The Four Catholic Vocations

The Christian Vocation

As Christians, we are all called by God to believe in him. This was imprinted into our soul when God created us. With belief comes love for God. After love comes obedience in the form of worshipping God regularly through prayer, reducing or even eliminating sins from daily life, and expressing God’s love to others through service. All this can be simplified into one word: holiness. When we love God, we want to please him. Holiness is the way to please God. So all Christians have a universal call to holiness. This universal call is really a vocation. It’s that deep feeling of knowing ultimate happiness comes through God. This is the Christian vocation. All are called to this vocation.

In the Catholic Church, we have three more vocations: marriage, priesthood, and consecrated life. Compared to the universal Christian vocation, these can be considered sub-vocations. They are specialties within the Christian vocation or different ways of living out that universal Christian vocation.

Marriage

In marriage, a man or woman gives him- or herself completely to their spouse and children. Their goal is to lead their spouse and any children to God. They watch for sin in their spouse’s life, giving suggestions and strategies to improve. They educate their children in the faith, giving them the knowledge and skills to become and remain holy throughout their life. A big part of this involves being a good example, so the person has to be holy themselves to succeed in this vocation.

Marriage is the natural vocation. In addition to the love for him, God also plants in the human soul the desire to marry. Everyone is born with this desire. It is in our nature. Every human at some point feels attraction towards another, even priests. Sometimes life choices will lead a person in a different direction, but that desire remains. Thus, marriage is the easiest vocation to choose. On their own, most people will just fall into marriage eventually. For most people, it is only through a special calling from God that a person deliberately chooses not to marry. This call or vocation can be to the priesthood or consecrated life. Being special callings, they are not natural but supernatural vocations.

Priesthood

In the priesthood, the priest gives himself completely to the Church. He is obedient to his superiors, the bishops, cardinals, and Pope, following whatever orders they give. Many priests are faced with being reassigned to another parish. They can, of course, ask for a different assignment, but if their superior insists, they must comply. If they disagree with the overall Church in a particular matter of faith or morals, they can question it but eventually must acquiesce to the Church’s viewpoint. This is a sacrifice for the priest, requiring complete trust in God to lead him to happiness.

In most cases, priests serve in a parish. There can be other roles, including teaching at universities, traveling the world giving speeches, and serving religious communities, among many others. In all cases, the priest is responsible for leading their flock, whoever it is, to holiness and to happiness with God. This is no different than a married person who must lead their spouse and children to God except it is a much greater responsibility. Instead of being responsible to one family, a priest may be responsible for hundreds or thousands of families. For this reason priests have to be very holy, comfortable socializing, and extremely patient.

Consecrated Life

In consecrated life, a man or woman gives themselves completely to God, usually with the support of a religious community. There are even more forms of consecrated life than the priesthood from cloistered communities, where the members live away from the world many times under a specific “religious rule” in constant prayer and worship to God, to communities that work more in the world, serving the poor and needy or other good causes. Some individuals choose to be hermits, living much of life on their own with their gaze constantly on God. Consecrated virgins perhaps have the greatest freedom, living in the world, many times supporting themselves through their own work while serving others however they feel most called.

Whatever the case may be, these people make it their life’s work to seek heaven on earth. Of course, it won’t be fully realized until death, but they can expedite their path towards heaven through a greater focus on relationship with God on earth. In addition to serving their fellow brothers or sisters in their community and serving others through missions, their prayer offerings to God save countless souls in mysterious ways. Their life too is one of sacrifice.

Single Life?

All three sub-vocations involve a complete giving of self, a sacrifice for the good of others, but where does this leave single life? In God’s eyes, single life is a temporary state. In addition to the universal Christian vocation, God calls everyone to either marriage, the priesthood, or consecrated life. However, God also allows for free will on earth. A person might choose to ignore God’s call. They might be so distracted with their interests, they never even hear the call. Not hearing the call is not always the individual’s fault.

Other people around the person might prevent them from following the call. They might be born with or develop impediments that prevent them from following God’s call. Physically, they could be disabled or develop illnesses that prevent them from following the call. For example, maybe a man is paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident. According to our Catholic faith, he cannot marry. Maybe God calls a person to the priesthood, but they develop chronic anxiety and are unable to handle the high pressure of being a priest. Spiritually, a person might pray and pray for their calling, yet never feel a deep calling towards any vocation, leaving them wandering throughout their life. There could be even less unique cases, like an individual just never finding the right person to marry.

We don’t know why God allows these things to happen, but some people just never end up discovering or following their calling. Ideally, everyone would eventually choose one of the three sub-vocations, but some people just never get there because of their own actions, the actions of others, or any number of impediments.

As Catholics we have to understand the ideal and trust God to lead us there. For those who have been searching for their vocation without success or whose life already prevents them from choosing a sub-vocation, know that only the universal Christian vocation is required to live in heaven for all eternity with God. God knows if you are doing your best and have no fault. Trust that he knows this and be at peace.

I am in this situation myself. My health is sufficiently bad to prevent me from making the sacrifices necessary for any of the sub-vocations. For a number of years, I was a wanderer, finding some attractive things about all three sub-vocations but never feeling a deep calling towards one or another. In the end, it was for the best. I developed health problems which are not compatible with a sub-vocation. My bad health is an impediment I have learned to accept. Life on earth is not perfect. Sometimes we have to look towards heaven for our happiness, not at anything of this world.

To those who have never thought about a vocation, there is always time to start praying and discerning. Talk to friends, family, and priests for advice. Contact your vocation director. God knows what will make you most happy on earth and is calling you to that happiness. Of course, you may have impediments or other things preventing you from choosing a sub-vocation, but you won’t know if you’ve never thought about it deeply for an extended time.

May God be with you in all your decisions in life,
Jared

There is No Luck but God

A very common phrase these days is, “Good luck!”. While it’s a nice, feel-good thing to say, this phrase doesn’t really fit with the Catholic faith. We don’t believe in luck, we believe in God. To us, many things will feel like luck because we are not able to see the complex cause and effect going on in the world and universe, but it’s not luck for God. Countless forces are working in the world both in the physical and spiritual realms. These forces affect people in the surrounding area. Those people in turn affect other people. A single action can have very large impact on the world. We just aren’t able to see that or understand it, but God is all knowing.

God knows all the forces at work in the world, both the inanimate forces like wind and the animate forces like people and angels. God also knows the entire past, present, and future of the universe beginning to end. With this vast knowledge, God knows the detailed workings of everything that has happened, is happening now, and will happen later. To illustrate, compare your human understand of the world with an ant’s understanding.

