What You Ought to Know About Handing on Faith [Video]

What You Ought to Know About Handing on Faith

How was the early Church so successful in handing on faith, even in the face of such incredible obstacles?

That’s a question John Henry Cardinal Newman once posed in a sermon that defined his career.

It’s a fair question. After all, the first century Roman culture wasn’t exactly virtuous.

The early Christians lived among hedonism, promiscuity, infanticide, and cutthroat commerce…not unlike today.

So here’s another fair question. Why are so many young people leaving the Church when we have better resources for teaching the Faith than ever before? We really do. Textbooks, videos, guides, and sophisticated educational methods…the resources we have for handing on faith are better than any time in history.

Don’t get me wrong, I know faith formation is hard today. There are so many obstacles in the culture that work to undermine faith. But it’s not like the early Christians didn’t face many of those same problems…or worse.

At least today we’re not being thrown to the lions or burned at the stake for going to Mass…although, at times that seems to have been a catalyst for belief.

The answer to Cardinal Newman’s question made him one of the most effective catechists in the history of the Church. I think his discovery has great implications for us today. It’s what we’ve lost sight of in our religious education programs–teaching that moves student’s hearts and leads them to faith.

A few weeks ago, I did a webinar for Ave Maria Press all about Cardinal Newman’s methodology and what he called “real assent.” In it, I did a deeper dive into Chapter 3 of my book, Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making it StickI included greater detail on Newman’s ideas that I couldn’t fit in the book, as well as examples and practical how-to’s.

The webinar was titled, “What Every Parish Leader Ought to Know About Religious Education.”

 

As the title suggests, it was for parish catechetical leaders, but it’s not high level stuff. I kept it practical, and I think it would be good for anyone, teachers and parents alike.

In this webinar, I explain in depth about:

  • Why youth are leaving the Church despite our amazing resources.
  • The psychology of engagement and handing on faith.
  • Why religious education programs are failing.
  • The kind of teaching that engages students and increases faith.
  • Concrete steps to implement this in your classroom.

The first 35-40 minutes are my presentation and then I answer questions.

Take a look. I think you’ll like it. I’m told it was the most popular webinar Ave Maria hosted this year.

Do you know a parish leader looking to improve classroom engagement? Or, a catechist who wants to engage more with their students? Please share this webinar recording with them.

Image: Handing over the faith, robyelo357, Abobe Stock, Standard Licensing

5 Simple Strategies to Nurture Your Teen’s Faith [Infographic]

5 Strategies to Nurture Your Teen's Faith

Parenting teens is scary.

I know…I have two!

It gets even scarier for those of us interested in keeping our teens Catholic.

You’ve seen the apathetic look of most teens at Mass. You’ve heard the alarming statistics that 80% of cradle Catholic leave the Church between ages 18-23. You probably have friends with older teens or young adult children who don’t practice anymore.

So what can parents do with teens to make sure they don’t lose their faith?

In my new book, Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making it Stick, I discuss effective strategies for becoming an active part of your children’s faith formation.

Here are five parenting strategies, drawn from the book, to help you nurture your teen’s faith.

1. Engage them in dialogue

The teenage years are a critical time.

Teens are beginning to exert their independence and form their identities. They want to understand their place in the world and figure out what they believe.

To nurture your teen’s faith, you need to be involved in this exploration.

Before they believed what they were taught. Now they need the reasons why they should believe. You need to transition from lectures to dialogue.

I’ve seen parents panic when their teen questions the faith they grew up with. Questioning is not all bad. In my RCIA program I urged questions. I used to say, if they weren’t questioning, they weren’t listening. Questioning means they’re taking the teaching to heart, wrestling with it, and trying to integrate it. That’s very different from rejecting it, but may lead to rejection if not handled well.

Everyone has doubts at some point. Engage those doubts in discussion. Why are they doubting? What are they feeling? What prompted them to think this way? If you can enter into their doubt and understand what’s going on inside their heads, then you can work with it.

Now, by discussion I don’t mean “don’t do this because it’s wrong” or “thou shalt not because the Church says so.” I mean honestly considering cultural and personal issues, then talking about what the Church says and how this relates to their life.

If you want your teens to develop real faith, they have to internalize it. They have to own their faith and make it a part of them. The only way to get there is through dialogue.

2. Be transparent

Transparency goes along with dialogue.

As your kids get older, you must treat them more like adults.

Openness, honesty, and transparency about who you are and what you believe goes a long way toward establishing trust with your teen. Trust is a huge factor in handing on faith. Without it, they’ll doubt your motivation and wonder what’s in it for them.

Transparency literally means letting someone see right through you, letting them know who you are and what’s going on inside. Openness about your life experience builds a kind of authority…a “been there” street cred.

