First FYI Wednesday Answers: Marisa’s children and prayer question.

Vicky (19) relating her first remembrance of God, about age three:

I remember thinking that He would keep all the babies in a pocket next to his heart and he would hand pick the parent of each child. I believed that he would sit on his throne in heaven looking down on everyone and that you had to ask him to be able to get a gift or to do something, in sense believed him to be my father. I remember not being scared of him because I know he loved(s) and cared(s) for me. Also not being as curious of him as I was when I was a  young teenager. He made the world make sense for me.

I have asked fellow Catholic moms for questions that they might have on such questions about motherhood and spirituality, children’s  spiritual development, finding time for yourself, or just to learn more about Spiritual Direction; I have received four: Thank you so much, a great start.

From Marisa, she asks: How do you encourage children to pray when they don’t believe it works? Thank you!

Thank you, Marisa.  Since I am no sure the ages of the children it might be helpful to review their spiritual development.

The “global” stage – Infant to seven zzzzzz
  • Does not differences between religious faiths
  • Can appreciate religious symbols and rituals but,
  • Don’t connect to God
The “concrete” stage – Eight to 12 zzzzzz
  • Still very grounded in the concrete thought
  • Beginning to develop a greater sense of spiritual identity based on:
    • personal experience
    • religious practice
  • Rituals effective in helping children understand religious themes.
The “personal connection” stage – 13 -18 zzzzzz
  • A feeling of personal closeness to God
  • Budding actual relationship
  • God becomes a confidante

Reference: David Elkind, Ph.D., professor of child study at Tufts University

Now how can moms help their children develop a relationship with God?

Parents with children ages birth to 5
  • Participate as a family in rituals and practices that engage the five senses—sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
  • Adapt your religious and spiritual practices to match your child’s developmental abilities. Children this age may only be able to sit 10-15 minutes (or less) at one time. Offer a quiet activity or book to keep your child engaged.
  • Encourage your child to talk about her interpretations of spiritual or religious concepts, asking questions to clarify comments, rather than judging what she says.
Parents with children ages 6 to 9
  • Together, read stories and enjoy music and other creative arts that have religious or spiritual themes.
  • Make conversations about spiritual matters a part of your family life.
  • Spend time regularly with other parents and families who share your spiritual beliefs, practices, and priorities.
Parents with children ages 10 to 15
  • Encourage your child to take part in positive peer groups that reinforce and nurture his spiritual commitments.
  • Talk with other parents (including parents of older teens) about your family’s experiences with religious and spiritual commitments.
  • Keep talking with and listening to your child, even if she says things about religion or spirituality that worry or disappoint you.
Parents with children ages 16 to 18
  • Model spiritual beliefs and practices that are important to you. At this point in parenting, actions often speak louder than words.
  • It’s okay for your teen to seek out adult mentors with deep spiritual commitments or practices, even if those practices differ from your own. Exposure to different cultures and belief systems can help him evaluate and define his own

Note for moms of teens: Be open to following your teenager’s lead if she/he introduces you to spiritual passions and commitments that are important to her/him, but are different from yours. If she/he moves in directions that cause you concern, share your perspective and listen to what she/he has to say.

Now I would ask what has happened, a divorce or death of a significant person in the children’s life; because this can break the bond of trust that is developing.  It is important to talk with the children to help them process what has happen.  Children will by nature think that they have somehow created the situation, helping them process out what happen and how they were not responsible can help rebuild a relationship with God.

You might want to get the Prove It book series by Amy Welborn.  Amy Welborn is an American Roman Catholic writer and activist, as well as a public speaker. Formerly, she was a theology teacher at a Catholic high school in Lakeland Florida and served as a parish Director of Religious Education; here is her website

Marisa, I hope this helps.

Reference: Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence at spiritualdevelopmentcenter.org.

 

Next answer to question 2:  When did Jesus knew.

Video: I’m a spiritual director

This the first video for Spiritual Lives Of Women.  I am using these animations to bring an other aspect to the ministry.  It is my hope that I can begin to broadcast an every Wednesday a Q &  A video.

This is extremely important. He had to learn! He isn’t doubting Thomas. He is learning Thomas.

Project 7 3 2014 smAn addendum to Thomas.

A
All day I have been dealing with these thoughts rolling around in my head; so I thought I would let them out.

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Earlier I wrote about Thomas and comparing his experience with those of our children learning to navigate the world. In that comparison I used the words “quell fear”; those are the words that have been rolling around in my head, the words I feel complied to expand upon.

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You see Thomas wasn’t with the others when Jesus first showed himself and I don’t think it was doubt he was expressing but fear.

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Doubt for me always held a bit of a lie in it. Because to doubt you have to mistrust the thing or person and I can’t see Thomas, one of the Apostles, mistrusting Jesus. Or having misgivings, or apprehension, or being suspicious; all synonyms of doubt.