This ant is minding its own business foraging for food when a potato chip falls nearby. It is a feast compared to the small size of the ant. The ant has no idea how this potato chip got there. If the ant had human intelligence, it would call this “good luck”. To us humans though, we can see the cause and effect. A person was eating chips at a picnic on the lawn and happened to drop one where the ant was. We can see there is no luck here. It was just cause and effect. Just as we can see there was no luck in this event of the ant’s life, God can see there is no luck in the events of our human lives.

All the many events in our lives have some combination of causes. Some of those causes are from people, whom God gives free will to. Other causes come from the spiritual realm, such as angels and fallen angels. Rarely, God acts directly on the world through miracles. To God, everything is determinate though. He knows exactly what is going to happen and when. To us, it will seem like luck, but to God everything has a clear cause. Good luck is not really luck, but the blessings of God.

Another potential problem with “good luck” is its origin. This phrase was adopted from a time when people believed in the god of luck, many times associated with gambling or games of chance. People developed these stories to explain the things they didn’t understand about the world. However, we Catholics don’t believe in luck or superstition (CCC 2111). We put our trust in God. We understand we don’t have to know how everything works. God will teach was what we need to know and give us the blessings we need to make it to heaven. Therefore, when you want to wish someone “good luck”, use a phrase that affirms God:

  • “God bless you.”
  • “I’ll pray for you.”

These phrases are a good way to acknowledge that God is in charge. Everything that happens to us during our lives is willed by God directly (through his own actions) or indirectly (by him allowing it to happen), so there is no luck but what God chooses to happen in our lives. What God chooses are blessings. Yes, even the bad things that happen to us are meant by God to be blessings for us, probably for growth in the faith or becoming closer to God.

These phrases are also a great way to spread the faith to nonbelievers. Some people may be hostile to the faith and treat you badly for using these kinds of phrases, but remember the beatitude that it is a blessing to be persecuted in the name of Christ. It’s hard to see that as a blessing, but Jesus promised a great reward in heaven for enduring that suffering. If you must say something without a direct reference to religion, use this phrase:

  • “I hope everything works out.”

As Catholics, we put our hope in God, so this phrase is really saying we hope God will guide them in wherever they are going or whatever they are doing. The nonbeliever will simply understand this as a human hope not divine hope. The listener of this phrase hears what they want to hear. Still, I think it is best to evangelize whenever possible, so always try to use a phrase that reveals your belief in God. It could be a conversation starter that leads to conversion later. With God all things are possible.

Thank you for reading this article. If it has helped you in any way, please consider saying a prayer for me. I suffer greatly as our Lord did, though not in the same way. I am eternally grateful for any grace I receive through your prayers and await our time in heaven when God will reveal how you have helped me. Do not feel obligated to do this, but I really need help. You can make a real difference in my life.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

Simple Living for Catholics Part 2: Examples

Last Friday, I wrote about living simply as a Catholic. The basic idea is to buy what you need and give away the rest. To generalize even more, Catholics should use their resources as needed for their basic needs. Once their needs are taken care of, all surplus resources should go towards those in need. If we don’t pay attention to what we do, it is easy to fall into laziness with giving. You might think you have nothing to give, but spend some time thinking about it and you will find ways to give.

To illustrate the ideal of simple living, imagine a family of four with two parents and two children. The father is a police officer, the mother works part-time as a tutor and part-time as a housewife, the son and daughter are both in school. Their household income is $90,000. Per year, they spend $26,000 on their mortgage, $24,000 on healthcare, $15,000 for school tuition, $10,000 for transportation, $4,000 on vacations, $2,000 for utilities, $2,000 on other miscellaneous necessities, $2,000 on entertainment, and $1,000 for charity. They save $2,000 a year for retirement and $2,000 a year for emergencies.

On a typical weekday, the father gets home at 7pm, eats dinner, and watches TV until his 9pm bedtime. The mother gets off work at 1pm, does some errands, takes the kids home from school, has dinner with the children at 5pm, does some chores, and watches TV with her husband until her 10pm bedtime. The son and daughter get home from school at 3pm, have dinner, do homework, and plays with their tech gadgets until their 10pm bedtime.

On a typical Saturday, the father goes golfing with his buddies during the day and plays poker with other friends at night. The mother spends most of the day taking the kids to their sports practices and competitions, using any free time to make meals and do chores. On a typical Sunday, the family goes to church in the morning. Then they go shopping for food, clothes, entertainment and other things. The rest of the day, the father watches football, the children play video games or socialize with friends online, and the mother makes meals and finishes the household chores.

Now we can look at how this family can simplify their life by giving, donating, and serving. The first step is giving excess material goods. This family is buying new things every Sunday. Over a whole year that’s a lot of clothing and entertainment. At most, they need outfits for maybe a month. Even then, clothes can be mixed and matched, so they don’t need a unique set of clothes for all 30 days. Over the year, they should be able to give many surplus clothing items to the needy. Entertainment items are even easier to give. Most times entertainment is consumed and then never touched again. Movies, books, video games, and more can be sold at garage sales or on Craigslist. The money can then be given to those in need.

The second step is donating money. This family is not donating any money to the church or poor. It looks like they have no money, but they really do if they take the time to think about their actual needs. If they buy used cars instead of new ones, they can save $2,000 a year on transportation. Vacations can greatly be cut back. Their current spending is enough for a big trip every year like going to Disneyland, but it’s not necessary to go on such big vacations. Switching to camping or a short road trip will save $2,000 a year for vacations. This family buys clothes and entertainment every Sunday. Some of that is needed but not all of it. They can easily cut that down by $1,000 for another big chunk of money.

Combined with their existing donations of $1,000 a year, their new total is $6,000 a year in donations. Ideally, they would be able to donate 10% of their income or $9,000 a year, but $6,000 is not bad at all. God would be very happy with this starting point. The next $3,000 might require more drastic sacrifices like moving to a cheaper house or even changing careers. God understands our limits.

The third is serving others. Within this family we can already see that the father is not spending enough time with his family. It’s true that he gets home late from work, but he just plants himself in front of the TV for 2 hours on weeknights. On Saturdays, he’s gone all day with his friends. On Sundays, he spends a little time with the family but then watches more TV. He should use some of that time for family activities like talking about their day and prayer. TV can be a family activity if the children are involved, but other than dinner, the children are in their rooms. They should be using some of that time to help their mother with chores and spend time with their parents. The children should do their best to get good grades. Sometimes this is a real sacrifice but it will please their parents and aid their future.

The mother is doing the heavy lifting in this family, juggling her job and the household chores all while taking care of the children. The father and children need to help her out more. The parents also need to be educating their children in the faith and in basic skills they will need when they grow up. A huge part of being a parent is educating their children, but these parents are completely ignoring this responsibility. School is not enough to teach children everything they need to know. The education in school and from parents works hand in hand to make good kids. Without reinforcement at home, the children will most likely struggle to adapt to adult life.

