You Don’t Need Magic to Teach Good Manners

Have you ever witnessed a young child being carried out of church while having a meltdown and yelling, “No thank you! No thank you!” Or, on a more positive note, maybe you’ve been impressed by the polite behavior of the same young children during coffee and donut hospitality after Mass.

How did their parents get such polite children?

It’s not magic, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak said on a recent CatholicHOM podcast.

The key is to recognize that manners are not essentially about social niceties or impressing other people; instead, they are grounded in the recognition that other people are children of God and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

“To use good manners simply means: Are we making them feel comfortable? Are we making them feel cared for and lifted up? That is the foundation of good manners,” Lisa Popcak said.

Manners, then, are an integral part of the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.

To Get Well-Mannered Kids, Model Good Manners

The first step in teaching good manners is for parents to model them. Young children learn by observing the behavior of adults, especially their parents. So, if you want polite children, show what that looks like—starting with your own kids.

“We have a tendency to think that, well, because we’re parents and they’re kids, we don’t have to be polite to them,” Greg Popcak said. “We just tell them what to do and they should do it.”

But if we want our children to say please and thank you, for example, “they’re only going to learn it if we’re saying it to them,” Lisa Popcak said. “So, if you’re saying, ‘Get me a diaper for your baby brother’—no, we should be saying, ‘Please get me a diaper for your baby brother.’ And then when the child comes back with the diaper, ‘Thank you so much, I really appreciate that!’”

Similarly, instead of simply telling a toddler no (“No, don’t touch that”), you might say, “No, thank you!” Before long, your toddler will be using the same language when he wants to refuse something.

Lisa Popcak was initially skeptical of this approach when she saw a friend using it with her child. “Nobody talks that way to their children,” she recalled thinking. “You just tell them, no, they can’t do that.”

But as she watched her friend’s son for a while, she noticed he was able to communicate politely even during emotionally intense situations. Inspired by this, Lisa and Greg adopted the practice with their own kids, with “beautiful” results.

Habitually using polite language with children is especially helpful during periods of high emotional temperatures, because the language is a reminder that both parent and child have dignity that we want to uphold. “That brings down the emotional temperature and keeps our thinking brain engaged,” Lisa Popcak said.

The Magic of the Do-Over Technique

Another effective way to teach kids polite language is to use the “do-over” technique, Greg Popcak said.

When a child demands something rudely, parents can calmly say, “I understand you want this. Let’s try asking for it politely. Can you say, ‘May I please have…?’” It’s critical not to use an angry or scolding tone; instead, adopt a helpful tone—it’s more effective than an angry tone, and again, it models the type of behavior you want your child to use with others as he grows up.

It’s important to note that using the do-over technique doesn’t mean giving children everything they ask for, even if they ask politely.

For example, if a child says, “Give me the chainsaw!” you can guide them to rephrase it as, “May I please have the chainsaw?” Once they ask politely, you can respond with, “Thank you for being so respectful and kind in the way you asked for that, sweetheart. But no, you may not have the chainsaw; it’s not safe for you.”

The child may not get exactly what she wants, but your praise and approval is a powerful reward in itself.

Modeling Helpfulness

Finally, Greg and Lisa Popcak recommend modeling and teaching helpfulness. So, for example, if someone in the family is going to the kitchen for something, model (and teach) the practice of asking others whether they would like anything as well.

Similarly, when you’re doing chores around the house or helping someone out, when the task is completed, make it a habit to always ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Don’t, however, take advantage of this considerate question by continually adding more chores to the list, the Popcaks warn. While you might occasionally ask for more help (like when you’re preparing to have guests over), It’s only considerate to show appreciation and let the child do something else.

Again, it’s important to remember that, in a Christian household, the whole point of manners is not to follow an empty social convention.

“When we use good manners in our home…we are taking little steps to remind (one another) of their dignity and worth as children of God,” Greg Popcak said.

To hear the whole podcast and get personalized parenting help, sign up for the CatholicHOM app and look for CatholicHOM podcast episode 41, “Mind Your Manners!” You can also find Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak’s Parenting with Grace books at

Help Your Children Manage Mass (and Life) with Discipleship Discipline

Heaven is no doubt filled with parents whose many virtues included taking their squirmy little kids to Mass—a comforting thought for any parent dealing with a mid-Mass meltdown.

But is it possible to avoid that meltdown in the first place?