Sharing your journey, your struggles, and how Catholicism changed you will motivate change in your teen. If they see it in your face, they’ll know it’s real.

3. Develop their spiritual muscles

Faith-filled teens practice devotions like Bible reading and prayer. Devotions are like spiritual training. They strengthen spiritual muscles and make teens more receptive to God’s will.

If you did devotions with your teen when they were younger, give them more responsibility now. Set a goal for them to accomplish on their own. If your haven’t done devotions with your teens before, start small. Do it with them at first as a special bonding time. Then set micro goals.

The best way to do something big is to start small. Adopt tiny habits that don’t require serious effort. By doing a little every day, you gradually and incrementally improve.

For instance, have them read the Bible five minutes every night before bed. It doesn’t sound like much, but five minutes every day adds up.

Try going to adoration for 10 minutes after Mass each week. During Advent and Lent, set goals like being kind to one person a day or being generous when asked to help.

These small efforts will pay big dividends over time to nurture your teen’s faith.

4. Get them involved

The teen years are a great time to get kids involved with service and/or helping in ministry.

Ministry and service makes faith bigger. That’s just the way it is. And, often teens who shy away from religious activities will get into service. It’s more concrete and less “church-y.”

I’m convinced that no one reaches their full faith potential unless they’re involved in some kind of ministry or service. You have to give back in some way. God loves us, and we return that love through service to others. As his love moves through us, some of it sticks.

Often teens make time for church activities by combining their social and religious lives. They weave together school, friendships, social time, volunteer work, and worship into a tightly-knit package.

5. Make sure they have Catholic friends

That brings me to the last strategy–friends.

Acceptance is a driving factor in kid’s lives, especially teens. A lot of times friends aren’t chosen; kids just fall into a group that accepts them. That can be dangerous if that group is traveling the wrong path.

Middle school and high school youth programs are a must. Your teens need relationships with other Catholic kids who share the same values and make the same choices.

I’m not saying you should make them go to youth group, but I am…sort of.

Faith-parenting takeaway

This is the time to solidify your teen’s Catholic worldview.

The important thing is to be involved! Some find this time scary, but it’s actually more fun. You can engage them on a more adult level and start discussing real issues, concerns, and Church teachings.

Remember, you are your teen’s biggest influencer, whether it feels that way or not.

Use these five strategies to nurture your teen’s faith and help them stay Catholic.

Note: I posted this article originally on CatholicMom.com.

Nurture Your Teen's Faith

Infographic courtesy of Heather Glenn, Ave Maria Press, 2016

Photo by TawnyNina (2011) via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

4 Ways Parents Are Essential for Keeping Kids Catholic [Infographic]

4 Ways Parents Are Essential for Keeping Kids Catholic

Parents, want to know the secret to keeping kids Catholic?

Get involved in their religious formation.

This isn’t a new idea. The Church has said it for decades.

The Vatican II documents say parents are the “first preachers of the faith” to their children, and their influence is “incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.” Yet for the most part, parents don’t know how to do faith formation and parishes don’t help them.

In my new book Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making it Stick, I argue that parents are indispensable in the process of handing on faith to children. And, there’s scientific research to prove it!

From 2002 to 2005, sociologists Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton, conducted a nationwide study of teen religious involvement. Their findings are reported in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

Here are four ways, drawn from Smith and Denton’s research, that parents prove essential and irreplaceable for keeping kids catholic.

1. Keeping kids Catholic through influence

Near my house there was a billboard I saw every day. It was the image of a rear-view mirror and in it you could see the face of a sad little girl looking up at you from the backseat.

The caption read something like, “Even when you’re not talking to her, you’re teaching her. Calm down when you’re behind the wheel.”

Ouch! That one used get me because I’m not the calmest (or cleanest-mouthed) driver. It also got me thinking about other areas in my life where I wasn’t a good role model.

Parents matter…a lot! In fact, according to Smith and Denton, it’s not a question of if you are influencing them but what kind of influence you are having. If you’re not careful, it could be negative.

So, lesson #1 for keeping kids Catholic is be a good role model.

“For in the end,” Smith and Denton explain, parents “most likely will get from teens what they as adults themselves are.”

2. Keeping kids Catholic through relationship

Handing on faith effectively requires a strong relationship and deep level of trust. Otherwise, your efforts fall on deaf ears.

The rapport and intimacy you have with your children, poises you perfectly to teach them about life from a religious perspective. Think about that, you can affect them in ways no one else can.

You speak to your kids about sports and movies, you advise them on school and careers, why not teach them about religion? My guess most parents would say because it’s uncomfortable.