The family members are not doing as much as they can to serve their loved ones, but they also aren’t doing any service towards those outside the house. All their weekly activities are for themselves. There are a lot of needy people they could help. An easy form of service to start is prayer on behalf of those in need. They don’t even have to leave the house to do this. Another easy service opportunity is helping with coffee and donuts after church. Within the community they can help at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Another good one is participating in the pro-life prayer vigils. They are very common on Sundays outside abortion clinics.

Here is a quick list of the changes this family could make to practice simple living:

Giving Material Goods

  • Once a year give clothes that haven’t been worn in over a year.
  • Once a year sell or give away all the movies and books you have seen or read. Donate any money obtained this way to charity.
  • Whenever the son gets a new game, he has to sell or give away one of his older games. If he sells it, he has to use the money for a family gift such as getting ice cream or seeing a movie.

Donating Money

  • Buy used cars instead of new cars. Then donate the saved money to charity.
  • Switch to cheaper vacations and donate the extra money to charity.
  • Buy clothes only one Sunday a month and donate the savings to charity.
  • Spend no more than $100 per month on entertainment, giving the rest to charity.

Serving Others

  • For the father, play one of golf or poker, not both. Use the extra time to help out with chores, making meals, and going to your children’s sports practices.
  • For the parents, spend one hour per night on weeknights teaching and praying with your children.
  • For the children, help out the family with one chore each per day.
  • For the whole family, pray at least 15 minutes every night.
  • For the whole family, help out with coffee and donuts after church every Sunday.
  • For the whole family, help make a meal at a soup kitchen one Sunday a month.

Every Catholic family should take the time to analyze how they are giving, donating, and serving. It’s not easy making these sacrifices, but this is the Catholic way. You don’t have to do everything at once, and you shouldn’t try. Instead, take your analysis and write a list of all the changes that would be good to make similar to what I wrote above. Then once a year during Lent, make just one of those changes. Put it on the calendar, so you will remember. Focus on just that one change the whole year. You’ll probably keep forgetting at first or get out of the habit, but eventually the whole family will get used to it. The next year make another change.

If, for some reason, you can’t work on a new change during a year, feel free to postpone it. Just do your best to improve over time as a family. When you look back 10, 20, 30 years of family life, you should see a huge, positive difference between your family now and your family in the past. Remember every sacrifice for good will be rewarded in heaven. You will not regret God’s rewards for your good works.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

Simple Living for Catholics Part 1: Definition and Practice

Simple living is a growing movement in America to get away from the busyness of modern life. For many people, simple living means getting closer to their roots in nature usually in the form of homesteading. They learn to live off the land, not on manufactured goods. Life can be much slower and peaceful this way. For Catholics, however, simple living usually means avoiding materialism. Since earthly life is just a temporary thing, it’s a waste to acquire wealth we don’t need when it’s just going to be taken away when we die. Despite this, material goods can easily become idols (CCC 2113). They can be a distraction and sometimes even lead to sin (CCC 2536-2537). Because material goods can be a danger to holiness, all Catholics are called to this form of simple living (temperance, CCC 2517).

The basic idea behind simple living as a Catholic is buy what you need; give the rest away. Deciding what is a need can be hard because everyone is in a different situation in life. For one person a new smartphone is a luxury, for another it is a business expense. For a small family, a 3 bedroom home is fine while a 5 bedroom home is needed for a bigger family. It’s not always easy to figure out which things are needs and which are wants. With ample prayer plus the advice of fellow Catholics and our priests, you can get a good idea what you and your family’s needs are. There is no need to rush in this. About a month of thinking, prayer, and talking with others is enough.

Once you know what your needs are you can take inventory of what you have. Most people have many extra belongings they don’t need. These can be donated or recycled. This is a good practice for the whole family to reinforce the giving spirit of the Catholic faith. Another part of taking inventory is calculating how much money is required for the family’s needs. That is how much money you need. The rest of the money can be donated for the needs of others. A third thing to consider is your time. Time is a resource just like material goods and money. Everyone needs a certain minimum amount of time to meet their duties to themselves and their family. Extra time should then be used serving others. Parents do a lot of this already while taking care of their children, but the children also need to learn this, so it’s best to use some free time to serve others as a family.

You probably noticed that these three things all require commitment. Over the years you will continue to buy things, some of which you won’t need, so you will always have belongings to donate over time. The monetary needs of the family will always be changing as new members enter the family and children grow up, so the amount of money you can donate will change over time. Your free time will also change. When you have several young children, you might only have time to serve them. Once they get older and more independent, you will have more time for service outside the home.

Living a simple life is not easy. If you and your family have been living the typical American life, you probably purchased many things you didn’t need over the years and maybe haven’t donated much money to others. Even when you know what you should be doing, it can be a struggle to do the right thing. The challenge is maintaining the spirit of giving (service, CCC 340, 1109). This is very much an ideal. There may be times you forget about it, but always get back on track later. It’s not just about helping others. This practice will make you and your family holier people.

The persons of the Holy Trinity represent perfect, complete sacrificial love (CCC 221, 1109). In a perfect world, we would fully emulate the Trinity, giving all our money and material goods to others for their needs. Others would do the same for us. Receiving what we need would just be a side effect of everyone’s giving. That is what heaven will be like. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, but at least we can see what that perfect world would be.

We know in heaven all our time will be spent giving, and we will love that completely. If we don’t love that completely, we need to grow more in holiness. That can either happen on earth or in purgatory. Since purgatory involves a lot of suffering, it is in our best interest to do as much growing as possible on earth (CCC 260, 1031). This doesn’t mean that we should ignore our needs or our family’s needs and expect others to take care of us. We aren’t in that perfect world, so we do need to cover our basic needs, but we should constantly strive to give whenever possible. Simple living is a huge part of that.

The practice of simple living allows for more giving with the same amount of resources. If you are just starting this practice, it may be hard. All change involves suffering, but that suffering will be far less than the required suffering in purgatory if you aren’t at that level when you die. With continued effort, simple living will just become part of life. You will be able to accept it and be content with it. You might not get anything in return for your giving on earth, but this is practice for heaven, where everyone will receive as much or more than they give. It is important to note that simple living isn’t required to go to heaven. Selfishness can definitely be a mortal sin, but in many cases, simple living is not a matter of sin. As above, whatever growth we don’t achieve on earth will happen in purgatory, but the holier we are on earth, the less suffering in purgatory. It just makes sense to strive for simple living.

