Category Archives: Children

The Humble Origins of the Most Powerful Name in the World

My wife and I are the proud, if not sometimes overwhelmed, parents of 6 young children. The youngest of which is just about 18 months old. In our young marriage (of just over 13 years now), the name discussion has been a very big part of our lives. I don’t know about any other couples out there, but this discussion generally lasts the entire length of the pregnancy in our house. Typically the conversation goes something like this:

“So, we like this name for a girl and this name for a boy, right?”

“Well, I’m not so sure I like that name anymore, how about this name?”

“That’s okay, but what about this name?”

“Oh, I like that one, but what about this one for a girl?”

“Yeah, I like that, but I still kinda like our first names, too.”

Generally, it goes a few more rounds before we both agree on two names only to have one of us come back a week later saying, “I don’t know if I am sold on those names anymore.”

Naming a child is a huge responsibility! It’s the one thing your child is going to live with their whole lives (assuming they don’t hate it and decide they need to change it as soon as they turn 18). And for our family, we like to be traditional and choose names of saints for both the first and middle names and that adds another dimension of difficulty to the mix.

Not long ago, however, I was given the opportunity to go on a retreat during which I had time to pray through the story of the angel appearing to Joseph in a dream (Mt. 1: 18-23). This brief account is filled with so much powerful fodder for reflection, but ultimately, what is stuck with me more than any other piece of that story is this line: “she will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”

First of all, how nice was it to be Joseph? He never had to deal with the 10-month-long conversation of what to name the child! He knew without a doubt at least three months in advance the name the Lord wanted for this child. But more seriously, think of just how important a role Joseph had in the history of salvation. Not only does he make it possible for Mary to bear the Son of God without outward ridicule and possibly being stoned to death, he incarnates the name of Jesus! He brings the most powerful name in all the world into the world! This was not a name before Joseph and because of Joseph, the name which is above every other name came into being and has been causing change in people from that day forward.

Just think about what happens in your heart or in your mind when you hear the name, Jesus. Say the name out loud yourself and you cannot help but me affected by its presence on your tongue and in your ears. Some people may hate the sound of it, others may feel at peace, some may feel fear or shame, some may feel absolute joy, but almost everybody responds to that name! And it was brought into the world by a humble carpenter who simply did what he was asked to do.

May we all have the courage to live our lives in complete obedience to the will of God and to continue to bring into our homes and our world the name of Jesus.

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Posted by on January 3, 2018 in Children, fatherhood


Patience is a Virtue (that I wish I had)

Below is a post I began writing a couple months ago but until now didn’t get a chance to finish. Reading over the beginning I found that it is as true now (if now more so) as it was then, so I decided to finish it because I need to hear it and it needs to be said.

Attending a beautiful wedding this past Saturday, I was afforded a welcome retreat from the constant movement of taking three kids to Mass. I was actually able to listen to the readings, the psalm and the homily! Of course, it is in those times when we have a chance to listen that God comes in and speaks to our hearts and so it was this time.

The psalm chosen by the wedding couple was one I had heard a thousand times growing up: Psalm 103 “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, the Lord is kind and merciful.” While I know this particular version of the psalm is not drawn directly from Psalm 103 as it is meant to be, it struck me how directly this related to my life and the life of the soon to be married couple on their wedding day!

It is something I’ve been reflecting on a great deal, really and hearing it in Church made it all the more prominent. We are the children of God and as children are wont to do, we make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are huge, sometimes they are minor. Sometimes we don’t live up to our potential and yet, how does our God repay us for those failures? With love! With compassion! With Mercy! With overflowing, total self-giving, sacrificial LOVE! 

