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One Last Time: Rinaudo Bids Farewell After More Than a Decade as Connection Editor

by Jessica Rinaudo

As I began to work on this, my final issue of The Catholic Connection, I looked back and counted the number of issues I’ve put together over the past 11+ years. This, it turns out, is my 129th issue.

The Catholic Connection has been so much more than just a job to me. As I scanned through the contents of all those back issues, I saw a timeline of my own faith journey and the friendships I’ve formed with all those who have worked diligently with me throughout these many years to produce an ever-evolving Catholic news and evangelization publication for the Diocese of Shreveport.

When I first took over the magazine at the end of 2007, relatively new to the publishing world, I had big ideas. We evolved the magazine to include more feature-based content with established columnists and full color! The page count climbed: first from 16 to 24 pages, and then from 24 pages to 32. With the page increases, we had more opportunities to include Catholic voices from all ages and backgrounds. My editorial board was flush with ideas, and our freshly minted new bishop, Most Reverend Michael Duca – bless him – always trusted me to do what I thought was best for the magazine.

Rinaudo speaks about The Catholic Connection magazine at St. John Berchmans School's Career Day.

The collaboration I’ve had with writers over the years has been invaluable. Each month has been an adventure as I worked closely with Kim and Katie to develop their content, and gleaned so much from Mike’s perspective on Scripture and Church teaching. Working with Bishop Duca was an opportunity to not only get to know and love the “man at the top,” but to hone my own editing skills and confidence.

All of these collaborative efforts began to draw national attention at the Catholic Press Awards each year. We went from a publication that never won an award to winning, at first, one, and then multiple awards each year.

“Why are you leaving?” and “Where are you going?,” you might wonder.

I’m happy to say, despite the sadness that comes from leaving this publication, I am overjoyed to be moving to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to take the helm of their publication, The Catholic Telegraph. The staff of their Archdiocese has opened their arms to me and have granted me the wonderful opportunity to work on a publication that reaches more than 100,000 Catholics. I am so grateful that God put me on this path and continues to show me that this is what He wants for my family and me (despite my own anxieties along the way).

Even with this excitement and joy in front of me, oh how I will miss the wonderful Catholic community in the Diocese of Shreveport! When I told the staff at the Catholic Center about my move, I was met with a mixture of reactions on every end of the spectrum. While Father Price shouted for joy, hugged me and told me how happy he was for me and my family, Father Long repeatedly told me “no,” and then reluctantly said that when I came back, there would always be a place for me.

There are more than 40 people who have some hand, small or large, in bringing The Catholic Connection to fruition each month. And while I can’t list them all here, I want to name a few who are very dear to me.

Rinaudo and Sciba

To my editorial board: thank you for your support and inspiring words throughout the years. Your care and love for the magazine has always encouraged me to push harder and grow more.

To my copyeditors: thank you for dropping everything at deadline time to carefully read through each and every line of text to ensure we are as accurate as we possibly can be before going to press.

To my Spanish translators, Rosalba and Melina: thank you for your patience with last minute articles and fast turn around times on translations.

To Msgr. Earl Provenza: thank you for hiring me and giving a fledgling designer and journalist the chance to do something great.

To Bishop Michael Duca: thank you for giving me the freedom, resources and confidence to grow The Catholic Connection into what it is today. Your mentorship and care for my family and me mean more to me than you will ever know.

To Father Peter Mangum: thank you for seeing something in me and pushing me to grow both at the diocese and at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Your vision, kindness, trust and leadership have helped shape my work and inspired me to always aim higher.

To my writers and dear friends, Kim Long, Katie Sciba, Lucy Medvec and Kelly Powell, who I worked with closely every month and who were on the front lines to cheer me into my new job position, I could not have done any of this without you. You are brilliant and inspire me in my faith every single day.

And finally, thank you to every reader who has ever taken the time to contact me through the years – whether upset or thrilled, frustrated or overjoyed, or to share a story idea – it means so much to me that you care about this magazine enough to reach out and to read it every single month.

I ask for your prayers as I move into my new position in Cincinnati, and for your prayers over the new editor and future bishop during this time of transition.

God bless you,
Jessica Rinaudo

Note: By the time this prints, I will no longer be working for the Diocese of Shreveport. Please forward all inquiries related to The Catholic Connection to Blanca Vice, bvice@dioshpt.org. Any personal correspondence can be sent to jessica.booth@gmail.com.

