Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Media Tool for Catholic Parents

New Media Tool for Catholic Parents
Culture Gauge helps parents navigate popular culture

JUN. 26, 2010 ( - As a parent of growing kids, I find that navigating popular culture is a never-ending and exhausting task. What is okay to let the kids watch, see, and listen to? What kinds of television, music, movies, and video games are being marketed to children today? It can be challenging to keep up.

Finding the answers is never easy, but I am convinced that protecting our kids from negative influences and engaging them in conversations about the aspects of popular culture that are contrary to Christianity is one of the most important things we can do.

I am happy to have as a new weapon in my parental arsenal.

Jim Havens is the man behind the site. From the about page:

[Jim Havens] recognized three ways parents were dealing with the popular media: the unaware parent (“it’s not so bad”), the overprotective parent (“I will shield my child from all media”), and the wise parent (“I need to raise my child to understand the popular media messages and teach them how to reject the bad and choose the good”). Jim began thinking about an idea for a resource to help the wise parents. He called it Culture Gauge, and he hoped to launch a component of parish youth ministry to serve parents with this new idea.

At parents have access a Weekly Briefing that gives an overview of popular items in music, games, television, and movies that are currently being marketed to children and teens. It gives a thorough analysis of each of these items along with an overview of the “messages” young people are likely to hear in the words and images.

I like how in addition to a “caution rating” for each item, there are also suggested questions for parents and kids to further discuss the issues brought up by media. These discussion questions are a great resource for parents who say Yes to some kinds of media, but want to continue having open conversations about the challenges some of these kinds of entertainment might present to their faith.

There are different levels of affordable membership at This is a helpful new means of support in that all-important job of protecting our families from unhealthy influences while preparing our children to engage the culture as adults.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reflections on a Happy Mother's Day

"Behold your Mother"
Reflections on a Happy Mother's Day

By Cheryl Dickow

When my husband and I built our house many years ago I did my best to share the experience with my mother. But as many mother-daughter relationships go, ours is probably fairly normal. We have our moments of extreme closeness and times of growing and stretching (i.e. not so much closeness).

It seemed to me that the time during which I built my home was one of those growing and stretching times in our relationship. Of course, looking back, it is easy for me to see that while I chose to grow and stretch (i.e. not listen to my mother), my mother was displaying extreme closeness in her words and manner towards me, her oldest, stubborn daughter.

You see, every time my husband and I made a decision and my mother was given the information by me, or came across it in a conversation with one of my sisters, well, my mom would say, “How are you going to clean that?”

It was literally what she said when she discovered our choice for windows, window coverings, tile, bathtub enclosures, and the numerous six-panel doors that enclose our closets. Sometimes her voice would rise incredulously.

During those times what I would hear was, “Are you crazy? Who let you be in charge?” But what my mother was really saying was, “Honey, you are young and energetic now but in a dozen years time it will be difficult for you to maintain _____ (fill in the blank).”

Today, as I teetered precariously on the edge of the tub to reach across and clean a soap dish built way too high for me to reach to clean (because I was adamant that my boys would grow and the height of the ceramic soap dish would be perfect and who cared about cleaning it), I felt a bit ashamed at having not listened to my mother.

Sure, sure, I realize that this is part of any mother-daughter relationship and yet I have no real, honest to goodness, I could say it to God, sort of defense. My boys were pre-teens at the time and I thought I had a fairly good handle on mothering. I still wasn’t able to look out into the unknown future and fathom a time where my knees would crack and my back would ache and I would be facing a house full of six-panel doors to clean.

My mother, however, was able to do just that. And like all good mothers, she voiced her concern over these things that were completely off my radar. Like all good mothers, mine boldly said things that needed to be said. And she took my disdain in stride. It was, after all, her job to be my mom and she did so in love and compassion. Even at my then age of, well, old enough to know better, my mom was being my mom.

She turns 70 this month and not a day goes by where I don’t realize how blessed I am that she has always decided to ask the tough questions, even when I was old enough to have asked them myself.

