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It is impossible to live sacramental life while actively engaging in any contraceptive practices, for we knowingly defraud God of result of a loving act due to our selfishness and sinful pride.Upon assuming role of parents, we must remember that we have “primordial and inalienable” responsibility for education of our children (CCC #2221-23). While we can delegate certain educational duties to a formal school, we cannot delegate responsibility for oversight of our children’s education. The term “education” means more than just secular studies, for home must be place for evangelization and catechesis. First, we must give our children a solid grounding in virtues. Second, we must offer apprenticeship in self-mastery, self-denial and sound judgment, so they can learn to forego pleasures in spirit of Christian discipline. This helps widen their focus outside of family in order to see needs of others. Third, education in Catholic faith means creating an environment of personal and family prayer, participating in devotions (such as Enthronement, Adoration, Novenas, Stations of Cross and Rosary), attending Parish Missions, and ensuring thorough Sacramental preparation. Fourth, we must guide children in exploring potential vocations, especially being open to God’s call to priesthood or religious life. All of these efforts point to only true goal in education of our children - to make them holy people.
All of this responsibility may seem daunting to average Catholic parent. Like any task, however, we can create hope by building a strategy for success. Consider following as a guide:
A. Set and Honor Priorities - Make it known that God is first in your life and let your decisions consistently reflect God’s preeminent place. Ensure that family’s choices regarding books, magazines, entertainment, and clothing all reflect proper Christian values. Ensure that attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days (and especially while on vacation) is a family priority. Let family home proudly exhibit signs and symbols of our faith.
B. Distinguish between Vocation and Occupation- Understand distinction between “what we are” versus “what we do.” Success in our vocation (married, single or priest/religious) is our life’s goal. Our occupation, on other hand, is merely what we do to pay bills. God cares deeply how we embrace our chosen vocation, whereas it matters little to Him what field we choose to earn our daily bread. As any committed Catholic parent will affirm, it is infinitely harder to live one’s vocation than it is to succeed at a chosen occupation. Why? Because our vocation demands that we give everything of ourselves, a notion that runs contrary to our culture. Does next rung of career ladder undergo prayerful scrutiny for its impact on our chosen vocation or is it weighed solely for its occupational benefits?
C. Embrace a Vigorous Sacramental Life - Continue to foster a love of Sacraments in your children once they initially receive by having same level of commitment yourself. Demand of yourself an ever-higher standard of Christian behavior rather than simply remaining at same level year after year. Start a relationship with a spiritual director.
D. Surround Yourself with Committed Catholic Families - Americans love “support groups,” so why not as part of our faith journey? Have courage to discontinue relationships if certain friends do not support your moral values. Make an active effort to be involved in parish life beyond Sunday “obligation.” Be willing to be challenged by others more advanced in faith to delve deeper into its mysteries.
E. Continue Your Education in Catholic Faith - Consider last 10 books youhave read. Did they support or conflict with your faith values? Ensure that your faith education includes doses of Scripture, Catechism, Lives of Saints, Papal Encyclicals, Council Documents and works of Spirituality.
F. Actively Demonstrate Christian Service - Remember that, “...a contented Christian does not exist.” We are called to mix it up with society and fearlessly speak out against injustice, poverty and wrongdoing. In short, being Catholic means being countercultural, just as Jesus was countercultural. Our family life must reflect admonition of St. James that, “...Faith without works is dead.” (Jm 2:14) and render Christian service in a truly selfless way. Sincere actions will instill in our children importance of a life focused on service to others.
“We are not called to success, just faithfulness.”
*Catechism of Catholic Church, Second Edition.
Gary Shirley, his wife, and three children are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Kennesaw, Georgia, where Gary serves as catechist in the adult education program.