September 26, 2012

Family society’s rock

New data from Statistics Canada that shows the traditional family is in decline comes as no surprise but that doesn’t make the findings any less troubling.

Canadians who live alone now outnumber couples with children. Fewer people than ever are getting married and they’re having even fewer children. Single parenting is rising, as is common-law and same-sex parenting.

It is premature to declare the traditional family structure as dead, far from it, but it’s certainly suffering. From 2006 to 2011, the number of children living in either common-law or single-parent households shot up by 22 per cent. One-third of Canadian children are now living in non-traditional family households, compared to about 10 per cent 50 years ago. That gap between traditional and non-traditional parenting will only become more narrow as young people continue to reject marriage to live common-law, as high divorce rates and pre-marital births create more single-parent homes and as same-sex parenting increases. The data has been moving in that direction since the 1970s and nothing indicates the trend will change.

What is surprising, however, is the nonchalant reaction of Canadian society to this radical reconstruction of family. Studies have found that stable, loving, two-parent (mom and dad) families make for a healthier society. Indeed, many studies suggest society suffers when traditional families and the values they instill are replaced by alternate child-rearing arrangements.

Families are the bedrock of civil society. They are the primary teachers of right and wrong, the place where values and morals are instilled and the foundation is laid for good citizenship. They are the place where children learn to love, give, co-operate, compromise and pray. It is also where they learn how to be good moms and dads.

Children raised in traditional families are less likely to fall into drug or alcohol abuse, criminal activity, depression, promiscuity, and they are less likely to grow up in poverty. They have better success rates in school, work and marriage, and they tend to become better parents themselves.

Catholics further recognize the sacredness of family as rooted in Scripture and promulgated by the saints and Church leaders. Speaking recently to a group of French bishops in Rome, Pope Benedict called family the foundation of society but said the foundation is threatened by “a faulty conception of human nature.”

“Marriage and family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.”

So the prudent reaction to the decline of the traditional family would be a thorough evaluation by society of this worrisome trend. To blithely accept it as an inevitable, even commendable, evolution of society is something we do at our peril.

Published in Editorial

It may be the world of make believe, but the British drama series Prisoners’ Wives is all about a harsh, complex reality. The producers of the BBC show and people who work with prisoners and their families hope the series sparks a conversation about the social cost of incarceration.

“When a man or a woman goes to jail the whole family does the time. It changes everything in the family dynamic,” Deacon Mike Walsh of the Friends of Dismas told The Catholic Register.

The Friends of Dismas, an ecumenical ministry for ex-prisoners in Toronto, is launching a new support team dedicated to working with families of those on the inside.

That makes Prisoners’ Wives “very timely,” Walsh said.

Prisoners’ Wives has been picked up in Canada by Vision TV and airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. It tackles the stories of four women with loved ones who are imprisoned — Lou, who has tried to escape poverty by selling drugs; Francesca, who has risen to fabulous wealth on the criminal entrepreneurship of her husband and now loses it all; middle-class, middle-aged Harriet, who finds herself bewildered and isolated when her son goes to jail; and pregnant Gemma, who gradually learns her husband is not who she thought he was.

The women find themselves on a journey of discovery about themselves and their relationships while the men inside struggle to keep up. Both the prisoners and their wives have to answer basic questions.

The family dynamic of prison life hasn’t often made it to either the big or the little screen. While there are plenty of cop shows and prison dramas about the lives of criminals and workings of the criminal justice system, there are no great films about wives, children and parents left behind.

“In popular entertainment, TV drama, have people thought about the plight of prisoners’ wives before? No. Uh-uh,” said executive producer Rebecca de Souza. “It’s delightful, because we could be the first one’s to do it.

“There are a lot of spiritual journeys prisoners have to go through. (Harriet’s son) Gavin goes on a pretty misguided spiritual journey. He thinks it’s a spiritual journey but it really isn’t.”

