Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Faith, Rules, and Knowing Why

Two of my favorite hymns were - and are - set to the same tune, Ebeneezer. One of them has a verse that goes like this, in part:
"By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track....(Once to Every Man and Nation. Lyrics by James R. Low­ell, in the Bos­ton Cour­i­er, De­cem­ber 11, 1845. Music by Thom­as J. Will­iams)
The other hymn with the same tune has a quite different message - and that's another topic.

Easy to be Catholic? Yes and No

I've run into folks who seem to see Jesus as a thoroughly nice fellow, a sort of genial wimp whose ambition is to be inoffensive. Jesus is gentle, but there's much more to my Lord than that.1

Then there's the whole question of whether or not it's easy to follow Jesus:
" '... 17 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.' "
(Matthew 11:29-30)

"He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said 8 to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me...."
(Mark 8:34)
Easy? Denying ourselves?? The footnotes for each quote discuss that - one point is that the yoke is "...the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation...." The alternative my Lord offers is "...the yoke of obedience to His word, under which they will find rest...." (Footnote 17, Matthew 11)

Kids, Faith, and Respect

I recently signed up with Catholic Dads, an online community mostly for and about fathers who are Catholic: and who take our faith seriously.

As a practicing Catholic, I've got responsibilities: including showing my children what being Catholic is. Raising children in a way that doesn't conform to the local culture's customs and conventions doesn't let me just 'go with the flow,' and assume that they'll pick up whatever values they need on television and at school.

And it certainly, in my opinion, doesn't mean dumbing down Church teaching, or dropping the challenging bits.

Looks like I'm not the only dad who thinks this way:
"...So the great paradox is, the easier we make our Faith, the less commitment we generate. Consider all those who water down Catholic morality, because it is too hard...."
("Keeping Your Kids Catholic: A Great Paradox," Ben Trovato, Catholic Dads (May 23rd, 2011))
That's where the 'burning martyrs' thing comes in.

I think that my children - anybody's children - won't follow a faith that they can't respect.

Respect is Earned

I was one of 'those crazy kids' in the '60s, here in America. I never rebelled in the conventional way - I don't 'do' conventional - but I took a long, hard, look at what my parents had told me, what I was learning about American culture, and how my parents lived.

Happily, my parents were sensible folks with rock-solid dedication to principles and duty. I learned a lot from them - from what they said, and from what they did.

And I converted to Catholicism. Which wasn't, really, rejecting their faith: more like recognizing the logical consequences of their beliefs.

And respecting those beliefs because I'd seen their dedication.

Catholic, Yes: Old-Fashioned, No

Raising my children so that they would understand, and follow, Catholic teachings wasn't as hard as it might be for some in America.

Our home is in a small town in central Minnesota. Many if not most people here are members of a Catholic parish. My father-in-law became a deacon several years ago, and my wife is as serious as I am about understanding and following Church teachings.

That may not mean what you think it does.

My wife is the one with power tools in this household, one of her sisters took shop class in high school, and a brother took home ec. He was the only teenage boy in a classroom full of girls - and nobody's fool. I've posted about this before:We don't try to force our children to live the way Americans did in the 1940s or 1950s. And we certainly don't try to live the way Matthew did, two millennia back, or as Abram did when he moved out of Ur.

Actually, we do: but not the way folks who yearn for the 'good old days' seem to want.2

Unchanging Precepts of the Almighty, and Forks

I drive on the right side of the road, cut meat with a fork in my left hand, and speak English with an American accent: without guilt, to the best of my knowledge.

Because those are all rules and conventions imposed by my culture - which have very little to do with Catholic teaching.3

I've yet to run into someone who believes that a 30 mile an hour speed limit within city limits is one of the unchanging Laws of God. Or that only those who use forks shall enter the Heavenly Kingdom.

I have, though, tangled with some who apparently confused nostalgia with precepts of the Almighty. (September 26, 2009)

Following, and Understanding, Rules

Observing rules about fasting, our Sunday Obligation, and other Catholic practices is, I think, important.

I also think it's important for parents to understand why we do what we do. It's good for us; and our children will probably want to know.

Sort-of-related posts:From Catholic Dads blog:
1 See Luke 7:36-50; and "Suggestions for Preaching About Family Violence," Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

2 Ben Trovato, by the way, wrote "traditional practice" once: but didn't describe himself as a "traditional Catholic." He didn't rail against the new translation of the Mass - or the new one before that. He was discussing common sense: not nostalgia. My opinion.

3 On the other hand, following traffic regulations ties in with responsibilities imposed by the Church - and that's yet another topic. (Catechism, 2212-2213, for starters)


Brigid said...

"He was the only teenage boy in a classroom full of girls - and nobody's fool." That was the idea, but the other boys in that grade found out, signed up, and the teachers divided the class in two. One for boys and one for girls. The boys weren't too thrilled.

Missing a comma: "Catholic practices is, I think important."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader (and your daughter ^_^ )

Brian Gill said...


You know your family history. ^-^

Also, found & fixed. Thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.