Sometimes God grants special graces to parents. Little encouragements come out of the blue that let you know that what you’re trying to teach has gotten through. Parenting isn’t easy, and we’re grateful for these glimmers of the great saint we aspire for our daughter to become. Now that I’ve started writing for Catholic Stand, she has gotten interested in blogging and often writes in a notebook as I sometimes discuss topics with my wife and noodle out ideas on the computer. I got teary-eyed when she brought us her thoughts on a few topics that she thought would be good to publish, and I was gratified that the ideas she had reflected the traditional devotions we practice as a family. Let me share some of my daughter’s first blog posts.
Turn to Mary
My daughter opened with a discussion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here it is in her own words (writing in my voice): “Some people I know may agree with me. I do have a special devotion to Mary. You may not, but you DO have a connection to Mary. Like me, no matter how old or young you are, you’re still a child of Mary, that is, when you are worried, sick, or some epic disaster is going to happen or already happened, you can go to Mary, your Heavenly Mother. You can go to her whenever you please. She’ll never ignore or shun you or tell you go away. She loves when you talk to her and ask her for something; she’ll ask Jesus for you and that’s about as good as you can get. But, that doesn’t always happen if you don’t need it. I have a special Marian rosary that I carry with me always. I also have a rosary, along with numerous holy cards in my car. My daughter has 15 holy cards above her desk, a crucifix, and a Mary statue in her room, with Jesus pictures. On top of that, she has a lot of horse posters.”
I guess I’m bragging a bit, but it is amazing the things that come from the mind of a child: simple and yet profound. I am thankful for her confidence in Mary. We believe that Mary has always been in the background untangling knots in our lives and asking her Son to send us extra graces when we needed them most, even when we weren’t aware of it, and that she continues to intercede for our family, keeping us oriented to her Son. (I also liked the mention of the horse posters thrown in for good measure, before she continued.)
Evangelize from within the Sacred Heart
“I like to think that I’m a lost lamb, and Mary is looking for me with THE one Good Shepherd, Jesus. I’m devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My lovely wife and I (remember, she’s writing as if this were coming from me) taught my ‘angel’ to say this prayer when she’s afraid, or most whenever she wants. After all, Jesus is never bored and always wants us to talk to Him. So now, I will teach you the prayer. Don’t worry, it’s real short. “O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You. Amen.” Say it whenever you please. For we all should go to Jesus, [as] we all are His children. Even if you know someone who isn’t Catholic (or you aren’t yourself), they’re God’s children. Tell them that they are loved and it’s not too late, or too early, to come home and be with God on earth! Christ will help us on the way, and Mary will help pick us up if we stumble and fall. Remember [this] your whole life.”
It’s hard not to get a little emotional when your child writes something like that without any prompting. It’s worth noting that almost every time Mary has appeared, she has appeared to children. Mary is looking for me, and for everyone, to repent and turn to the Good Shepherd. She has told us as much many times in Church-approved apparitions: “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you” (Our Lady of Good Help, 1859); “Don’t be discouraged , I will not abandon you ever. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and through it will conduct you to God” (Our Lady of Fatima, 1917); “I desire, my dearly beloved daughter, that you practice the three virtues that are dearest to Me and most pleasing to God. The first is humility, humility, and once again, humility; the second virtue, purity; the third virtue, love of God. As my daughter, you must especially radiate with these virtues” (To St. Faustina, 1937). The message is so easy to consume: Repent, turn to Jesus. Mary will help you. Ask her.
The second piece of what my daughter captured, “O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You,” is a classic devotional prayer that we pray at home. It’s reflective of our family devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is enshrined in our home. It’s a very simple prayer that seeks the grace to place our wills in accordance with God’s will by making our hearts sympathetic and obedient like that of Christ. It’s a prayer especially appropriate for times of uncertainty, like during scary thunderstorms or after nightmares. What makes me the most pleased is that this element is becoming a part of the principles through which she deals sees the Church and world and deals with life’s problems. It is very encouraging.
Evangelization Begins With Friendship
My daughter has been exposed to the concept of evangelization since our family got involved in this mission in 2011. As I first started debating online, I realized I had to be careful not to verbalize my anger and frustration after heated debates. Some of the anti-Catholic rhetoric is very disturbing, and was surprising to me as someone new to apologetics. I am sad to say that I was not always successful in controlling my emotions and my words. Only about a year ago did I come to the realization that being angry and trying to “win arguments” was not something originating from the Holy Spirit, and it wasn’t planting the right seeds. We’re in this business to bring the fullness of truth to people because we love them, and because God loves them. Recently, I have been very careful to teach, especially through my own actions, that those in imperfect communion with the Church are our brothers and sisters. What we have is a treasure that is their inheritance, too – salvation paid for by the Blood of the Lamb, and a faith defended by thousands of martyrs. It should be seen as a joy and a privilege to share the beauty of the Church with them, even if it sometimes brings a little personal suffering to hear misconceptions and falsehoods uttered. So it makes me happy when my daughter makes the connection between asking Mary for help and evangelizing others, in charity.
Catholic Devotions: A Spiritual Vocabulary
Let me conclude by saying that it’s gratifying that our family devotions have entered our daughter’s spiritual vocabulary. Devotions are an important aspect of catechesis, serving as handles to grasp the faith in a practical way and to open us up to God’s graces. An entire column could be dedicated to catechizing children, but, in brief, a well-formed conscience is achieved by teaching in full alignment with the Magisterium, and intentionally living it out as a family in daily life. Formation is accomplished by immersion in Catholic culture and embracing this identity in the public square. This includes the exercise of charity to all people, including those who displease us and with whom we disagree. Frequent participation in the sacraments, especially Confession, study of the catechism, reading of Scripture, daily family prayer, Catholic literature, wholesome music and video, and the aforementioned devotions are some of the items in which we immerse our family. We are still a work in progress, to say the least, but we’re aiming high. And sometimes God treats us to a little glimpse that maybe we’re on the right track, such as the writings from my daughter that surprised me the other day. We pray that my reflections on these innocent writings of a child might also be an inspiration to Catholic families in the readership. From our family to yours, may a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary deepen your faith, and help lead you home to the Father. Please keep us in your prayers, as we do all of you this Christmas season.
Prayer to the Sacred Heart
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, giving a life-giving fountain of eternal life, infinite treasure of the divinity, glowing furnace of divine love, in You I find my rest and my sure refuge. Most loving Savior, inflame my heart with the same burning love which enkindles Your own; pour into my heart the manifold graces of which Yours is the source. Grant that Your will be mine and that mine be in conformity with Yours for all eternity. Amen.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for Us!