Kathleen Littleton: Fighting for your Daughter’s Soul.
Q: I have 4 young daughters and look around me at the challenges young girls are facing today about their dignity and sexuality at such a young age. Do you have any resources or tips on how to keep talking to them so they really understand their worth when they are hearing the opposite message from their peers around them? I love my faith, am in an Endow group, and want my girls to be involved, but they are “too cool” right now for faith formation. I don’t know how to break through… How do we compete with the surrounding culture they are seeped in?
A: We don’t compete. Rather, we testify with our very lives and witness to God’s truth. We are called to be in the world but not of it. Actually to rise above it while in the mix like yeast in the leaven being a witness to a better way, God’s true plan for marriage and family life. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…. So that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them …” (John 17:16-18, 21-22).
What a statement you make to the world as you go about your ordinary life raising your four beautiful young daughters! What a joy, a gift and a blessing their young beings are for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear! What a witness to the anti-life culture that tells you that children are a burden. What a statement to your hope and faith in God who creates and sustains as you step out in trust and openness to life! “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God” (Saint Irenaeus). God’s glory shines forth from you! Be proud as He is of you!
As you walk through your daily life, I know you feel eyes upon you, perhaps judging you but also perhaps admiring you. Either way, it doesn’t matter as you know in your heart that you are following God’s truth and so be completely at peace in doing His will. Stay close to Him as you need the graces of the Eucharist often. Seek Him in the confessional and unburden you heart to Him in the adoration chapel. Bring your children with you! For although they may be too young to understand the Mass or the Eucharistic Presence, who of us does this side of Heaven? But the graces are there to be poured out upon all of us, His children. “Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is too such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14-15). Bring prayer also into your home. Enthrone it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pray together as a family. Incorporate daily Mass if possible, the morning offering, the angelus, grace before and after meals, a nightly balance and a decade of the rosary.
And pray with your spouse. Your children need to see your witness of charity, forgiveness, prayer and unity as parents most of all. They need to know you and your husband are on the same page as to what is best for them. So be sure you are! Let your spouse be who he is called to be through the marriage sacrament; the spiritual head of the family, and the wife is the heart. Trusting that they too are given graces for their state in lives as husbands, we need to let our God-loving spouses lead. “Happy is he who dwells with a sensible wife and he who plows not like a donkey yoked with an ox” (Sirach 25:8). It is so difficult for a husband to lead if the wife is constantly opposed to him and undermining what he is trying to do. And what if he is not yet there? We have to see the good in our husbands, and be like a mirror that gives him a beautiful image of himself. When a man feels he’s looked upon in that way (respected and esteemed), he feels that all his work and sacrifices are worth it, he wants to give his life for his spouse, his loved ones. If we can stop complaining, stop criticizing, stop demanding but instead be grateful and loving to our husbands, miracles happen. As has been said, the way to change your husband is to change yourself.
And what about the peers putting pressure on your children to conform to the ways of the world? Surround yourself and your family with like-minded families and friends. Find communities that will enforce what you believe, not fight against you. They are out there! And if not, create one and invite others to join you. Even if you have to go to the lengths of choosing a new school environment, a new more Christian extracurricular activity, or decide against social events, dress or technology when everyone else is doing it, although in the moment there might be tears, trust that these battles will be victorious in the end for your child’s virtue and well-being.
Teach your children that they are here to serve and not just to be served, another counter-cultural witness (cf. Matthew 20:28). There is more to life than getting what you want, rather it is in giving that we receive (cf. Prayer of St. Francis). There are many opportunities for generosity within the home and amidst family life. Help the children discover ways they can be of service to others according to their age and possibilities. We as their parents, need to set the example of apostleship for our children in adherence to our baptismal call. Let our children see us fully engaged, but in a balanced way in giving ourselves to others, even outside our homes. Our own family may be most important to us, but this does not relieve us of the responsibility of spreading the Kingdom of Christ to others in any of a myriad of ways, perhaps by getting involved in our parish, with evangelization and faith formation, or perhaps some external work of service to others. Self-giving is an act of love. Total self-giving is holiness. “Hence, with parents leading the way by example and family prayer, their children – indeed, all within the family circle – will find it easier to make progress in natural virtues, in salvation and in holiness. Husband and wife, raised to the dignity and the responsibility of parenthood, will be zealous in fulfilling their task …” Gaudium et Spes, n. 48.
This is the time for prudence and strength, courage and discernment. Keep your children close. As a parent, God has entrusted you with these young lives, as their primary formator. This glorious right and privilege cannot be delegated to anyone; not a caregiver, a grandparent, a babysitter or a teacher. God has given you this grave responsibility, but also the graces to fulfill this vocation. Be not afraid! It is He who will fortify you, fill you with the grace of state as a wife and mother to navigate the confusion of the culture. Do not surrender to what the world tells you. Trust His Truth.
For Endow Voices by Kathleen Littleton, J.D., M.T.S., wife, mother of twelve daughters and two sons, attorney, educator, author, spiritual director, co-founder Forming Faithful Families