No Family Is an Island

Matthew Warner of The Radical Life has a brilliant article that describes the “12 Most Important Metrics for your Child’s (and your) Education”:

  1. Are they humble – not that they think less of themselves, but that they think of themselves less.
  2. Do they know how to be loved – are they humble and secure enough to be vulnerable.
  3. Are they at peace – which means knowing who they are.
  4. Are they filled with joy – because they live with a hope that transcends this short life.
  5. Do they know they are small – that the world is not about them.
  6. Do they know they are giants – that, to somebody, they mean the whole world.
  7. Are they adventurous – willing to embrace a faith that will take them beyond the prison of their own limits.
  8. Are they imaginative – able to see that the best parts of life cannot be measured or touched.
  9. Do they embrace the moment – knowing that the present moment is the only moment they’ll ever have.
  10. Are they virtuous – aspiring to the best parts of their nature.
  11. Do they know how to give generously – because to give of yourself is the only way to find yourself.
  12. Do they know how to love – because this is what they were made to do (and because I’ve shown them by loving them every day unconditionally and by introducing them to a God who loves them perfectly).

It is a truly outstanding list and captures exactly what I hope to inculcate in my young daughter. I only found myself disagreeing with one sentence in his article, his concluding thought that ultimately, if his kids don’t learn these lessons, it’s no one’s fault but his own.

Being a parent comes with an awesome set of responsibilities. He is correct in the sense that parents, caregivers with unique and extensive duties in raising and nurturing their children, are truly irreplaceable when it comes to teaching their kids to value humility, virtue, joy, and everything else he mentions. But no family is an island. We are inevitably shaped by the communities in which we are members.

Kids are shaped by their schools, friends, and the people they admire. Various communities can reinforce or undermine the lessons of parents. Kids can receive the support they need within these communities when they face the temptation to be inauthentic or immoral in order to be cool, popular, attractive, or anything else the average adolescent might find tempting, or they might not. They might be inundated with values that contradict the understanding of success that parents are trying to get their children to embrace.

The dearth of communities in our society that reinforce this way of understanding success is something that concerns me greatly. Having taught and coached kids from kindergarten through college (mostly at Catholic schools), I have seen the flak that thoughtful, caring, kind, generous, joyful kids can get from those demanding conformity to the values of a more narcissistic, empty culture. And it can be tough to be vulnerable when others have hurt you when you have opened up. It can be tough to feel joyful if you feel alienated and lonely. It is tough to be loving when others don’t accept your love or even mock or reject it. All of this is particularly true in the challenging, formative years of adolescence.

I admire Matthew Warner’s strong embrace of his responsibilities as a parent. The world would be infinitely better if all parents demanded as much from themselves. But as it stands now, we have a responsibility to not only help our children embrace these values, but to try to transform our communities to reflect these values. It is a responsibility because we love and value others and want them to experience human flourishing and true success. But it’s also a necessity if we want to give our kids an even better opportunity to embrace and live these values, a better chance at achieving real success.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Why Paid Family Leave Is Good for Everyone (Even People Who Don’t Use It) by Nanette Fondas: “The impact of family leave legislation, whether state or federal, is felt well beyond the direct benefit an individual worker receives. Parental leave and similar policies hold potential to reduce workplace bias and stigma faced by all women and men with caregiving responsibilities.”

Does Being Joyful Mean I Can’t be Sad? by Fr. James Martin, SJ: “Sadness is a natural response to pain, suffering and tragedy in life.  It is human, natural and even, in a way, desirable: sadness in response to a tragic event shows that you are emotionally alive.  If you weren’t sad from time to time, you would be something less than human.”

Sex abuse scandal keeps priests from healthy relationships with young people by Gerald Kleba: “The clergy abuse, the scandal of the cover-ups, and the subsequent ‘Protecting God’s Children’ program, which decrees that a priest can never be alone with young people, had made that impossible. No young priest today has a chance for the quality intimacy that makes celibacy worthwhile and compelling, because his life will have to be spent at arm’s length from the very youngsters who are the most in need.”

Everything I Can Do by Joey Kane: “God loves me because God made me. He made me just the way I am, and he loves me just the way I am. Because I have a good sense of humor, people feel more comfortable around me. Sometimes someone in my class says that he feels embarrassed to be around me. On the other hand, this same person asked me to sit at his table. This is a good example of the way it should be. I should be treated as if I don’t have Down syndrome. In fact, I do not even think of Down syndrome as being a disability, but many people think it is.”

A Better Life by Matt Kane: “Without diversity our world would be stagnant and our thoughts without purpose, for it is often through our differences that we are able to enrich the lives of those around us. While it is true that my parents’ act of social justice saved the life of only one person, it served to transform the lives of countless people in my community, whose world would be a little less bright, less full, were it not for Joey.”

Food stamps work, so why are we cutting them? by Melinda Henneberger: “Responding to poverty by paring back nutrition programs is like answering a rise in diabetes by slashing insulin production. And as Pete Gallego (D-Tex.) argued, almost all of the recipients are either children or elderly.”