With this you have the basics of simple living for Catholics. For a detailed illustration of implementing this in a typical family, see the second part.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

What is Good Prayer?

You can’t live a good, holy life without consulting God on a regular basis. Prayer is the primary way we receive guidance and support from God (CCC 2566, 2611), so it’s super important to have a good prayer life. If you don’t, you will slowly move in a different direction than God, possibly wandering far away from where God wants you. If your prayer life is not doing well, you will get tired of prayer and likely abandon it. If your prayer life is doing great, you will look forward to prayer everyday and can’t imagine life without it. This is achieved through good prayer.

Good prayer is peaceful, relaxed, and easy. There is no effort involved. When you have a stressful day, you look forward to your prayer to calm you down. Good prayer warms the heart. Whether dealing with depression or sorrow, you feel the love of God in your prayer. No matter how bad you feel when you start, you always feel better after. Good prayer is desirable. When you forget to pray or don’t have the time, you feel something missing in your life. You look forward to your prayer time every day after work. Good prayer is meaningful. You’re mind isn’t blank when you pray. It is full of hopes, dreams, love, sadness, anger, and a deep longing to be with God. Good prayer is revealing. During prayer you unveil the depths of your soul to God and God unveils part of his essence, an insight that leads to a deeper understanding of your Creator. Good prayer is such a wonderful gift from God, but how do you get there?

The keys to good prayer are trusting God, understanding how you relate to God, and having a dedicated time and place for prayer. You have to trust that God exists and is listening when you pray (CCC 2609-2610). For new believers, prayer many times feels empty or stale. It takes time and dedication to become sensitive to the presence of God. Some people will hear the voice of God, but this is extremely rare. Most people only have the “feeling” of God, and it’s usually only barely perceptible in prayer. The closer you get to God, the more sensitive you are to his presence. Very holy people feel God throughout the day in everything they do.

If you start a new prayer habit, do not give up if you don’t feel like the prayer is doing anything. Just keep praying. Eventually, you will start to feel something (CCC 2613). It probably won’t be every time you sit down to pray. Unfortunately, on earth God will always be distant. Most people will barely feel God even after years of prayer, but occasionally you will have a really intense prayer session. Those times you are blessed with a small taste of what heaven will be like, something to look forward to after your resurrection.

Trusting God is important to good prayer, but it’s also important to understand how to you relate to God. As Creator of all the living, God is the father of everyone. Just as a child learns from his or her father or asks him for help, we as adults learn from God and ask him for help (CCC 2564). Remember when you were growing up at home and how you interacted with your father. Hopefully, you had daily communication with your father. That is how your relationship should be with God in prayer (CCC 2565). If you’re father was missing or emotionally absent, God can fill in as the perfect father.

When you talk to God in prayer, it should be the same as how you talk to a best friend, close relative, or spouse. You should be comfortable saying anything on your mind and not worry about being made fun of or taken advantage of. You should speak from the heart, not from a script. When talking to a human you can congratulate them, look up to them, thank them, ask them for something, give them something, or talk about others with them. All of these ways of communicating work pretty much same with God through the prayers of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, offering, and intercession (CCC 2626-2643). The best part about prayer is that God is perfect. Even people we really trust on earth can sometimes treat us badly, but God is perfectly good. He will never do anything to harm us, so we can always look to prayer for a deep conversation with the Father we love.

Lastly, you need to get away from others in a quiet place for good prayer to happen (CCC 2602). Similar to how kids spend times with their parents as a group and one-on-one, every Catholic needs some alone time with God. This is where those deepest prayers can happen. To prevent other people from barging in on your time with God, you will probably have to dedicate certain times of the day for prayer. This might be in the morning before others get up or at night after everyone has gone to bed. Maybe the home is too chaotic, so you have to go to a nearby park, church, or some other peaceful place away from others. Whatever you choose, you have to get away from distractions to be able to pray deeply.

Good prayer is something that has to be worked on, but the reward is invaluable to Catholic life. Going from a life alone to a life with God is night and day. You will go from a shallow and dull life to a life full of meaning and purpose. It’s all through continued good prayer. I am a cradle Catholic who has prayed for decades, but I still continue to improve my prayer every year. The reward for this effort has been a deeper and deeper relationship with God as the years go by. It is just so comforting and pleasing throughout the day being with God. Some days I suffer a lot or people treat me badly, but it just doesn’t bother me much because I am with God. You, too, can have this peace and support if you work on good prayer a little every day.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

The Importance of Chastity

Our current culture laughs at the idea of chastity saying things like, “How dare you limit sex!” or “We have a right for sex whenever we want.” The Catechism briefly describes how disordered use of sex is selfish (CCC 2351), but it doesn’t describe the negative effects a lack of chastity causes in our culture. We have many examples of the negative effects in our society because of its obsession with sex. At the same time, we have very few examples of the positive effects chastity brings.

In America, children and adults are bombarded by sex several times a day every day. It’s in our entertainment and in the media from movies to books to the daily news. Even many commercials are filled with sex. Over the years, this has created a society where many people are filled with lust. Because of this, much of the population makes decisions based on which choice will lead them closer to sex. It’s particularly bad for men, which I focus on here. Most of these examples can apply to women as well.

In our society, romance is equated with sexual relations. The romantic movies show the same old story with people dating, holding hands, kissing, and having sex. Then the movie ends. Sex is shown as the goal of every relationship, when it’s really a very small part of true romance. In a typical marriage, sex is only 1% of their time spent together. The rest of the time is nonsexual. The marital act is such a tiny part of the relationship, to focus on it is to miss the majority of the relationship.

So many men are driven by lust, their marriages greatly suffer. Many times the only thing the husband has in common with his wife is the marital act. The rest of the time they live separate lives. Even from the beginning, the relationship faces problems. The husband doesn’t truly love his wife, only her body. He showered her with positive attention, praised her, brought her gifts, offered her help when in need, and was willing to talk to her for hours about her feelings. He had no real interest in these things. He was only using her.

Men in this situation are incapable of being intimate without sex. They can’t have long conversations with their wife. They can’t spend time together in silence. They get frustrated with handholding or kissing if it doesn’t lead to the marital act. In short, they are unable to see the whole person, so the man appears two-faced. When he desires her body, he is very nice to his wife, does everything she says until he gets what he wants. Once his desire is sated, he’s back to his old self, not interested in spending time with her until lust sets in again. Many wives don’t see this going on. Having no idea why their husband is so different by the day, they can easily fall into depression and despair. These ups and downs are devastating to the relationship. Strong marriages need consistency.

