so on.
After the reading, the priest spoke to the children and said, “That doesn’t sound like Jesus. In the Gospel, he said one person would be against another person even in families; but Jesus came to unify people not to divide them. He wouldn’t want us to be against each other.”
Then the priest explained that what Jesus was talking about was how sometimes we disagree about Jesus and what he wants of us. The priest gave the example of going to Mass, when some family members do not want to go. He said, “You know, boys and girls, sometimes Moms and Dads don’t want to go to Mass on Sunday. You might tell them, ‘but we’re Catholic, we have to go to Mass on Sunday’ and they might say, ‘well we are sleeping in, we are not going.’ That’s the division that Jesus was talking about.”
I was so struck by what this priest had to say. The division and conflict in the Catholic Church does not come from outside sources. It doesn’t even come from high ranking officials. The unrest and lack of peace in the Church comes from within each one of us, especially in our families.
When we turn away from what Jesus has taught, we experience an unsettled hunger. Our peace is gone. By embracing the teachings of Christ, we are fostering a peace with deep roots of comfort for ourselves. It is truly our free-will gift to choose –away from Jesus and sorrow or toward Jesus and joy.
This is a guest post by Connie Cleemput the Director of Religious Education.
Where do you stand on abortion, on underage drinking, on the death penalty? Where do you stand on taking time to pray as a family, on having a meal together or attending church on Sundays as a family? Where we stand, so stands our children. They mirror what we say and do as their parents, as their role models, as they people they look up to.
When practicing songs and prayers for Mass (after three weeks of practice) I mentioned to the First and Second graders to ask their moms and dads to take them to Mass on Sunday mornings or Saturday afternoon. I said “Your parents will say yes, just ask them.” I can not tell you how disheartened I was when a second grader told me that he had asked his parents and they said no.
Where do we stand? How can you, as parents, help your children be the best Catholic they can be? How can you help them form their consciences so they can make good, moral decisions?
As parents we have a moral obligation and a Catholic obligation to help form and support our children into whom God calls them to be. Yes, God calls all of us to take a stand. God has placed these children in our care, knowing and trusting we will do our best to raise them in our Catholic faith.
Take a stand. Take them to church, pray as a family around the dinner table at least once a day, tell them about God. Look in the mirror and you will see a reflection of your child. Listen to your voice and you will hear your child. Do you like what you see and hear? Take a stand.
It’s Pioneer Days in Kalida and it will be a busy weekend. I’ll be working with the Bingo booth, Duck Races, flipping social burgers, calling square dances and most of all enjoying the food and atmosphere.
When I was young, church festivals and fairs were tough to attend because I did not have money for a lot of extras. That meant I had to be careful of how I spent my quarters, dimes and pennies(yes, I am old). I thought to myself of how neat it would be to run away with the circus, so to speak.
I’d be surrounded by cotton candy, taffy and parades all the time. I think I was secretly called to be a carnival person rather than a priest. As a young person I was looking for the sweet life, and that meant cotton candy. My mom always said that too much cotton candy would make my teeth fall out.
Either my mom was telling me stories, I didn’t eat enough to make my teeth fall out or there was a lesson my mom was trying to teach me. I’m banking on the latter. Life isn’t always a sweet carnival. There is real food that must be eaten sometime. Sweets are fine for short intervals but will I really grow without substance?
I believe this lesson goes not only for the body but for the whole person. To be a whole person there will be things on our plate that might not be the sweetest but may bethe best for us. Sacrifice and hard work are hard to swallow but may help us grow more than selfishness and laziness.
Mom always said our teeth would fall out if we had too many sweets. Mom made sure our teeth didn’t fall out due to proper eating habits at the table and in life. I am better for it and smile with my own teeth.
I believe we want a sweet life for our kids and for ourselves. Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. When I see the kids here I smile and want the best for them.
Today, I don’t think they have to run away to the circus to be filled with sweet things. The circus is here. As a nation and a community we have been blessed with many sweet things. The challenge for parents and our community is to help the kids keep their teeth and to smile because they have a full life.