But the writers, directors and actors had no easy, well established film clichés to fall back on. Instead they had to do hundreds of hours of research talking to prison families, chaplains, guards, social workers and prisoners.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for POPS (the British charity Partners of Prisoners) and other organizations to engage with and influence the public dialogue as well as making the public aware of the support services we offer,” said POPS policy and research officer Rebecca Cheung. “(The show) raised a number of key issues such as the bullying of children of prisoners and the diversity of individuals affected by imprisonment.”

The show has been successful enough in the UK to be picked up for a second season and POPS has noticed much more conversation in British media and on social media about prison issues from the point of view of families.

“Families of prisoners are generally speaking invisible,” said Cheung. “Prison life in the UK conversely receives quite a lot of attention.”

Public dialogue is obsessed with punishment but ignores social costs, said de Souza.

“Is he being punished enough? Is he being rehabilitated enough? Should they be allowed televisions in their cells? We’re all very interested in those subjects,” she said. “What people don’t talk about is the massive community around him that is equally affected.”

Walsh for one hopes the drama might prick up a few ears to the real spiritual needs of real prison families.

“(Imprisonment) has a ripple effect we often never think about, and it is a time when the parish community needs to come together in support,” Walsh said.

Published in Arts News

It’s a never-ending cycle of games

This is not a rant against organized sports. My kids have been involved in sports for many years, mostly because of my husband. Basketball, ringette, hockey, baseball, volleyball — you name it, they’ve played it. 

We’ve travelled far and often to take our kids to games and tournaments. We’ve met hundreds of players, parents and coaches and shared with them the satisfaction of playing hard and the thrill of victory. There have been many good times.

But it’s often been a struggle to balance sports and family life. We’ve just barely finished baseball season and now hockey is upon us. Thank goodness my husband and I agree that, as a family, we should never miss our holy obligation of Sunday Mass in the name of a game. Even on tournament weekends, we always find a church and never miss Sunday Mass.

Still, as someone who didn’t grow up with sports, I have been known to lose my cool when sports trumps family life. I even spoke to a priest about it, not that I got much sympathy. He warned me to be careful about succumbing to the spirit of division and suggested I embrace sports as a family event instead of bickering over it.  He must have grown up with organized sports!

So over the years I have heeded that advice and supported my family’s obsession with sports. I’ll never be an expert but I like to think I’m a keen observer. I know that most athletes and coaches are uninterested in the observations of a Catholic woman whose formative years revolved around the church and not an arena or baseball diamond. But I’m going to share some observations anyway.

It seems to me that many Catholic parents don’t make sure their children attend Mass as religiously as they get their children to games. And why do some boys wear their Sunday best to an arena and not to church? I can’t believe the number of times I’ve seen boys wearing white shirts and ties to minor hockey games, but not to church on Easter or Christmas. It makes no sense to me.

I also wonder why Catholic athletes and coaches obey the rules and regulations governing sports but balk at the rules and regulations of the Catholic Church. Also, I’m appalled by the spending on superfluous extras by many sports teams. Do kids really need two jerseys, track suits, customized hockey bags, leather winter jackets, spring jackets, pants, hats, hoodies, drinking canisters and various other team paraphernalia that display the team logo? I wish team organizers would consider how many more kids could benefit from team sports if fees were reduced by eliminating these extras.

Then there’s the schedules. There were years when one of our kids had a game on Thanksgiving, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, a family birthday and during the Christmas week. Of course, Sunday is always fair game for the schedule makers. These games often interfered with our holy obligations and relations with our extended family. On the secular celebration of Halloween, however, one league cancelled all the games so the kids could go trick or treating.

Another concern is that a generation of kids has grown up winning participation trophies. What does that teach them? Shouldn’t a trophy be something you earn? If we’re going to spend so much time at sports, we should be teaching kids that, in addition to fair play, they need to learn about winning and losing because life is like that.

If I had my way, there’d also be classroom sessions for Catholic parents and players to learn how sports can enrich family life and be used to grow in virtue. Yes, it would be a tough sell, but I’d love to see sessions on what various popes and Catholic thinkers have said about the value of sports and about its place in culture.