I get that. The little voice in your head says you’re too “out of touch” to reach your kids after a certain age, and it’s better to turn them over to the “experts” at the parish. That little voice is wrong.

“Parents,” Smith and Denton write, “need . . .to develop more confidence in teaching youth about their faith traditions and expecting meaningful responses from them.” They found that deep down kids are willing to be taught by parents…even though they don’t act like it.

If you can extend your comfort zone, you have the potential to influence your kids in profound ways.

3. Keeping Kids Catholic through articulation

Here’s another interesting thing that surprised Smith and Denton, teens across the board had a hard time articulating their faith. They easily discussed opinions on drinking, doing drugs, or avoiding STDs, but couldn’t explain their faith in God.

I think it’s because their parents talked to them at length about the consequences of a DUI or loss of virginity, but remained silent about the eternal consequences of a mortal sin or loss of faith?

If you want your kids to have real faith, you have to discuss it with them. And, that doesn’t mean just telling them “don’t do this because it’s wrong.” Your parental relationship puts you in a unique position to do this.

Articulating faith means internalizing it, owning it, and making it a part of you. That requires dialogue.

Above all else the faith must be something personal, not abstract. They must reflect on how a topic affects them, in their lives, not just how it affects people in general.

4. Keeping kids Catholic through religious practices

There’s a direct correlation between increased faith and faith-related activities like daily prayer, Bible study, and charitable service. These religious practices act as faith catalysts, speeding up and propelling faith development to new levels.

Smith and Denton observed this phenomena in religiously active teens saying, “Faith for these teenagers is also activated, practiced, and formed through specific religious and spiritual practices.”

How do you get teens to do these religious practices? At some point, you have to make them. That sounds harsh, but the reality is you are responsible for forming your children in virtue.

If you don’t teach them the value of discipline, service, and time management by making them do hard things, they won’t learn it. Similarly, you have to schedule time for religious activities and build these habits into them.

When they’re young, you are the keeper of the schedule. If you wait until they’re old enough to do it on their own, they won’t.

This essential aspect of religious formation, more than any other, is dependent on parents. The school or parish can’t do this for you. They may schedule the events, but you must get your kids there.

It’s time to turn the tide

Most Catholic parents aren’t interested in being a part of their children’s faith formation. I understand. We’re all busy and none of this is easy. However, our kids are leaving the Church once they leave the house, and at that point we’re nearly powerless.

The current religious education system is largely failing, but we’re asking it to do too much. The most effective aspects of faith formation need the involvement of parents.

We can turn this around, but it’s going to take a shift in thinking–a partnership between parish and parents.

When we parents take our rightful place in our children’s faith formation, by doing what only we can do, we will be successful in keeping our kids Catholic.

Note: This article was originally posted on CatholicMom.com

5 Ways to Parents are Essential for Keeping Kids Catholic

Infographic courtesy of Heather Glenn, Ave Maria Press.

Image credit: Drew Hayes (2015) via Unsplash, CC0

Messy & Foolish: Matthew Warner’s Evangelization Manifesto

Messy-Foolish-evangelization“I want a mess. I want trouble in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out into the streets! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, installation, comfortableness, clericalism, being shut in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions exist to go out!” Pope Francis, 2013 World Youth Day

“Pope Francis was right. It’s time to make a mess. It’s time to change the world. And we are just the fools to do it.” Matthew Warner

Matthew Warner’s new book Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool, and Evangelize the World is a manifesto.

It’s a passionate call to arms exhorting Catholics to begin a new era of evangelization and set the world aflame with the Gospel.

How do we do that? First it involves making a mess.

Good Messes

I usually think of a mess as a bad thing.

Usually messes are bad things. But some messes are only temporarily bad because they lead to something good…something new and exciting and fresh that makes your life better.

That’s the kind of mess Matthew Warner is talking about.

The whole “messy & foolish” metaphor made sense to me when he told a story about his wife cleaning out their mudroom. She had taken everything out of the drawers and bins and strewn it everywhere. It was a mess.

But after all the culling, organizing, rearranging, and then replacing, the room never looked better. Sometimes you have to make a mess of the existing structure before great change can take place. That’s Warner’s goal.

At first it seems foolish, a lot of extra work. But in the end, it’s better and faster to first make a mess.

Sometimes we don’t mind messes

Warner makes the point that there are lots of messes we’re happy about…now that we’re on the other side.

No one is upset that Henry Ford ruined the horse and buggy industry with cars. Or, that the Information Age caused an upheaval in how we share information and communicate. That’s because these disruptive messes improved our lives.