A Free Miracle Food! by Nicholas Kristof: “The latest nutritional survey from The Lancet estimates that suboptimal breast-feeding claims the lives of 804,000 children annually. That’s more than the World Health Organization’s estimate of malaria deaths each year…if we want to save hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe a step forward is to offer more support to moms in poor counties trying to nurse their babies. ”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Call for National Service by E.J. Dionne: “There are no quick fixes to our sense of disconnection, but there may be a way to restore our sense of what we owe each other across the lines of class, race, background — and, yes, politics and ideology.”

Pope at Mass: We encounter the Living God through His wounds: “To meet the living God we must tenderly kiss the wounds of Jesus in our hungry, poor, sick, imprisoned brothers and sisters. Study, meditation and mortification are not enough to bring us to encounter the living Christ. Like St. Thomas, our life will only be changed when we touch Christ’s wounds present in the poor, sick and needy. This was the lesson drawn by Pope Francis during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta Wednesday as he marked the Feast of St. Thomas Apostle.”

CCHD brings Gospel to struggling communities by MSW, NCR: John Carr, who stepped down last year after 25 years at the bishops’ conference, where his job included overseeing the campaign, told NCR, “The mission and work of CCHD is more essential than ever in light of the priorities and pastoral leadership of Pope Francis.”  The campaign is “the best example in the U.S. of Pope Francis’ vision of a church ‘of and for the poor,’ ” Carr said. “CCHD puts into action every day Pope Francis’ call for the church to get out of herself and bring our commitment to the poor ‘to the streets.’ Francis says, ‘Getting out in the street runs the risk of an accident, but frankly I prefer a church that has accidents a thousand times to a church that gets sick’ from being turned in on itself.”

Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality by Stephen Marche, The Atlantic: “When men aren’t part of the discussion about balancing work and life, outdated assumptions about fatherhood are allowed to go unchallenged and, far more important, key realities about the relationship between work and family are elided. The central conflict of domestic life right now is not men versus women, mothers versus fathers. It is family versus money.”

Pope Francis’ Saintly Politics by E.J. Dionne: “By reminding Catholics of which aspects of the past he wants to celebrate, Francis has pointed the way for a more open, less divided church that examines the present and looks to the future with hope, not fear.”

30 killed in school attack in northeast Nigeria: “Islamic militants attacked a boarding school in northeast Nigeria before dawn Saturday, killing 29 students and one teacher. Some of the pupils were burned alive in the latest school attack blamed on a radical terror group, survivors said.”

Saints John Paul II and John XXIII by Fr. James Martin, SJ: “Two things we must remember about the saints: First, they were not perfect. And second, as today’s announcement reminds us, they are not cookie-cutter versions of one another. John Paul II and John XXIII may appeal to different types of Catholics because they were different types of people. And what the church is telling us today is that both types are saints.”

Money Alone Won’t Make Men Better Parents by Marc Tracy, TNR: “Similarly to the Mommy Wars, the Daddy Wars can’t take place just among people who are already daddies.”

Gift of Knowledge Helps to Sanctify the World Around Us by Mark Shea: “Knowledge is about seeking to trace out the grand design of God in the cathedral of creation and redemption — and of our place in it. Through the exercise of knowledge, we discern God’s purpose in our lives and our place in his purposes.”


Around the Web 6/30/13

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Paul Ryan Focusing More on Hurting the Poor by Jonathan Chait

“It’s one thing to tailor policy to encourage people to work. It’s another to create a new punishment for people who can’t find jobs. And given the baseline reality of mass unemployment for low-skilled workers, and a bill that proposes nothing to create more jobs or even job training, the Southerland amendment would do nothing but punish the poor. Ryan voted for it, naturally.”

Testimony of Bishop Stephen Blaire Before the Senate Committee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions

“A just wage confirms the dignity of the worker. And conversely, a wage that does not even allow a worker to support a family or meet basic human needs tears her down and demeans her dignity. The worker becomes just another commodity.”

Susan Rice: Syria inaction a ‘stain’ on security council by BBC News

“The departing US ambassador described her time at the UN as ‘a remarkable period’, but said she regretted more was not done to stem the bloodshed in Syria.  ‘I particularly regret that the Security Council has failed to act decisively as more than 90,000 Syrians have been killed and millions more displaced,’ she said. ‘The council’s inaction on Syria is a moral and strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly.’ On Wednesday the UK-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll was even higher than the UN figure used by Ms Rice, putting it at 100,191.”

A U.S. Catholic interview with Prof. Charles Clark

“One of the nice things about Catholic social thought is that it doesn’t view poverty solely in economic terms. Poverty is exclusion, and people are excluded from more than just the economic life of the community: exclusion can be social, political, cultural, and even spiritual. These are areas where the church, I think, can be most effective.” And the web-exclusive can be read here.