I’d open with what St. Ignatius of Antioch said in the first century: “Exercise self discipline, for you are God’s athlete; the prize is immortality and eternal life.” Much better for young athletes to be pondering that than to be discussing Don Cherry’s latest rant from Coach’s Corner.

Finally, as another hockey season begins, I’ve heard the lament of many wives about being neglected after the first puck is dropped. So say a prayer for us and, dads, it doesn’t hurt now and again to surprise us with a dozen roses or take us dancing or out to the theatre.

Published in Guest Columns

CALGARY - Four new priests were ordained here on the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, a most grace-filled day for the diocese of Calgary in its centenary year. It was a blessing for me to be on hand to witness some family friends ordained, and then later to join in the joy of a First Mass at my home parish of St. Bonaventure.

Priestly ordinations are rather fewer than we need these days, so to have four young men is remarkable, all the more so as they all came from local parishes. Their vocation stories are a combination of old patterns and new ones. Two went almost straight from high school, the others after some time working. Their vocations were nourished in Catholic families and inspired by good priests. As is common today, World Youth Day had a significant impact too.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, and that may be so.

But there is something special about an old dog, and he (or she) can often teach an owner a thing or two. Puppies are adorable, but old dogs are like comfortable shoes that when slipped on can sometimes walk us to unexpected places.

(If you’re not a pet lover, I implore you to stop reading immediately and move onto something else in The Register. These meanderings from a sappy dog lover will only frustrate you.)

Published in Robert Brehl

MAYNOOTH, Ireland - The Vatican official who will act as papal legate for the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin defended marriage based on the church's traditional teaching and urged Catholics to use the resource of the family to confront the challenges of secularized societies.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops, made his comment in his keynote address to open the International Theology Symposium at St. Patrick's College June 6.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - The demands of work can't bully people out of needed time off, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Sunday must be a day of rest for everyone, so people can be free to be with their families and with God, the Pope said.

"By defending Sunday, one defends human freedom," he said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square June 6.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the world's families at a time when the institution of the family is under threat and many are still struggling with a worldwide economic crisis and a lack of cultural and societal support.

As a sign of his deep concern for bolstering the family based on the lifelong union between a man and a woman, the Pope will travel to Milan to meet with those attending the May 30-June 3 World Meeting of Families.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - Work obligations should not harm a person's family relationships but should provide support, giving couples the resources to have and raise children and spend time together, Pope Benedict XVI said.

At the end of his weekly general audience May 16, Pope Benedict noted how the United Nations chose "family and work" as the focus of the 2012 International Day of Families, which was celebrated May 15.

Published in Vatican

A few weeks ago we asked readers to tell us about their moms. The May 13th edition of The Catholic Register featured a special centre-spread "In praise of motherhood" which contained some of the best entries we received. The spread is viewable as a downloadable and printable pdf by clicking on the image below.

MothersDaySpread

#1 -  Lisa Gabriel Wakeland

I am blessed to say I have two mothers — the one who gave me life and the one who raised me. I was adopted at three weeks of age. When my mom passed away 11 years ago to cancer, I finally felt ready to search for my birth mother, and I found her.  She was very much alone and went through so much as a young girl with alcoholic parents.

I cannot express how I feel for this little blonde mama of mine. We recently reunited and I told her as we hugged goodbye that she will never be alone again. This is a poem my mom wrote to my birth mother.

An Adoptive Mother's Thanks to "Woman Who Cared"

May I thank you also dear woman
For the choices you made years ago
Had it not been for your great sacrifices
A Mother's love I would never have known.

I have prayed for your happiness daily
'Lo these eighteen years God chose me
As the one your child, now my daughter
Was entrusted to for the world to see.

I have truly loved her, please believe me
From the very depths of my soul
I always asked my Lord to reveal this to you
Whenever your heart needed to be consoled.

Now I ask for your prayers, my dear woman
As "Our" child is ready to embark
On a life of her own, so very far from home
But one she chose dictated by her heart.