Yes, it is, says Jacob Francisco, LMHC, a pastoral counselor at the Pastoral Solutions Institute who has many years of helping families and children as a family therapist.

“I promise you can do this even with a toddler,” Francisco said in a recent interview. “A two-year-old can learn to sit in the pew and be relatively well-behaved for the length of one Mass.”

Better yet, the same parenting skills that you use to help your kids get through Mass can be used in other settings as your kids get older.

Master Your Parenting Mindset: Connection, Not Control

Before we get down to brass tacks, take a moment to reflect on what comes to mind when you think of the word discipline. Your ideas about what that word means can profoundly shape the approach you take.

In the Discipleship Discipline approach promoted by the Pastoral Solutions Institute, the whole point of discipline is to help kids become the people God made them to be—healthy, loving, virtuous, and capable of realizing their full potential.

Most parents tend to be either too tough and rigid or much too gentle in their discipline, Francisco said. Striking a balance between these two approaches is crucial. Being overly harsh can damage the parent-child relationship, while being too lenient can lead to a lack of discipline and structure.

“We’re trying to hit that beautiful sweet spot in the middle,” he said.

And what does that “sweet spot” look like? Effective discipline isn’t about “controlling” kids, Francisco said, as much as it is about having a strong connection with kids so that they turn to you for help and guidance.

“Discipline is about building that trust and connection so they want to listen and follow you because they know you have their best interests at heart,” he said. “What you’re teaching your kid is that, really, true obedience comes from love. If we really love someone, we’re going to want to obey them. We’re going to want to follow them, which is ultimately the relationship we’re trying to have our children have with God.”

Once we understand discipline as connecting with our kids in order to teach them how to become who God made them to be, a lot of other things fall into place.

For now, though, let’s get back to the specific question of helping kids self-regulate their behavior during Mass.

Set the Conditions for Success

As you think about how to help your children self-regulate during Mass, the first step is to set them up for success. Just as a track coach might advise his team to hydrate and eat before a race, make sure young ones have a snack and use the bathroom (if they are toilet trained) before Mass to avoid hunger-related meltdowns, Francisco said.

We also want to be engaging with our children throughout the Mass, not only offering snacks or toys to “keep them quiet.” Instead we want to keep them connected. 

“They can get through an hour reading books or just being held or sitting on your lap, or you can be quietly whispering about things you see in the church,” he said.

Having a regular quiet time at home helps, too—it’s like practicing for a race before the real event.

“If the only time your kid is expected to be quiet is at Mass, it’s going to be a lot harder to get them to be quiet,” Francisco said. “But if they’re used to having to be quiet for a period of time, then Mass is going to be a piece of cake.”

Designate a period each day where your child engages in quiet activities like reading or drawing. This practice helps them learn to manage their behavior in a controlled, peaceful environment, making it easier to apply these skills in church.

Managing Mass Meltdowns

Even with all of these preparations, most parents have to deal with a loud, melting-down child sooner or later. What then?

Many parents pick up their child and head to the cry room, Francisco said—and then, when the child is all cried out, they stay there because it’s just easier.

“But if you want to teach your kid to be quiet and behave throughout the whole of the Mass, that’s not going to work,” he said. “All you’re doing is teaching them that we can go to the cry room and then I can play.”

Instead, when you remove a disruptive child from Mass, don’t put them down.

“Hold them the whole time,” Francisco said. “Once they’re calm, then you can go back to the pew. This helps them learn that Mass is not playtime.”

Francisco emphasizes that negotiating with a child during a meltdown often backfires. Instead of negotiating, empathize with their situation—while also providing clear and consistent boundaries.

For example, if a child is throwing a tantrum in the back of church, you might say, “I know you want to sit with Mom, but it’s Matthew’s turn to sit with Mom. You can sit with Mom after Matthew is done.”

An Approach for Every Age

You’ll need to adapt this approach to fit your particular circumstances, but the key elements should stay the same in almost any situation:

  • Stay connected. Show your child that you’re on her side, ready to help her get through her tough spot.
  • Set clear boundaries. Set clear and consistent boundaries and stick to them. Avoid harsh punishments while not permitting misbehavior.
  • Focus on coaching/teaching. Remember that your primary goal is to help your child learn how to be the person God made her to be.

In a way, then, helping a disruptive child at Mass is good practice for helping that same child through any number of other small crises during their childhood, adolescence, and young adult years.