Perhaps Jesus caused the greatest disruption in history when he came on the scene 2,000 years ago. God revealed himself and turned the world order upside down. It seems that mess has yet to be completely resolved, which is the focus of this book.

The same is true for all of us. We’re holiness projects in progress…on our way but not quite there. And, in the process, our lives are a mess.

I guess uprooting old sinful habits is an upheaval of a different kind. I know I often feel like a mess in my incompleteness.

Stress in the middle of the mess

My first reaction to this idea was…I would rather not.

I think most of us seek to stay in a comfortable balance, equilibrium that holds the majority of chaos at bay. The mess is stressful. It’s unsafe and unpredictable.

There are plenty of things I’d like to change, but it seems better to have clean transitions. Being in the mess is not pleasant, which is why people avoid it…and why the status quo stays in place even though it’s not working.

As I think about it more, I believe Warner is right. Incremental change is possible, and less stressful, but sooner or later, the structures that hold back progress have to fall…or be dismantled.  There are just some old things that can’t coexist if there’s going to be a new order.

I write a lot about the failings of the current religious education system and how it doesn’t meet the needs of the Church. Another one of my big topics is how parents can enhance that system by taking their place as a vital part of the faith formation process.

While I still believe this is key, I’m also thinking that sooner or later there has to be substantial shift in the system before lasting change can happen.

Quotable Quotes from Messy & Foolish

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Warner’s writing for many years. He honestly knows how to turn a phrase. Here are a couple of gems:

“My parent’s generation left the Church without leaving the pews. And now they wonder why their kids find it silly to stand in the pews of a church they never really understood professing creeds they never really believed.” p. 43

“Instead of lecturing people about going to church on Sunday, let’s inspire them to want to go. Instead of telling them to dress more appropriately for Mass, let’s give them something worth dressing up for. Instead of telling them not the sleep around, let’s fascinate them with the pursuit of purity…”

“Sometimes we act like being orthodox…making sure–with radical zealotry–that everyone else is following the rules. Meanwhile, we embrace the same for ourselves with an enthusiasm more akin to a child eating broccoli.” p. 44

“Saints spread the faith like wildfire because they are willing to catch themselves on fire first.” p. 50

And, here he’s speaking my language regarding raising strong Catholic kids:

“We’re not just equipping them to become faithful cogs in the industrial machine, safely navigating life’s pitfalls. We’re not just helping them to survive this life or even ultimately to ‘succeed.’ We are here to teach our children to see the world differently–to discover a loving God who made us all to live big, beautiful, meaningful lives.” p. 15-16.

A perfect evangelization primer

I highly recommend Messy & Foolish. Matthew Warner has written a concise, readable, and rousing guide filled with practical wisdom.

It’s a perfect primer for understanding what the Catholic Church, and Catholics, must do to move forward.

Messy & Foolish will inspire you to clean out the spiritual clutter and rearrange your life to serve God. Then you too can make a mess, be a fool, and evangelize the world.

Also, check out Matthew’s book site where you can get additional resources, expert interviews, and other useful content.

Learn to Love Like Jesus: Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones

Learn to love like Jesus - Review of Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong OnesChristians love like Jesus…

Isn’t that right?

Community is the hallmark of Christian discipleship, however…

The elements of community–friendship, accompaniment, fraternal love, service, and self-gift–don’t come easily.

Jesus loved everyone perfectly. But the simple fact of being a Christian doesn’t guarantee you can love like him.

Baptism doesn’t instantaneously infuse you with all the virtues, and perfection doesn’t come all at once. Grace builds on nature, and sometimes that takes a while because, when you’re starting from a pretty low place like me, grace has a long way to go.

We’re sinners. We’re selfish, we make mistakes, and make decisions in our own best interests. Often that ends up hurting loved ones, destroying relationships, and alienating friends. We all need help.

Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones: Eight Ways to Love as Jesus Loves Us by John and Therese Boucher is that practical help for the Catholic Christian who feels the demand to love like Jesus, but doesn’t always quite know how to make it happen.

Filled with practical advice, illustrative how-to’s, and step-by-step guides, this is a Catholic primer for developing relationships. It’s a field manual for implementing spiritual practices that will lead to deep friendships and lasting connections with others.

The human side of spirituality

What I like about this book is it gets at the human development that’s needed to support and undergird that working of grace I just mentioned. Usually people only present the supernatural side of spirituality–pray the rosary, go to Mass, and the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest. But that’s not what the saints do.

Sure, grace is primary, but holiness requires a level of human effort as well. This is the work of building virtue. Saints work on ridding themselves of character faults, bad habits, and sinful tendencies. They actively prune their personalities for holiness.