These men don’t care about their children either. They will continually complain about having to go to school events, babysit their children, help with homework, change diapers or anything else for the good of their children. They don’t care about their children. Their sole interest is sex. So they are not a family man and don’t really love their wife either. They have no care for their marriage vows. Since physical attraction is the only thing keeping the marriage together, the relationship will turn sour once the wife starts aging. No longer attracted to her, the husband will leave for a younger woman.

American culture’s obsession with sex doesn’t just affect marriages. It also affects platonic relationships. Men are trained to see women as sex objects, so they are constantly evaluating all the women they come across for attractiveness. When a man sees an attractive woman, he rushes toward satisfy his sinful desires. If she denies him or doesn’t move fast enough, he is gone to find another woman.

Whenever he has to work with a woman maybe as co-workers or volunteers, sin is on his mind. He is unable to have any kind of meaningful relationship with her because he can only see relationships with women as the potential for sex. He doesn’t know how to just be friends. When a woman thanks or hugs him, he is thinking she is attracted to him. When he tries to take the next step and she declines, he gets angry and spreads lies about her to others. When this man meets a woman he’s instantly thinking about how to manipulate her when he should focus on just being friends. Romance will happen later on its own. There is no rushing it, but he is impatient. He sees no value in waiting.

All these negative effects and many more are a result of a society that celebrates sex, but a society that celebrated chastity would avoid most of these problems. There would still be some bad apples, but if people were constantly encouraged to value the whole person rather than just their looks, we would be in a much better place. Husbands would truly respect their wives. Men could think of women more like themselves, wanting to do what’s best for the individual rather than their selfish desires. I don’t know how to fix the problem in the overall society, but on an individual level, there is something Catholics can do to improve their relationships.

The only way to stop sex from clouding the mind is to avoid it. This is especially important for single people, but even married people can benefit from this. The most important thing is to limit exposure to the sinful culture. Avoid movies and TV shows with nudity or sex scenes. Reduce how much time you spend with entertainment and the media. The time you do spend, stick to films rated PG or lower, animated films, and documentaries. On TV, nature shows, science shows, and documentaries are usually good. Instead of popular music, listen to classical or Christian music. Another huge thing is not associating with people caught up in the sinful culture. They might be very nice as friends, but bad influences have to go. Make friends with fellow Catholics, who know the truth and strive to live by it.

The second most important thing for single people is celibacy. Our society has embraced the horrible sins of fornication, pornography, and masturbation (CCC 2352-2354). Whether you have developed a habit of these sins or not, the only way to see the opposite sex in a Godly way is to remove sex from the equation. You do this by dying to self (Mt 16:25, Mk 8:35), including practicing complete abstinence (or continence, 2349).

Many people don’t think abstinence is even possible. While it may be difficult at first, it is definitely possible. Sex is not a need. Studies suggest it takes about 90 days for the brain to adjust to abstinence. You’ll always have to deal with temptations, but they will be really easy to resist. Then when you get into a romantic relationship while remaining chaste, you will be able to see the whole person, allowing you to fall in love with the whole person, not just how he or she looks. You might even find you’re not called to marriage at all. Lust could have clouded your mind from a call to the priesthood or consecrated life.

Married people can also benefit from abstinence. If you went from the sins of fornication, pornography, or masturbation straight into marriage, you could still have a cloud over your eyes, making it hard to love everything about your spouse. You can remove that cloud through abstinence just like single people. You will need to make an agreement with your spouse, but if he or she accepts, a good time to start this is Lent. It’s only 47 days counting Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, but I recommend continuing for 90 days. In that time you will be forced to learn how to be intimate with your spouse without the marital act. When you finish, you will appreciate everything about your spouse, not just his or her body. Your marriage will be strengthened, and you might even find you don’t get in as many fights. You will just enjoy each other’s company more.

Everything we do is good or evil, so we are either a slave to sin (selfish) or a slave to God (selfless). We have to acknowledge that our physical body is not our own. It was lent to us by God to do good work; it will eventually be taken away at our death. Our sexuality is not our own but an instrument for God’s good work. Like all blessings, sexuality should be used as an offering to God, whether it be in the sacrifice of continence (abstinence) for single people or the complete giving of self in conjugal life for married people (CCC 2349).

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

Culpability for Sins Related to Addiction

One of the most common questions I see is how culpable are addicted Catholics for their sins caused by addiction. After all, if they are fully culpable for the sin, they are in a state of mortal sin, a very serious situation. Answering the question is never easy because addiction limits control of the mind, but a pretty good idea can be achieved. To start with, the Catechism of the Catholic Church names three requirements for a person to be culpability for mortal sin: the sin in question has to be grave, the person must have had full knowledge that it was grave, and the person must have deliberately consented to the sin (CCC 1857). If any of these are not met, the person can only be culpable for venial sin. The sin is still objectively a mortal sin, but the person’s soul remains in a state of grace (assuming it was in a state of grace beforehand).

For the purposes of this article, I assume the person has a drug addition, but this text can be applied to any kind of addiction. Drug addicts have reached a point where their body is dependent on the drug. Their body doesn’t know how to live without it. This causes strong withdrawal symptoms whenever they try to quit. Sadly, it’s usually only at this point that the person realizes the drug was addictive. Many people are caught by surprise.

Because the addicted Catholic doesn’t have much control over their drug use, they don’t meet the requirement for deliberate consent. Their culpability for the sin of using the drug is greatly diminished. This doesn’t give them an excuse to use drugs. It simply means that while fighting their cravings the best they can, the focus should be on addiction treatment. They need to recognize that the addiction leads to repeating the sin, so fighting the cravings is just one small part of overcoming the addiction. They may not be culpable for much sin when using the drug, but they are definitely responsible for their efforts to treat the addiction.

Enter Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is most likely to succeed because the addicted Catholic is literally forced to not use the drug. Meanwhile medical staff are on standby in case withdrawal symptoms become dangerous. After a few months, the person’s dependence on the drug will be greatly reduced, giving them much higher chance of staying away from the drug. Rehab is a humbling experience as the person has to admit they can’t trust themselves to stop using the drug. During rehab they acknowledge this by putting other people in control of their life for a few months. Rehab may not be an option for everyone because of the high price and time away from work, but if it is an option, it is generally recommended as the first step in recovering from addiction.

Join a Support Group and Get an Accountability Partner

After rehabilitation, the person will be advised to join a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In the support group successes and failures can be discussed in a safe environment. The biggest benefit of a support group is keeping the addicted person motivated to keep fighting for abstinence in every moment. Knowing they will have to tell someone about their failure is a strong motivator to keep away from the drug. Through the support group, the person can also get an accountability partner. In AA, they call these people sponsors. The partner is also dealing with addiction. The partner becomes a good friend able to support the addicted Catholic outside of the support group meetings.