I shall miss her, Oh Dear God, I shall miss her
But I know this is the chain of life
I must let her go, as you did years ago
For I, too, must make the great sacrifice.

Yet I want you to know dear woman
That I shall always stand by her side
Tho' not in body but in spirit and
May Our Savior look down on her with a smile.

The only request I ask of you is
Please remember me in your prayers
That I may have the courage you showed
Now that it is my turn to share.

Barbara Gabriel
Nov. 4, 1982


#2 - Joan Levy Earle

I was almost 60 years old when I moved back home to live with my parents. My husband was renovating and living at our old farmhouse at the time.

For 18 months, having early morning tea with my mother brought us closer, while watching nightly Jeopardy shows gave my parents a chance to see that their eldest had inherited some of their smarts!

God called dad home four years ago when he turned 90, so mom struggles through her days alone, full of arthritis but still capable of looking after her daily needs. This beautiful woman, who looks 10 years younger than she should, knits afghans, sends loving cards to grandchildren, anticipates the birth of her sixth great-grandchild and loves to keep up with the news of the world.

Like others her age, mom worries about the way in which the end of her life will come. Her nightly rosary includes a request that the Lord “come gently” when He calls her home. We pray the same prayer for her at every Mass.

 

#3 - Juliette Ling

When asked what she wanted for Mother's Day one year, mom replied: "Peace and quiet." So that Mother's Day she got just that. A wrapped gift box containing two cards, one with the word "Peace" written on it and the other with the word "quiet."

 

#4 - Ann-Marie Parisi

“You’ve arrived just in time.  Come and crack these eggs into the bowl,” my mother said.   My parents were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. And no family celebration was complete without the mouth-watering Italian specialty — pizzelle waffle cookies.

“Add the sugar now. And make sure you beat the batter until it’s light and fluffy,” my mother cautioned.  This recipe had been lovingly left to us by my Nonna Maria. When I was growing up, I remember coming home from school and entering Nonna’s home, basking in the wonderful aroma of pizzelle cooking on the stove. My friends loved to visit me at my grandma’s house since they always left with a bag of pizzelle.

“Don’t forget the vanilla and the lemon flavouring,” mom reminded me.  I remember special celebrations like my 21st birthday when we would finish our elaborate meals and sit around the table munching on these family favourites.

Pizzelle was also a must-have travelling item. Forget the toothbrush, that was forgiveable.  But forget the pizzelle, that was a calamity.

Heaping piles of pizzelle were carried into the restaurant to help us celebrate my mom and dad’s anniversary. Good food, great conversation, loving family and friends, and mom's pizzelle —  the stuff of which amazing memories are made.

 

#5 - Christine Pang

My mom passed on over 40 years ago.  However, my memories of her never fade. 
In my eyes, she was perfect.  She taught us to be honest, true, be contented and always try our best.  We should treat others well, be fair, and never exploit others.  She never pressured me to do things beyond my means. 

She was brought up in a Catholic family.  I am proud to say that all my grandparents and parents from both the paternal and maternal sides were Catholics, thanks to the foreign missionaries who brought Christ to remote towns and villages. I would like to share words from a card I received long ago:

Your Mother still is close to you, as she will always be,
in your heart she will remain, a precious memory.
And though you miss her deeply
yet it comforts you to know
her love lives on to bless your years
No matter where you go!

 

#6 - Eliette Campeau

Mothers hold the memories of their children. She is the one that holds the family together! She creates love among its members and keeps the family united.

Bless God for mothers!!!

 

#7 - John Marchand

My mother did not discover the cure for cancer. She did not write the great Canadian novel, nor did she ever appear in a newspaper headline.  Her entire wardrobe would have fit nicely in a piece of carry-on luggage.

She did, however, care about people. She cared for her husband, her children and her grandchildren. She cared deeply for her faith, for God and the teachings of the Church.