The Christian advantage is that grace elevates and matures that human effort. We don’t have to do it alone…and that’s a good thing. Even though some people think they can, no one will ever achieve saint-like virtue without grace. However, grace needs something to work with.

The healing that leads us to love like Jesus

This is a concept I implemented this year in my own ministry. At the Bishop Helmsing Institute where I work, we came up with a course for the Year of Mercy on forgiveness. We called it “4Given” because it highlights a 4-step process (get it?) for forgiving others.

Jesus says we have to forgive others and there’s all kinds of spiritual benefits that come from it. But sometimes people have a hard time forgiving. They feel hurt and powerless and unforgiveness seems like their only weapon. Hearing Jesus say they have to forgive only brings more resentment.

A lot of times, before someone can accept the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to work in them, they need healing or a practical process of steps to get them to a place where healing can happen.

We need evangelization resources that help people overcome human limitations…sort of like pre-evangelization. Work that takes people to a place where they can begin to love unselfishly, begin to open, begin to be vulnerable and allow the Holy Spirit to change their hearts. This book is that kind of resource.

Eight spiritual practices

Mending Broken Relationships highlights eight spiritual practices that help you love like Jesus:

  • Intercessory Prayer
  • Respect
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude
  • Affirming Others
  • Patience and Forbearance
  • Truth and Honesty
  • Healing Presence

Each chapter connects a practice to Scripture to learn how Jesus fit these into human life. The Bouchers also share about the difficulties and struggles involved in living with these practices. Finally, there are action plans…step-by-step guides to implementing them.

The authors, John and Therese Boucher, share deeply from their own personal experience. Through stories and insights drawn from their own lives, they illuminate the struggles, difficulties, and triumphs they’ve had with these practices.

The keys to happiness

Take a look at Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones. More and more I think good relationships are a key to real happiness. And, as I always tell my kids, making yourself good “friend material” is the best way to have good friends.

It was said of St. Thomas More that he was a man made for friendships because he possessed all the virtues to a high degree. Of course, that’s the mark of sainthood isn’t it? Try practicing these eight areas of strong relationships to improve your life.

NB: I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Ishtar’s Odyssey: What to Do with Your Family This Advent

Ishtar hung his head again, and Salamar patted him on the shoulder. “And consider this,” he said softly. “This journey will bring many adventures and many new things to learn, and you and I will get to share them together.”

“I don’t like adventures. I like knowing exactly what’s going to happen.”

“Yes, I know, and that may be the best reason to have a few adventures. You’ll meet many new people and make new friends. If we are fortunate, you will even meet my old friend Nathan from my youth. He once did fifty cartwheels in a row!” (Ishtar’s Odyssey, p. 41)

Ishtar's OdysseyIshtar’s Odyssey is the newest in a series of Advent (and one Lenten) devotionals by Arnold Ytreeide.

We’ve been reading these books aloud as a family for years so I was excited to receive a copy in the mail in exchange for an honest review.

A friend suggested the first, Jotham’s Journey, in 2010 and we’ve been hooked ever since.

Now our sons are middle schoolers and they’re still excited about diving into Ishtar’s Odyssey this Advent.

The story

Ishtar is the son of Salamar, one of the three wise men who follow the Star to find Jesus as a babe. Like Jotham, Ishtar is 10. Unlike Jotham, Ishtar is a prince, a privileged member of Persian society. He dreams of becoming King of Persia and adored by his subjects.

His world revolves around his studies, but his interest lies in comfort and passion for good food. In a word, he’s a spoiled brat. Salamar dearly loves Ishtar, but good father that he is, he also sees Ishtar’s weaknesses.

When Ishtar discovers a brand new star in the sky, prompting praise and accolades from the Persian Sheik Konarak, Salamar decides this is where the rubber (or camel hoof) meets the road. His little boy needs to grow up. Ishtar must come with the caravan to follow the star.

Ishtar, unaccustomed to even being outside much, is reluctant to say the least. He wants to stay at the castle, even if that means separation from his father. Sadly, his comfort at the castle without his father, far outweighs being uncomfortable on the caravan with him.

Salamar insists, and their adventures begin.

The storytelling

Like all of Ytreeide’s devotionals, there is historical fiction which mingles mystery and suspense with theology and good old-fashioned fun and foolery.

I love Ytreeide’s masterful use of characters. We’ve actually met Ishtar before…in Jotham’s Journey. Then it was a brief encounter in the course of Jotham’s story. In fact, all the characters from all the books are interwoven in each other’s stories.

Ishtar and his father do meet up with Nathan… and Jotham, and Tabitha, and Bartholomew, and even the despicable villain, Decha of Megiddo. These were all characters from previous books. Now we get Ishtar’s story, which we’re eager to know because he’s an old friend.