Ultimately, it’s all about modeling for our kids the sort of relationship we want them to have with God, Francisco said. And there’s no better place to start than at Mass.

If you’d like more personalized help from Jacob Francisco or another Pastoral Counselor, reach out at Also check out our community and resources for Discipleship Discipline while receiving personalized advice/support at or the CatholicHOM app in the App Store or Google Play!

Kids Behaving Badly? Follow These 3 Steps to Turn That Problem into an Opportunity

Imagine you screw up at work one day, the kind of mistake that makes life harder for the whole team. Your boss pulls you aside to talk about it. Which approach would you prefer he take?

  1. Yelling at you and generally venting his frustration.
  2. Docking your pay or vacation time.
  3. Lecturing you about your dumb mistake.
  4. Working with you to figure out where things went wrong, then showing you a better way to do things the next time.

If you answered A, B, or C, please schedule a counseling appointment at as soon as possible!

But if you are a parent and you answered D, here’s a follow-up question: Which approach do you take with your kids when they screw up?

Many parents respond to their kids’ misbehavior with some sort of reactive punishment (options A, B, and C). That’s understandable, especially when we’re stressed; reactive punishments are quick and easy.

But this approach has big drawbacks, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak said recently on their CatholicHOM podcast. For one thing, while it might stop problem behavior in the short term, it doesn’t address the root cause of the behavior. This, in turn, can cause bigger problems in the long run. It also strains rather than strengthens the bond between parent and child.

And, ironically enough, it can leave parents feeling frustrated and powerless.

Instead of taking the quickest path to stopping kids’ misbehavior, the Popcaks urge parents to see problem behavior as an opportunity to help their child grow in maturity, and in the process, form a stronger bond with their child. This is the attitude Jesus took with the people he met; rather than focus only on stopping bad behavior, he worked for their growth and healing so that they would have a stronger relationship with him.

Here are three questions parents can ask to guide them through this Christ-centered approach to discipline.


1. What Is My Child Trying to Do?

The first question is, “What is my child trying to do?”

 “They’re trying to drive me crazy, of course!” might be your first response. But the reality is that even the most obnoxious behavior is rooted in the child trying to fulfill some need or desire. Identifying that need or desire opens the door to teaching the child a more appropriate way of meeting it.

For example, a child who whines or speaks disrespectfully is really trying to communicate their feelings or needs; they just don’t know how to do it appropriately.

Sometimes, figuring out a child’s intention is as simple as asking, “What were you hoping would happen by acting that way?” Other times, though, figuring out a child’s motivation for misbehaving may require parents putting themselves in the child’s place.


2. How Can I Teach My Child to Do Better?

The next question for parents to ask is, “How can I teach my child to meet their need or desire in a better way?”

Helping kids figure out more appropriate strategies for getting what they need or want is the heart of this Christ-centered discipline approach. If a child is whining or speaking disrespectfully, for example, the parent might model for her a more respectful tone of voice and choice of words.

Simply shutting down the behavior without teaching the child a better way to get what they want makes it more likely “they’re going to keep trying to meet that need in some kind of crazy way,” Lisa Popcak said. “And then you’re going to think, ‘They never listen to me. I’ve told them a thousand times. What’s wrong with them?’”


3. How Can I Teach My Child in a Way That Draws Us Closer?

The third question is, “How can I teach my child this new strategy in a way that makes us closer?”

Parents are often stumped by this question, Dr. Popcak said, but really, it’s as simple as asking yourself how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.

“Do you want someone to come along and shame you? Do you want someone to come along and take your important things away from you?” he said. “Or do you just want them to come alongside you and appreciate what you’re trying to do, and saying, ‘You know, I get it. That’s not the best way to do it, but I get where you’re coming from. Let’s figure this out together,’ and really work with you without making you feel like an idiot.”


A Catholic Approach Rooted in the Dignity of the Child

In the big picture, a Catholic approach to discipline is all about recognizing, respecting, and nurturing the inherent dignity of our children.

Each child is “a son or daughter of the most high God,” Lisa Popcak said. “That’s where their dignity comes from, and that’s what we have to train them into, step by step throughout their lives, by upholding that dignity…so they can treat other people the same way.

“That’s an incredibly Catholic way to parent.”

