Sunday, August 2, 2009

So who is the real three year old?

"In fact, I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate. Although I don't do what I know is right, I agree that the Law is good." Romans 7:15-16 (Contemporary English Version)

My oldest son is newly three, and has been channeling these verses an exasperating number of times each day. His misbehavior six to nine months ago was easier to deal with for a lot of reasons, but I think his language development is part of what makes it harder. I mean, the boy is talking in paragraphs now, so I tend to act like he must also have a richly developed inner dialogue going on, that his conscience is clearly telling him what’s right and wrong. So whereas when two year old KB was tough to deal with, I tended to think, “well, he’s still a baby.”, but now each moment he, with apparent forethought, disobeys, it feels like a personal affront toward me or Rosey. But I know that’s not right. He’s not near the age of reason, and the task of forming that conscience is just beginning and will be more arduous than it was teaching him the alphabet and counting to twenty.

But still, several times I’ve found myself thinking: “KB, why don’t you just TRUST me! I know your still a little boy, but even if the subtleties of moral theology are lost on you, or you’ve never given any thought to the natural law reasons why jumping on your little brother is wrong, or quite know what it means To Honor Your Father and Mother and why that’s actually really important, wouldn’t it still makes sense to, you know, LISTEN to us?? Look what we’ve given you kiddo! We’ve loved you from the moment we knew of your existence, we prayed for you and prepared for you. We’ve given you a warm home, nourishment, toys climbing the walls! We’ve given you most everything you’ve asked for, and so many things you didn’t even know you wanted or needed, and it has all redounded to your good, has it not? Remember your fear last summer at the lake? But you let me hold you and you were safe AND had fun? Don’t you feel loved by us every day in our words and hugs and kisses? Don’t you see we would do anything for you? Do you think we would ever do anything to hurt you? Isn’t there enough evidence for you to know we seek only your good? And heck, failing all that, we’ve just been around a heck of a lot longer than you. We know how things work and how they don’t. You have a lot to learn, so for pete’s sake just let us be in charge!!!”

Oh. Sweet. Merciful. Crap! The loving 2x4 of spiritual insight gives quite a welt on the head: I’m constantly acting like a three year old before my own Father in Heaven. At best:

“Brian, why don’t you just TRUST me! I know you live with the mark of Adam, but I’ve given you an intellect to understand quite a bit of moral theology, and I went ahead and wrote the law on your heart, and if that seemed muddy I put it on tablets, and then summed it up in two sentences in case that seemed too long! And yet you ignore it, a lot more than seven times daily. Why? Look what I’ve given you! Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and loved you. I’ve given you a powerful heavenly being to constantly watch over you for all your earthly existence and eternally thereafter, and prepared the hearts of your parents to receive you and teach you and to cooperate with me. I gave you legs to walk, eyes to see, ears to hear! I’ve given you most everything you’ve asked for and many things you didn’t know you wanted or needed, and it has all redounded to your good, has it not? Remember that time where I asked you to take that step, and you were scared, but you trusted me and let me walk with you, and it led you to so many blessings, to what you hold most dear? Don’t you feel loved by me every day in Word and Sacrament? Don’t you know I’ve done everything for you; I’ve given my life away? Do you think I would ever do anything to hurt you? Isn’t there enough evidence for you to know I seek only your good, your True Good, not the counterfeits you are always seeking? And heck, failing all that, I’m GOD, and I’ve been around a heck of a lot longer than you. I know how things work since I made them. You haven’t. You have a lot to learn, so for pete’s sake just let Me be in charge!!!”

I’ll try, Lord. I’ll try. But the thing is … I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate. Although I don't do what I know is right, I agree that the Law is good.

St. Paul… Pray for us.

Immaculate Heart of Mary… Pray for us.

Sacred Heart of Jesus… Have Mercy on us.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My son examines my conscience

We have a small crucifix that we didn't realize was in the range of Kenny's growing reach. It disappeared one day this week and got mixed in with his toys. A short while later, a two year old being a two year old, the crucifix was launched from the living room and landed in the dining room, separating the corpus from the cross. Rosey gathered the pieces, explained to Kenny how we have to show respect for sacred objects (and that, for that matter, throwing ANYTHING inside the house isn't permitted) and assured him that I would fix it when I got home from work. So what was I greeted with when I arrived home? Kenny runs to me yelling: "Daddy puts Jesus back on the cross! Daddy puts Jesus back on the cross!" I'm told he'd been repeating it most of the afternoon.

Touche, my son. Touche! To be more precise, I helped put him there in the first place. But point taken. Bring on Lent.

Divine Adoption

Two couples we are friends with have completed adoptions in the past few months. At the Baptism of the first child on Holy Family Sunday, the priest emphasized that we are all adopted. We are all divinely adopted sons and daughters of the Father. And of course, there is nothing lesser about being adopted, in fact, this Divine Adoption creates a deeper and more unending bond than parenting of the "natural" order. Our parenting on earth is really a sharing in this Divine Parenting.

