Wake Up Parents!

I say that in my loudest firm police voice!

It’s the day after Thanksgiving Day and I want to scream. I listened to the news about how a 12 year old girl in Florida committed suicide after being bullied on-line by two 12 and 14 year old girls. The 14 year old posted IDGAF when she learned of the girl’s death.

I picked up my son from school later that day and he talked about a survey they did in Religion class that day. He said that only 3% of the class attended mass regularly (I told him that meant he was the only one) and half the class didn’t even believe in God!

My question in both of these situations is, where are the parents? I must have missed the part in the 10 commandments where it says that you must have Facebook account! Why is a 12 year old girl getting bullied for a year on social media with neither set of parents figuring it out? It was allegedly over a boyfriend. Why are 12 year old girls even worried about boys? We have sexualized our kids way too young and adults encourage it as being so cute. I remember watching a dance show on TV where Paula Abdulla was asking a young boy and girl between the ages of 7 and 9 years old if they were a couple. Seriously!! If I could have grabbed her through the TV I would have given her my best Fr. Sean speech.

Then there are all the grade 10’s that don’t even believe in God, let alone attend Mass. They didn’t get to that point on their own. I understand that they may start questioning the faith at that age but to have the epic failure of faith? It took time to get there. Parents, why are your kids in the Catholic school system if you don’t pass on the faith to them? Teachers, how does a kid get through 9 years of religion class and not believe in God. We are failing these children because when they have troubles like the bullying listed above, they do not know that there is a loving God to turn to.

It is important that you lead by example by attending Mass regularly (it’s one of the precepts of the church). Give your children room to make the faith their own by attending solid Catholic youth events or camps. Talk to them by having family dinners at least 5 nights a week. On holidays attend historical churches and places. It is also ok to say no to Facebook, Twitter and cell phones. Get some good parental controls on your computer if you do allow them so you can monitor inappropriate conversations (some programs will notify you if certain words are used).

Most of all don’t give up the fight to be a good father or mother. It is easier to give in to the world pressures, to have the latest greatest thing. You will thank yourself later when you are not are trying to figure out what to do with the 20 something year old living in the basement playing Grand Theft Auto 5 (over a billion dollar in sales) for 15 hours a day. Start today by being that example that your kids desperately need.

A Simple Formula

A Simple Formula

formulaA Simple Formula
Tim O’Connor, God Squad

I’ve been blessed over the past ten years to be part of the God Squad.  And the blessings have extended to my family in ways that I never would have predicted.  So I want to share part of this journey, and the special lesson it has had for me as a husband and father.

My first God Squad Men’s Conference was back in 2000 at the Red and White Club (at that time labeled “St Joseph’s Covenant Keepers Conference”).  I was absolutely ‘blown away’ by the experience of seeing so many faithful Christian men gathered together for fellowship and common purpose.  It was such a contrast to my ‘normal’, secular life, and it seemed to be an event so badly needed for men just like me.

Around the same time I was thinking about my young family and fretting about how I was ever going to be a good spiritual leader for them.  It’s easy to be discouraged and feel inadequate – just turn on the television, computer or any form of media and you’ll see that non-Christian values take the main stage.  And my family was being exposed to these mediums constantly – how was I going to lead them through this deluge of negative influences?

Shortly after the 2000 conference, I contacted Sean Lynn and volunteered to help out the God Squad with whatever they needed.  From that point forward my role with the organization has grown along with my friendships with the other organizers and their families.

I also picked up one of Steve Wood’s books at the conference.  I was encouraged by, and still remember vividly, an early paragraph from his book, “Legacy: A Father’s Handbook for Raising Godly Children”:

Practice your faith and remain in a state of grace; love your wife and stay married;  be a good provider and tithe; and spend lots of time with your children.  That’s how to be a good Christian man, husband and dad in a single sentence.  Not too complicated.

I agreed – not too complicated.  And I’m a huge believer in the keep-it-simple principle, so this sentence really resonated for me.

Of course there is an important and profound component to this statement that might not be initially obvious.  Namely, that it’s really the Holy Spirit that is doing all the hard work with our families, all the ‘heavy lifting’.  We just need to help make sure our hearts and homes are open to Him.

But I want to add one other element to Steve’s simple formula, one that I’ve come to realize since attending that first conference: Choose carefully who you spend time with  and surround yourself with other faithful, Christian families.

I’ve been blessed to have had this opportunity over the past ten years.  Through my close group of friends and an association with the other God Squad organizers and their families, my children have been exposed to exceptional young people who are living their faith.  Those of you who are parents know that peer pressure can be a big influence for our children, especially teens, and often it’s the voice of the peer that is louder than the voice of the parent.  So taking an early, proactive step towards who those peers are can be very powerful.

Through my association with other strong, Catholic families, my family and I have grown in our spiritual lives.  We’ve attended Catholic family conferences, read Christian books, installed internet filters, had priests and God Squad Conference speakers to our home, studied through DVD courses as a family and spent many hours talking and learning together about our faith and spiritual life.  Ten years ago I never would have predicted any of this, nor can I take much credit for it.  But what I do know is that by associating with the right people my role as a husband and father is much better and easier.

So for me the formula is still simple: live the faith, love your wife, be a provider, spend time with your kids, and hang out with the right people.  Then stand back and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.