Showing posts with label Parents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parents. Show all posts

16 Jun 2017



23 Jun 2015


Pope Francis' encyclical reminds me we are not angels. We have bodies, and we must live in the physical world. It is this physical world, our common home, that Pope Francis asks us to consider:
On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. [61]
Interestingly, when I searched for images of "home" to include here, nearly 100% of the photos looked like this:
©IPGGutenbergUKLtd/Getty Images
Read more at Praying with Grace!

21 Apr 2015

Pope Francis' Big Heart For Children

문화체육관광부 (2014) via Flickr, CC
A Big Heart Open to God. That's what the world's Jesuit magazines titled their interview with Pope Francis six months into his papacy. (You can read the English-language version at America Magazine here.)

Yes, Pope Francis seems to have a big heart open to God, and to all of us. He often reveals his heart for children too. I would like to dedicate today's blog to some of the Pope's inspiring words about children and the adults who care for them. (All excerpts come from the Vatican Information Service.)

We parents, grandparents, teachers, catechists, and other adults who work for the welfare of children can pray with the Pope. We can pick one or two lines from these passages and ponder them in our hearts, as Jesus' own mother Mary did: 
Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
-Luke 2:19

Visit Praying with Grace to be INSPIRED!!

14 Apr 2015

Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Schools in Sierra Leone reopened today, having been closed since the Ebola outbreak in July. According to an NPR report, "more than one-third of the 10,000+ deaths have been in Sierra Leone."

When this year's harsh winter closed schools for several days in a row, some parents joked about how grueling it was to be trapped at home with stir-crazy children. Very few of us reading this blog can imagine what it's like to experience nine months of closed schools, especially amid a health crisis claiming thousands of lives.

Not that long ago, in 1991, Sierra Leone faced another horrifying crisis: civil war. A month ago, I had the opportunity to listen to a survivor of that war. Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, was forced to become a soldier in Sierra Leone at the age of thirteen.

Photo courtesy of Brookfield Academy
Ishmael visited my children's school, where his book is required reading for the ninth graders. Students, teachers, alumni, and parents packed the gym to hear him tell his story. Sierra Leone culture cherishes storytelling, and Ishmael carries on his country's tradition powerfully.

Please join me at Praying with Grace to share two lessons Ishmael taught that relate directly to our work as parents.

9 Dec 2014

Parents, the First Evangelists

Pope Francis has an evangelization prayer close to his heart this month: he is praying for parents. As the Pope puts it, "Pray that parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith."

Mary and Joseph were the first evangelizers of Jesus. If evangelizing means to bring the good news of salvation to the world, then Mary was a literalist: she physically brought Jesus, the saving Word of God, to the world. Joseph and Mary cared for the Word, loved the Word, and shared the Word with others in their daily lives.

It almost seems unfair, in a way, doesn't it? SAY WHAT?! Read on at Praying with Grace.

1 Dec 2014

Pope Francis Asks Us To Pray

Each month, Pope Francis entrusts his particular prayer intentions to the Apostleship of Prayer, which has offices around the world. The Pope has these two prayers on his heart in December:

  • Universal Prayer: Christmas, Hope for Humanity
  • Evangelization Prayer: Parents
Please visit the Apostleship of Prayer website for videos and reflections on Pope Francis' prayer intentions. 

Children can pray with the Pope too! Age-appropriate reflections and activities are here.

Thank you for praying with us!

29 Jul 2014

Iggy Fever! Gearing Up for the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Cartoon from The Economist, July 26, 2014
Indifference is great for parents. As I read through the latest issue of The Economist over the weekend, I plunged into an article about helicopter parents that made me remember the Ignatian principle of indifference. The article, titled Cancel that violin class, invites modern parents to relax. I imagined Ignatius reading the article, a secret smile on his lips, shaking his head slowly, as he learned about the savage preferences parents have for their children and the exhausting effort they put forth to make sure their children are playing the right instrument, volunteering the established number of service hours, and getting the necessary grades to enter an Ivy League school. The article cites the advice of Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University: "if parents fretted less about each child, they might find it less daunting to have three instead of two. And that might make them happier in the long run. No 60-year-old ever wished for fewer grandchildren."

But wait! There's more! Read the whole thing at Praying with Grace.