On Sunday we went to a Mass to welcome the other couples' new son and daughter, twins from an orphanage in Uganda. As we spoke to D and J afterwards, they related the rather incredible conditions the twins lived in, and the long, physically and emotionally arduous 7 week journey to meet them and finally bring them home.

I've been thinking of the lengths they went to to unite with their children, and of the long, trying road that brought B and R their beautiful son. Given all this, my prayer over the past few months has been peppered with this concept of Divine Adoption. What does it mean for my marriage, for my fatherhood, for my life as a Christian? One thing is for sure, since getting married, and especially since becoming a dad, Theology is a whole heck of a lot more personal. If that makes any sense.

I'm still pondering this and can't quite articulate all the insights, but I was thrilled to come across this profile of Blessed Columba Marmion on Ignatius Insight. Here's the tidbit that knocked me over:

Though Marmion was not opposed to the more abstract theological mode of St. Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics, he had a different point of departure, said Fr. Groeschel. "Abbot Marmion in some ways was the beginning of a movement that became known, under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as the 'New Evangelization.' That movement begins theological and religious investigation with the self," an approach that "comes directly from the great statement of St. Augustine: 'You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.' It relates to how a person experiences their need for God.""One of the things about Abbot Marmion," Fr. Groeschel added, "is that he ain't fooling. He's a deadly serious spiritual writer."

This seriousness is reflected in the theme of Divine adoption that forms the great motif of Marmion's works: because God became man, men can become adopted sons of God. The doctrine of Divine adoption is, of course, found in the New Testament, and has always been taught by the Church, but Marmion brought a special depth of insight to its expression. Indeed, some of Marmion's admirers believe he will one day be declared a Doctor of the Church -- the Doctor of Divine Adoption.

According to Fr. Tierney, "A lot of the Eastern fathers wrote about the idea of Divine adoption, but they put it into technical language. Marmion brought it down to the level of the ordinary man. Marmion's definition of grace is that it is nothing more than the life of Christ in the soul. That is why he chose the title, Christ, the Life of the Soul. Grace is the life of Christ in the soul, which we get at baptism and which we build on right on up to the day we die."

Blessed Columba Marmion, Pray for all of us, the Adopted Children of God.

Friday, February 20, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday -- Vol 1

1. I came across Jennifer F's Conversion Diary a few months ago. I thought the "7 Quick Takes Feature" might be a good way to get back into blogging. My only hesitation -- it looks like after clicking a half dozen of the links, that everyone participating in the meme is a blogging Catholic stay at home mom. Is there room for me to join the ranks of the 7 quick takers?

2. I haven't ordered any seeds for the garden yet. The catalog from arrived before Christmas, and I've been frozen by indecision. Think there's a lot of cereals to choose from at the grocery store? Try selecting from among 60 varieties of peppers! And the pictures don't do them justice, in the catalog, they are accompanied by descriptions that beat anything J. Peterman has ever written. But how the heck will I know what I'll be up for eating in August? Time to bite the bullet and place the order or I'll miss the chance to get the salad greens in the ground.

3. This excerpt from the Consitutions of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal has been on my mind now and again since coming across it a couple of years ago:

36. The friars of each house
will periodically evaluate all personal and communal goods to assure that only
those things necessary for our life and work be used by the friars. This
evaluation must take place in each fraternity four times a year, before the
feast of St. Francis, after Christmas, during Lent and after Pentecost.

As Lent begins, Rosey and I have really been looking at what this would look like to implement in our family. Obviously we are not called to poverty in the same manner as these lesser brothers. But we are clearly called, as is every Christian, to generosity, simplicity, and a sparing-sharing lifestlye that gives to the poor and focuses on Christ. The practicality of beginning a quarterly check on our desires might really help us in this manner. I envision developing a family examination of conscience, not just around looking at what we've already accumulated and should give away or get rid of, but to proactively submit the "stuff" we're thinking of getting to the test of whether it will bring our family closer to Christ or pull us away. Are there new ministries or outreaches God is calling us to support with prayers, fasting, serving or giving? What are we being called to sacrifice or forego to bring this about? More on this hopefully to be posted during Lent.

4. My third annual Lenten beard begins today to ensure sufficient scraggliness for Ash Wednesday. Along with giving up popcorn, having a non clean shaven husband is Rosey's Lenten sacrifice. Luckily I'm willing to help.

5. Phillies spring training! My favorite story so far has nothing to do with what happens on the field, but how one player has kept his ego in check and feet firmly on the ground throughout a 20 year career and is using his riches to reach out to others: The Moyer Family's Christmas in Guatamala . I especially like the message Jamie sends to his children -- to whom much is given, much is required; and we need to go and meet the poor and serve them in person, not simply mail out a check, however big it might be in absolute terms.

6. If all the current crop of young Jesuits in formation are anything like this guy, we're in for an Ignatian revival in the Church.

7. Beer is out of the house for Lent. The plan is for me to get the basement sufficiently cleaned up to finally set up the home brewing kit that was a gift from my brother in Christmas 2007. I want to time it so the first batch finishes on Holy Saturday night. A joyous Chestertonian feast will ensue to celebrate Our Lord's Ressurection! Huzzah!