The lessons

Ishtar does grow up on his journey. His first lesson comes the hard way before the journey even begins. But, this painful experience opens him to other powerful lessons along the way.

Ishtar learns to put others before himself and honor the beauty in others. He’s loyal to Jotham, kind to Bartholomew, and impressed from afar with Tabitha’s bravery.

He’s brave when threatened by Decha and humbled before the simple faith and goodness of Simeon. He’s amazed by Nathan and repulsed by Herod.

Every year, we enjoy how Ytreeide’s historical fiction draws our family toward the Christmas celebration. Through an engaging and entertaining story, we reflect on the events leading to Jesus’ birth and get fresh insights.

There’s no better way to appreciate Christmas than a meaningful Advent journey. This Advent, take your family on that journey with Ishtar’s Odyssey.

What are you doing with your family for Advent this year? 

How to Lead Your Kids Back to the Church

return

“How do I get my kids to come back to the Church…”

That’s the question I got again and again when I became a parish DRE.

News traveled fast that I came back to the Catholic Faith after abandoning it for 20 years. Older folks would ask me what changed my mind and what they could do to bring their adult kids back into the Catholic fold.

I would tell them what worked for me and make some suggestions, mostly prayer…but I never had a very good answer.

That’s why I’m super excited about RETURN, a new project from my friend Brandon Vogt. RETURN is a collection of resources to help parents draw their children back to the Church.

RETURN includes:

  • 16 video lessons with 220 minutes of content.
  • A paperback book/companion guide.
  • 10 video interviews with Catholic leaders like Dr. Scott Hahn, Jennifer Fulwiler, Fr. Michael Schmitz–experts at helping people come back to the Church.
  • “Seed Gifts”: 12 of the most effective DVDs, books, and CDs to give your fallen-away child.
  • And access to a private, online community where you can get ideas and share with others in the same situations.

Addressing the need

What I like about RETURN is that it’s addressing a need that hasn’t received much attention.

Most people, including me, work on prevention–how to keep your kids Catholic. But for tons of people, it’s too late for that. Their kids are already gone!

What do they do? Before RETURN, I didn’t have an answer. Now I do.

“There are many resources devoted to helping people, in general, come back to the Church,” says Vogt. “They contain broad tips which can be applied to friends, co-workers, or even people you interact with online.”

“However, as we all know, the parent/child relationship is so distinct from other relationships. There are things a parent can say or do that will have a much bigger impact on their child than on a friend or coworker, and on the other hand, there are things parents shouldnot say or do to their child, simply because of their relationship,” he said.

“I thought it was time that parents and grandparents had a resource specifically designed for them, one that took into account the delicate, unique bond they have with their child.”

Return-Logo

Just be patient, they’ll come back

Vogt’s program tackles the myths about fallen away Catholics head on…especially the passive approach.

“Probably the biggest one [myth] I hear from parents, priests, and Church leaders is, ‘Oh, they’ll come back to the Church eventually once they get married or have kids. Let’s just be patient.’ That may have been true in decades past—though even that is controversial—but studies have affirmed, again and again, that it’s no longer true today,” Vogt related.

“Overall, the ‘wait-and-see strategy’ is just a losing game, he said. “Let me pose a thought experiment: what would the CEO of a Fortune 500 company say if he learned that 75% of his customers just stopped buying the company’s products? Would he say, ‘Oh, no big deal. Let’s just sit and wait for them to come back. They’ll probably come back one day, right?'”

“No! He’d do everything in his power to track down the former customers, reconnect with them, answer their objections, and re-propose his products in new ways.”

“We parents, priests, and Church leaders should have the same reaction. In light of the millions of young people who have left the Church, we can’t respond by saying, ‘Let’s just wait for them to come back.’ We need to say, ‘Let’s do everything possible to help them return!'”

I couldn’t agree more.

Practical tips

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I asked Brandon if he could share some practical tips from the program.

“After talking with hundreds of parents and young people, I’ve noticed several patterns—some good, some bad—that we can learn from,” he said.

Do’s

“Two things to always keep in mind,” Vogt explained. “Ask questions and stay positive. Questions are largely neutral, or at least seem that way, and don’t sound ‘preachy.’ When you ask a question, you aren’t actually stating your own view. Many times, you’re helping your child see that his beliefs are not as firmly supported as he might think.”

Some of Vogt’s favorite questions include:

  • “What pushed or pulled you away from the Church?”
  • “What’s the one thing that would cause you to come back to the Church?”
  • “What do you think is the best reason to be Catholic and why doesn’t it compel you?”

