My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
By the time you read this, I and the other pilgrims, will have celebrated an early Mass at the shrine in Lourdes, had breakfast, boarded the bus and are heading for Spain. I prayed for all of you, but especially all of you who asked for prayers and those of you are suffering from some illness. Several of you are fighting cancer, and you were certainly in my prayers. I will also pray for you at the tomb of St. Theresa of Avila as well at the tomb of St. James the Apostle. Life certainly throws us some difficult curves!
I really do listen when you speak to me about how difficult it is to be a parent today. I know that your role as parents is not an easy one. It is not as if you got a “How To” book when your first child was born or a further instruction book with second or third child. I also know that in spite of all the struggles that come with parenting I have never met a parent who would want to not have their children. They cannot imagine life with them. Just look at all the sacrifices that you make for them.
A while back I came across an editorial in the Corpus Christi Caller Times entitled “Do your kids a favor. Say no” written by Linda White, an editorial writer for The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va. Some of you may have missed it so I want to share part of this editorial with you:
Parenting is an art. It is more than keeping a kid alive and more than simply making rules. It is a kind of leadership rooted in one’s character and grounded in love. Good parenting establishes a bond of mutual respect. Good parenting is an increasingly rare commodity.
And yet our children need it. Take sex, for example. I took my daughter, a high school senior, on a back-to-school shopping trip. We went to a preppy store that sells, among other things, T-shirts with slogans – the sort of thing that looks like you might have bought it on vacation but everyone knows you didn’t. This year, most of the slogans on the girls’ shirts contained sexual innuendos. I thought to myself, “Does that mean what I think it means?”
My daughter confirmed my suspicions. “Aren’t they skanky?” She groaned: “Skanky? Yes”. And why were the mothers in there buying them for their daughters? Paying big bucks? So their girls could look like tramps?
Good parenting sees beyond the latest styles and says “No,” rather then automatically reaching for the credit card. Good parents, in their hearts, know the value of purity.
Purity. What an old-fashioned word. Symbolized by traditional white wedding dresses, purity and her sister, modest, are lost virtues. Instead, women are encouraged to wield sexual power like a sword. Hollywood elevates Britney and Madonna to goddess stature, and blindly the people follow as if sex and power are the way to happiness and fulfillment.
If you have not established a bond with your kids in their younger years, communicating the value of modesty to teens is like screaming at a toddler to stop grabbing candy. It won’t work, even if you are two feet away.
And if parents have bought into the cultural model, if parents close their eyes to the sexual behavior that “skanky” dressing encourages, then the kids have no hope, for there is no one to help them set the boundaries.
Preschoolers need someone who has the courage to lovingly take their hand, calmly look them in the eye, and say “No” when they reach for the gum on the candy aisle. And do it again and again and again, coupled with firm discipline at home, until they get the message.
Today’s teens are looking for someone with the courage to say: “You are precious to me. I don’t want you looking like a tramp. Therefore, we won’t be buying those low-cut blouses or T-shirts with sexual phrases on them.”
Parenting is an art, and, like all forms of art, it takes time and dedication and a passionate heart. To the young mom in the grocery store, I would say, “Find another mom to help you learn how to capture your kids’ hearts (and respect) now, while they are young.” Producing masterpieces of any kind is a daunting task, and we all need help.
I hope you parents will find this editorial helpful. Let me also remind you parents of the importance of bringing your children to Sunday Mass each week, and be sure to come with them. Your example speaks volumes.
Please pray that we will continue to have a prayerful and safe pilgrimage.
I love you