5 Jul 2012

My parents were married 70 years ago today

On Saturday 6 July 1942 John Coyle, a carpenter, married Mary Collins, a seamstress, in St Paul's Church, Arran Quay, Dublin, (photo below) the first Catholic church to be built in Dublin after the Act of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 that abolished most of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws in the United Kingdom, of which the whole of Ireland was then apart. The occasion was to have some impact on my life as I was the first-born of their union, arriving in the world nine months and two weeks later. The wedding photo above was taken in a studio in Dublin after their honeymoon. So it is likely that I was present on the occasion!

Full post here.

11 Apr 2012

Estefanio Argall Luceño RIP, the father of a Columban missionary

Estefanio Luceño with his wife Teresita, 60 years married, taken in Dahilayan, Bukidnon, last year

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Estefanio A Luceño who died in Pagadian City on Holy Saturday, 7 April, and will be buried there on Easter Saturday, 14 April. He was 85 and the father of Aurora Luceño, a long-term Columban lay missionary who has spent much of her time in Pakistan.

Many of us have read stories, including vocation stories, about and by missionaries and been inspired by them. We don't hear quite as often from the parents of missionaries, about their part in the vocation stories of their sons and daughters or of what it costs them. Below is an article we published in Misyon, the Columban magazine I edit here in the Philippines, in January-February 2004 by the late Estefanio: We had to let her go. Now God has asked his wife and family to let him go. As the Irish prayer for the dead goes, 'May the light of heaven shine upon him'.
Aurora Luceño, known to her friends as 'Auring' or 'Au'.

To be the father of the Columban lay missionary is indeed a rare privilege. I consider it precious gift from God. My daughter, Aurora C. Luceño, a civil engineer by profession, was enjoying a well-paying job and a promising career in the Department of Interior and Local Government before being sent to the Columban Lay Mission Program (CLMP) she took part in the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program, which gave her a chance to visit different Asian countries, including Japan, as a goodwill ambassador of youth.
Full article here.

27 Mar 2012

My Dad's 99th birth anniversary

My ordination day, 20 December 1967, with Dad, Mam and my brother Paddy.

My late Dad, John Coyle, was born 99 years ago today - or possibly yesterday. He was never quite sure whether his birthday was the 26th or 27th but finally opted for the latter.

He is still the biggest influence in my life because of the quiet way he lived his deep faith as a husband, father, neighbour, carpenter and general foreman for many years on building sites. One of his strongest characteristics was his respect for others. He went to Mass every day, including the day he died suddenly, 11 August 1987.

Dad also influenced my taste in popular music. He loved a good tune. Sometimes he would 'doodle' on the piano but couldn't play it. One of his great favourites was Charlie Kunz, in the video above, an American-born bandleader and pianist who settled in England. He would sometimes tell me about the time he saw Charlie perform in the old Theatre Royal in Dublin before World War II.

He and my mother, Mary, were very good ballroom dancers. That is one of the reasons I'm able to write this blog. They had been going together for a while but split up amicably. Some time later my mother was given two tickets for a dress dance (a formal ball). She asked her mother what she should do with the tickets. She said, 'Invite Joe'. 'Joe' was the name my mother and her family used for Dad. To others he was 'John'. But Joseph was his second Christian name.

One of the photos on display in our house was of my parents at a dress dance my father looking elegant in his white bow-tie. It might well have been the occasion when they resumed their relationship. I'm almost certain it was taken before they were married in 1942.

He loved the music of Victor Silvester, featured in the video below. When he visited the Philippines in 1981, eleven years after my mother's death, the people in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, Mindanao, put on a welcome party. He hadn't lost his ability to 'trip the light fantastic' and enjoyed himself immensely.

My mother used to say if we found ourselves in a crowded space such as a bus or a lift (elevator), 'If we've as much room in heaven we'll be all right'. May the light of heaven shine on my parents and on my grandmother Annie Dowd Collins for suggesting to her daughter Mary that she invite her former boyfriend Joe to that dress dance!

6 Jan 2012

Strengthening Your Family

 Through our baptism, we're called to be royal, priestly parents to our children, exercising our God-given authority with kindness and benevolence. When we truly understand the essence of our authority, we can be leaders and nurturers of our children and help them to become the nurturers and leaders of the future.~ from Strengthening Your Family by Marge Fenelon, p.176
 I did a lot of babysitting when I was young and became quite proficient at handling other people's children. I wondered at some parents' inability to control their children in church and other public places, since I rarely had any problem getting my little charges to listen to me. There was no doubt in my mind that I would someday be a  model parent with model children, all sitting quietly in the pew with rapt attention. However, when I finally married, God in His wisdom saw fit to send me the most rambunctious little girl ever created, the kind of child who loves to perform in public with complete lack of shyness or embarrassment. This has entailed many public displays of what can only be described as naughty behavior. None of my babysitting experience seemed to help in the least; I was in new waters with a new little person and it was as if I had never taken care of children at all.

Because being a parent is uncharted territory for me, I am increasingly in awe of veteran mothers, those who have raised children in today's world. Strengthening Your Family by Marge Fenelon is like a map for mothers through the desert of the modernity. It is a guidebook which I will be referring to again and again over the years, as new issues surface and the road of life takes twists and turns. Marge gives several anecdotes which illustrate ways in which she and her husband Mark have handled various situations with their large and lively family. Bringing up children has not been a sideline for the Fenelons, to be haphazardly pursued when not engaged in attaining career goals. Rather, their family is the means by which they have been called to live out their Christian vocation; it has top priority and is approached with wisdom, firmness, and conviction, all bound together by love. As the author says: "Mark and I believe that family is forever....What [the children] learn now as a nuclear family will carry them through in the future." (p.45)

One thing that struck me about Strengthening Your Family is the grasp the author has on the duties and responsibilities that accompany parental authority. It is often difficult for contemporary people to understand the exercise of authority in a hierarchical structure, a structure such as the family, or the Church, since we are infatuated with the idea of total equality. To quote from the book:
The heavenly Father has called us to his own glory and excellence. As royal children, we take on a royal attitude. It’s royal in that we hold ourselves accountable to rise above the degradation and godlessness of the world around us. It’s royal in that we adhere to a scale of values that uplifts and inspires us. It’s royal in that we don’t think we’re better than others but work to become better than we are. It’s royal in that we’re granted the ability to know and love God, to walk in the Holy Spirit, and to love whatever God loves. It’s royal in that we live in the reality that we are cherished by God above all things.
According to the Church, through our baptism we become not only a royal people, but also priests and prophets. As a royal people, a royal married couple, a royal family, our vocation is to serve — with Christ — each other, our Church, and the world in that order of priority, thus fulfilling our royal dignity. Because we are royalty, we live in the “court” of the King’s heart, attaching ourselves to him and aligning ourselves to his will for the sake of the Kingdom. (p.128)
While these are things I have long known, reading about the royal vocation of the baptized soul in the context of the adventures of the Fenelon Clan helps me to have a fresh perspective of it and other eternal truths. Books that give practical, down-to-earth advice on how to apply faith to daily existence are always a help for me. Marge's book is particularly engaging and reading it is like visiting in her kitchen, homey and comfortable but inspiring, for all that she writes is grounded in Scripture and Tradition. Her devotion to the Holy Family particularly shines through; we see how Jesus, Mary and Joseph are never far away, not even from the most trying domestic scenarios. I recommend this book to anyone starting out on the journey of parenthood as well as to those who are already well into their journey, since it is full of hope needed for the long road ahead.

(*NOTE: Strengthening Your Family was sent to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.)
Elena Maria Vidal is the author of the historical novels Trianon, Madame Royale, and The Night's Dark Shade. Please visit Elena at her Tea at Trianon blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

2 Nov 2011

Motherhood Matters

In Motherhood Matters, Canadian author Dorothy Pilarski writes with profundity and wit about matters practical and divine. Full of anecdotes and humor, this book makes us take an honest look at the lives of women today, and helps us to focus on what matters most. Has "liberation" truly led to greater happiness for women? Are children to be viewed as commodities, to be acquired just as we acquire a house or car? Or should children be seen as the gifts from God that they are, given to our stewardship? Dorothy makes it clear that until we rectify our confusion about such basic questions then peace of heart will elude us. To quote:
We will find happiness in living out God's purpose for our lives, not our own. The culture of the early twenty-first century makes it easy to follow mistaken paths. The media bombards us with the temptation to fulfill ourselves, to find ourselves, to meet our own needs. It is a message of selfishness. And it is spread constantly. Magazines, television, radio, films, books, and the internet promote images of the 'ideal' career, body, fashion, home, car, vacation, husband, and parenting. These 'ideals"' are often reinforced by friends and family. Influenced by these 'ideals,' many of us make important life decisions without first considering our relationship with Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith...As Catholic mothers, we are called to dig deep into our hearts and pray that we are actually co-operating with God's grace...Our children are gifts from our Creator who has entrusted the souls of our children to us. (pp18-19)
Motherhood Matters is broken into many small sections which makes it easy for busy people to read, yet it is never disjointed; one paragraph flows seamlessly into another. Dorothy substantiates her claims about women and motherhood, about divorce, illegitimacy, diseases, and all the trials of modern life, with statistics of several recent studies, not only with pious beliefs. Yet the statistics uphold the piety, showing that when we depart from God and his law we pay, our children pay, and all society pays. (pp.31-32) We see that many women are often forced to set aside their childbearing years in order to make money. Even after the children are born, women must often forgo being with their children and creating a home in order to be part of the work force.

It is obvious that our culture no longer values motherhood or sees it as a goal. Instead, it is a sideline, to be pursued only when convenient. Is this fair to women? No, and it is definitely not fair to children. Women are repeatedly told that they must be breadwinners like men in order to be of value. Other than the ability to make money, women are reduced to their sexuality and have come to see themselves as worthwhile only as far as physical pleasure goes.

Can things ever be made right? Motherhood Matters explores many simple and practical ways that women can reclaim their feminine vocation. How easily we ignore the most obvious truths, which Dorothy illustrates with short stories from her personal experience. It is a book which entertains and yet it is impossible to read it without taking a good hard look at oneself. Throughout the book we are enjoined to turn to prayer as the key to finding the path we are called to take as women and as mothers. We are encouraged to watch and pray, especially when we have teenagers. As Dorothy says:
Remaining grounded in a fervent prayer life and being aware of the dangerous messages that exist in the media can better equip parents to understand the challenges that vulnerable teenage girls wrestle with. Awareness leads to conversations we might have never had. But be prepared. I guarantee that those conversations will challenge you, yet I cannot imagine a life without them. (p.99)
The choice that lies before each of us is between a life of authentic love and one of  fleeting material gratifications. No one can make the choice for us. Reading a book like Dorothy's makes it easier to choose a life of love, a life which foreshadows the eternity of endless happiness and fulfillment.

Here is an interview of Dorothy Pilarski by author Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle.

(*Note: This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Elena Maria Vidal is the author of the historical novels Trianon, Madame Royale, and The Night's Dark Shade. Please visit Elena at her Tea at Trianon blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

23 Aug 2011

Parents for Eternal Life

I recently read an article titled “The Teaching of the Catholic Church on Home Schooling – Parents for Eternal Life” by Jesuit priest Fr. John Hardon, and the following paragraph really struck me:

“...what they (children) mainly need is to know why God made them; why they are on earth at all; why they are in this world; that they are here in this life in order to prepare and train themselves for the world to come. In a word, children are to be taught that their short stay here in time is only a preparation for the world that will never end. They are to be trained for heaven.”

Our kids need to be “trained for heaven”?! What a big responsibility we parents have then! In fact, Fr. Hardon goes on to say:

“The Church teaches that, ‘Under God, parents are the first in time, first in authority, first in responsibility, first in supernatural ability, and first in dignity to educate their children for eternal life.’”

“...believing Catholic parents...must be convinced that their primary responsibility as parents is to prepare the children that God gave them - for eternal life.

“We are told the one reason; I should say the main reason, why Catholic parents are the primary teachers of their children is because they have the supernatural grace to do so. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: ‘Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children’ (2225).”

“Parents must always keep this vision clearly in their minds: we are fathers and mothers of children for heaven. Our one hope is to be reunited in heaven with our families, and children and grandchildren and great, great grandchildren, in the everlasting City of Jerusalem which is our heavenly home.”

The statement above was brought even closer to home just recently, when our almost-five year old son Tim told me:
“Mama, when you’ve died and gone to heaven, can I go with you too? I want to be in heaven with you and Papa.”

Hearing her brother say this, 2-year old Rysse says: “Baba heaven also!” (Baba is her nickname – it means “baby” in Afrikaans).
Tim and Rysse – 'Jesus, we trust in You!'

As a parent, I try to shield my children from the harsh realities of life. However, when it comes to death, their father and I try to be as open to them as we can, and try to explain things in terms they can easily understand. We recently brought them with us to the wake of a prematurely-born baby (which prompted me to write my last blog entry here), and at first I thought that they would be scared or maybe even a bit traumatized to see the tiny little baby’s body in the casket.

I was wrong in my assumptions though. They seemed to understand my explanation that even if they could see the baby’s body, little Simon* had already gone to heaven with Jesus. Up to now, Tim still remembers to include him in our daily prayers – “we pray for baby Simon, who is already in heaven, and all the other babies who got killed in their mommies’ tummies.”
Kids’ prayer time

Tim used the term “got killed” but meant those who had died in their mothers’ wombs through natural causes. I am not going to explain to him yet that there are actually babies who do “get killed” in their mommies’ tummies through the grave, twisted sin of abortion and abortifacient contraceptives. For now, I will leave his concept of death and being reunited with God in heaven at that.

Reading the “Parents for Eternal Life” article, and the paragraph below, taken from the introductory page of our homeschool Kindergarten curriculum, I was reminded once again that despite being an impossibly imperfect parent to my kids, God has a plan and a purpose for me:

 "Of course, our most important goal is to educate our children for eternity. How? By living and being what we want our children to be. We must be truthful, brave, forgiving, thoughtful, faithful, virtuous, self-disciplined, kind and cheerful if we want our children to be! Our Faith is caught, not taught... we can't give what we don't have. Overwhelming? Not when we remember that a baby learns to walk by falling! God measures our effort and appreciates every little thing we do for love of Him. He invites us to keep "walking" and grow more in love with Him each day."

You know what, He has a purpose for you too, dear reader! Even if you’re not a parent, the last two sentences in the paragraph above apply to you. Just keep “walking” in God’s ways, and strive to grow in love with Him every day. Perhaps this beautiful song, inspired by Psalm 139, will move you to do so:

“Even though You know, You will always love me.” What a beautiful assurance! It serves as a great reminder as well: we are not meant for this world. There is more to this life, and parents especially should remember to teach their kids that. Our final destination: HEAVEN.
We are meant for Heaven.

27 Jul 2011

Born Sinless

Joachim and Anne.  Parents of a child conceived without sin.  The smug in me might like to think, oh, fortunate Joachim and raise a child without sin!  But a moment of reflection reminds me that Joachim and Anne battled sin.  Just like me.  Just like all of us. Would I trade places?

What might that be like?  While the idea of my own children being sinless sounds so...peaceful; the idea my children being sinless and me still in my present state...sounds...disastrous.

Such a high calling for Joachim and Anne.  Little Mary, always sweet, always obedient, always kind.  Joachim and Anne, sometimes tired from toil, sometimes anxious about their future, sometimes perhaps short tempered.  How any small acts that fall short of holiness might appear beside a sinless maiden.
"Of what small spots pure white complains."

No, I would not trade.  Anne and Joachim were given their particular task.  And the grace to fulfill it.  I was given my particular task.  Mothers and Fathers battling sin raising children battling sin. And all the grace to fill it is God's gift to me.  Even on the days it doesn't feel like it. Such a high calling for ordinary families.

26 Jul 2011

St Joachim and St Anne

Today we celebrate and remember the parents of Our Lady, the bible does not mention them at all, but by tradition of the Western Church and the Easter and Orthodox we honour them and call them Joachim and Anne.

The ancient story of Marys conception and birth mirror the story of Samuel and John the Baptist in that a childless couple pray devoutly for a child to God  vowing to dedicate that child to God.
Whatever the exact truth there can be no doubt that Marys parents must have been a pious and devout couple to raise such a daughter! The parents of Mary were the mechanism God used as the physical reality of the Immaculate Conception and the honouring of Anne and Joachim goes back to the early years of the Church. St Anne was one of the most popular Saints of the middle ages and is seen in many statues and murals teaching her daughter the scripture or holding a young Mary who herself holds the Infant Christ.
They make a wonderful example of holy marriage and good parenting.

St Anne and St Joachim, Parents of Our Lady, pray for all parents that they may provide a happy home and faith full teaching as you provided for the Mother of Our Saviour. Amen

We can ponder that long ago childhood and think on the wonders of grace that flowed from it.
For like their daughter Joachim and Anne point us to God.

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