Participate in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist

Through these sacraments, Catholics are blessed with grace that aids in the fight against mortal sin and addiction (CCC 1496, 1393, 1395). Because the Eucharist cannot be taken unless the recipient is in a state of grace (CCC 1385, 1395), addicted Catholics should find a church that does confessions shortly before mass. That way they are assured they are in a state of grace when they receive Holy Communion. At a minimum, a weekly habit of using these sacraments should be formed. Even better would be a daily habit, but many churches don’t offer daily confession or mass. Addicted Catholics should use the sacraments as much as possible.

Avoid Near Occasions of Sin

Near occasions of sins are situations where the person is pretty sure they won’t be able to resist using the drug. As part of the Sacrament of Penance, the Catholic is obligated to firmly resolve to avoid future sins (CCC 1490). Part of this is changing their lifestyle to avoid as many near occasions of sin as possible. For example, maybe they have certain friends they always do drugs with. Then the logical thing to do is not associate with those friends. The Catholic should examine their life for these occasions making lifestyle changes as needed to reduce their drug use. This isn’t always possible. Maybe those friends are roommates they depend on to pay the rent. God understands that there can be unavoidable near occasions, but all avoidable ones must be avoided. Every time they use the drug, they should be thinking about what led to it, so they can make changes to prevent access to the drug next time.

 

These are just some of the resources available to Catholics fighting addiction. Outside of rehabilitation, these resources are mostly cost free. During addiction, there is a good chance the Catholic is not culpable for the mortal sins committed through drug use. At the same time, they need to be actively working to recover from the addiction. If they are doing all they can to fight the addiction, using all the resources available, there is a good chance they are not committing any mortal sins through laziness about or deliberate ignorance of their addiction. When an addicted Catholic is doing all they can, they should understand that their actions are only half of the picture. The other half is God healing them.

God may choose to let an addicted Catholic struggle for some time to learn an important lesson, such as humility. After all, in the helplessness of addiction, a person sees very clearly how much they need God. Assuming they are doing everything possible, they can trust that God will do his part to heal them when the time is right. Those with addictions should be patient and not despair the state of their soul (CCC 2091).

I truly believe if an addicted Catholic is doing all they can, yet die before overcoming the addiction, God will not hold it against them. If they are fighting their cravings, avoiding their near occasions of sin, participating in the sacraments, active in a support group, working with an accountability partner, going to rehab whenever they have a relapse, and using all other resources to fight the addiction, God will invite this person into his kingdom on their last day. All that work won’t be meaningless just because they were still addicted when they died. God will reward that hard work. God doesn’t expect perfection, but he wants to see a continual effort made throughout life.

Warning: What I have written here is not to be taken as professional or medical advice. For medical advice see a doctor or addiction specialist. For spiritual questions specific to your addiction, ask your priest or confessor in the freely available Sacrament of Penance.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

The Progression of Faith

As Catholics, we have a Profession of Faith which states all of our core beliefs (CCC 14), but to understand this faith, accept it, and truly believe requires a long “progression” of faith. God in his infinite wisdom inspired the writing of the Bible over thousands of years (CCC 106). As each new book was written and compiled, God slowly added more to the deposit of faith (CCC 84). In the beginning, humanity had a very simple understanding of the world. As humanity progressed, it learned the world was much more complex than it seemed. If someone had gone back to the time of Adam & Eve and explained how the Internet worked, the people would not have believed such a thing could even be possible on the planet Earth. In these present times we are able to believe because we can use the Internet but also because we have this foundation of history and science. We learn enough in school that we might not understand every detail of how it works, but it’s at least plausible to us. It’s the same with our Catholic beliefs.

The first humans had only a basic understanding of the faith. In the time of Adam & Eve, the people only knew God existed and that he created the world and all it’s inhabitants (Gen 1:1-27). They didn’t know anything else. In Noah’s time, God taught humanity about punishment when the flood wiped out most of the population (Gen 6:7-8). In Abaham’s time, God taught humanity about obedience when Abraham trusted God that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Gen 22:12,16-18). A big revelation for the Israelites was the Ten Commandments God provided to Moses (Ex 20:1-17).

God knew humanity could not understand the deposit of faith from the beginning. It took generations to absorb and believe a new teaching. When humanity had enough of a foundation, God taught them a little bit more about the faith. This has gone on throughout history. It took thousands of years for humanity to be ready to know Jesus. Not everyone was ready (Jn 6:60-71) but enough to spread the Good News that God had sent his Son to save us. Belief in the Holy Spirit came next. In the Macedonianism heresy some Christians stumbled on the belief that the Holy Spirit was co-eternal with the Father and Son.

Belief in the Catholic Church was another new thing that had to be accepted. To this day there are millions of Christians who don’t believe in the authority of the Catholic Church. Even with belief in the Church, another development to accept was the belief that the Church could know, without a doubt, that a holy person is in heaven (CCC 828). Many people don’t believe in this. It’s a hard teaching, but when they can believe it, they have improved their understand of the overall Christian faith. There are countless teachings that I could go into when they were added to the deposit of faith, but it would be the length of an encyclopedia to go through it all. Instead, I end with where the progression of faith ends: Private Revelation.

The deposit of faith contains the entire truth, so belief in private revelation is optional (CCC 66-67). It can be something as amazing as a vision or as simple as a small insight into the faith after reading the Bible. Whatever the case, Catholics are not bound to believe private revelation because, for the most part, we can’t verify it is true. In rare cases, the Church has identified certain private revelation as being supernatural in origin. When that happens a holy person, such as a pope or saint might believe in and profess it to be true. It’s still private revelation, but over hundreds of years and a long line of affirmative belief, it can almost become a de-facto part of Church teaching. Catholics are still not bound to believe it, but there comes to be a sort of consensus among all Catholics that it is true (CCC 67). We have examples of this primarily in the appearances of Mary, such as Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes.

Much like how I wouldn’t be able to understand an advanced math book unless I had a long and proper foundation in math, humanity could not understand the path to eternal life if God had simply thrown down a book in the beginning with everything we needed to know. It was just too complex. Humanity had to understand and believe in one teaching before God could reveal another teaching. Because of our human limitations, it took thousands of years for the human race as a whole to progress in this understanding and belief. God is eternal though. He patiently revealed more when humanity was able.

Because of writing and books in modern times, we can read and learn much faster than those in the past, but it still takes time to absorb the knowledge and wisdom of God. Every believer is on their own faith journey. It takes some people their whole life to understand the truth while others might understand in just a few years. We all need to be patient with ourselves on this journey, reading, studying, and praying to continue learning. We also need to be patient with others.