Pope Francis in Weekly General Audience

“Have any of you ever noticed how ugly a tired, bored, indifferent Christian is? It’s an ugly sight. A Christian has to be lively, joyous, he has to live this beautiful thing that is the People of God, the Church. Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part of our communities, or do we close in on ourselves, saying, ‘I have so many things to do, that’s not my job.’?”

Pope at Mass: Resting our faith on the rock of Christ

“There are people who ‘masquerade as Christians,’ and sin by being excessively superficial or overly rigid, forgetting that a true Christian is a person of joy who rests their faith on the rock of Christ. Some think they can be Christian without Christ; others think being Christian means being in a perpetual state mourning. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass on Thursday.”

Monks’ message of humility by Ricardo Moraes, Reuters

“Reuters photographer Ricardo Moraes spent time documenting a religious fraternity called O Caminho, (The Way), a group of Franciscan monks and nuns who help the homeless on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. They consider the election of Pope Francis, the first pontiff to take the name of St Francis of Assisi, to be a confirmation of their beliefs in poverty and simplicity.”

Pope Francis: Sunday Angelus

“Jesus never imposes. Jesus is humble. Jesus extends invitations: ‘If you want, come.’ The humility of Jesus is like this: He always invites us. He does not impose.”

Fatherhood, Manhood, and Having It All by Conor P. Williams

“Nonetheless, even the toughest caretaker dad has to find public debates over gender and work-life balance unsatisfying. As a dad walking the fatherhood walk, I find it frustratingly incomplete to hear that men need to make room for women to find better balance between work and life. Please don’t get me wrong: they do. They absolutely do. However, while women ought to have more family flexibility and better professional opportunities from entry-level jobs to the boardroom, that’s only half of the equation.  Improved professional opportunities for women won’t happen in a vacuum. If men are part of the problem, they must also be part of the solution. Professional flexibility for women rests upon a more flexible view of masculinity.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Discrimination against pregnant workers has been rising, report says by Washington Post

“Thirty-five years after Congress passed a federal law to protect pregnant women from discrimination on the job, these workers are instead denied reasonable accommodations that other workers receive and often wind up losing income, benefits or their jobs or suffering pregnancy complications, according to a report released Tuesday.”

Extremism Rises Among Myanmar Buddhists by NY Times

“Buddhist lynch mobs have killed more than 200 Muslims and forced more than 150,000 people, mostly Muslims, from their homes.”

Is Rand Paul’s Love of Ayn Rand a ‘Conspiracy’? by Jonathan Chait

“But the upshot is that I strongly dispute Friedersdorf’s premise that Rand’s theories are a variant of democracy, any more than Marx’s are. In fact, I find the existence of powerful elected officials who praise her theories every bit as disturbing to contemplate as elected officials who praise Marxism. Even if you take care to note some doctrinal differences with Rand, in my view we are talking about a demented, hateful cult leader and intellectual fraud. People who think she had a lot of really good ideas should not be anywhere near power.”

A Catholic Defense of Obamacare  by Morning’s Minion, Vox Nova

“I believe that the basic principles of Obamacare are aligned both with Catholic social teaching, and with best practices throughout the world. Again, the yardstick to judge healthcare policies must always be whether it delivers affordable healthcare to all. Obamacare, while not perfect, goes a long way in this direction. Pretty much every alternative proposal against Obamacare falls far short. And that should tell us everything we need to know.”

RIP, American Dream? Why It’s So Hard for the Poor to Get Ahead Today by Matthew O’Brien, The Atlantic

“Now, we like to think of ourselves as a classless society, but it isn’t true today. As the Brookings Institution has pointed out, America has turned into a place Horatio Alger would scarcely recognize: we have more inequality and less mobility than once-stratified Europe, particularly the Nordic countries. It’s what outgoing Council of Economic Advisers chief Alan Krueger has dubbed the “Great Gatsby Curve” — the more inequality there is, the less mobility there is. As Tim Noah put it, it’s harder to climb our social ladder when the rungs are further apart.  And it’s getting worse.”

No More Monkeys by Michael Downs

“My ‘daddy sabbatical’ has begun. After serving at a Jesuit high school for the past six years as a Social Justice teacher, I recently decided to take some time away from work and be more present to my two young children.”

A conversation with a newly ordained Washington priest by Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post

“My 20s were a tough time. You come out of going to school and you get a job and you’re living on your own, and there are no structures of developing community. You’re just out there. And I think a lot of people really suffer during that time. I know I did. I found the solution in a closer relationship with God. A lot of people turn to other gods, to put it bluntly, to heal that pain. I think that’s true especially in Washington, a city that’s so transient. I see that a lot. I think that one of the biggest things people suffer from today is loneliness.”

The Post-Cynical Christian by Jim Wallis

“But it’s time for action. It’s time for realistic, skeptical, but post-cynical Christians, who are willing to act because of their faith, along with others of deep moral conviction. It’s time to make the personal decisions that can change the world.”


Thank You for Bringing Your Children to Church

A great blog post is going viral that reminds us of the importance of having children at church.  The author says, “I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.”

She explains:

When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together. When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in ten years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.

The whole post can be read here.