If you would like help applying this approach to your own family situation, consider joining CatholicHOM, the app for Catholic families, where you can drop a question into the community forum anytime. Or for more personal guidance, reach out to a Catholic family therapist at

God Help Me! My Kids Are Driving Me Nuts—Becoming A More Graceful Parent

Parenting is hard work. And more often than not, just when we think we’re starting to figure it out, our kids enter into a new stage and it feels like we have to start figuring it out all over again! But you’re not alone.

The Theology Of The Body reminds us that families are schools of love and virtue where we all learn to live life as a gift, and that parents are the most important teachers in this school of love.  Parenting is hard, and it’s tempting to settle for just  “getting through the day” with our kids. But Catholic parents are called to do so much more.  The Church tells us that parenting is actually one of the most important ministries in the Church because it is the primary way the next generation of Christian disciples is formed. The world needs loving, responsible, godly people. God has commissioned Catholic parents to give the word what it needs.

That’s a big job! But the more we can approach parenting in a prayerful, thoughtful, intentional, graceful manner, the more we are able to fulfill our mission as Catholics–to let God change the world through our families by raising the next generation of faithful, courageous, loving, responsible, and godly men and women. Of course, none of us know how to do this perfectly. No matter how well we think we were raised by our parents none of us are saints and none of us know how to raise a saint–which is exactly what we’re called to do! We all have a lot to learn!  That’s why, everyday, especially when we’re struggling, we need to turn to our Heavenly Father and pray, “Lord, teach me to be the parent you want me to be–in this moment, and all day, everyday. Help me to respond to my children in ways that will glorify you, help me be my best self, and bring out the best in my kids in every situation. Give me your love and your grace, and let my kids experience your love and grace through me.”

Here are three practical ways to be a more grace filled parent!

1. Remember To Lead–When you’re correcting your kids, only 5% of your energy should be focused on what they did wrong. The other 95% should be focused on leading your children to a better place. Before you correct your kids, ask yourself, “What does my child need to handle this situation better next time?” Put your energy into teaching those skills. Punishments don’t work.  Teaching does. Using techniques like do-overs, role-playing, time-in, cool-downs, and other loving guidance approaches to discipline focus on giving your kids the skills they need to succeed next time–instead of shaming them for failing this time. Lead your children to virtue by showing them a better way to express their emotions, communicate their needs, accomplish their goals, get along with others, and manage their stress. The more energy you put into teaching instead of punishing, the quicker your kids’ behavior will improve overall and the less stressed you’ll be!

2.  Celebrate Success–Tell your kids when they handle a situation well by acknowledging the virtue they displayed. You don’t have to throw a parade–in fact, it’s much better if you don’t–but simple comments like, “That was really responsible.”, “You handled that really respectfully.”,  “That was very generous.” “That was a very loving choice.” and similar comments help kids understand that virtues aren’t just a list of words to memorize, but a practical guide for handling life’s ups and downs with grace. Believe it or not, kids want to be good, and they desperately crave your approval. By remarking on all the ways that exhibiting virtues help them manage their emotions, express their needs, negotiate stressful situations, and get along with others, you are showing your kids that they already have what it takes to do the right thing and you’re making them want to get even better at it. Celebrate your kids’ successful efforts to display virtue by letting them know you saw what they did and that you are proud of them for doing it.

3. Fill the Tank–There is a fuel that drives good behavior. Don’t forget to fill the tank. Both research and generations of wise parents will tell you that extravagant affection is the fuel that makes kids want to behave and try harder to please you. Research shows that affection is actually communication. Taking time to hold your kids close all throughout the day actually helps them reset their heart rate, respiration, body temp and other bodily rhythms when they are feeling stressed, frustrated, angry, anxious, or overwhelmed. Affectionate parents literally incline their children’s hearts to them, and make their kids naturally turn to their parents for guidance and comfort. Yes, you will still need to teach your kids what to do but affection is the fuel that makes correction work.

For more parenting resources, a community of Catholic Parent support, and a team of professionals ready to answer your questions, share in your challenges, and celebrate your parenting wins, join us at CatholicHOM! Online or in your app store!

Also, be sure to check out:

Parenting Your Kids With Grace (Birth to 10)

Parenting Your Teens and Tweens with Grace (11-18)


Strengthening Faith Amidst Pandemic

*This post is one among a series of articles discussing the liturgy of domestic church life. For more information, join the conversation on facebook in our group Catholic HOM—Family Discipleship.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems every day brings new changes, adjustments to the “plan,” and a “new normal” to adapt to. One of the many things that have changed is our ability to go to church. Many of us have not been to church in months, maybe we attend online, maybe we’re able to attend a service outdoors, or maybe we’re able to go to church in a way that meets the limited capacity requirements. But with all of these changes, how has our faith life been impacted?