And yes, I will have some cotton candy this weekend. I’ll also work the booths to keep our community strong.
In the spirit of Pioneer, what are you most looking forward to in this weekend’s festivities?
The question about having sex before Marriage is an important one to grasp. It hints at something more than a common, usual experience. It alludes to something desirous that needs to be treated in a special way. Thus it is imperative to understand the act of sex and how it can manifest love.
The union of man and woman during sexual intercourse is a unique gift of giving and a clear role in the action of creation. The sanctity of sex is reflected in the ultimate communion of two people, the complete giving and receiving of one for another. In addition, that union may be further mirrored in a new human life. The act of sex brings man and woman together as one. It continues the story of creation. It must be an action of love.
For this reason, we can not treat sex as a casual, earthly event. When we recognize the sacred nature of this union, we must surround it with the reverence and appreciation that it deserves. The Church looks to Christ to understand the complete giving of self for another and how to embrace full communion.
When we consider how Christ became a man, suffered, died and rose for us, we have the truth about love. He is what love looks like. His witness shows that love is given totally, freely, faithfully, and fruitfully. He gave Himself without holding anything back. He did so freely, not forced. He remained faithful to us throughout his entire life on earth and continues to be with us in the Eucharist. The fruits of His action of love are mercy and the opening of Heaven.
By using this lens to look at having sex before Marriage, we can see the shortcomings of that action. Pre-marital sex is not a total and faithful giving of oneself because it lacks a complete commitment, no witnessed pledge or vow. Pre-marital sex is not often given freely, but rather coerced as a ‘show of love’ or ‘just something that two people do next.’ Pre-marital sex does not strengthen the family unit that children need.
With this truth of Christ before us, we see why sex is an action of love between husband and wife. Through the Sacrament of Marriage they have answered the questions that most identify a loving relationship:
- “Have you come here freely to give yourself to one another without reservation?”
- “Do you promise to be faithful until death?”
- “Do you promise to receive children lovingly from God?”
Their vows to one another are a witness to us that they desire to love one another as Christ loves his Church – TOTALLY, FREELY, FAITHFULLY, FRUITFULLY – and every time they unite in sex, it is a renewal of those vows.
I often hear that our youth is the church of tomorrow. I never understood why the youth aren’t the church of today. Why do they have to wait? If our faith is somehow tied to the childlike there needs to be room for the children today. All of us need to celebrate with a childlike faith and vitality.
It has been my pleasure and honor to work with young people throughout my 25 years of priesthood. Youth retreats, school Masses, vacation bible schools, living rosaries and stations of the cross for youth have all been ways in which faith has come alive for the different parishes I have been in. It is not only the youth who are renewed in faith. Many times God speaks through these young people to enliven the faith of a parish.
Here, in Kalida, and hopefully at St. John the Baptist we have already begun the youth movement of faith. It is exciting for me to hear children volunteer for Stations of the Cross, to record vast numbers of first time servers, lectors and Eucharistic ministers from Jr. high and high school and to have kids coming over to the rectory for Friday Night Frenzies and ping pong.
As a parish, we need to continue to grow our kids in their faith. We need to be open to childlike ways that may include different styles of music and worship forms. Several of our youth have inquired about a mission trip to Africa. I love it.
My favorite story about the children of today comes from Children’s Hospital in Columbus. For the Sunday Mass the children who were patients always got the opportunity to preach if they wanted. One girl preached 3 weeks in a row until she was released from the hospital. A five year old said that she would like to recite the 23rd psalm that she learned in Bible School. She did it perfectly and the adults heard a new way of hearing that the Lord was the shepherd of a five year old girl. It was lovely.
Let us pray and encourage our young people to embrace our Catholic faith. I challenge the young people to praise God with your band instruments and your voices. If our parish can help you grow in childlike faith, let me know. Please share your favorite stories about children worshipping in the comments.