I had the very good fortune to participate in a woman’s conference last week with Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi spoke of her own Catholic conversion and of the time during which she held Mother Mary at arm’s length. It was a beautiful story of a mother’s unending love and ability to “be there” even when Heidi chose to ignore this blessed woman.

As Heidi points out, Mary always directs us to her Son. There’s nothing about Mary’s mission that is covert. In fact, I can’t help but feel that in just this way she is like all earthly mothers, saying what needs to be said - even amidst our disdain. Like all good mothers, Mary boldly encourages us in our earthly journeys. Certainly we live in a world where our daily walk with Christ isn’t always the easy path.

But Mary doesn’t change her message: “Do what he tells you to do.” The Blessed Mother has a vision that extends well beyond anything we can fathom and in her understanding of our eternal life; she reaches out to us, to guide us, to point us to our Savior. Mary makes us ask the tough questions about our faith and our relationship with Christ; and she does it lovingly and with compassion. She does so knowing that even if we are old enough to ask the tough questions of ourselves, they still ought to be asked from her heavenly perspective.

This Mother’s Day I encourage everyone to celebrate in a special way. Heidi has a beautiful book, “Behold Your Mother” which is a perfect antidote to cards that are enjoyed for a day or a week.

This prayer-filled book will allow you, your mom, and all your friends and family members who are mothers, to enjoy many hours of prayer and reflection on Mother Mary, how she leads us to Jesus, and to know the blessings we, too, have as mothers ourselves.

It is a book for today, tomorrow, and will be a blessing to all who receive it. Happy Mother’s Day!
Heidi’s website is

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Of Pets and Politics

Of Pets and Politics
One Bunny Shy of an Answered Prayer
by Sherry Antonetti in Family

APR. 20, 2010 ( - Every day at some point, I summon my father’s technique of keeping the car relatively fight free by making us engage in a decade of the Rosary. Each child gets to give a petition before each prayer. No editorials are allowed, but you do get requests that sound largely like hints to the driver.

“That Mom might take us to the park … buy milk shakes … not yell if I tell her I got a homework slip …”

Graciously, I have not outlawed these, but I do point out that sometimes the answer to these petitions is yes and sometimes it’s cert denied.

They’ve figured out what that means from context.

Driving home from school, my four-year-old son raised his hand first, “I have one.”

Pleased to see him join in the fray, as he usually would hold back and then repeat one that someone else said, or say something silly, I signaled to everyone else, Johnny-boo is going first.



“I’m praying to God for bunnies. I’d like one as a pet. They’re so soft and cuddly. I would pet it and love it and it would make me very happy.”

His eager eyes and wide warm smile flashed in my rear view mirror.

The great silence that followed was broken by the oldest leading everyone in the first “Hail Mary.” I said it, but sat there at the red light scrolling through the many rationales a parent might give a child for denying him a fluffy pet.
Now I had many plausible, rational, intelligent reasons for refusing.

There was however, the personal factor. I had been in my son’s shoes. I had prayed for a bunny. I had even co-opted my carpool to school into praying for me to get a rabbit when I was in second grade. My mother found herself reluctantly hoping for a floppy eared rodent to grace our lives.

My opportunity came just before Thanksgiving. I was in YMCA Indian Princesses, and every year they held a turkey scramble. For those uninitiated in this yearly festivity, it was a game where all the girls were divided into groups by age, lined up in a baseball field.

Scattered about the yard like Easter eggs, were chickens, turkeys, guinea pigs and rabbits. When emcee blew his whistle, the girls would run at the critters. If you caught it, it was yours. If you caught a turkey, you got a frozen one for your family.

Naturally that year, I caught the smallest, most ill tempered fluffy bunny ever to escape Watership Down. Upon our first magical meeting, she gave me a three inch gash in my wrist with her paws, earning the name, “Scratchy.”

