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Every Day Catholic - June 2011

Every Day Catholic uses an engaging and practical approach to help readers confidently apply Christian values to their everyday decisions. Great for group or individual study, and FREE online discussion guides are available for each issue. Get more information and order here.

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Virtues for Fathers
By: Robert P. Lockwood

My Old Man would never think of wasting time on anything as unproductive as sleep on a Sunday morning. When I was a little guy, he would haul me out of bed for the 8:00 a.m. Mass. We would get there early, and he would plop me down in one of the back pews while he went to the vestibule to serve as an usher.

After Mass, I watched as he and another man bagged up the money from the collection. I asked him why two guys did it and he said, “Just in case somebody wants to try something.” This made me think that, in addition to everything else, the Old Man was a cop for the Church.

One Sunday when I was about seven, I was in my usual spot as the collection began. I reached into my pocket and realized that I had lost the kids’ collection envelope. I had a quarter in my pocket that the Old Man had let me keep from his change for coffee. I had no choice. I put the quarter in the basket, saying good-bye to a comic book I had planned to buy with it.

As we were heading home after Mass, I told the Old Man what happened. He said “You did a good thing,” then reached into his pocket and handed me a quarter. I truly believed then, and believed for years, that the Old Man had spotted my quarter among the hundreds of quarters in the collection, plucked it out and substituted another. It seemed natural that he could perform a little miracle like that. After all, this was my Old Man.

Teaching by doing
“The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).

What St. Paul is talking about here is virtue, the habit of performing actions for good. Virtue defines how we are meant to live our lives. Virtue is what we admire in others and hope to see in ourselves.

It was only after I became a father myself that I realized that 99 percent of what my father did, 99 percent of what he tried to teach me, was the virtues lived. The Old Man was never much about the theory behind the practice, the thesis behind the moral choices. He was all about living the faith on the street corner. He was about what you did and what you didn’t do and the difference it made in the neighborhood that day. Classically defined, the virtues we acquire through the repetition of good acts are prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. Every day, the Old Man was working on those with me.

*Prudence is the virtue of divorcing personal desire from the judgment of whether an act is right or wrong. To the Old Man, prudence meant living in truth, as a person who can look in the mirror every morning without fearing that he or she has sold out.


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*Fortitude is the virtue of living by our principles in good times and bad. It means firmness in times of difficulty, a willingness to hold steadfast to our principles when life is telling us not to bother. The Old Man said that fortitude is trust in God lived.

*Temperance means that we rule our passions and are not ruled by them. The Old Man taught me that temperance is in knowing that, if most of the hours in a day are made up of doing the ordinary well, the exceptional will take care of itself.

*Justice means knowing that we not only define ourselves by our basic beliefs, but also must act in concert with them. The Old Man’s lesson: Life is nothing but a nasty, brutish and short affair if there is no ultimate justice, no ultimate balance.

Where the rubber meets the road
He had taken me to my first basketball game at the old Madison Square Garden in New York City. We lived in suburbia, and I think the Old Man got nervous that his kids had it too easy. A trip to the city was the chance to learn a thing or two.

That day, there was a guy asking for change. His legs were missing from his knees down, so he pushed himself down the sidewalk with a handcart. The Old Man gave me some change to put in the guy’s cup. It shook me up.

I told the Old Man that I couldn’t imagine living without legs. The Old Man answered, “Legs don’t make the man.” He paused, then added, “You’d be surprised what you could live without.”

What it all comes down to is that my Old Man didn’t want to be responsible for the rich young man from Scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew, that man asks Jesus what he must do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus tells him to sell all he has, give it to the poor and follow him. The young man turns and walks away. The Gospel says he was sad. I believe his sadness wasn’t because he couldn’t do what Jesus said. He was sad because he could, but chose not to.

Why are fathers so important? More than anything else, fathers teach their children how to face the world on a daily basis. Fathers are all about the virtues lived. They don’t hand out their lessons where the angels dance on the head of a pin. Fathers teach at that point where the rubber or the handcart meets the road.

That was my Old Man’s method, and I did my best to listen. After all, he was a cop for the Church.


Permission to Publish received for this article, “Virtues for Fathers,” by Robert Lockwood, from Rev. Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 2-11-2011.

Robert Lockwood tried to remember his Old Man’s lessons as he raised his twins. He is the director for communications for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and author of A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life: Virtues for Men (Servant Books).

Making Connections

■ What important life lesson(s) have you learned through the example of your father or a father figure?

■ Why are fathers so important? How do their failures and successes affect their children?

■ Choose one of the virtues named in Lockwood’s article. What will you do to strengthen this virtue in your life?



Movie Moments

Life As a House
By: Frank Frost

There’s nothing subtle about the movie Life As a House. Its title tips us off that it’s a parable, a movie with a message—about living, loving and parenting.

The movie opens with a camera exploring an upscale neighborhood. The camera settles on a shack on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It then proceeds inside passing an architect’s model of a nicely designed house, to show George Monroe (Kevin Kline) climbing out of bed. The metaphor is established: George’s life is a wreck, but he carries a dream inside of a better life.

We soon find out just how bad that wreck is. George is fired from his job as an architectural model builder. He collapses and wakes up in the hospital with the new knowledge that he has only a few months to live. When a nurse caresses his face, he says that he hasn’t been touched in years. And when he stops to pick up his 16-year-old son, Sam (Hayden Christensen), from his ex-wife’s home, we find Sam alienated from both his father and mother (Kristin Scott Thomas).