And here I am, the father of three children, the husband of one amazing wife, and how does my response to my childrens’ mistakes and bad choices compare to God’s? I’ll tell you right now, that it’s not a pretty comparison. Of course, you might say, we can’t expect to be like God, he is perfect, and that is true, but I remember a line in scripture that says, “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” A lofty goal to be certain, but one toward which we should all be striving. And so it is with fathers in a particular way because…well, we’re fathers. So, the image of God the father that my kids will first see is supposed to be me. If they don’t see me being slow to anger, rich in kindness, full of compassion, how can they be expected to understand that God, who is all knowing and all powerful, is also all merciful, all just and all loving.

I think I just realized my new year’s resolution.

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, scripture, Virtue


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Family is the Reason for the Season

Okay, so perhaps that isn’t exactly how the saying goes and I, like author Steve Pokorny, certainly don’t want to downplay the importance of Jesus’ birth as the linchpin to our entire Christian faith and especially this Christmas season, but Jesus was born into a family, a pretty awesome one if I might add. But don’t let me tell you, it’s already been said:

While it’s true that Jesus in his divine nature knows all about love because He is Love, we cannot simply whitewash the fact that because Jesus was also 100% human (remember, He’s true God and true man), He had to learn about human love from somewhere and someone(s). That somewhere was during the silent time in his home in Nazareth, hidden away from public eye. And those someone(s) were Mary and Joseph – one sinless, and one a sinner with incredible virtue.

It was in the home of Joseph and Mary that Jesus learned the meaning of love. From the moment of his divine conception, he was received as a gift. Jesus would grow up seeing how Joseph treated Mary, how he interacted with others, how committed he was to taking care of his family. Jesus watched Mary, the most pure of all women, the one whom He had selected from all eternity interact with her husband, of how she fulfilled Proverbs 31 before his eyes. Through their love, He witnessed how their marriage and family life quietly impacted the lives of those around him.

Go here to read the rest>>>

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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, Uncategorized


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Confession with Dad

Astonishingly enough, my boys, from time to time do things that are not nice and on occasion they don’t do what my wife or I ask them to do.

I’ll give you a little time to get over the shock….

Okay, you with me again?

The other day while driving in the van one of my sons was apologizing for something he had done wrong and I accepted his apology and asked him to then sit quietly for a couple minutes without any music (torture for this one, I’m telling you). He then proceeded to repeat the wrongdoing about 5 times in a row during the next 60 seconds and after each time apologized.

Now as you might or might not agree, at this point, I’m really starting to not believe his apology and here is where the revelation of the wisdom of the Catholic Church came to me and I proceeded to explain what true contrition really is (of course, I used little kid words).

True contrition can only be recognized when three things are in place: you recocognize that what you did was wrong, you feel remorse for what you did, and you will TRY not to do it again. You may end up doing that thing again (several times) but you must promise to TRY not to by avoiding the situation, finding different words to express yourself, taking a deep breath before responding, etc. When one of these three things isn’t there, it is sensible to believe that you are not sincerely contrite. I think we recognize this pretty regularly in society. When someone hurts us and then apologizes, we expect that he won’t repeat that hurt over and over again. We tell him to “say sorry like you mean it.”

This all plays out beautifully in the sacrament of Confession. When we go to confession we begin with the sign of the cross and then proceed to tell the priest all the things we can remember doing wrong since our last confession. The priest then gives us a little counsel and then gives us some form of penance to do. Finally, he asks us to say an Act of Contrition. In that little prayer, and there are many variations, we say three things: I’m sorry for what I’ve done, I will try to do reparation for those failures, and I will try not to do it again!

The Church in Her wisdom gives us this opportunity to publicly make amends for what we did. It allows us the opportunity to tell someone that we truly are sorry and that we promise, with the help of God’s grace, to avoid that sin in the future. If we fail again, we come back again and again until we get it it right. The point is our real sorrow, and our real struggle to kick the bad habit out of our lives so that we can truly be closer to God and his entire family.