A recent study by PEW Research found that most people’s faith has remained unchanged (47%) or grown stronger (24%) despite not being able to go to church during the pandemic. Only 2% report struggling in their faith because of events related to the pandemic.


Transform your family into a joyful place where each member experiences life as a gift from God by checking out

Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids


How can this be?

For a lot of us, the changes in our ability to attend our regular church service has caused us to be a lot more intentional and prioritize our faith in a different way. As research shows, some have had great success in developing their faith life in new ways, but for others this has been more of a struggle.

Many of us are still searching for new ways to live our faith at home and grow in faith as a family. The changes caused by COVID-19 have clear implications for our domestic church life. The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is a way for Catholic families to make faith the source of the warmth in our homes.  Below are a few ways we can do just that:

1. Make prayer time cozy, not uncomfortable—Many of us feel that for our family prayer time at home we must all be kneeling and perfectly still. If this is comfortable for you as a family, great! But often this sort of expectation makes prayer time (especially with younger children) a bit of a battle. Make prayer time cozy and inviting. Set soft lighting, play relaxing music or praise and worship songs softly in the background, surround yourselves with blankets and pillows and cuddle up together as a family. Make your prayer space and prayer time feel like a warm hug in the arms of God—the one who knows us best and loves us most. This is a great way to developing a loving relationship with God for our kids and for ourselves!

2.  See God in your day-to-day—Make a point of noticing God in little ways throughout the day. Find a great parking spot, say, “Thanks God!” Out loud. Catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset? Acknowledge how God painted the sky today. Had a good conversation or meeting? Thank God for letting it go so well. By acknowledging how we see God working in our day-to-day lives allows us to prioritize God in a beautiful way. Check in with the family at the end of each day, maybe even over dinner, and ask, “How/where did you see God in your day?” Discuss those little (and big!) blessings.

3. Keep traditions alive—Let’s face it, we all love coffee and donut Sunday. It’s a fun way to get a special treat, have some nice conversation, and make our faith life a bit more fun. Keep traditions such as this alive at home! After watching Mass online, share coffee/juice and donuts/muffins (or whatever your favorite family treats are) together—even for a few minutes. This would be a fun way to get a few minutes together as a family, enjoying each other’s company (and maybe sharing our mass take-aways) before going about the rest of our day.

For more ways to live out your faith as a family, check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids. And join our discussion on facebook at Catholic HOM—Family Discipleship!

Attachment and Eternity: The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life and our Heavenly Destiny

The following article is part of our ongoing series on the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.  To learn more, join our Facebook discussion group:  CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission)–Family Discipleship


In the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, the practices associated with the Rite of Christian Relationships are all intended to promote “secure attachment.”  Secure Attachment isn’t just a good thing for your mental health, the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life helps us see the spiritual significance of fostering secure attachment as well. But let’s start with the basics.

What is “Secure Attachment?”

Secure Attachment is the gut-level, natural ability to fully participate in healthy relationships. People who are securely-attached have the ability to choose healthy people to be in relationship with and have a gut-level sense of how to give themselves to others in healthy ways. Securely-attached people are certainly not perfect, but on a natural level, they are much less likely to put themselves in situations where they will feel used/taken advantage of by others and they are much less likely to use or take advantage of others.

Where Does Our “Attachment Style” Come From?

Over 80 years of research shows that people develop secure attachment by being raised in families that…
1) are extravagantly affectionate
2) respond promptly, generously, consistently cheerfully each other’s needs
3) adopt loving-guidance approaches to discipline.
4) prioritize family time and emphasize togetherness.

By contrast, when families are stingy with affection, resentful or resistant to responding to each other’s needs, use heavy-handed approaches to discipline, and/or do not prioritize family time and togetherness, people tend to develop “insecure attachment.”  People who are insecurely attached tend to be more naturally inclined to be used (anxious attachment) by others, or to be users themselves (avoidant attachment). They don’t mean to. It just feels normal to be treated/treat others “that way.”

In light of the above, you can see how attachment research helps us understand why St John Paul argued that the opposite of love was not hate, but “use.”  The tendency to allow ourselves to be used or to use others stands as a block to authentic, intimate communion with others–and even with God.