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I feel he was more afraid that Jesus wasn’t what he thought he knew he was; why else would Jesus say: “Peace be with you?”

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Jesus knew, as we learn the longer we parent, that disciples, and children, fear the new the different. But each of us, like Thomas must explore, learn and discover that new, that different, this life for ourselves.
That is what I think the Gospel’s focus is on; not the fact that Thomas doubted, but that unlike all the other disciples, and ourselves, he was not there first hand, he had to learn about what happened.

A
That is extremely important. He had to learn! He isn’t doubting Thomas. He is learning Thomas.

Thomas isn’t doubting, he is doing what we all must do

Mommy Mantra July 3, 2014: Feast of Saint Thomas It would be just too easy to write on doubt, but today I feel called to write about Jesus’ response: “Peace be with you.”

A

 

Oh Lord, do I wish I could react to “surprising” parenting situations like that! In all the parenting classes I have taken, and taught, over the years the basic concept is the same: gentleness rules out over an overly emotional response.

When I think about Thomas and Jesus’ interaction, Thomas was demanding to be shown like our toddlers and teens do. Thomas needed to investigate, learn for himself just like our school aged children and young adult children do.
A
Jesus doesn’t stand there doing the frustrated parent eye roll; he invites Thomas to quell his fears. When our toddlers run and hide behind us and venture out again, they are using us as a touchstone to help quell their fear of the big bad world. A world they don’t have the experience to understand. When our school aged children want to master a new skill they look to us for support to quell their fear of failure.
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When our teens do things that try a mother’s heart, they are like they were as toddlers, reaching out from between the boundaries of behind our knees to explore a world they feel they have mastered but truly haven’t. They need us more than ever to quell their fears.
A
It’s too easy to say Thomas was doubting. Thomas is doing what we all must do with our faith: explore, question, investigate, understand for ourselves. Today let’s prayer to support each other as we see Thomas in ourselves and our children. Let’s strive to say to ourselves and our children: “Peace be with you”, and to hear Jesus saying it to us.

Amos and Jesus

smile to hideMommy Mantra July 1, 2014: Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12, Matthew 8: 23-27

For those of us with older children, tweens, emerging adults, these readings can speak volumes. The Prophet Amos is coming down hard on Israel. Jesus is in the boat asleep when a huge storm threatens to swamp it.

The two readings seem to have nothing in common with each other. Amos is dealing with an unruly Israel who think the rules don’t apply to them. Jesus is in control of a situation that terrifies his disciples.

Sounds very much like many parenting situations I have been in.

I am often like Amos reminding the children that they are loved but the rules are the rules. And my husband is more like Jesus taking control of a situation that could/did/have potential to get out of hand, and bringing it around. It’s the partnership of parenting styles that works.

Now we are imperfect beings dealing with things imperfectly, but the readings do speak to parents. What they are saying is we must set boundaries, give our children responsibilities, teach them the way they should go, but be prepared to see them do the opposite sometimes. Like Amos we got to lay the law down, repeatedly, but let them know they are loved and everything is a teaching moment, character builder.

But some parenting situations are a little bigger than undone chores. These are situations that try parent’s soul.

That is when a cool head must prevail. As Jesus did we can not let panic take over. If it does we are sunk.

That is when a grasp of the bigger picture is needed. Jesus knew what was, he had no fear because he knew what he could control. We are not Divine, but in every situation there are things we know we can control.

That’s when you call on the biggest guns ya’ got on hand: prayer.

I want to take a moment and talk about prayer and difficult situations.

As I have said in the past we are parents of four ranging in age from late twenties to late teens, and we have what seems to be two sets of kids: the ones that appear easy to raise, and our challenge children. It’s the challenge children that dropped us to our knees. We prayed for guidance. We prayed for courage. We prayed for wisdom. We prayed for the right words to say.

Sometimes it looked like God wasn’t listening and frankly that feeling sucks. But then something would happen that broken the situation open.

Parenting is both art and “science”, but what it truly is is faith. Faith in your calling. Faith in your spouse and helpmate, faith in God

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

what motherhood is like

We are going to a birthday party for our Godson; it will be his first, and an exciting time for family and friends. It is a time for us to rejoice in this little boy’s life, looking back at all the milestones, not just the little boy’s but the parents as well; and with today being the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary it will be interesting for his mom to view this first year through Mary’s own experience.

Susan Netter wrote in her Facebook posting yesterday of Mary “pondering all these things in her heart”, and how parenting is hard, and we as “modern moms” ponder many things in our hearts. The Gospel this morning certainly reveals that Mary was going through experiences that we have go through or will with our own children. We see a teen age Jesus acting as teen age children do: exploring and expressing his own understanding of who he was becoming. And as older moms know and have experienced that process can be difficult, fear riddled and angering, the beginning of the letting process that is nature but not always liked by moms: seeing our children grow up, form their own response to God’s calling, and leaving the nest.