In that car ride home, I got to be the priest to my family once again; the counselor and the forgiver of sins. For a few more years, my wife and I will get to stand in that role and what an awesome responsibility and privilege that is. Our children will be going to confession with Dad (and Mom) and, hopefully, will get to see in us the mercy, forgiveness, and justice with which God treats each and every one of us. We will fail (perhaps miserably at times most of the time) at reaching that level, but that will give us the opportunity to experience that mercy, forgiveness and justice ourselves.

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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Children, Discipline, fatherhood, Uncategorized


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Catcher in the Rye and the Role of Fathers

I will just go ahead and admit it, I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye. It is not for lack of wanting to have read it, it is for lack of ambition to actually sit down and read it. My wife and I even purchased the book a couple years ago (or found it in storage somewhere from her high school days – it wasn’t required reading in my school – I can’t remember which) and I still haven’t picked it up and gotten into it.  After reading this excellent article by Fr. Damien Ference, perhaps it is time I dive into it and stop being the uncultured swine that I am.

When I first read Catcher in my junior year of college, my absolute favorite part of the book was when Holden explained to Phoebe that all he wanted to do all day was stand on the edge of a big cliff, making sure that the kids playing some game in the field of rye didn’t fall over the edge. I bracketed that entire section with a blue pen. A couple of years later, when I read Catcher for the second time, that business about keeping the kids from falling over the cliff remained my favorite part, but this time I underlined the entire section with a red pen and then wrote “Priesthood 173” on the first page of my book, which is where I always make a personal index. Every time I’ve read Catcher since, I’ve stopped on page 173 and thought to myself, “this is what the priesthood is all about.” I always thought of Holden standing on the edge of that cliff as an image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and I loved that all he wanted to do all day was to save people. That all changed about two years ago.

Read the rest for yourself but at the heart of the article Fr. Ference’s impression of Holden Caulfield was put to the test and was found wanting. As the article puts it:

O’Connor’s issue with Holden Caulfield, Gooch argues, is “the naiveté of his savior complex.” In other words, rather than humbly recognizing his brokenness and his own need for a savior, Holden believes that he is the savior. Holden is at the center of his own world, and everything revolves around him. He’s actually not very mature for his age, although smoking cigarettes, going with prostitutes, and cussing may make him appear so. Under the edgy surface of his coolness, Holden is a selfish boy who can’t see himself as he really is.

Again, I haven’t read the book and these impressions may be off from your perception of the character but that is unimportant. What is important is the lesson here for all fathers (both spiritual and physical). We are called to lead our families to heaven; to keep those in our care close to Christ and His way of Truth so that when the time comes, they can enter into eternal glory with Christ. However, we can’t forget that we are just as much in need of that same salvation. When we fail to love our children and our wives as we should, we need to make amends and beg forgiveness. Let’s not be so proud as to believe that we can do this all on our own.

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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Books, Children, fatherhood, Virtue


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A Tile in the Mosaic of Holiness History

With great clarity and even greater charity, Pope Benedict XVI has once again shown how blessed we are to have him as the leader of our universal church! In his most recent weekly Wednesday address, the pope urges all of us to answer our call to holiness and gives us practical advice on how to do that:

Vatican City (CNS) – Pope Benedict said there are three simple rules for living a holy life:

[1] “Never let a Sunday go by without an encounter with the risen Christ in the Eucharist; this is not an added burden, it is light for the entire week.”

[2] “Never begin or end a day without at least a brief contact with God” in prayer.

[3] “And along the pathway of our lives, follow the road signs that God has given us in the Ten Commandments, read in the light of Christ; they are nothing other than explanations of what is love in specific situations.”…

He then goes on to talk about the communion of saints, both canonized and not canonized:

The unnamed saints “are people who are, so to say, ‘normal,’ without visible heroism, but in their goodness each day, I see the truth of the faith, this goodness that has matured in the faith of the Church. For me, their goodness is the surest form of apologetics for the Church and a sign of where truth lies,” the Pope said.

(HT: Cindy Wooden at – Read the rest!)