Insecure Attachment: Two Types

People with Anxious Attachment always feel like it’s their job to “get” other people to love them, They blame themselves (instead of setting limits) when they are treated poorly. In fact, for some people with Anxious Attachment, being treated well feels “fishy.” A client with anxious attachment once said, “I always feel like they (i.e., a person who truly loves them) want something even when they say they don’t. I’m like…, ‘then why are you being so nice to me?’ I don’t like it. I don’t trust it.”

Human attachment predicts “God Attachment.”  Anxiously God-attached people tend to fear being on-the-outs with God.  They tend toward scrupulosity and, in general,  struggle to trust that God “really” loves them in a personal way. Although they know they “should,” they don’t really feel like they can count on God’s love, especially when they have sinned or feel that they don’t deserve it.

People with Avoidant Attachment are allergic to the idea of being needed “too much” which tends to make them stingy with affection, approval, or service. They often feel “suffocated” in relationships and even normal levels of intimacy feel “needy” to them. As a result, they often end up taking much more in relationships than they are ever willing to give–especially with spouses and children. They usually aren’t conscious of this, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Again, human attachment predicts “God Attachment.”  Avoidantly God-Attached people tend to either struggle to have a relationship with God at all or tend to have a very duty-bound, quasi-contractual relationship with God. They follow the rules and expect God to look out for them in return.

Attachment and the Christian Walk

Christians know that we are created for communion. St John Paul reminded us that building the kingdom of God was primarily about creating “communities of love” this side of Heaven.  It is the Christian’s “full time job” (so to speak) to cooperate with God’s grace to both heal the damage sin  does to our relationships and create the most intimate communion possible with the people God has placed in our lives.

In a sense, these are theological ways of referring to what psychologists call “Secure Attachment.”  Developing Secure Attachment is more than just a “nice thing to do” to improve our quality of life on earth.  I would argue it has a great deal to do with the next life was well.

Attachment and Eternity: A New Perspective on Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell

As Christians, we know that we are destined to spend eternity in the most intimate communion possible with God and the entire Communion of Saints. In Heaven there will be no secrets, no divisions, no defenses, no using or being used. In theory that sounds amazing, but for some, the reality could be more than a little terrifying.

Think about it.  If healthy, intimate relationships  in this life could feel so… “uncomfortable,” “intimidating,” “threatening,” and “suffocating” for some that they would need to “get away” to protect ourselves, just imagine what it would be like for such a person to spend an eternity surrounded by the most intensive relationship possible–the very heart of Love Itself– without any possibility of escape. 

What if everywhere you turned, everywhere you went, there was just…MORE.  More love. More intimacy. More intensity. More relationship and relating. And what if everywhere you turned you were greeted by the inescapable demand for more and more and more from you in return. Would you know how to rise to this? Rejoice in it? Or would you just want to run and hide?

And what if there was no where to run?

The securely attached person would be hard-pressed to  think of anything more wonderful. Why would you want to run from this?  It’s what the securely-attached person dreams of!

But the insecurely attached person could find this image terrifying. They already feel tormented by the demands of intimacy in this life.

What if Purgatory was simply the logical extension of God’s Divine Plan for healing the attachment wounds caused by sin–the attachment wounds that threaten our ability fully and freely participate in loving communion with God and others?

What if the fires of Hell were simply the flames of God’s love licking at the hearts of those who could not melt?

What if it was the responsibility of the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life to help people achieve the secure attachment that enabled them to experience the full presence of God without fear? Isn’t that what it means to think of family as a “school of deeper humanity” (Gaudium et Spes, 52) or, more colloquially)  a “saint-making machine”

Earned Secure Attachment:  Embracing the Cross

Whatever our current attachment style may be, by cooperating with grace to challenge ourselves and those we love to develop “earned” secure attachment–that is, the Secure Attachment that comes from doing the work necessary to make our relationships as healthy and intimate as possible– we prepare ourselves, on a human level, to enter more fully into the experience of grace that is the Beatific Vision.

But even the most securely attached person isn’t prepared for the love God has waiting for us. What if, “taking up our cross” really means doing the truly hard work we need to do to achieve the secure attachment in this life that facilitates  our full participation in the Heavenly Communion in the next?   How would that change your perspective on the importance of the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life in God’s plan for saving the world?

