Home' Aurora : Aurora December 2013 Contents I grew up in a home where grace was said
before dinner every night. Prayers before
bedtime were standard. The rosary was
said occasionally (and not just in October,
the month of the rosary) and Mass was the
punctuation mark to every week. Religious
pictures adorned our walls, Catholic
reading matter lay all over the house and
conversations about God were the rule,
not the exception. I never considered
this unusual. It was all very normal to me.
Although not standard in all my friends'
homes, this was very much the standard in
the homes of my relatives, of whom there
were many. Was I fortunate? I guess I was.
As a mother, and now 'CEO' of my own
family, I suppose I simply assumed the
same for my children. Most families would
subscribe to a common purpose or a
'mission statement'. Whilst not in writing and
perhaps not even verbalised, there is usually
a driving principle that propels the family
unit. For us, it is our faith in God. That being
the case, like any worthwhile pursuit, we
need certain tools in the toolkit to help us on
our way and keep us on track.
For us --- and I stress that it's not so for
everyone --- Mass is key. Faith, like life,
cannot be sustained in isolation and being
part of a faith community is like an insurance
policy. I think it's important for us to see
other people who think like us, practising
similar rituals, so that we don't feel 'alone'.
Although my children are part of a large
extended family, this family does not live
in Newcastle and the Mass community
allows us to feel a part of another family in
the absence of our own. The Mass sets the
tone for us and reminds us of our objective,
while Communion gives us the chance to
encounter Jesus, personally and regularly.
I don't for a moment think my children fully
understand this right now, but over time
I hope they will come to understand the
importance of the ritual in sustaining their
souls as they travel along the road of life.
What constitutes Mass attire these days
with a pre-teenager though, is anyone's
guess. One of my children (and probably
not one of the boys) is currently determined
to develop a personal 'dress sense'.
Sometimes it's a fine line between freedom
of expression and just plain inappropriate!
This is a true test of faith on a parent's part
and whilst I know God 'meets us where
we are', I just hope sometimes God has a
sense of humour!
Prayer life is something we foster too. I
ask my children to think of God as their
friend and speak to God that way, in the
hope that this will then become 'normal'
going into their future. I want them to see
God sitting on their shoulder, travelling the
journey with them, not 'up in the sky'.
Although not seen in many homes these
days, we do have a picture of Jesus in a
key position in the living area. As much
as for anyone, this is for me, when it's all
getting too hard on the home front, to
remind me that God is watching what I say.
Nothing pulls me up faster than a quick
glance at Jesus in the background, mid-
argument! It doesn't hurt the kids either to
know that Jesus is part of the picture.
I think a key element of a healthy faith-
filled childhood is the observation of a key
mentor 'walking the walk'. Our kids need
to see us doing what we say, otherwise
it is just hot air. How can we ask them to
reach out to strangers if they don't see us
doing it and showing them how? I can't
expect my kids to be 'good Samaritans'
if my husband and I are not. Dr Phil says,
"The single greatest influence on a child is
the parent of the same sex." What do we
want our kids to be? What do we want our
kids to see in us? We can't ask them to be
kind, compassionate, generous of spirit,
thoughtful, sharing their gifts, if they don't
see that in us. There is no better message
sent to our children than the observation
of our participation in our own faith
community, sharing our individual gifts.
The Majellan magazine was always 'hanging
around' the house as I grew up, and so
it is in my own. Apart from sustaining my
husband and myself as we go about the
business of daily living, I know one day one
of the kids will pick it up and read an article
that speaks to them too. So too other faith-
filled reading matter, although in the age of
e-books, these will be harder to share.
Sure, there are days, weeks even, when
we don't always pull out the tools. Some
weeks are too hectic, someone gets sick, life
happens. But eventually we come back to
the routines and keep our eye on the prize.
This is the benefit of a few tools in the toolkit.
Lastly, I would say we 'Talk, talk, talk!'
Brett and I give the kids our 'take' on
current affairs. We explain the challenges
that we face, both as a general and faith
community. We try to teach them how to
think about what they see and read. Give
them your opinions, influence their thinking
--- now while you still can!
We ask them to be fair on the world around
them as they experience it. When we see
injustice --- poor treatment of refugees, the
underprivileged and weak in our society ---
we say, "What would Jesus do? Where is
compassion in our current way of life?" We
tell our kids what's good about this way of
living, what is it that we want for them. No
subject should be taboo (age appropriate
of course). Whose view do you want them
to get? Yours or Johnny-in-the-schoolyard-
Smith's? Family experiences are full of
teachable moments; make the most of them.
And let's not forget, this business of
parenthood is a marathon, not a sprint.
That in itself requires faith! After all, what
is my 'job' as a parent? What do I want for
them at the end of the day? Really, isn't it
more important to strive to be an inclusive,
kind-hearted friend than to strive to be first
at everything? Wouldn't I rather see them
stop and help someone else with their gifts
on the race of life, rather than just win?
Don't I really want them to find meaningful
lives, whatever their choices? Isn't the
pursuit of the common good better than
always chasing the individual's goal?
My job as a parent is also to guide and
steer our children as we navigate the
milestones of life. Of course my husband
and I want them to do their best, be good
sportsmen/women, negotiate friendships,
study hard, get a good HSC and juggle
busy lives. Somehow, though, I think the
glue of a faith-filled childhood will sustain
them far beyond any of these. Whatever
happens from here on in, I've given it my
best shot. The children will grow up, lead
their own lives, make their own choices.
The rest is really up to God.
You may wish to visit www.majellan.org.au
BY CLARE HOWLETT
Raising children in faith:
a marathon, not a sprint
Aurora invited Newcastle parishioner, mother of four and 'CEO',
Clare Howlett, to reflect on the way she and her husband
Brett are raising their family in faith.
Mass was the punctuation
mark to every week
Information, including an expression of interest form, is available at
http://mn.catholic.edu.au/go/csc or email email@example.com.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN INFLUENCING THE DIRECTION OF
Catholic school education into the future?
In 2014 vacancies will occur on the diocesan Catholic Schools Council and Bishop Bill Wright is seeking
expressions of interest from those who feel they would bring skills and expertise (not only in the field of education).
The Council meets five times a year and advises Bishop Bill in all matters relating to the nature and purpose
of diocesan schools.
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
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