They first have to believe that God existed, he was all powerful and created everything. Once they believe that, they can learn to obey his teachings. Only after that is known can they believe in Jesus Christ, the Son, and all his teachings. The Holy Spirit comes next, how it is everywhere and in everyone constantly urging good deeds. This is the place where many Christians are because the next step is believing in the Catholic Church. There is this human institution, the Church, that Jesus promised would stay true to his Way for all time (Mt 16:18). Once they believe in the Church, they can trust its authority and obey its teachings. This allows them to trust to the Church when it names the many saints throughout history that are now in heaven.

At the very end, they might have a personal belief in some private revelation, maybe their own or something they learned from others. This belief is does not supercede or contradict the Bible or the Church but instead supplements what they already know with more insight (CCC 67). This is where I am now. I understand and believe everything the Bible and Church teach, but I also sometimes gain insights. I write these down on this blog in case anyone else finds them insightful as I do.

Even with our modern technologies, deposit of faith is a lot to believe in, as the apostles made clear when they questioned Jesus (Jn 6:60). Not everyone learns at the same rate. You might know the whole truth about a particular teaching, but others may not. Do your best to lead them to the truth, but be patient with them just as you are with yourself. Don’t get frustrated if it’s taking awhile for them to move past an obstacle. They are on their own faith journey. Sometimes we have to leave it up to God. Always be a supporting presence in their life, ready to help whenever they have questions, and you will be fulfilling your obligation to spread the faith to them.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

The Real Way to Make America Great Again

On Monday, I wrote about how the Internet poses many dangers to children, which requires parents to pay attention to how their children use the Internet. This is part of the larger task of raising children with good, moral values. It’s a tiring job for parents, but it must be done because of how important raising good children is.

It is in the home when children learn all the habits and the discipline that they carry with them the rest of their adult life (CCC 2207). It is true that people are constantly changing throughout life, adopting new values and leaving others behind, but many of those good values will stick around. This greatly improves their decisionmaking. The better their decisions are the more successful they are at supporting themselves and serving others. People with good values serve the needy and less fortunate, are a positive influence to others, and truly enrich their communities. The biggest impact good values has is when they raise their own children. Many of those good values that they learned from their parents are now passed down to the next generation.

Across a population with good values, the society creates a collective reinforcement of good behavior (CCC 2212). No one is perfect — people make mistakes and commit sin — but others see that sin and call the person out on it. The population corrects itself. How can good values make such a big difference though? It all comes down to the everyday decisions people make. When the majority of people have good values, most of their decisions are going to be good because the foundation of good values is love and love is sacrificial. When the population as a whole sacrifices for others, it automatically prevents many societal problems from happening.

There are fewer divorces, single parents, and broken families. The families are stronger, so when a relative is in need, the family members pitch in to help them out. Business owners treat their workers well (CCC 2213). No sky high paychecks for the top executives while workers at the bottom are stuck with measly wages. In general, people become much more self-sufficient. They, along with the occasional help from friends and family, can take care of themselves. This takes a huge weight off the government, so now the government is no longer in debt. That allows more money to be spent on defense and other services which the people cannot provide for themselves.

In short, people with good values have a habit of sacrificing for the good of the whole. This is why the Church says that families are the foundation of society (CCC 2207). People with bad values are selfish. They do their own thing, maybe not outright ignoring the needs of others, but at least not paying attention. Many of our current problems would just disappear if the vast majority could sacrifice for the whole, but it all starts with children in the home (CCC 2208).

The human race has thrived over thousands of years by passing down good values from generation to generation. It’s a continuous cycle of goodness. When children don’t learn good values, the cycle is just the opposite. Rather than enriching their communities, the children grow up to be burdens on their communities. They are a negative influence and those bad values are instilled in the next generation of children, who go on to to also be negative influences in their communities. We are currently in a negative cycle.

After the postwar boom, life was good for so many years, parents became too hands-off with children. When everything was going so well, parents just didn’t have any worry about their children’s future. The children could find their own way to success because success was everywhere. This started slowly and ramped up until the present, where huge percentage of children enter the world unprepared. While the children are responsible for their actions in adulthood, their parents share some blame for not taking the time to instill good values in them.

We have parents these days with almost no interest in their children. They busy their children with smartphones and televisions, never really spending any time with them. Many times the parents are sitting there, but not really present. Their head is buried in their own smartphone while the children do whatever they want. This is not the way to raise children. When you have a generation of children who grow up being taught mostly by entertainment, it’s no wonder our country is having problems. Entertainment should always be just entertainment. It might teach a good lesson occasionally, but most of this comes from the parents. Just because a problem is known doesn’t mean there is an easy fix. In households where parents aren’t learning good values, what should be done? I don’t know the answer, but I do have an idea.

Right now, there is way too much focus on the classroom when the greater measure of a child’s success is the quality of their parenting, not education. The classroom can teach many good values to children, but it has to be reinforced by parents or else the children won’t carry much of those values forward in their later years. Spending all kinds of money on expensive schools or technology won’t help much. That money should instead be spent on improving parenting. The ideal approach is different depending on the situation.

For all parents, money should be spent educating them on good parenting. A key part of this should be guidelines on how much time to spend with children each week. Many parents are workaholics, showering their children with gifts instead of just hanging out and talking with them. The children don’t need expensive cars, huge houses, or luxurious vacations. They need their parents. Better for parents to work less and have more time to spend with the children, teaching good values and reinforcing values they have already learned.

Some parents have to work long hours just to make ends meet. They should be helped with more than just good parenting education (CCC 2208). Two options are available. Either they can get supplemental money that allows them to work fewer hours, giving them time to spend with their children, or society can organize helper families who have the means to take in the children a few hours a day when the parents are not available. Ideally, the children’s own parents would have time to spend with them, but in some cases, they would need help from others. It would be very important that both biological parents and helper parents would be consistent in how they raise the children.

In cases where parents ignored the good parenting education and continued to be bad parents, the government would have permission to remove the children and place them in a better home. In existing practice children are removed if they are being abused or neglected, but parents not being present for their children and not teaching good values really is neglect. The children might be getting food, water, shelter, and all the basic needs, but having available parents is really a basic need. If parents can’t or won’t provide this, the government should give the children to parents that will. This doesn’t mean they would be cutoff from their children. The children would just live in a home where they were the focus. The parents could still visit their children whenever they wanted.

These changes would require many laws to be passed — it wouldn’t be easy at all — but the only way America will get out of this rut is if sacrificing for others is well-known and regularly practiced by all people. That happens in the home when parents teach their children true love, which is having a habit of looking out for the needs of others. Most good values are about doing what’s best for the family as a whole, something that directly translates into doing what’s best for society as a whole.