Did Mary, as she was searching for Jesus, look back on her life raising Jesus and see his milestones from infant to then and did she wonder if those memories would be her last? Did she vacillate between anger at Jesus being gone to her own doubts and worries to hope that Jesus is OK?

When Mary and Joseph stood at the Temple door looking in I don’t think they knew what as going on. It’s clear from the Gospel they didn’t, Jesus had to tell them why he was there and what he was doing. For our Godson the future is open, and the path being made. Mom and Dad are helping to forge that path, but it is our Godson who will be walking it. Like Mary and Joseph each decision whether conscientiously made or not helped shape Jesus’ journey but not the only influence, just as is true for our own children. And just as true of Mary and Joseph prayer, hope, and thoughtful guidance will be the best thing for our children

Responsorial Psalm June 27, 2014

smile to hideI have a friend who posts wonderful posts on Facebook that are filed with gentle wisdom about love, parenting and life. Today she posted the following which just rang in my heart as a prefect modern understanding of today’s readings but most specifically the Responsorial Psalm:

Responsorial Psalm PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 10

Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

Her posting:

Pretending that painful or negative feelings do not exist doesn’t keep relationships more intimate. It can even create inner distance when I act as if the intimate relationship is not strong enough to hold pain, anger or hate. Powerful feelings can be frightening, but denying their presence keeps me from deeper layers of self. When my intimate relationships are able to hold the powerful, paradoxical feelings of love and hate, anger and forgiveness, something deep within me can relax and let go. If they are not able to do this, I need to withdraw from the relationship in order to be myself.

I can hold angst.

In this era of self-understanding and conscious efforts at parenting, we learn we should not come down to our children’s level. That is, we should not be as hateful toward them as they are to us. Yet, if we seal ourselves off they are cheated and burdened by the illusion that anger and hatred are personally inappropriate. Therapists are like parents. When the therapist comes down to their level, both grow from it when the generation gap is reestablished.

It was then that I carried you.

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I work with moms who are desperate to find time for God, who feel they are no doing enough for God, that want to have children who will be good Catholics.  The one thing that each of these moms have in common:  They are pushing themselves too hard.  Today many moms work to help support the family, are single parents trying their best to be both mom and dad, are part of the sandwich generation with young children and elderly parents they are caring for simultaneously.   Than there are moms who are at critical stages of the motherhood spectrum: Newborns, so they have no sleep,  toddler, so mom is run ragged at the end of the day, school-aged with mom caught between a bake-sale and a room mother, tweens/teens and all the drama that comes with that.  These are moms who can hardly find time for a shower and yet they beat themselves up because they can’t pray the way they used to!

I joined a Facebook group called Catholic Mom Cafe.  I have mentioned it before, it is a lovely group of Catholic moms all trying to support each other, pray for and with each other and just be there for each other.  One mom wrote, in part:

“I was under the silly impression that once school started I would be less busy and there would be less demands on my time. Not sure what planet I was living on as those thoughts crossed my mind.

I have done nothing but feel like I’m playing catch up since the end of Aug/early Sept. This has been making me crazy(er) as time management has been a big part of my cognitive therapy.

So this past Sunday, the priest was talking directly to me (once again) during the homily. He was asking us what and who do we worship? How much actual time do we spend with the Lord each day/week/month/year? How can we expect prayers to be answered if we don’t take the time to pray? What is so important that we have to rush, rush, rush and lose precious moments with God and our families.”

These are all great questions and they will help discern how we believe our family should be, pray, and do for others.

To make those question work requires us to discern what is important in our lives.  Making a family mission/vision statement would be an excellent way to bring all aspects of our lives together.  But let’s take baby steps appropriate to our motherhood stage. For moms with infants it is almost impossible to spend as much time in prayer as we may hope.  Taking a nap may be the best for us at the moment, so saying the rosary until we go to sleep is a wonderful way to pray.

School age children, the drama of tweens/teens can make spiritual living a little different.   Being a good example of how you want your children to be is the best way of helping them get there.  Remember the footprint prayer?

 

 

Mommy Mantra for September 29, 2013: Luke 9: 46-50

a little child)

Put yourself in the arms of Jesus as he lifts you up

Jesus brings young children to him and to our modern sensibility we think how cute. Not so, in Jesus’ time children were loved, yes, but they were property. Our modern idea of children and childhood would be so foreign to the people of Jesus’ time that they could not begin to understand it.

So for Jesus to call over small children and say to get to heaven you have to be like one of these, well there must have been a lot of head scratching.

Think about it. No matter the era children are by nature trusting. They blinding trust someone will feed them, cloth them, care for them. Even when this is not true and children are in homes of neglect they still trust. They trust until they learn not to.

It takes a great deal to break a child’s trust. As years go on and things happen children lose trust and it is difficult to put that genie back in the bottle.

Prayers seem to go unanswered, promises get broken so we assume no-one cares. That is broken trust when we assume no-one cares.

Jesus says be like a young child who always hopes in a better tomorrow.