She lived in a hutch built by our saintly next door neighbors, who also saw to it she wanted for nothing, including extra carrots and attention when the wandering mind of an especially dreamy young girl forgot about her perpetually irritated pet. Scratchy lived through my ninth grade year; her temper never improved.

Flashing forward into the car as the light turned green, Johnny’s sister took the lead and prayed that her brother’s prayer would be answered “yes.”

Every parent worthy of the name has needed to summon the steel to deny their beloved offspring a vocalized clear heart’s desire. In some instances, this is startlingly easy.

“Can we get a pool?”


“Can I have (insert electronic device of your choice from any and every age asked every hour on the eights for weeks at a time)?”

“Nyet. Nein. Nada. Not happening.”

“That I get a bunny.”

Despite the fact that she was 2,174 miles away in Texas, I mentally heard my mother busting a gut laughing, “It’s your turn! It’s your turn!”

I also knew getting a rabbit would be completely absurd and opted for the cowardly tactic of waiting this request out.

“We’ll see.” I said, then I privately planned to ignore it entirely.

However, bunnies kept hopping into my path. One ran through our backyard that evening. We saw one at the park the next day. When it was raining, the kids put on a DVD. It was Bugs Bunny.

After a week of feeling positively showered with rabbits in the form of pictures, pretend games, goodnight stories and movie choices, I let it slip that we shall have nothing requiring house breaking until the kids stop breaking the house.

That next day, my four-year-old took his sister by the hand and led her to the potty.

“If you learn, maybe we can get a pet bunny.” He explained. She sat. I stewed. Now they’re fighting dirty.

While I’m still holding out for childhood amnesia, I’m also hoping to get a kid potty trained as part of the deal if I have to give in on this one. Ultimately, I still plan to wait this request out with silence. But part of me trembles as I remember:

Knock, and it shall be opened. Ask, and you shall receive. I do believe, but when it comes to the bunnies, I am just hoping ... not yet.

— Sherry Antonetti is a fortunate spouse, freelance writer and a full time mother to nine sources of inspiration, laughs, and a lot of laundry.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

How to Control Computer Kids

Beware the Lure of the Screen

How to Control Computer Kids
By Dr. Ray Guarendi

APR. 16, 2010 ( - If I let them, my kids would live on the computer. I don’t think it’s a good place to live.

Every computer must have a monitor — a really, really good one. Otherwise, the computer is useless.

What kind of monitor do I recommend? A parent — a really, really good one. Otherwise, the computer is worse than useless. It is treacherous.

Computer technology is mind-numbing. It allows a child to talk to anyone else in the world, visit any place in the world and see anything in the world — good or bad, helpful or hurtful, friend or fiend. Simply put, something so technologically powerful needs powerful safeguards. Anything less is like putting a machine gun in the hands of a 3-year-old. The potential for damage is enormous and it’s only a matter of time.

I’m no computer geek. Only last week did I figure out how to Windex the screen. But I am a childrearing geek. So I have some basic commands to make you a better monitor.

Get the absolute best filter you can find. Get a professional to help you if necessary. No filter is foolproof, but screen out as much unwanted, sleazy, awful stuff as is humanly possible. I know so many parents who didn’t and, man, are they regretful now.

Consider a password to log on. This will keep the computer off limits if you’re not at home. It will keep littler ones off without your permission. It will be a means to teach a child that any misuse or abuse of the computer will lead to a period of password-only access. I am amazed at how many parents permit kids to head into computerland with no more limits than the child’s own self-control. A recent survey said only 17% of parents monitor their kids’ computer use. Unbelievable.

Even if the password is in place, even if the filter is superb, even if you know exactly what Gates is doing online, limit his time. The computer may have even more socially stunting and addictive potential than television.

People — especially kids — need to interact with real people, in real situations, in real time. A real lot. How many husbands nowadays spend far more time with their screen than with their wife? If you let it, the computer will be a tireless piece of technology usurping your children’s time and attention. It is so good at being bad like that.