As her children grew and began to need her less, she set her sights on other people who did. She donated to children in the hird world who had no food, to organizations helping teens, to foundations and other worthy causes galore. And I never saw a birthday without my card, my $10 and her chicked-scratched "God Bless."
My mother didn't need to be right and didn't need to get her way. Her life never seemed to be about her – ever.

In the days surrounding her funeral, large numbers of people came to pay their respects. I listened in awe as they recounted stories and shared memories of my mother, many of which I had never heard before. I listened to people explain how much she mattered to them.

I had no idea how many lives this uncomplicated woman had touched, how many people aside from her husband and children would miss her. Albert Einstein once said that "only a life lived in  the service of others is a life worth living." My mother knew this and lived it. She made a difference.

 

#8 - Sandra Antonello

Mamma lived her Catholic faith from the heart, outward.  She was conscious of the awesome responsibility she had to pass onto her five children the faith of her Baptism.   Mamma believed that faith needed to be nurtured and so tended the fragile seedlings of faith in us as children much like a gardener tends his exquisite perennials.

Our prayers were taught to us by our bedside first in Italian, later we learned them in English.  So much of what we knew in how to be the best we could in society did not come from any books on methodology but by imitating our parents, momma during the day because she was in the home while our dear dad worked shifts.

Mamma had a sense of humour which often had us in stitches so to speak, just by listening to her laugh and seeing her shake like a bowl full of jelly.   In this gentle but firm in discipline woman, was the gift of selfless giving not only to my siblings and I but to our neighbours as well.  She practised the corporal works of mercy and made us aware that this was what God wanted from us. Spiritually, life for mom was a prayer. 

She trusted God with her whole heart and taught us to live by the maxim “If God wills...” which meant do all things well to the best our ability and put the rest in God’s hands.  She left her children the gift of undying faith, which means despite changes beyond our control God is ever present in our lives. As my brother Mario, who suffers from Alzheimer’s tells me again and again: “I wish you knew my mother.  She was a saint!”  I answer, “Yes Mario I knew her well!”

 

#9 - Theresa Matys

I sit at the foot of my dear mother’s hospital bed on the eve of her 98th birthday. Rosary in hand, she is recovering from surgery for a broken hip. Many memories flood my thoughts.

A devoted wife, mother and grandmother to 50 grandchildren, great- and great-great grandchildren. Her life has been one of self-sacrifice and steadfast devotion to her family and her faith.

For so many years, she would trudge along Dundas St. carrying home the altar linens from our parish church to be washed, starched, ironed and returned. An act of charity unseen by others. As president of her CWL she carried out her terms with a quiet and simple dignity and perseverance.

She possesses a serenity fostered by her faith and her unconditional love of her family. They in turn revere her. Her sense of humour shines through  the bleakest of events.

To quote a younger senior in the home where mom lives: She is an inspiration to us all. I celebrate the life of Carmela Camilleri.

 

#10 - Mary Sama Deva

I was born in a family of eight in a small village. My father was a teacher in a Christian chool that was located a long distance from our home.

There are many memories about my mother but the one I’d liked to share is about the time she rescued her eight children during a major flood in 1947.

A monsoon rainstorm hit our village and a flood rushed into our small house.  At that moment I saw courage in her eyes and her faith in God. Instead of panicking she took us on wooden rafters that floated in the flood waters and took us to higher ground. To this day I still admire my mother’s love, affection and dedication toward her children.

I am a mother of three children and a grandmother of seven still trying to teach them the good Christian faith and values.

 

#11 - Inez Meleca

How did mom maintain her commitment to nurturing her seven children with a Catholic faith in the face of our frequent grumbling? Dad worked day, afternoon or night shifts at INCO.

How did she ensure that he got a sound sleep, and that we did not disturb him or our tenants? We were rarely bored for we were gifted with a mother who encouraged us to discover the wonderful adventures in books.

An ardent reader, she provided Bible stories, comic books, mysteries, biographies and we loved them all. As we matured, she often shared tidbits from authors like Thomas Merton and Bishop Fulton Sheen.