“You also need to stay positive. Don’t focus on all the negative things your child is doing; he’ll just tune you out. A better approach is to affirm the positive. If your child doesn’t attend Mass because he thinks it’s boring and irrelevant, affirm his desire not to be a hypocrite—that’s a good thing. Once you’ve affirmed something positive, he’ll be much more open to hearing what you have to say.”

Don’ts

“The biggest mistake I see parents make is trying to force their fallen-away child to Mass. In their mind, f they do that, they’ve succeeded,” Vogt said.

“Now, this stems from good intentions. Most parents know Jesus is present at Mass in a special way, so they want to do everything possible to get their children to show up. The problem is that if someone comes to Mass unwilling and unprepared, it will likely have no effect on him,” he explained.

“You must plant other seeds first so that he’ll actually desire to attend Mass. The Mass should be the last piece of the puzzle.”

“The second thing not to do is criticize his lifestyle—at least at first. Beginning with moral commandments is often a non-starter for young people,” Vogt continued.

“This doesn’t mean you should just watch silently and passively as your child makes bad decisions. Instead, it means your first approach should be marked by gentleness and patience, not criticism.”

How to get it

Visit ReturnGameplan.com to take a look at the full program.

However, you have to act today! The offer expires tonight. After tonight you won’t get the special price and bonuses.

Check out this program and send the link to a friend who’s children have left the Church. I’m sure you know someone who could benefit from these resources.

I’m positive these resources will give you a game plan for combating this vital problem.

Learn How to Read More Books This Year

I love books.

So much potential contained in such a small package.

You can learn virtually anything. Or be transported to another galaxy, another time, another life.

I buy a lot of books. I don’t read a lot of books.

I mean to. I want to. It just always seems like there’s too many other things to do. All that knowledge right at my fingertips…and yet so far away.

For years I’ve been jealous of my friend Brandon Vogt. Somehow he was always able to read a ton of books. I could never figure out how. I knew he was busy. He worked full time, was married with kids, and blogged (most of the time more than me), yet every year he talked about reading 70, sometimes over 100 books a year!

I always wondered how he did it. Now I know…and you can too.

Brandon has come out with a new course that details his secrets on how to read a monstrous ton of books in a shorter amount of time and remember more of what you read. It’s called Read More Books Now.

Read More Books Now is an online course with 10 videos and over 100+ minutes of tips, tricks, and hacks that teach you creative ways of carving more reading time out of your busy day.

And you can do it all without speed reading, which is good for me because I’m terrible at it.

The cost is only $37, but here’s the deal–that’s only until this Thursday , February 26 at 11:59pm EST. After that, the price goes up.

If you buy the course NOW, Brandon’s got some deals for you. You’ll get:

  • eBooks – You get the associated eBook in PDF, Kindle, and ePub formats
  • Audiobook – The entire course in MP3 format
  • Reading Tracker Spreadsheet – A custom, elegant spreadsheet to track your most important reading stats
  • Professionally-Designed Bookmarks – These summarize all the key principles from the video course so you always have them at your fingertips

But the low price ($37) and bonuses go away after Thursday, February 26 at 11:59pm EST.

So, if you wish you had more time to read and want to finish more books this year (and I really do) then check out this course.

To learn more go to the Read More Books Now video course page–> http://readmorebooksnow.com/course

P.S.

Really, Brandon does know what he’s talking about. He reads a ton of books every year and has some very creative ideas about how to get it done. I read some of these tips in a short article he wrote and I’ve always been intrigued to learn more. I previewed this course and it really is cool.

Now, in all honesty I have to tell you that the link above is an affiliate link. If you click on that link and buy the course, I’ll get some cash. But I really wouldn’t write to you about this course if I didn’t believe it was good stuff. Brandon’s the real deal, I like his course, and I really wanted you to know about it. So don’t be afraid to check it out.

Of Suicide, Culture, & The Essential Mission of Catholic Parents

catholic-parents-mission

Two days ago, my administrative assistant talked a friend out of committing suicide.

It was midnight when he called. When she got there he was on the floor of his bedroom, curled up in the fetal position with a knife in his hand. Until a few months ago, he had no religion. He wasn’t baptized. Last summer he started going to Mass with her and then joined the RCIA. Now, as he got closer to joining the Church, the spiritual warfare was rampant.

He was bombarded by doubts, fears, and messages of despair. He was alone, he told her. He was worthless and no one loved him, he cried.

Lies, she told him. All lies. Exactly the message Satan, and the world, wanted him to hear. Exactly the opposite of what God wanted him to know…that he was planned from the beginning of time, that he would never be alone if he was with God, and that he was worth so much Jesus died for him.

Sometimes, I get discouraged. So many people outside the Church reject this message. So many people inside the Church are indifferent to it. I wonder if it really is making a difference in the world, if people really need it.

