Letter to a Young Mother

letter1Some say that it is now ‘open season’ on Catholics in America. That anyone who is faithful to the Church’s teachings – indeed even her hospitals, colleges and schools – will now be persecuted by our federal government, and that many of our great institutions will have to close.

Remember that the Church has survived ferocious persecution in the past. Recently, I visited a ‘priest’s hole’ in a still-functioning roadside tavern in England. The owners thought of it as a quaint artifact, with no clue about  the terror and torture that Catholics faced in the England of “Good Queen Bess.” Such is the power of cultural amnesia.

On a practical level, you will have similar challenges in raising your family that I had/have.  It is time to FOCUS. Your job is to protect your family:

NEVER take the easy way. You will regret it later. This goes for food, education, socializing, TV – everything.

REMEMBER that kids are like sponges. They absorb all influences around them, so you MUST BE VIGILANT about what these are.

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE IN CHARGE. This goes especially for teachers, social workers and shrinks – they will NOT have to live with the consequences of their decisions as far as your kids are concerned – YOU WILL.

FIND A GOOD PRIEST. The Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) is a good place to start, or any Latin Mass community. You need other faithful families around you so your daughters will have friends. This is CRITICAL so they do not feel ISOLATED growing up.

YOUR NUMBER ONE EDUCATIONAL PRIORITY is to make sure your daughters can read with ease and for pleasure.   Reading is still the best way for them to reach out beyond their immediate environment to worthwhile thoughts and places, to reach the Truth. DO NOT rely on the schools to teach them this, or you may be disappointed. The best way to do this is to read to them when they are young. (HINT: When they are 6, 7 or 8, try reading exciting adventure stories like Nancy Drew, but very slowly. Soon they will become impatient and grab the book out of your hand. Presto!)

BE CLEAR-EYED ABOUT CONSUMERISM. You do not need the latest styles, or the approval of your Facebook friends. I wore old clothes for years, and dressed my kids in consignment clothes until they were 12. I refused to buy videogames or pay for cable TV and insisted that my kids work menial jobs when they were/are teenagers. But my kids saw Europe, and got serious scholarships.

SHOW YOUR KIDS THAT THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE TRULY ARE FREE. I took mine to Church where they were exposed to great music and liturgy, every Sunday no matter what. All homemade food, served with style. When I had no money, I could still put a sheet on the table with a candle. I could still read them to sleep. I could still pray with them.

LEAD, do not FOLLOW. Do not worry about lecturing too much. Do not try to be ‘friends’ with your kids.

“You will have challenges in raising your family: No guaranteed income. Bad influences on TV and the internet. Bad-to-mediocre schools. Bad-to-mediocre clergy. Weird neighbors. Friends and family who go off the rails. A culture that derides your basic beliefs.”

Finally, PRAY for the grace you need to be a good wife and mother.

My grandmother Concetta came to America as a young woman with nothing but the good family and strong faith of her village in Italy. She married, had 6 kids and buried her second son at age 2, while she was pregnant with my father. When my dad was born 3 months afterwards, she named him “Vittorio Angelo” – “Victorious Angel.”

Grandma Concetta had a hard life. My grandfather drank. She had to send two sons off to WWII, and she died from the stress when she was the same age I am now – an old woman, worn out. But she taught the Faith to her sons and daughters, which endures now to her great-great grandsons, recently baptized. I never met my grandmother, but her Faith and goodness profoundly influenced my life nonetheless. In fact, I would say that it was the SINGLE GUIDING LIGHT of my entire life.

THIS is what we pass on. THIS is our legacy. The Faith is, in the end, all that matters. And truly, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.