She’s struggling right now as she loses her precious eyesight to macular degeneration, but she rarely complains. She thanks God for her 83 years of sight and focuses on solutions like accessing audio tapes.

There are special times that I remember fondly, like the warm summer mornings walking home from Mass arm in arm with her. I cherish the memories of cuddling close to her at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help devotions with the lovely hymns and sparkling candlelight and praying the rosary.

Raising my own three children has been challenging. Thank you, mom, for your daily prayers, celebrating my successes and consoling me in my hardships. I am so grateful for your sacrifices, love and example.

 

#12 - Majella Atkinson

My mother  came to Canada from Ireland at 20 years of age. She had 12 children and remained forever loyal to her Irish heritage and Roman Catholic roots. 

My mother worked tirelessly to raise us in the faith and to have us attend Catholic schools. She never missed Mass, even though it was difficult for her to get in to the nearby town from the country setting where we lived.

She was the anchor of our family and found her strength in God. She led our family through five decades of the rosary every single evening no matter what the day had held. Mother prayed constantly for everyone but herself.   

My mother was a rare and genuinely good person throughout her life.  She loved to sit and relive stories about her young life in Ireland, or to simply sit and listen to any concerns we had in our own lives and would always end with “say a wee prayer.”

Published in Features

As a young mother I was warned about the “terrible twos.” When my children got older, I was cautioned about the challenging teen years.

But I found raising a two year old exhilarating, not terrible, and the same goes for raising two teenagers. But that’s not to suggest we don’t have our moments.

Published in Guest Columns

The deadline for submissions has now passed.

-

Last fall Catholic Register Books published Motherhood Matters: Inspirational Stories, Letters, Quotes & Prayers for Catholic Moms. Written by Register contributor Dorothy Pilarski, the book was praised for its “home-spun wisdom,” “inspirational vignettes” and “practical advice.”

The lessons contained in Motherhood Matters apply year round, but are particularly poignant at Mother’s Day, on May 13 this year.

So, in the spirit of Motherhood Matters, and to mark Mother’s Day, The Register is inviting readers to share personal vignettes about their mothers. We’re looking for fond memories, cherished words of advice, humourous anecdotes or any other reminiscence that shows the love, faith and dedication of Catholic moms.

Published in Features

OTTAWA - Society’s changing attitudes towards gender and sexuality are creating serious problems, primarily for children, a psychoanalyst priest warned the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) at its annual seminar.

“We need a social revolution,” said Msgr. Tony Anatrella, a psychoanalyst and specialist in social psychiatry based in Paris.

Speaking to about 110 people on the theme “Men and Women, Spouses and Parents: Forming Christian Citizens,” Anatrella said one of the pillars of civilization — objective recognition of sexual difference — is disappearing. Instead, it is being replaced by radical notions of sexual orientation that are based on gender theories developed in the 1950s.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Amid challenges Catholics are facing in the area of marriage and human sexuality, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) gave John Paul II’s teachings on the Theology of the Body (TOB) top billing at its third “Seminar on the Family.”

Catholic weddings have decreased 74 per cent in Canada over the past 34 years. The picture is similar in the United States and other Western countries, said Christian and Christine Meert, directors of the office of marriage and family life in the Colorado Springs diocese.

Among Catholics who choose a church wedding, 90 per cent of engaged couples are already sexually active, using artificial contraception and planning to continue using it after marriage, the couple said. They said Catholic priests and marriage preparation leaders may be reluctant to bring up the Church’s teachings on human sexuality for fear of scaring away young people.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - The same week a student group came under fire for distributing condoms on the Saint Paul University (SPU) campus, a pro-life group hosted a panel on the benefits of natural family planning (NFP), revealing the contrasts between artificial and natural means of preventing pregnancy.

SPU administrators ordered the student group to stop leaving a bowl of condoms for free pickup by students. That prompted a student to write an open letter, backed by 100 others, that led to stories by the news media.

Published in Canada