I know how much of a difference Christianity has made in my own life. I know in my heart that following your own course through life, or the one the world maps out for you, is often destructive. And, I say it often…but am I exaggerating? Is it actually not that bad?

Then I run across a story like this and I know it’s true. Catholicism is a true roadmap for life. Life charted by our fallen whims and desires does not fulfill in the end. It can lead to dissolution and despair, sometimes even to the brink of suicide.

No, people do need Christ and the Truth he reveals through the Church. Of this there is no doubt. And, while proclaiming this in foreign countries, door-to-door in your neighborhood, or even to co-workers in your office is admirable, as Catholic parents your primary mission field is your home.

Your first duty is to your children. You have to make sure they get this message and not the counter-message of the culture. It’s not enough that they go to CCD at the parish. You can’t be sure they’ll get it there. They may learn lots of great things about God, but not the way they’ll learn it from you.

You have to teach your kids. You can’t afford to leave this up to chance. The culture is toxic. They must know their great worth in God. Their faith must be nurtured and grown to maturity by someone who knows them. Eventually they must face the world on their own, but not before they’re prepared.

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. Are you ready?

Image credit: Volkan Olmez, Unsplash.com, Creative Commons

This post first appeared on CatholicMom.com.

The Problem With Conscience

The Problem With Conscience

I have this little voice in my head.

It’s not really a voice, actually. It’s more like an intuition.

Sometimes it tells me I should do something a certain way, or that I should have done something a different way.

A lot to times it comes a little too late, like as I’m doing something I’ve already decided to do.

Sometimes it’s a terrible feeling in my chest, like a brick, after I’ve done something that I thought would be good realized wasn’t, or that I’m on the fence about doing and do anyway.

Do you ever get that feeling? It’s your conscience talking.

What is conscience?

According to the Catechism, conscience is a “judgment of reason” that helps you recognize whether an action is good or bad. It could be something you’re going to do, something you’re in the process of doing, or something you’ve already done.

Conscience is present in your heart…the spiritual not physical heart. Your heart is the core of your being, where you make decisions, where you determine yourself.

The Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, calls conscience a “law inscribed by God,” a “secret core and…sanctuary” where a person is “alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”

Conscience is God’s voice speaking to you in the inner recesses of your heart, helping you judge the quality of your acts. It’s independent of Baptism. It’s just there. The vestige of a time, in the beginning, when we walked with God and knew his mind as our own. John Henry Cardinal Newman called it the “aboriginal Vicar of Christ.”

Can you trust your conscience?

So that’s cool, right? God is sort of hanging out inside, keeping tabs on what I’m doing, and through little intuitions and feelings, he’s helping me walk the straight and narrow in order to stay close to him.

Except for one thing.

The Catechism also says, “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.” The prudent man. How many of us are prudent? (I’m only half raising my hand.)

Now we’re getting to the problem. Some might hear they’re obliged to follow their conscience (and they are) but they are not the “prudent man” the Catechism is talking about. That’s because prudence would dictate forming conscience in the Faith…and they’re not!

Conscience can lead you astray. Because it’s a judgment of reason, it goes off what you know and understand. To really be sure conscience is guiding you in the right direction, you have to know Church teaching. You have to follow conscience, but can you completely trust it if you don’t know what the Church teaches?

In some cases, a bad decision that’s the result of following your conscience can reduce your responsibility. If there’s no way you could know better, there’s no guilt. There is such a thing as “invincible ignorance.” That’s when there is absolutely NO WAY you could have known any better. It remains a sin, though, and it can damage your soul.

EVEN THEN, you may still not be off the hook. If you haven’t taken the appropriate steps to form your conscience, that bad decision is all on you. If you happen to live in the one place on earth a Catholic missionary can’t reach, the remote mountains of China perhaps, you might be alright. But really, most Catholics have complete access to Church teaching these days (think Internet). It’s just a matter of making learning it a priority.

The point: Conscience needs enlightening

My point is, all this should make studying the Faith, and teaching it, even more urgent for you.

People need to know what Christ reveals…especially baptized Catholics. Their holiness hangs in the balance.

It’s not enough to just know a little. Most people are content with a limited understanding of the Catholic Faith. Perhaps they think it doesn’t matter because they’re following their conscience. But that may not be the case. Their conscience might be leading them to error.

The great thing about conscience is, if you enlighten it with education, it will lead you to God. There aren’t always concrete answers. You may find yourself having to make decisions in a morally gray area. In those situations, a right conscience can lead you toward God. Conscience makes you most happy when it knows the right direction to go.

Image credit: Unsplash/Chris Sardegna