George sets out to tear down his shack and build a new house (read: new life) and enlists Sam for the summer to help and to create a relationship between them. We know how this parable has to end, but it’s an enjoyable journey, as the characters learn to reach out and touch, love and help one another. Actually, there are two redemptive stories of fatherhood in the movie: George, and Robin’s current husband, Peter (Jamey Sheridan), who seems incapable of having a relationship with his two young sons. What does it mean to be a father? The film offers plenty for reflection.


Next time you watch Life As a House, ASK YOURSELF:

■ A nurse tells George, “People have to be touched…by somebody they love.” What does touch mean in the lives of George, Sam, Robin, Peter, their two sons?

■ The dads fail in loving, including George’s dad. What does it take to be a good dad, a good parent? Do I meet that standard?



Putting Shoes on the Gospel

Nate Rauschendorfer
By: Joan McKamey

“There are many loving fathers out there, but too often the ‘harmful,’ neglectful or absent father is the one profiled,” says Nate Rauschendorfer. “I’m blessed with a great relationship with my dad. I’m motivated to pay it forward.” Nate earned a B.S. in family social science, a master of social work degree and licensure as a clinical social worker (LICSW) so he could professionally “pay it forward.”

Nate works at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. He tells Every Day Catholic, “When I started, I was a young father and worked in the Young Men in Transition (YMIT) program for teen dads in St. Paul high schools for six years. I’d go to the schools, identify teen fathers, connect with them and form groups. They’d learn that they’re not alone.”

Now program manager of Parenting Services, Nate oversees Mom’s Connection and Dad’s Connection. Dad’s Connection serves 150 fathers a year; one third are teens. Services include YMIT, parenting classes, peer groups, mentoring and one-on-one counseling. They currently serve fathers ages 15 to 62.

“I work with clients half my age and some nearly twice my age. I’m passionate about my work and consider it a vocation, a calling. It’s humbling to serve families, especially men who come from rough experiences,” Nate says.

“I run a men’s therapy group. Men are often sent to anger management, but we offer therapy for issues beneath their anger or hurt. We let them talk and cry. They learn that when they help themselves, they’re better fathers.

“Teen dads often have different realities from the stereotype. The majority are hungry to parent their children but don’t know how. They often know what not to do but don’t know what to do. Most want to be better fathers than their own dads. I tell them, ‘Learning to change diapers is easy. Relationships are harder.’

“Some want to drop out of school to support their child. We work to keep them in school so they can provide for their families long-term. We teach them life skills needed to balance their motivations with their responsibilities.

“Our most powerful referral is word of mouth. Participants tell others that our programs help them connect to their children in healthy ways. They say, ‘It’s helped me. It can help you, too. These people care about us.’ This gives us credibility.

“When fathers parent their own children in healthy ways, their own childhood hurts are often healed. Healthy parenting is about developing a loving and compassionate relationship with their children, providing discipline and structure, and modeling responsibility,” says Nate, who testified about responsible fatherhood programs before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in June 2010.

A single father with full custody of two sons (ages eight and 16), Nate says, “‘Three C’s’ of fatherhood I see in my dad and try to model for my sons are compassion, commitment and consistency. My boys are my inspiration.”


Passing On the Faith

Stepping in as a Stepdad
By: Jeanne Hunt

Scenario
Carlos and Anabella met at the parish singles’ group and fell in love. There was one hitch: Anabella has a six-year-old daughter. Sophia is the gift from a teen romance. While Carlos wants to marry Anabella, he struggles with taking on “another man’s child.”

Carlos spoke to Padre Diego about his fears. Father connected him with Jim, who is raising six kids, three of them stepchildren. Jim shared some challenges and strategies for being a good stepfather and promised to support Carlos.

A response
Here’s some of Jim’s advice:

Your love may have no bounds, but your authority does. The mother of your stepchild carries the weight. It’s up to you to work hand in hand with her. Remember, before you arrived, mother and child had rules, patterns and choices in place. It’s important to respect your wife’s choices.

Be reasonable and show that your direction is sensible. As parents, spend time talking about discipline and pray for God’s wisdom. Don’t try to take your stepchild’s father’s place or bad-mouth him. No matter his behavior, you mustn’t interfere with that relationship.

While you cannot insist on being called “Dad,” you must act like one. Be there for your stepchildren as you share their days—good and bad. Support them and build them up. Help them with homework and answer their questions. But be satisfied knowing that, like any parent, you may not receive thanks. You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and you love them and their mother.

Try to have one-on-one conversations with your stepchildren. These can strengthen your ties with them as individuals. Try to listen without judgment or advice. When you’re talking, remember to stay on the same level. Work at sharing their interests and language.

And, finally, forgive. Forgive your stepchild for being stubborn and testing you. Forgive your wife for not helping you out as a stepfather. Forgive their friends for not accepting you or understanding your role. Most importantly, forgive yourself. You’re going to fall short of the mark many times. That’s when you must remember that we all have a divine Father who carries the ball when we drop it.

Carlos married Anabella with Sophia at their side. After two years of marriage, they’re a new version of the Holy Family. After all, says Sophia, “Jesus had a stepdad, too!”


Prayer

A Father's Day Meal Prayer
By: Jeanne Hunt

(for praying alone or with others)

Preparation: Set the table with pictures of family fathers, grandfathers (or those who have been like fathers to the family) at each place with the man’s name attached.

SCRIPTURE
1 John 3:1-3
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

LITANY OF BLESSING
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love and guidance. We are thankful, too, for our earthly fathers. What love they have shown us has its source in you. Bless those who long to be fathers and those who hunger for a father’s love. Amen.

Please take the card at your place and read aloud the name on the picture. After each name, say along with me: “Bless him with wisdom, courage, strength and love.”

After all the names have been read, say together the Our Father or a meal blessing.





Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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