Nailed It! Do I Have to Be “Crafty” to be a Catholic Parent?

In the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, The Rite of Family Rituals asks families to create regular, daily times to work, play, talk, and pray together. Rituals like these enable families to practice the prophetic mission of their baptism by modeling Christian attitudes toward work, leisure, intimacy, and spirituality.

Crafting is one great way families can model a healthy approach to fun, and religious crafts can give kids a concrete way to connect with spiritual concepts. That said, to loosely paraphrase Jesus, it’s important to remember that crafts were made for man, not man for the crafts (see Mark 2:27—sort of).

In order to gain the spiritual benefits of any family ritual—including crafting–it needs to build relationships. Any activity that becomes about itself and not the people doing it, misses the point.

For instance, if you play Monopoly and winning the game becomes more important than building your relationships, you end up tearing each other to shreds. If you bake together, and decorating the cookies “just so” becomes the point of the experience, you’ll end up chasing the kids out of the kitchen to make sure it gets done “right.” And if you’re crafting for crafting’s sake, you have a family that looks great on Pinterest, but that’s about it. The last example is, I think, the modern take on Jesus’ “whitwashed tombs” (Matt 23:27).

We run into a lot folks who feel guilty that they aren’t crafty like “so-and-so.” In some circles, it can seem like being a holy family is synonymous with being a “crafty” family. How are our kids ever going to get to Heaven if we don’t make handmade nun’s habits for all their Barbie dolls—and in all the liturgical colors?!? “Now stop talking and hand me those ribbons for Heaven’s sake!”

If that’s your thing, and it truly draws your family together, that’s awesome. But if your family projects never quite work out as planned, or the very idea of working with construction paper makes you itch, that’s ok too. Failing to be a latter-day Martha Stewart doesn’t make your family less holy or your home less domestic-churchy than anyone else’s.

Living the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life isn’t about making beautiful props that turn your home into a miniature version of St Peter’s Basilica. It’s about spending time connecting, really connecting, with the people that God has given you to love and be loved by. It’s about being silly together, and cuddling together, and serving each other, and trying to be a physical sign of all the love God has in his heart for each of you. Whatever rituals help make that happen in your house are the “right” ones—even if they’re completely different from the rituals that the family in pew next to you (or that online family you admire) do in their domestic churches.

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life isn’t about trying to get every family to do the same things or act the same way. It’s meant to be a template that helps families cover certain important bases in their own unique way. So, be mindful of the 3 Rites of the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, but ask God (and your family) how you can use the model to bring out what’s best in your family.

Parents, Is Sheltering In Place Burning You Out? There Might Be a Simple Solution.

A friend brought this article to my attention. I have been reflecting on it in light of our larger conversation about the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.

This is certainly a challenging time. Even the strongest families are feeling the strain, not only of being together 24/7 but also for the reasons we’re obliged to be together. But I do think there is at least one major false presumption the author makes which makes home life even more difficult than it needs to be. He writes:

“There’s a subtle expectation that parents must find creative ways to handle this on their own. My in-box, social media feeds, and countertops are filled with creative ideas for educating and caring for your kids. Workbooks, games, creative projects and experiments, virtual yoga, virtual doodling, virtual zoo visits, virtual everything. I honestly am too tired and stretched thin to read the suggestions, let alone try them. The few I have tried have been met with astounding and fierce rejection by my son.”

The problem, as I see it, is that our culture has convinced us that our children need to be entertained by us. They don’t. That’s why kids can sometimes push back against all these “creative ideas.” Kids don’t want to be entertained by us. They just want to BE with us.

The author gets at this when he writes, “[My son] stormed upstairs to cry, he told me it was because I had stopped smiling at him. Knife, meet heart.”

“Knife meet heart” indeed.

That’s the point of the Rite of Relationships in the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life. We don’t need to kill ourselves coming up with craft projects, or new awesome games, or the NEXT BIG THING we can do with our kids to keep them happy and occupied.

We just need to remember to smile at them. To hug them more. To read more stories together. To let them talk about what they’re interested in and actually listen. To see what games they’re playing and join in as we can. To “waste time together” (as Pope Francis puts it). To ask them to come with us and keep us company (and maybe even help out) while we fold the laundry and do the dishes, and dust, and….whatever. Kids don’t actually mind doing chores with us IF the focus is THEM and not just pushing through the chore.

The Rite of Relationships challenges parents to stop thinking that all the stuff we do at home is just stuff we have to get through so we can finally do other stuff that is more entertaining. The Rite of Relationships invites us to ask, “How can I do whatever I’m doing RIGHT NOW in a way that lets me share God’s love with the people around me and draw closer to them.” The Rite of Relationship h
elps us “choose the better part” and discover the gift of presence. It allows us to stop acting around each other and reacting to each other and Just. Be. Together.

Parenting IS hard. Parenting during this pandemic is even harder. But let’s stop making things even worst than they need to be. Let’s stop thinking of our kids as projects and just connect with them as persons who love us and just want to BE with us. Let’s allow the grace of the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life to remind us that we are human beings, not human doings. It’s easier than you might think. It’s certainly a lot easier than the alternative. And it just might let us all learn to enjoy our families a little more.

