The Keys to Raising a Holy Family
When speaking with new parents I often get asked what advice I have for them as they begin their family. It makes sense, they have a blank slate and they want to do everything they can to ensure success and happiness for their children. So for all of you who are in the same boat (or plan to be one day), here is my advice:
The overriding theme of our ministry is the importance of healthy relationships between family members. A strong relationship between you and your child can see them through just about any difficulty or struggle they may encounter along their journey of life. St. John Paul II called this the communion of persons. A family is a community of persons, the first and most important community for every human being. The family can be a community where the members love one another unconditionally or not; a place where the members feel safe, secure and loved, or not; a place where they know people care about them, or not. Parents have the most influence in defining the culture within their family. This culture should be healthy, loving and life giving. This culture is fragile, it needs to be cultivated and constantly monitored. It is easy for excessive activities, negativity, sarcasm, the media, and unhealthy friendships to have an undesired effect on the culture of the family and on each member of the family.
At the core of the family culture is the relationships between family members, the primary being between the husband and wife and secondarily between parents and their children. If you get these right, the relationships between siblings will follow suit.
Make Sure your Kids know you Like Them
There is a huge difference between your children knowing that you love them versus them feeling that you like them. Typically children in the teen years begin to wonder if their parents really like them. Think about it, do your kids know that you like them? Do you spend time with them for no particular reason, do you listen to their thoughts and dreams, do you ask them about their hobbies or interests. Sometimes the things your teens are interested in may seem juvenile and perhaps aren’t the things that you consider exciting or even interesting. I like to say it is not simply the quality of time you spend with your kids, it is a quantity of time. You can’t invest enough time in your children, so do your best and give of your time unselfishly to your children.
You Are the Parents
Inevitably during the course of parenting, you will get a lot of advice from the experts (you will know them when you encounter them), take that advice with a grain of salt. No one knows you, your children or your family like you do. While it is wise to seek counsel from people whom you respect and have experience, you are still free to not follow their advice. In the end, you and your spouse are the only ones who will be held accountable for the job you did forming your children. God gave each of you special graces to be your child’s parent, don’t let anyone else tell you that you aren’t good enough or aren’t making the right decisions. Just make sure that you continually seek the counsel of the perfect parent, God himself. Through the persons of the Holy Trinity, God will provide you with ample guidance, perhaps through people you meet along the way. With a discerning and prayerful heart, seek to do the difficult work of forming missionaries, martyrs and saints for the kingdom of God, you are uniquely and perfectly qualified for the job.
You May Not Be Successful
In the end, no matter how good of a job you do, you may not be successful. All we have to do is look at the first book of the bible. In Genesis, we see the story of the first family in creation and of the three children of Adam and Eve mentioned in the bible, one is killed by his own brother. We see this over and over again in the bible, even a father after God’s own heart can have a son that dislikes and even attempts to kill them (see David and Absalom). None of us will be perfect parents, but we must give it our best shot, we must rise above the standards that this world sets for us as parents, we must be that parent who says no to things we view as obstacles to our children’s holiness even if everyone else calls us crazy and over protective. But we must also be those parents who love their children with a scandalous love and are willing to spend gratuitous amounts of time with our kids because we love them and genuinely like their company. This is what will give us and our kids the best chance of success in building a family of love and our family of love will impact the community around us and spread the good news in ways that we can’t imagine.
Here are some links to practical advice as well:
- Getting Good Behavior in Mass
- Dating with Purpose
- Family Prayer
- Avoid Slavery to Electronics
- Practical Discipline