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donbosco1
Saint John Bosco, image from saintbosco.org

Much more difficult that remembering to read Bible stories,
much more difficult than finding Advent candles in storage,
much more difficult than teaching littles how to genuflect,
much, much more difficult…
(but maybe way, way more important)
… is being patient with my kids when they mess up.

I’m not talking about firm vs lax parenting, or having vs not having boundaries, or following through with proper consequences vs not. I’m talking about treating that little person with all the love that God has poured into me, with the patience and mercy that God has shown me, all the love that I am capable of giving, but really really not wanting to right this very minute. Not right now. Not while I’m so angry and frustrated and tired…

Sigh.

So many saints have, time and time again, reminded us that yelling in anger doesn’t really help a situation improve, doesn’t really motivate a little person (or any of us) to do better. In this post, Saint John Bosco reminds us that “there must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips.” It doesn’t help: the hostility, the contempt, the insults. And really, if others treated us that way, we would feel horrible. And it doesn’t help.

Among the more powerful ways I can bring my children to Jesus is to show them in my face, His face: just how much He loves them. When they see me controlling my temper, or apologizing when I cross the line, they remember. On the other hand, when they see that time and time again, that this is how Mama gets things done when it’s “important,” then I will find a ten-year old speaking to her baby brother that way, when it’s “important.” Unless I work hard to curb it in myself, I might find myself in a horrible household where yelling is the main mode of discourse: a situation that will partly be of my own making.

God calls us to treat the littlest as we would treat Him. I try and I pray. Maybe you can pray for me, too. It’s such a humiliating and slow process for my pride to take, but he promises he will help and I have hope that, in time, it will get better. My path is littered with His reminders and I will keep on trying.

Must remember, St. John Bosco says:
no hostility in our minds,
no contempt in our eyes,
no insult on our lips

Difficult, but worthwhile.

This is the Summer during which we’ve gone from a Not Yet Reading family to a Most of Us Can Read sort of family. Our eldest has been reading for a few years now, but there’s something about having two of the kids reading. Suddenly, there’s someone to share the stories, the wonder, the jokes, the scary bits. It’s brought dinner discussions to a whole new level. (Not that the previous level has disappeared. Some of us are still learning that when the food enters our mouths no one needs to see it again.)

bigkidbooks

We’ve been so excited about this new phenomenon that we’ve been collecting all the “big kid” books (i.e. books with not that many pictures and very many words) on a special shelf. In particular, I wanted to share a few of the faith-themed books that we’ve been enjoying.

nowyoucanreadbiblestories
Now You Can Read Bible Stories
We received this set of books many years ago, before any of the kids could read. I suppose these aren’t really “big kid” books but I find both readers and the “read-to” crowd really enjoy these. I think the readers like the independence of getting to sit and very, very slo-o-o-wly absorb the story at their own pace, complete with daydreams and distractions – facilitated by fantastic retro-vintage illustrations. I personally like them since I find that I don’t have to paraphrase the stories on the fly so much to make them make sense.

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Saint Catherine Laboure: Mary’s Messenger
This book begins with the story of the young Catherine who loses her mother early in life and turns to Our Lady. One of our kids’ Godmothers gave us this book and it continues to fascinate our children. I believe that it might be a combination of the carefully rendered watercolour illustrations that they just pore over and the wonderful storytelling (and story). For whatever reason, this is a well-loved little book at our house.

onceuponatimesaints
Once Upon a Time Saints
I researched and read a number of reviews online and chose this book as an introduction to the lives of the saints. The stories are lively and really do bring the saints to life. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was to read through the various stories – the author really has a gift. From the number of times that I’ve had to remind someone to put it away, it seems as if others do as well.

I’m learning that, especially in the long, hazy days of Summer, if you have it around, they might read it. Purchasing used books online and from the neighbourhood thrift stores can makes the process a bit more affordable. Watching the kids curl up and read is a delight.

St. Clement’s has scheduled extra times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation! I believe they are now available on Tuesdays and Thursdays after the 7pm Mass, as well as the regular Saturday times. Parishioners are also invited to an evening of Advent Confessions on Monday, December 5th at 7pm. Our young people will celebrate their First Confession on the same evening. Several priests will be present.

“I am certain that even if I had on my conscience every imaginable crime, I should lose nothing of my confidence; rather I would hurry, with a heart broken with sorrow, to throw myself into the Arms of my Jesus.”
– St. Therese of Lisieux

(Neat little reflection, isn’t it? You too can start your day with a thought from St. Therese here.)


Dear Saint Francis de Sales, I’m stressed, anxious, worried…

Having heard that I was a fan, a good friend gave me a worn out little book called Spiritual Letters of Saint Francis de Sales.

I smiled as I read the first letter, which seems to have been written just for me. In it, the good saint says Girl, chillaaaax.

“…God is not in the great and strong wind, or the scorching fires of agitated feeling, but in the soft, almost imperceptible, breeze of calmness and gentleness.”

“…strive to be as a little child, who, while its mother holds it, goes on fearlessly, and is not distrubed because it stumbles and trips in its weakness. So long as God holds you up by the will and determination to serve Him with which He inspires you, go boldly and do not be frightened at your little checks and falls, so long as you can throw yourself into His Arms in trusting love. Go there with an open, joyful heart as often as possible;–if not always joyful, at least go with a brave and faithful heart.”