Domestic Church: The Take-Aways

by Katie Sciba

How do you begin a conclusion? When I started writing for The Catholic Connection over eight years ago, I had a two-year-old marriage and a one-year old son. My lofty theories on how the domestic church – the family – should function had yet to be tested in the School of Experience, but I was eager. Sitting here in Nebraska, hundreds of miles away from where I penned my first column, my babies aged 9 down to 2 sleep while their youngest sibling waits for us in Heaven. Andrew, my husband of nearly 11 years, and I have had our share of storms both together and even against one another. We’ve been blessed by friendships with other married couples living their lives for Christ. I’ve been humbled and honored to win six Catholic Press Awards in as many years, and my writing became a springboard for my work as a national speaker. I’m so incredibly grateful, but, my friends, the Lord is calling me away from The Catholic Connection, so I’m writing this last time to bid farewell and offer my prayers for your families.

To wrap up, here are the take-aways – the hopes I have for our families and some lessons I’ve learned in my time as a wife, mother and writer. I pray they will bring our hearts closer to Jesus, so we can see with more clarity that He is actually with us and calling us to eternal life.

1. Go to Mass – The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith; there is no greater way to pray than to participate in the Mass, to receive the God of the universe in the form of a simple host, and to reflect Jesus’ love to others.

2. Be real with Jesus - Once I told Bishop Duca that, in the wake of my father’s passing, I was too angry to pray. “Why don’t you tell God?” Bishop asked me, “He can take it. He’s big enough.” In showing Jesus just how angry I was, I consequently opened my heart and let him in. Following Bishop Duca’s advice saved my faith.

3.  Keeping in touch with God is ESSENTIAL – We are made in the image of God, which means that we’re called to imitate Him. Have you ever tried to imitate someone you hardly know? It doesn’t work out too well. When we are in touch with the Lord through prayer – Mass, Confession, reading scripture, etc, the more spot-on our imitation will be.

4.  Mom and Dad are a kid’s first teachers - Our kids do what we do, say what we say (sometimes to our horror and humiliation), and they will consider Jesus and their Catholic faith as important as we do. Whether we like it or not, kids are the ultimate copycats. So parents, take hold of your faith, pray with each other and keep Catholic families among your friends.

5.  Pornography destroys family - I wrote a column series on pornography’s effect in 2017. Pornography consumption easily leads to addiction in a short period of time, causing anxiety, depression, isolation and shame for the consumer. Spouses of pornography users often develop a deep sense of rejection, as well as Betrayal Trauma or PTSD. The average age of exposure to pornography is 8-years-old, and because children don’t have the cognitive ability to process it, pornography effects unusual behaviors in children, including isolation and depression. For help, go to addorecovery.com and bloomforcatholicwomen.com.

6.  Minimalism is a way to imitate Christ - The idea of minimalism involves cutting distractions in favor of what deserves our full attention. It’s clearing physical clutter to reveal hidden beauty; it’s freeing a calendar of activities not conducive to the life God desires for us, the life we hope to have. It’s finally seeing possessions as just things and recognizing people as more deserving of our time and attention. Giving our best to Jesus and others becomes easier and more joyful.

7.  There’s more than one way to be a faithful Catholic - I know good, holy parents who pray the Rosary with their kids every night and I know good, holy parents who haul their rambunctious kids to Mass only to leave early because of a temper tantrum. The Lord asks for our love and our best; offer Him that and give others the benefit of the doubt.

8.  We have an audience of One – The point of all of the above? To please God; to become fully aware that He is with us and encouraging us to Heaven.

Thank you Jessica Rinaudo, my dear friend and editor, for your confidence in me; and thank you to you, dear readers, for your support and encouragement over my time here at the Domestic Church column. Please pray that I do what the Holy Spirit wills, and know that your families are in my prayers. God bless you. •

Bidding Farewell to Longtime Connection Columnist

by Jessica Rinaudo

While every issue of The Catholic Connection is dear to me, this one, in particular, will always hold a special place in my heart. After more than eight years of column and feature writing, longtime columnist Katie Sciba has penned her last Domestic Church column in this May issue.

I’ll never forget when Katie first tentatively contacted me about writing for The Catholic Connection. Unbeknownst to her, she reached out to me at just the right time. I was in the middle of completely overhauling the format of The Catholic Connection, working to give it more of a “feature magazine” feel. Part of this reimagining meant that I would need regular columnists. Through conversations with my editorial board and while chatting with friends in the local Catholic community, I learned that there was an overwhelming desire for information on how to better bring the Catholic faith into the home, especially to children. And, fortunately, as a newly minted wife and mother, Katie was up to the challenge. Thus, the Domestic Church column was born.