Gentle Discipline: The Power of Catching Them Being Good

In the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, the Rite of Relationship is concerned with modeling Christ’s love in everything we do in the home.  How can we, as parents and

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kids, challenge ourselves to stop settling for the love that comes naturally to us, and intentionally use this moment to live more like Jesus.

Gentle discipline is one of the four ways families can celebrate the Rite of Relationships (along with prioritizing family time, extravagant affection, and promptly, generously, and consistently responding to each other’s needs). “Catching your kids being good” is a powerful tool of gentle discipline.

It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of exclusively pointing out when kids fail to meet our expectations. A much better approach is to note good behavior with small gestures of affection and affirmation. Studies consistently show that simple, positive reinforcement produces consistently better outcomes than punishments and consequences (Dwyer, Dweck, and Carlson-Jaquez, n.d.). Your child wants nothing more than to see the light of approval in your eyes.

You don’t have to throw a parade everytime your child does something that pleases you but remarking on good behavior lets them know that you’re actually paying attention AND that you glad to see them succeed.  Here are some examples of catching kids being good.

“I really like the way you guys are playing together.  You’re really good at sharing!”

“It means so much to me when you just start picking up your toys on your own. I love how responsible you are.”

“I know that you’re frustrated, but I see how hard you’re trying to be respectful anyway.  That really means a lot to me.  Thank you.” 

“I can see from the look on your face that your homework is really tough tonight.  I really admire the way you’re sticking with it through.  That’s really impressive.”

In each of the above examples, the parent remarked on a desireable behavior that occured spontaneously and complimented the child for the virtue that the child was displaying. Doing this also helps you deal with times your kids aren’t behaving well. How? Because they’ll know exactly what you mean—from experience–when you ask them to be “better sharers,” or show more responsibility, respect, or stick-to-itiveness. They won’t just understand the words.  They will be able to relate to the specific behaviors associated with them because you took the time to punctuate their successes.

Would you like to learn more about living the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life?  Join the discussion at Catholic HŌM–Family Discipleship on Facebook.

Stuck at Home? Your Family Can Still Be a Blessing To Others

This article is part of a series on the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.  Want more information on having a more dynamic at-home faith life?  Join our  Facebook discussion group: CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission)–Family Discipleship.

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is a model of family spirituality that helps Catholic families “bring Jesus home” in more meaningful ways so that we can make the faith the source of the warmth in our home.  “Liturgy” is a word that refers to the work God does through the Church to heal the damage sin does to our relationships with him and others.  The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life has three “rites,” each of which looks at how families can use elements that are common to almost every family to draw closer to God and each other.

The Rite of Christian Relationships helps families leave behind the selfish–and sometimes sinful–ways we treat each other and learn how to care for each other with the love of Christ. By living out Christ’s sacrificial love, this rite helps us practice the priestly mission of our baptism.

The Rite of Family Rituals encourages families to take a little time to work, play, talk, and pray together. More than nice things to do, when a Christian family has strong family rituals, they are practicing the prophetic mission of baptism by modeling Christian attitudes toward work, leisure, relationships, and faith.

Finally, the Rite of Reaching Out lets God use your family to be a blessing to others.  This rite helps families practice the royal mission of baptism. Jesus, the King of Kings humbled himself and served us.    “To reign with Christ is to serve with Christ” (Lumen Gentium).  We share in Jesus’ royal dignity by using our gifts to make other’s lives easier and more pleasant.

Even while families are sheltering in place, there is still a lot you can do to be a blessing to others.

erving One Another at Home.  St Paul says, If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1Cor 13:3). Did you ever notice how much easier it can be to be kind to strangers than to the members of our own households?  The Rite of Reaching Out helps families remember that authentic Christian service begins at home.

-Do you respond promptly, generously, and consistently to each other’s needs?

-Do you serve each other cheerfully (instead of grudgingly)?

-Do you see the chores and tasks you do around the house as ways to say, “I love you!” to your family, and “Thank you for this blessing!” to God?  Or do you think of them as “just stuff that has to get done so you can get to the other more fun/more important stuff.”

The more we practice loving, generous, cheerful service at home, the more the service we give to people outside our homes will be genuine (instead of self-aggrandizing) and properly-ordered (instead of competing with our domestic-church life).

The second way to practice the Rite of Reaching Out is by Thinking About Others While Being a Family-At-Home. The main way to practice this habit  is by remembering that everything you have been given to you by God—your food, your clothing, your furniture, your toys, does not belong to you.  They belong to God. The Church teaches that Christians are stewards, not absolute owners, of the things God has given us. We are to care for the things we have well, so that when we are done with them, we can pass them along in good condition to others who may need them. Thinking about others while being a family at home means regularly asking if you can prepare a little extra food for a sick or disabled neighbor, or if—together as a family—you can go through the gently used toys, clothes, and other things you no longer need and pass them on to other brothers and sisters in Christ who might need them next.

There are other ways to practice the Rite of Reaching Out, but just because you can’t leave your house doesn’t mean you can’t still make a difference.  God wants to bless others through you and through your family.  These two habits can help you celebrate some of the simplest ways God can work in you, with you, and through you to make a difference–starting right now!