Keep the computer(s) in a well-traveled, observable family place — the kitchen, dining room, family room. Two of the absolute worst places are the basement and a child’s room. A TV in a kid’s bedroom is foolish. So, too, is a computer.

Dramatically limit, if not prohibit, communication in chat rooms, personal blogs and instant messaging. You can’t know — and neither can they — whom they’re interacting with. And even if you and they do, you can’t really monitor what is said about what, whom and how.

In our home, the older teens can only instant-message friends in supervised, school-related forums. Even then, if we read anything at all objectionable, that avenue is closed for a long time.

Just because a technology is available doesn’t mean one has to use it, particularly if the user’s judgment and maturity is still forming. Too many parents come to understand the computer’s dangers only after their child has personally experienced them.

Are all my stern warnings simply roundabout ways of crying, “Trash the computer”? Not at all.

For better or worse, more parts of our lives are becoming computerized. But nothing now has the kind of virtually unlimited communications and visual power of the computer. It needs to be kept under severe control.

Otherwise it won’t be our servant. It will be our master.

—Dr. Ray’s new book is Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It. Go to for more information. This column originally appeared in our sister publication, the National Catholic Register.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Balancing Act

Balancing Act
What does it look like for you?
by Arwen Mosher

This week, we’ve got something going on every day: three playdates, Camilla’s Atrium catechism class, and the ballet-class/playgroup that meets in our living room.

I know that by Friday my laundry pile will have grown to an enormous size, but in the meantime we are having a very fun week. I’m energized and happy and the days are passing quickly. During weeks when we’re cooped up in the house with a cold, the days most definitely do not pass quickly.

For a long while I’ve had an ideal in my head of what a week *should* look like for our family in this stage of our lives. If I could plan each one perfectly, every week would have one playdate, one or two scheduled activities like ballet or Atrium, at least one “laundry day” when we’ll be home the whole time, and at least one unscheduled day when we could roll with whatever happened.

Ideally, we’d always be home and organized in the late afternoons so that I could have dinner on the table promptly at dinner-time. I’d never forget to say Morning Prayer. My kitchen floor would be spotless. No one would ever spill a glass of milk. My children would be obedient at all times. Some random stranger would write me a check for a million dollars.

Okay, so clearly that’s a fantasy. But seriously, I have been seeking what I think of as “balance” in our day-to-day life, not because I necessarily feel unbalanced, but because of this ideal I have. It’s like how I try to make a plate look pretty when I’m arranging food on it. I wanted my life to look pretty.

Especially in the wintertime when the kids get sick a lot, though, this has been hard to accomplish. With our runny noses and hacking coughs, we’ve spent weeks at a time in the house during recent months. Yes, I’ve had plenty of time to get the laundry done. (We won’t talk about whether I’ve actually gotten it done.) On the other hand, we’ve been going stir-crazy.

This past Sunday we were all healthy and I had a phone in my hand, so I started calling friends to arrange to get our kids together to play. Before I knew it, I’d made plans for Monday through Friday. As I came out of my dialing frenzy and realized what I’d done, I had a moment of hesitation. Should I cancel some stuff? Such a busy week - especially completely self-inflicted - doesn’t mesh well with my ideals of perfect balance. I kept the plans, though, and I’m glad I did.

I’ve read that when you’re considering a child’s diet to see if it’s sufficient and balanced, you can’t just count one day. You have to watch what the child eats for a least a week, because that’s what matters, that the diet be balanced over the course of a week. Any particular day is not so important.

This week is turning out to be joyful and rejuvenating for us, and it is teaching me that I need to apply that principle to my family’s life, too. Balance is good. Perhaps, though, it is actually more effective to seek balance month by month instead of week by week. There are circumstances that are outside our control, and we have to work with what we’ve got. So this week we’ll be out of the house every day, and next week we’ll probably have caught another cold from one of this week’s outings, and be forced to stay in. Neither week will meet my previous ideal of what a balanced week should look like, but over the course of both of them we’ll have had time to play and time to rest, and all will be well.