These simple rules are as basic as they are compelling as they are difficult! The first rule, to experience Christ in the Eucharist every Sunday could have easily been worded, “Go to Mass on all Sundays,” and yet that doesn’t cut it for the Pope. As Catholics, we truly have the opportunity to receive Christ in our bodies every single time we attend Mass, but it is our openness to truly experiencing him and his passion, death and resurrection and all that His life entails that will open the doors to the grace hidden in the form of bread and wine on the altar. We need to EXPERIENCE Christ in the Eucharist, not just receive or see Him. An experience is something that sticks with us and, as the pope suggests, helps to mold us!

The other rules are much the same. It is the choice of words that the Pope uses here that make these statements so profound. Quickly we see in his second “rule” that he is talking about some form of prayer and yet how many of my prayers are a bunch of words strung together that mention God and my relationship to Him while my mind is running on what I need to do next (or what I am doing, in most cases). Real contact requires much more. When we come into contact with something, we are changed (in even the smallest way). When we pick up a knife to butter bread, we leave some part of us on that knife (even if if is just germs). When we bump into a person on the street, we get jarred out of our step even for a moment. When we hug our loved ones, something stirs in our gut. True contact with God requires us to do much more than talk. It requires a movement of the heart toward God who is constantly reaching toward us.  

The ten commandments are the staple food for examinations of conscience and yet I’ve never looked at them as “what love is in specific situations” (perhaps I’m just not too bright), but what a concept to meditate on! If we love God, we are grateful for his many blessings and we honor him in using rightly the gifts he has given us (including the people, places and things we come into contact with everyday). This is love in action.

The last little bit, quoted above, really strikes me hard as I reflect on my daily dealings with my family as a father and husband. How am I giving my sons and daughter and wife an earthly example of a saintly life? Will my children think of my life when they think of someone to emulate in total, self-sacrificing love? Do they see in me the goodness of the Faith or do I give them room to see something else as a “greater good” because of my actions? It’s times like these when I don’t envy St. Joseph in the least!

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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, News, Prayer, St. Joseph, Virtue


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The Role of Fathers in Raising Daughters

Yesterday “the Mom” over at Shoved to Them had a great story to tell regarding her first-born daughter growing up and entering into a relationship with a very respectful young man:

Last night, my husband got an email from a boy.  Not just any boy, but the nice son of my friend K.  The one who patiently took my 3 year old a dozen times through the penguin house at Sea World.  The kind of boy we all dream that our daughters will be lucky enough to meet someday.

…This boy wrote to introduce himself to my husband.  He listed all his credentials…Catholic, homeschooled, 9 years as an altar server, etc. and then told her father “that he promises” that their conversations will not “pose any problems whatsoever.”  He then asked my husband if it was okay that he continue emailing her and occasionally calling her.  (They live 8 hours away, there will be little if no “face to face” time.)

My husband stared at the computer screen completely flabbergasted.  “He’s asking my permission to write to my daughter?  Who does that any more?” he asked me.

“Boys who respect your daughter,” I told him. Go read the rest here–>

She spends much the rest of the article focusing on how great this young man is and how he has now set the bar for any future suitors for her daughter and she is nearly completely right.

As I was reading this, I was reminded of something my wife tells me all the time (at least since the birth of our first girl), “A daughter will expect to be treated the way her father treats her and the way she sees her father treat her mother. In the eyes of your daughter, you are the perfect man for her.” So, gentlemen, we now have our marching orders, thanks to my lovely wife!

 If we want our daughters to look for a man who will love, honor and respect her and all that God has made her to be, then we must first remind her, through our words and actions, how much she deserves to be loved, honored and respected. We need to remind her of her identity as a child of God and not as an incomplete half to a whole. We need to treat her mother with complete self-giving love and total respect. If we do all this well, then we will already be setting the bar high and all future suitors will have their work cut out for them in trying to match up to the first love of her life.

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Children, fatherhood


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