Working in print media, readers often reach out to tell me what we did wrong, or how we infuriated them. I’ve discovered that we only really hear when we’re doing a good job through secondary sources, or, on occasion, people will joyfully call or email if a piece really knocks it out of the park. To this day, however, I still regularly hear from people who enjoy Katie’s column on family life. I know a mom who pulls out her Domestic Church column each month, laminates it, and places it on her fridge as a spiritual reminder!

I’ve always known Katie’s writing was special – partly because as a young mother myself I found her writing so encouraging – but also, because her column brought home a Catholic Press Award to our magazine for the first time in many, many years. And that was only the beginning. Katie’s column, feature writing as well as her in depth series on the harm of pornography, continued to rake in the awards in the years that followed.

I watched her grow from a tentative budding writer to a confident author, willing and able to share her own vulnerabilities to help others with the pains and struggles in their own lives.

I am so grateful Katie reached out to me that day more than eight years ago. Not only did she play an essential role in raising the quality of The Catholic Connection, but she became a dear friend and an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your time and talent with the people of the Diocese of Shreveport, Katie. May God bless your future endeavors.

Domestic Church: An Audience of One

by Katie Sciba

I’ve lately been looking back over my time with The Catholic Connection. It’s been just over eight years since my first piece was published, and since then my work has been shaped and honed by both my supportive and incredible editor, as well as the education only experience can offer. Though I’m sure it never showed through my writing, every deadline made me nervous to the point that I wanted to withdraw entirely; think of it like stage fright for a columnist. The very idea that my thoughts were printed for the eyes of more than 11,000 people across the diocese terrified me. What if someone disagreed with me? What if someone thought my writing was elementary or irrelevant? What if I actually had zero talent for writing? As a recovering people pleaser, I’m nauseated at the idea of tension and conflict born of differing perspectives; it yields a special kind of sickening worry.

Though the experience is my own, the inclination to people-please is near universal. Maybe you’re a fellow worrier when it comes to conflict; or maybe a fight stirs within you when you’re not believed or given credit. It’s easy to equate others’ disapproval or opposing perspective with rejection and criticism, then feel unworthy or defeated.

If I’m speaking your language, then this is your official invitation to let it go, because the real audience we should work for is small in number and infinitely more significant than anyone else.
“…just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thes. 2:3-4).

We have an audience of One. We might be tempted to make the masses happy, desperately prove ourselves to those who disbelieve, or teach a lesson to the naysayers, yet the only One we need aim to please is the Lord. Of course, it’s admittedly a bit satisfying when all of the above happens and this is not to say that in pleasing God, we’ll certainly displease others; but if our ultimate purpose is to live and work with integrity, giving our best to imitate Christ in how he pleased the Father, we will gain true peace. Not only does the Lord watch us lovingly every waking (and sleeping) moment, but His thoughts of us are the only ones that have bearing.

It’s a great thought – a really lovely idea; but what’s the practical approach to living this way? One way is praying for guidance in doing God’s will, an act that confesses fear of the Lord, or due reverence to Him (Psalm 147:11). Following with the Lord’s desires is a delight to Him as well, and those desires are perfectly laid out in the 10 Commandments, as well as in Christ’s command to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Hebrews 13:21). We also know that God the Father was proud of Jesus during his time on earth (Matthew 17:5), so a surefire way to be the apple of the Lord’s eye is to “do whatever [Jesus] tells you” and follow his example.

In this life, there will be confrontation, criticism, differing views and disapproval; but on the world’s stage, perform for the One who matters most in order to live in confidence and peace. •

Domestic Church: How to Have a “Successful” Lent

by Katie Sciba

The beginning of Lent feels like the New Year – it’s a clean slate paired with a handful of resolutions and a heart full of hope that this is THE year.  I’m going to stick with my Lenten sacrifices so when Easter shines in 40+ days, I’ll be beaming with Christian radiance and joy in the Resurrection. Every Lent, I start strong and convicted.

And, as with my New Year’s resolutions, in time I fall short of my personal goals for spiritual wellness, justifying a lack of commitment or even forgetting what they are. Thinking back to past Lents and ahead to upcoming Ash Wednesday, I’m considering things more practically, and I’m placing hope in Jesus that he’ll fill the gaps and draw me nearer to him. Put these steps into action for your own heart and Lent so like Jesus you’ll rise Easter morning made new and rejuvenated.

