Monday, February 20, 2012

On My Vocation...

Catholic parenting is my passion.  Over the past five years I’ve been called overprotective and out-of-touch.  I’ve been informed that I must allow my children to grow up in “the real world.”  I’ve heard the constant refrain “they’re going to be exposed to (this, that, and the other thing) eventually,” as if I don’t know that.  But what I also know is that it is my responsibility as a parent to be vigilant as to the manner and timing of my kids’ exposure to those elements of today’s culture that seek to prevent me from achieving my parenting goals. My hope is that by allowing my children to be pure of heart and mind for as long as possible, they will build both the mindset to recognize the perversity that pervades modern culture and the critical thinking skills they’ll need to successfully battle it.

Much of what I’ve learned about parenting has resulted from my own mistakes.  I think I’ll start by sharing the parenting goals my husband and I set about two years ago as we discerned the direction in which we wished to take our daughters’ formal education.

Our Goals for Our Daughters

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” 

1994 Letter to Families, Pope John Paul II: "Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators, because they are parents." (16)

Yes, we would like our daughters to be happy and have fun, go to college, avoid premarital sex, find suitable marriage partners, avoid addiction, depression and eating disorders, etc.—these are expected minimums of achievement for which we will continue to pray.

However, it is most succinct to say that we wish our daughters to be saints—that is, to achieve the destiny for which they were created: to worship Him in heaven forever. As the primary educators of our children, we will be held accountable for our success or our failure to assist them in accomplishing this goal.  Our children are a gift from God; they are meant to be returned to Him.  If our children are one day to live in the presence of God, they must strive to become like Him while they are here on Earth.  In short, they must cultivate virtue.

“A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.  It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.  The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.  The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.”  CCC 1803

The virtues that we must inspire in our children are Faith, Hope, and Charity. The Holy Spirit offers seven gifts to help in the development of these virtues: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  As I understand it, however, those gifts are not unconditionally available.  Our children (and we ourselves) must be attentive, prayerful, and open to grace in order to receive them.  It is our responsibility, therefore, to be certain that any person or group with whom we entrust our children will support us in reaching our goals for our daughters by demonstrating that they are attentive to God’s will, prayerful, and open to grace.  Most of our culture demonstrates the opposite.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mortification at the MIM

The introductory gallery at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix had been quite inspiring.  I hadn’t been looking forward to the trip, but the first room reminded me of the influential role that music has played in my life, first during my teenage years, later in my reversion to the Catholic Church, and currently in my love of worship music.

The museum is organized first by continent, and then by country.  As we entered the European gallery, I did not expect to see the first country to catch my eye: on the left was a display marked “Vatican City.”  I filled with excitement at the upcoming possibilities of hearing traditional Catholic hymns, music created for the Mass by classical composers, the booming of pipe organs with notes lifted toward Heaven, haunting Gregorian chant, and the magnificent sound of bells in their towers.  I decided to mortify myself just a little bit by starting on the right side of the room.

Each country display has an audio box describing the exhibit along with a TV screen showing more detail about the people and music of that culture.  Since the beginning of the tour my audio headphones had not been working well, so when I arrived at the Vatican City display I walked in circles in front of it trying to capture the audio by positioning my head just right.  When I had no success picking up the recording, I decided to settle for watching the video without sound.  I searched the rather small exhibit for the screen, certain that I would see cathedrals and choirs.  It took at least a minute for it to sink in.  There was no screen. The Vatican City exhibit had no audio and no video.

As disappointment took hold, I comforted myself that the MIM had at least chosen to create a Vatican City exhibit.  They could have omitted it entirely, and that probably could be seen as a reasonable decision given the size of its population.  So I turned my attention to the artifacts and written portion of the display.  Here is what I saw:

As my outrage bubbled to the surface, I imagined what people already less than enamored with the Church would be thinking at this point.  “Those Catholics and their rules!  They even regulate bells!”  “Ha!  Flying Easter eggs… How typically ridiculous is that?”  “Those Catholics have interfered with music throughout history!”  To the best of my recollection of the other exhibits, the Catholics have the only instruments respectfully referred to as “noisemakers.”

Sometimes I have trouble letting go of insults, particularly involving my beloved Church.  OK, pretty much all of the time.   So as I walked through the rest of the museum with a chip on my shoulder, I couldn’t resist snapping this photo:

One of Scooby Doo’s supporting characters had her own screen.  She had audio too.  Admittedly, the display wasn’t really about the animated show itself but rather a discussion of player pianos.  I’m sure that player pianos have contributed at least as much to music history as the Catholic Church, right?

This treatment of the Church by the Musical Instrument Museum reminded me of the continued and increasing disrespect for Christianity in our modern culture.  And it is my belief that it is becoming dangerous.  Father Lankeit at Sts. Simon and Jude recently published an article in his parish bulletin discussing the hostility of the secular media toward Christians.  He included headlines from 15 articles displaying such bias from two weeks in September 2011 alone.  His article from the October 2, 2011 bulletin can be found on the parish website, (Click as follows:  KNOW/Publications/Weekly Bulletins/October 2, 2011)

I would like to urge all Catholics to take notice of the portrayals of our Church being offered to the public at large.  We try to combat negative depictions when they occur in obviously offensive movies, but attacks are also being launched using subtle and seemingly innocent means such as museum displays.  It’s not false that Catholics change up the bells during Lent, and there probably was some folklore related to flying Easter eggs.  But to represent those details as the Church’s sole contribution to music history?  That’s just plain deceptive.