To learn more about how you can begin to heal your attachment wounds, visit this site for an excellent, professionally-validated test to assess your attachment style. Whatever your results, know that by dedicating yourself to living out the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life you are not only making your earthly relationships richer and more rewarding, you are also preparing yourself and those you love to spend eternity celebrating the experience of being in the very presence of Love Itself.

Why Catholic Parents Can’t Just Do, “What works for us.”

You hear it a lot from Catholic families, “You have to do what works for you.”  I appreciate the sentiment.  People who say it genuinely mean well.  They are just trying to acknowledge the real challenges that accompany family life and extend sympathy to those who are struggling. Who could argue with that intention?  Certainly not me.   Unfortunately, while the intention is good, the delivery leaves a lot to be desired.  Catholic families must be comforted, they must be supported, they must be encouraged and they must be helped.  But they must never be told that they are free to do whatever works for them.  Here’s why.

The family is the crucible of culture.  More than any other social structure, it is the family that passes beliefs, values, worldviews and traditions from one generation to the next.

Because of this, the Catholic family is called to be a unique creature; a prophetic witness in the world; a light shining in the darkness.  The Catholic family must stand out.  It must stand for something different than what our Protestant (may God bless them) and secular neighbors family’s stand for because we are in possession of the fullness of the truth and they are not.  “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more”  (Lk 12:48).   Catholic families have been given much by our Savior and His Holy Church, and MUCH is required of us.  Our mission is clear.

So what is the mission of the Catholic family?  Here is what Evangelium Vitae says,

“By word and example, in the daily round of choices, and through concrete actions and choices, parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the sincere gift of self, and they cultivate in them a respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity, and all the values which help people live life as a gift. “In raising children Christian parents must be concerned about their children’s faith and help them to fulfil the vocation God has given them. The parents’ mission as educators also includes teaching and giving their children an example of the true meaning of suffering and death. They will be able to do this if they are sensitive to all kinds of suffering around them and, even more, if they succeed in fostering attitudes of closeness, assistance and sharing towards sick or elderly members of the family. The family celebrates the Gospel of life through daily prayer, both individual prayer and family prayer. The family prays in order to glorify and give thanks to God for the gift of life, and implores his light and strength in order to face times of difficulty and suffering without losing hope. But the celebration which gives meaning to every other form of prayer and worship is found in the family’s actual daily life together, if it is a life of love and self-giving.”

I will be doing a series of posts on each portion of this quote from Evangelium Vitae (#92-93).  For now, I would invite us all to ask ourselves…

What if these were more than just pretty words?  What if these words were the mission statement for my Catholic family? 

How well am I living out the example of these virtues in my parenting life? 

Am I actively teaching my children to live out these virtues, by example, by fostering their personal  relationship with Jesus Christ, and through direct catechesis?  

Does my family look different than the non-Catholic families on my block because of our family’s single-minded devotion to living out these virtues? 

What can we do improve our prophetic witness as a Catholic family by living out these virtues more fully in our relationships with each other?”

We have a tall order to fill.  Of course, we are free to do what we believe helps us fulfill the above mission.  But that is not the same thing as saying we are free to do “whatever works for us.”  The world needs Catholic families,  not families that look like everyone else’s except for the Catholic prayers they say.    We must parent intentionally at all times with these virtues burned into our vision.  We are NOT free to do “what works for us.”   That is the world’s way, not ours.  Catholic families are only free to do what we genuinely believe proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ and best exemplifies the virtues listed above that define the witness and mission of the Catholic family.   THAT is the meaning of “authentic freedom”–the ability to choose what is best and good and true and beautiful, not the ability to do “what works for us.”

None of this is to make anyone feel guilty or lose heart.  We are all on a journey toward this ideal and most of us have not yet arrived.  In fact, most of us are very far from it.  Thanks to God’s grace, that’s OK.   BUT we cannot take our eyes off the map.  We can take the time we need to get there.  We can rest when we must.  We can have bad days where we wish for an easier path.  We can have days where we break down and cry a bit from being stretched more than we imagined we ever would.  And especially on those days, we must get support from other like-minded families and other like-minded sources of encouragement.   But we are not free to choose an easier path.  We are NOT free to do, “what works for us.”  We are only ever free to do what serves the gospel and builds the Kingdom of God both in and outside our homes.   Everything we do as parents, we will be called to reckon for according to the mission outlined above.  It’s a serious obligation that we must take seriously.

I applaud your willingness to be that family that bears God’s face and the Catholic vision of love to the world.  May God give you his grace for the journey.