What does “balance” look like in your family? Have you ever had to adjust your definition or application, and how?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Give Your Kids a Foundation of Faith

Known By Name
Give Your Kids a Foundation of Faith

by Jake Frost

Once I was in Cologne, Germany, with my wife. While there, we attended mass at a neat old Medieval church, all stone and stained glass, columns and carvings.

I wasn’t prepared for how confusing it would be. I’ve been going to church my whole life and thought, how different can mass be in Germany? Things started well enough. Music played, the priest processed down the center aisle, and everyone started singing. They were singing in German, so I didn’t know the words, but I could hum along. A lot like back home.

Then things went haywire. Everyone else sat down, and we were left sticking out like a sore thumb, the only two people standing in the whole church. We took our seats— just as everyone else stood up. The rest of the mass everyone else stood or sat or kneeled in unison, following cues we couldn’t understand, while we were always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Everyone else recited prayers together in a language we didn’t know. And you can’t hum along to prayers. It’s disconcerting to be in a crowd of people all chanting the same thing when you don’t know the words.

But when the priest began the liturgy of the Eucharist, things made sense again. I knew where we were and what was happening. As on the road to Emmaus, understanding came in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-31). I had the same sense as when the Lord told us in Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.”

I did belong here. As a stranger in a strange land, I had a moment of feeling at home.

It’s a great thing about faith. Even to the ends of the earth, Jesus told us, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

It’s a beautiful blessing. The Lord calls us by name, the Lord knows us, He loves us, and He is with us.

Now that I’m a parent and charged with tending a little corner of the domestic Church, I need to impart that knowledge to my children. As parents, our primary responsibility is to introduce our children to God. There are many things we have to do for our kids: keep them clean and fed, develop their minds and physical abilities, teach manners, discipline, energy, a positive can-do attitude.

Parents have the task of meeting their kids’ temporal needs today, while equipping them to meet their own needs tomorrow – to give them fish as we teach them to fish. The spiritual is the most important, both for their temporal well-being and their eternal destiny.

Introducing our children to God begins at home. Making our home a place of welcome, peace, and truth, gives our children a foundation for a life of peace and truth. We fill them with love now, as a first experience of God’s love. Our kids can begin to know God through His own Word by our reading them Scripture, at dinner or as part of family prayer time.

Prayer, the family rosary is a great way to bring kids into the faith, and to give them the power and support of prayer in their lives. Participation in the life of the Church, by attending Mass, marching for life, and observing in our home the liturgical calendar—giving up candy during Lent, lighting candles through Advent, eating fish on Fridays.

More than anything, we must live the life of faith ourselves. The seeds we plant take root when our kids see us read the Bible, pray, fast, give alms, be truthful, and model for them all that we want them to learn.

Life will take our children many places, perhaps far away, and everyone faces times of trial and confusion. But if we can give them the bedrock of faith, they will always know that they too are called by name, known by God, and loved by Him.

— Jake Frost is a lawyer and writer who lives near the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minn. with his wife and children. He comes from a large family in a small Midwest town and writes for Catholic publications around the country.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Families Urged to Follow Mary's Example

Families Urged to Follow Mary's Example

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2010 ( Noting Thursday's feast of the Annunciation, Benedict XVI encouraged young married couples to follow Mary's example in founding families on love and Christian values.

The Pope said this today at the end of the general audience during his customary greeting to youth, the sick and newlyweds.

"May the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which we celebrate tomorrow, be for all an invitation to follow the example of Mary Most Holy," he said.

"For you, dear young people, may it translate into prompt availability to the call of the Father, so that you can be evangelical leaven in our society," the Holy Father said.

He invited the sick to make the feast a "stimulus to renew the serene and confident acceptance of the divine will and transform your suffering into a means of redemption for the whole of humanity."

Finally, the Pontiff said to newlyweds, some of whom were dressed in their wedding garments: "May Mary's yes inspire in you, dear newlyweds, an ever more generous commitment in building a family founded on mutual love and eternal Christian values."