Everyone would have to come together to make this happen. Of course, parents would have to listen to the advice given, change their lifestyles, and put that advice into practice, but this would also require the government, charities, and other parents to sacrifice for the good of the children. The government, in its duty to support the family (CCC 2210-2211), would need to shift money into parenting instead of education, watch for bad parenting, and move children as needed. Parents with surplus time and money would need to volunteer to help children whose parents were too busy. Charities would have to supplement government support for both needy parents and helper parents (CCC 2209).

The results would not happen overnight. In fact, there wouldn’t be any results until the next generation became adults, entered society, and got into leadership positions. Children become adults at age 18 but don’t really impact society until middle age, maybe ages 40 to 60. We have had decades of decline due to bad parenting, so it would take decades of good parenting to get back to good values and success. If society became lax and parents started neglecting their children again, the decline would return. This effort would have to continue to maintain a good society and a strong country.

The real way to make America great again is raising great children. That requires having great parents. This idea is possible. It’s a longshot because of how society is so focused on education instead of supporting families, but it is possible. It just requires people to see the truth themselves and teach it to all those around them. When enough people get behind it, change can happen.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

The Hidden Dangers of Modern Communication for Children

Throughout history the blessings of God have allowed people to invent amazing new technologies. One such technology is the Internet. The Internet is a powerful tool to collect and share information. Initially, it was only available through desktop computers wired to the wall, but now it is available wirelessly. From letters to phone calls to television, it all happens through the Internet now, but like any tool, it can be used for good or evil. I am continually impressed by all the new things I find people doing online that makes human life better, but the Internet also has many dangers. Mature adults can make good decisions, but children need help. What follows is an overview of the big dangers for children on the Internet.

Pornography

In the old days, it was quite hard for kids to access pornography, but that is no longer the case. On the Internet, the lure of easy money has led to countless pornographic websites online. This offensive material then sits there like a trap waiting for children to find it. Over the years, it has gotten worse, with many social networks allowing pornography under the guise of free speech. Kids will inevitably hear about pornography in school, then look it up out of curiosity. This can quickly lead to addiction.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a relatively new problem enabled by social networks on the Internet. Social networks allow users to easily create content and share it with everyone. This has allowed bullying, which used to be confined to the schoolyard, to follow a child wherever they go online. School arguments can now flood into the online world where it is easy for classmates and anonymous people to gang up on a person, writing the worst things imaginable about them. The consequences of cyberbullying can be devastating. It has led many children to suicide.

Progressiveness

Because the Internet is still a new technology, it is mostly populated by those more accepting of new things: progressives. Progressives tend to be liberal, irreligious, and pro-choice, all potentially dangerous things for Catholic children to be exposed to. Most children want to be agreeable and follow their parents beliefs, but when confronted by opposing beliefs online, peer pressure will many times lead them to lie or ignore what they have been taught just to fit in with the group.This might just be lying at first, but after hearing opposing beliefs for years, they can easily come to believe it. Children can be indoctrinated without knowing it’s even happening.

Online Predators

There have been a lot of awareness campaigns around online predators, so this is probably the most well known danger on the Internet for children. In their innocence, many children give away personal information online including their real name, address, phone number, and more. That might be fine when the people they are socializing with our fellow children, but on the Internet it is easy for people to fake their identity. That personal information could now be in the hands of a online predator. Online predators, being adults, can easily persuade children to meet in person, where they are kidnapped, abused, and possibly even murdered. It’s a tragedy that happens too often.

Radicalization

A new danger has emerged in the form of militant groups like ISIS radicalizing teenagers through the Internet. These groups have found many lonely kids online. With just a little positive attention each day, they have slowly convinced many teenagers to believe everything they say, including radical beliefs. Within a year, a teenager can go from being normal kid to making plans to join terrorists. Sadly, ISIS has found this to be a very effective tactic. Seemingly out of nowhere a kid completely transforms. The worst part is that parents usually don’t even know it’s going on.

 

These are just some of the dangers to children posed by the Internet, but I hope I have convinced you the Internet is not a safe place for children. It can even be dangerous for adults, but adults have experience and wisdom to make better decisions. Children many times will not make the best decisions for their future. They need the help of their parents, even though they don’t know it and resist.

It is absolutely critical that parents keep track of what their children do online. It might seem impossible because the Internet is so massive. How can you possibly monitor everything your children do online? The truth is you can’t monitor everything, but there are three things that will greatly aid you in this task.

Number one is educating yourself on the dangers of the Internet and then teaching it to your children. Spend a few weekends researching the topics I mentioned above and any other dangers you read about. Once you know the dangers well, spend a few days telling your children about it. Start a routine of quizzing your children on what to do when they come across one of the dangers. Eventually, your children will do some of the monitoring themselves, letting you know when something is wrong. You can’t trust kids to do everything right though. Sometimes they will deliberately do the opposite of what you want, so the remaining two things are also necessary.

Number two is to let the computers handle some of the work. For smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, and anything else that connects to the Internet, activate parental controls. Educate yourself on the various controls available and how they work. The device will probably have instructions, but more information can be found from a quick Google search. For desktop computers, you should look into an Internet filter. There are paid ones and free ones. A free one called K9 Web Protection has a good reputation, but I’m sure you can find other good ones too. Set it up to be very strict initially. You can loosen the restrictions as needed if your children request access to a website. This way you will have a chance to review the website before giving permission. With properly configured parental controls and Internet filters, your children will be protected from many dangers on the Internet.

Number three is setting some ground rules for appropriate Internet use. Even with your children monitoring themselves and parental controls, some dangers can still slip through the cracks. Implement these rules to capture any remaining dangers:

  • No computers or televisions in the children’s bedrooms – It’s too dangerous for children to use the Internet completely unattended. Keep the big screens out of the rooms to incentivise children to spend much of their time in the more visible, shared rooms during the day.
  • Children’s bedroom doors must be open during the day – Other than when children are changing clothes, parents should be able to see into the bedrooms anytime they pass by. Keeping the doors open will also let parents be able to hear what’s going on in their children’s rooms even when they are down the hall.
  • No smartphones, tablets, or handheld video games in the children’s bedrooms after bedtime – With this rule you must confiscate all these devices and keep them in your (the parents’) bedroom at night. Make sure they are all turned off. This way your children can’t secretly use the Internet in their room at night away from any supervision.

Your children will probably not be happy about all these changes because you will be limiting their freedom, but it is critical for their development as humans and faithful Catholics that you control their Internet use. Stay firm and they will get used to it eventually. Ignoring this essential parenting duty would be like letting your children hang out on the streets all night where anything could happen. It’s negligent to give children full access to the Internet. Take charge of this situation, and your children will reap the benefits for years to come.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared