Category Archives: Family Life

Father’s Day – bringing it all home….

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A man’s wedding vows…

“V:  Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

R:  We have.

V:  Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

R:  We will.

V:  Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?

R:  We will.

V:  Since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and His Church.

R:  I, Matthew, take you, Kelly, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

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-by Br. Edmund McCullough, OP

“Long ago, in the days before direct deposit, Mom had to hope that on payday Dad would bring his whole paycheck home and not cash it at the bar on the way back from work. He and Mom would then sit down at the table and budget for the rest of the month. The kids needed new shoes, Catholic school tuition had to be paid, and so forth. It was important that Dad brought all the money home.

Now, I concede that things have changed in the last fifty years. Banks now offer direct deposit so most of us don’t even see our paycheck. Not as many bars or packaged goods stores cash paychecks anymore, and most families have two incomes. However, the principle still holds. Men are truly husbands and fathers when they bring it all home. And the “all” is not merely monetary.

A husband and father’s whole world lies within the four walls of his home. He brings home, not simply money, but all his attention, affection, and energy. He has a narrowness in the best sense of the word, what Chesterton calls a “truly local patriotism.”

The good father that sees this clearly is a realist. He sees facts: “I’m married to this one woman for as long as we live.” And “This is my child. I’m responsible for him for at least the next 18 years—probably more.”

But this narrowness is a beautiful reality, not a tragic one. The vows he made in marriage will focus his energy. Without them, he would risk drifting without any objective. It is because our feelings change—we ride stormy seas on a rolling main—that we make wedding vows. But sometimes daydreams settle in and the realist changes philosophies. He thinks, “If only I could have some independence. Wasn’t it great when I didn’t have to answer to anyone?” He starts to think that life has become cramped. He sympathizes with George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. He has given up all that for this? He faces pressure at work and mopey teenagers at home. He is not receiving the affirmation and respect he thinks he deserves from his wife. He starts to panic and think about how things could have been different. He ponders all those opportunities he gave up, all those other lives he could have lived.

That’s when a husband and father is tempted not to “bring it all home.” He is tempted to divert a bit more of himself to his co-workers or his old buddies. But if he’s wise, he goes back to basics. His world is here, right in front of him. All those other lives he could have lived aren’t real. His co-workers will change. His buddies have their own marriages. He can think to himself, “I didn’t sign on for this” (whatever “this” might be), but the circumstances of life don’t ask our permission.

If he retains his focus, his kids will come around to the same perspective that Mark Twain describes so accurately: “When I was at 18, my father was the dumbest man I’d ever met. When I was 21, I was amazed at how much he had learned in just three years.” With his wife, there are ups and downs. When two people live together for 50+ years, there are going to be disagreements, occasionally serious ones. But if he brings it all home, he will find that on the other side of such narrowness is a profound breadth and depth of life not accessible to those who divide their love.”

Love,
Matthew

Feast of the Holy Family

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-“Christ Discovered in the Temple”, 1342, Simone Martini, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK, this is my most FAV pic of the Holy Family!!!!  Ain’t NOBODY happy here!!!!  🙂

With all the debate and pronouncements regarding the modern “definitions” of marriage & family, moral theology issues, etc., in my bewilderment and dismay, the only comfort I have found, the only thing that brings peace and makes sense, is to deepen my devotion to the Holy Family.  Join me, please.

(The morning offering prayer is a traditional Catholic prayer, this one adapted for fathers.)

Morning Offering Prayer of a Father:

“O My Jesus, I offer this day to You…
All my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings…
And, through You, I make this offering to our Father in heaven.

Be with me through this whole day in all its particulars,
And assist me that it may become a worthy offering in every way.

Be close to me in all I think and say and do.
Direct Your Spirit to speak to me…
And help me listen attentively when He does speak…

So that, in my response,
Your thoughts may become more surely my thoughts,
And Your ways may become my ways;
So that my judgments may accord with Your judgments,
And that the sentiments of my heart may be most like Your own Most Sacred Heart;

So that my conversation with others
May be the conversation I may ask You to share with us,
And that my works may be works I ask You to approve.

Help me to have the practical wisdom to look to Your Mother
From time to time throughout the day
And invite her to pray with me –
Realizing her concern that I be in all things faithful to You
And that Your graces be fruitful in me
To form me after the perfect fatherhood of God.

May I know the continued grace to work with You in all I do,
And not merely for You…
So that my day may become a perfect offering…

Lived with You and in You and through You,
To be presented to our Father in joy and love.

Amen.”

Good St Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, Patron of Husbands and of Fathers, Faithful Servant, Entrusted Guardian & Protector of our Lord: I, too, have been highly favored and blessed, entrusted with the care of soul and body of this Daughter of God as my life’s vocation.  With you as my exemplar, ask your foster Son to grant me the graces always to faithfully fulfill my Christian duty as a husband and father until my own death.

O, Good St Joseph, in thanksgiving and rejoicing for this great joy and honor God has bestowed upon me – to participate with Him as co-Creator of Life, I beg you to come to my assistance and pray for me!  Be my constant advocate before the Throne of God in all my necessities and trials!  Amen.

Collect: O God, Who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of Your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray for us!

Love,
Matthew, Kelly & Mara

The Fifth Joyful Mystery – Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple & Family Life!

Christ Discovered in the Temple Simone Martini, 1342, Italy
-“Christ Discovered in the Temple”, Simone Martini, 1342

Recently, our dear friends Victoria & Dennis were married and paid me the deep compliment of having a noticeable role in their nuptials.  I could not be more humbled and flattered.  As a thank you, Victoria & Dennis sent Kelly and I a lovely box set of cards, each one depicting one of the mysteries of the Rosary.  You may recall we are all in a monthly rosary group here in the city (Chicago).

My most favorite card is for the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary – Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple.  When I looked at the artwork of Simone Martini (1284-1344), I loved it!  Nobody is happy in this picture!  Mary’s not happy.  Joseph’s not happy.  Jesus is not happy.

We have the benefit of knowledge of events before and after this time and can safely know there is still love.  Not so much the love that feels good, although we can be sure there is some of that too, as part of the human experience, but the love both of parents for child and savior for the world. The love which sacrifices all for the explicit benefit of the beloved.

BXVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” – “God is Love” clearly illustrates the contrast between the radically different definitions of the word “love” that  God and the Church means, and the WIFM – “What’s in it for Me”, this better make me feel good/better than I already do love secular culture so casually and indiscriminately throws around.  Same word – two VERY different meanings.  As “Deus Caritas Est” attempts to point out, and what Kelly and I try to keep as the theme when we facilitate pre-cana, “Love is more than a feeling.”

Family life is NOT EASY.  Kelly and I are about to embark on that journey (marriage, April 8, 2006) so many married saints (and I mean that most liberally in relation to the technical definition) have travelled before.  To imagine there will not be crosses, is to deceive oneself.  To mean and to say “Thy will be done!  Thy Kingdom come!” is to trust, profoundly.  As always, we ask for and are grateful for your prayers, your love, and your friendship.

I loved this painting and, once again, thought I would tempt fate in sharing it with you.

Love,
Matthew

Father’s Day – acts of love & grace…

Germany, Bavaria, Munich, Son (2-3 Years) kissing his father, smiling

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-by Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress, O.P.

“The summer before I entered religious life my cousin gave birth to her first child, Owen. Later that summer the proud mother hosted a party at which the main pastime was holding baby Owen. As everyone took his or her turn with the newborn, I noticed something astonishing: all of the men held him in precisely the same way, and all of the women in another.

As my sisters, my aunt, and my cousin held Owen, I noticed that each held him in both of her arms, allowing him to lie horizontally on his back. When it came time for the men to hold him, we took a different approach: we each held Owen in a vertical posture, with his body parallel to our own and having him rest on our chest. Without exception, each of the men instinctively held Owen in this position.

As I reflected on this event, I realized that the manner in which a man holds a child manifests something about his role as a father. A man holds an infant in a way that raises the child up to his own perspective. A father does this as if to say, “Son, you are now a part of this world. I will teach you how to navigate its paths.”

A father is responsible for much more than providing food and shelter, for he also has a vital role in educating children in the faith and how to live uprightly in the world.  The Second Vatican council states explicitly that “the active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation” (Gaudium et Spes 52:1).  This “active presence” of the father begins with his leading of the family. If the father is a leader in the home, then the Catechism’s statement, “the home is the first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment,” has particular import for men (CCC 1657).

In order to navigate the paths of human life one has to address the
totality of the human person. Human flourishing is accomplished only when the body and soul are integrated, and not separated. A man is not more authentically masculine when he focuses only on the physical things of the world. Rather, he denies part of his masculinity because he ignores part of his humanity. A man neglects one of his primary roles as a father if he fails to teach his children the importance of the spiritual life. This does not mean that he must be a spiritual master and write brilliant theological treatises. But what he is called to do is to witness to the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ, and love as Christ loves (cf. Ephesians 5:25).

Even if a man tries to distract himself from this task it still remains as an intrinsic part of who he is. It is so innate in him that the very
manner in which he holds a child testifies to it. The task of leading the family, or the domestic church as the Catechism calls it (CCC 1655), has been entrusted to men. Again, the home is the “first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment.” In other words, it is the foundation on which society is built. If a father desires to have an effect on the world and make it a better place for his family, he must be a man devoted to the spiritual and human development of each member of his “domestic church.” He cannot give what he does not have, and he cannot teach what he does not know. Thus, he must be a man who is firm in his own faith in Jesus Christ.

We learn from the Divine Teacher how to teach those around us. The greatest act of teaching was the crucifixion on Mount Calvary, when He taught us what an act of love looks like. Christ gave His life for us so that we may have life eternal, and our efforts to imitate His act of love can be manifest in the most menial of our daily tasks. The constant changing of diapers, driving the kids to soccer practice, cooking dinner, working long hours at the office, setting time aside for prayer, or even simply laying an infant tenderly in his bed, can be transformed by grace into acts of love.

Acts of love are not reserved to things that are difficult; they may also be the joyous things in our life: playing catch, attending Mass, family vacations, or a well-executed surprise anniversary party. The love that animates these acts is the same that was poured forth from the cross. Our faith is not empty and it surely is not the mere uttering of creedal statements. When the spiritual is joined with the physical, the fullness of the human person is engaged, and faith is shown to be authentic. As the Letter to James says, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:17).”

Love,
Matthew

The Wise & The Foolish

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-“Wise & Foolish Virgins”, oil on panel by Frans I Floris, 16th century, 118 × 132 cm, in private collection.

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; let us go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But He answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

-Mt 25:1-13

With the divorce rate in California above 70%, and assaults, disregard, and insults towards and dismissal of the institution of the family, the foundational building block of society, rampant in our modern dialogue, the mockery of the institution that is Hollywood marriages, I thought you might appreciate this reflection.  The sinner always seeks to deceive and delude himself and others, eagerly, of the normality and praiseworthiness, mitigation of his sin. I know I do. How can/could he/she do otherwise? To admit?…The Prince of Lies is a great liar. Gen 3:5.

The nature of things are not changed by calling them something else, no matter how hard we try or want to to justify ourselves to ourselves and to others, to our consciences; to silence, to salve, to inebriate, to numb, to anesthetize, anything, even the eager, quick sale of our souls, at a substantial loss, rather than to listen to that.

The truth is always hardest, yet it remains the truth, regardless of us or our ravings or madness/delusions. We have been here before, many times. Read your history and the Scriptures. Jonah 3:4. This is not new. There is a saying, “There are no new heresies.” We just repackage, recycle, and reoffend. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison. Concupiscence.

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-by Br. John Baptist Hoang, OP, fellow UVA alumnus

““Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.”
—1 Corinthians 9:25-26

The 2005 film, Cinderella Man, tells the remarkable story of Irish-American boxer James J. Braddock (1905-1974). Braddock, played by actor Russell Crowe, enjoys a successful career as an amateur boxer until life takes a turn for the worse at the threshold of the Great Depression. Like so many other Americans during that tumultuous time, Braddock struggles to make ends meet, barely managing to support his wife and three young children. In the end, however—as the title of the movie suggests—his life plays out like a modern-day fairy tale. His boxing career gradually picks back up, and the film ends triumphantly when he becomes the heavyweight champion of the world. He and his family, as the saying goes, live happily ever after.

Braddock is portrayed as the kind of person we all want to rally behind. Yet our sympathy for him goes beyond mere support for the underdog, mere pity for his life of hardship. There is actually something we come to love in James Braddock: he is a good man. He sacrifices everything he has for the sake of his wife and children. He sacrifices his own pride when he makes a desperate decision to beg for money from the rich and powerful. He risks his own life every time he steps into the ring to fight men who are quite capable of killing him. This is what evokes our admiration and sympathy: to see a man offer himself in love.

Of course, the protagonist has to have an antagonist, and the drama reaches its climax when Braddock faces his nemesis for the heavyweight title: the young and cocky Max Baer. But, whereas in many movies of this type the final fight scene is an epic battle between good and evil, in this film things are a little different. Baer isn’t evil; he’s just foolish. He’s portrayed as a playboy, who spends his time “fooling around” with several women.

Although this is a very inaccurate portrait of the real Max Baer, it is nevertheless a dramatically effective characterization, and it serves to draw out a distinction between two types of people: the just man and the fool. Braddock is the good and just man who remains a faithful husband and father throughout his life, while Baer is the fool who pursues a life of empty pleasure. Of course, Baer, for his part, regards Braddock as the fool, and in a sense this is true. Braddock is a fool for love and goodness; he is a fool in the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of God, he is both wise and just; he is a “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:3). Heavyweight title or no heavyweight title, his story reminds us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).”

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-James Braddock and Family, North Bergen, New Jersey, 1936. Standing is Braddock’s wife, May, and from left to right are his children: Rose Marie, Howard, and James, Jr.

Love,
Matthew