Ok, I was paraphrasing a bit. I am definitely a long way away from going about life with the fearlessness of a little child. Too many worries, too many fears. Gotta work on that.


Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

From The Story of a Soul, the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as “The Little Flower”:

“I assure you that the good Lord is much kinder than you can imagine. He is satisfied with a glance, with a sigh of love… In regard to myself, I find it easy to practice perfection, because I have learned that the way to Jesus is through His Heart. Consider a small child who has vexed his mother by a display of bad temper or disobedience. If the child hides in a corner through fear of punishment, he feels that his mother will not forgive him. But if instead, he extends his little arms towards her and with a smile cries out: ‘Love, kiss me, mamma, I will not do it again,’ will not his mother press the little one to her heart with tenderness, and forget what the child has done? And yet, though she knows very well that her dear little one will misbehave again at the first opportunity, that means nothing if the child appeals to her heart. He will never be punished…” (my emphasis)

I have mentioned to my kids that God is much, much nicer than Mama. They didn’t look that impressed. “But is He much nicer than Daddy?” I assured them that yes, God is much nicer than Daddy. Now that is something.

I found a copy of Saint Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life on my parents’ bookshelf back in university. It floored me then and has rarely left my bedside since, which is highly amusing since it was written some four hundred years ago. It is uncanny how relevant his writing has been to my life, how specifically he writes about my particular struggles, how helpful his centuries-old advice has been. How could someone from the 16th century have had such a clear window to my modern soul?

Here is a section from chapter VIII, called Gentleness towards others and Remedies against Anger:

I mean, that when we feel stirred with anger, we ought to call upon God for help, like the Apostles, when they were tossed about with wind and storm, and He is sure to say, “Peace, be still.” But even here I would again warn you, that your very prayers against the angry feelings which urge you should be gentle, calm, and without vehemence. Remember this rule in whatever remedies against anger you may seek. Further, directly you are conscious of an angry act, atone for the fault by some speedy act of meekness towards the person who excited your anger. It is a sovereign cure for untruthfulness to unsay what you have falsely said at once on detecting yourself in falsehood; and so, too, it is a good remedy for anger to make immediate amends by some opposite act of meekness. There is an old saying, that fresh wounds are soonest closed.
– Introduction to a Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales

That particular bit of advice has (I’m sure) saved my children from being thrown out the window countless times. Lose temper. Yell. Pray. Calm down. Say sorry. Humbly ask for a hug. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’m currently praying to cut out steps 1 and 2 (the losing temper and yelling part). The book isn’t particularly directed towards parents, but the road to becoming a better person is the same road to becoming a better parent.

Which is to say: I highly recommend this book. So do all sorts of other people, it seems. I can imagine that the 400-year old writing style might be a bit much for some people, but do give it a try if you’ve never read it before. I found a neat site where you can read the full book online, for free.


Blessed Mother Teresa by Anna Bhushan

As a parent in the midst of the craziness of raising a family, I often find that I am in need of reinforcements. Fortunately, God puts them where and when I need them. I just have to pray that I recognize them for what they are. When I was younger, I came across a book of days called The Joy in Loving: A guide to daily living with Mother Teresa. In it, Jaya Chaliha and Edward Le Joly compiled 365 small pieces of Blessed Mother Teresa’s writings, one for each day of the year. Many years later, I haven’t tired of reading it, again and again.

In the face of difficulties, doubts and objections, trust in Him. He will not let you down. If God does not grant the means, that shows He does not want you to do that particular work. If He wants it done, He will give you the means. Therefore do not worry.
– entry for February 14

When I find myself getting increasingly distracted by stuff, or in need of some Splash of Cold Water Type of Perspective, the frank words of Blessed Mother Teresa are the perfect antidote. They stop me in my tracks and redirect me to what matters.

It is easy to smile at people outside your own home. It is so easy to take care of the people that you don’t know well. It is difficult to be thoughtful and kind and to smile and be loving to your own in the house day after day, especially when we are tired and in a bad temper or bad mood. We all have these moments and that is the time that Christ comes to us in a distressing disguise.
– entry for January 29

She reminds me time and time again that there are people who have been put in my life who need me, who need my love, who need my gentleness – that in caring for my family, I am caring for Jesus. I recently put up a small watercolour print of her near my computer where I work as a reminder to be gentle and kind. In the gentleness and kindness department, I need all the help I can get.

The fruit of silence is prayer,
the fruit of prayer is faith,
the fruit of faith is love,
the fruit of love is service,
the fruit of service is peace.

I recently came across this excerpt from a letter by St. John Bosco.

First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfil their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people. I have always laboured lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal. And the whole Salesian society has done this with me.

My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.

I give you as a model the charity of Paul which he showed to his new converts. They often reduced him to tears and entreaties when he found them lacking docility and even opposing his loving efforts.

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or wilfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalised, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.

They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.

There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.

In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.

(Epistolario, Torino 1959, 4, 201-203)

St. John Bosco, pray for us.

What is this?

Here a volunteer parishoner at St. Clement shares her personal experiences as her young family tries to keep the Catholic faith alive in their homes, living out the promises of their Baptism. Thank you for stopping in and be sure to share some of your stories as well!

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