1.  Consult with God
You’re too attached to something; we all are. Maybe it’s the idea of control in your life, maybe it’s your own time, location or possessions, maybe it’s the reasons you have for not growing closer to Jesus. God has called you to a particular mission – what’s getting in the way? Consider offering that to God during this time meant for letting go of what is temporal to gain focus on the spiritual. If you’re unsure, ask Him to reveal exactly what He desires of and for your heart during Lent. What attachment needs to die so you can experience a renewed life during Easter? Ask, too, for the grace to see God’s answer.

2.  Post your sacrifices
…not online for everyone to see, but in your own world for your own benefit. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or inside your coffee cabinet; on the dash in your car or as lock screen on your phone. If you’re reading the Bible or a book of saintly wisdom, keep it in more obvious places so you’ll see it often. Tell a trusted few about your Lenten penance because there is strength in camaraderie.

3.  It’s not about what you give up
Well, not entirely. Lent is a holy invitation to see God clearly by walking away from distractions; and though our part is necessary, it’s Jesus who plays the more active role. Jesus is the one who heals us, who stirs us and who walks with us. Offering things up and ridding ourselves of distraction allows him more space to move in us and through us.

4.  You’re not the only one in the desert
The Lord does not compel His children or call us to do His will, then leave us to do it in our human frailty. Make no mistake, the devil will do his best to draw our attention to ourselves, but like Jesus, we’ll be accompanied by angels and by Christ himself. Jesus always offers grace to help us in what feels difficult or impossible, and because he desires our love and attention, he will uphold us. In the thick of temptation, call on Him for quick aid and grace.

In considering our own bad habits or self-indulgences, it’s common to make Lent about our failings and flaws; to make it about ourselves. Lent, however, is and always has been about the Lord. It’s about drawing strength from Him so we can continue his call for our souls, keeping our eyes focused on him and hearts near heaven.

Domestic Church: Invite the Lord into Our Dreams and Hopes

by Katie Sciba

My dear readers, I have to share with you news and plans I am just over the moon about. After spending way too long believing it could never happen, I am going to Iceland. It’s happening; granted, I won’t be there until a year or so from now, but my future excursion is so real that it might as well be next week. I’ve been saving every month, selling stuff on eBay and I have going with me a dear friend who’s an experienced world traveler. Our proverbial sails are set and soon I’ll live what, until recently, was just a sweet, unreachable fantasy.

I fell for Iceland watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It feels a little superficial that this Bucket List item came from a little-known movie, but inspiration can strike from any direction, right? The film features stunning shots of long, winding roads, waterfalls and seascapes along the Icelandic coast; this coupled with the thrill of adventure and the unknown drew me in and held on tight. I’ve always been drawn to travel and all things nautical, but either life or, quite honestly, a lack of planning prevented me from taking steps to make it happen. Plus I had Iceland totally written off as impossible because I have a family – a young one at that – and I assumed my husband wouldn’t like the idea of handling the kids solo while I skip across fields half a world away.

So my dream stayed just that – a dream; but I grew up learning that desires in our hearts, the deeply set ones that nearly cause pain because we want them so much, are planted by the Lord; after all who else can make the impossible possible? At the very least, Jesus Himself cares about the hopes that we have and the things that we’re drawn to experience. He’s not a distant Savior passively granting and refusing wishes; He’s here and ready to be involved in every detail of life. What does Jesus have to do with my plans to go to Iceland? Everything. In fact, I should have realized He was part of the whole scheme from the beginning.

He soon showed me that He alone could and would turn Iceland from a wouldn’t-it-be-nice idea to a concrete plan. In a moment of grace, I voiced my long shot wishes to my husband who responded not with the hesitation I anticipated, but with encouragement. Giddy with excitement, I shared my plans with my traveler-friend who volunteered to go with me. God also threw in plenty of time before my trip happens so I can adequately save.

And so, though I was eager to share news of my trip with you, the bigger news is this: Jesus cares. What is it that seems like just a nice idea to you, a far-fetched wish? What’s your Iceland – a thing that seems out of reach because it’s not practical or priority? Give it to Jesus. Let Him in on it. Even a simple, “Jesus I really wish I could…” or a “I want this, God.” Once we invite the Lord into our dreams and hopes, we’ll be able to see more clearly how He’ll make them happen, or if they’re not part of His plan. Confident in Jesus, the King of Impossible, we can move forward with faith and trust.

Vulnerability is a Gift from God

by Katie Sciba

Deep breath, I told myself. Play it cool. I lifted my chin, squared my shoulders, and feigned confidence walking into Sportspectrum. In the few months prior, I took up running as a light hobby and, in time, felt ambitious enough to shoot for a half-marathon; but to go for it, I had to train with the right pair of shoes, and to get the right pair, I had to ask for help. I knew absolutely nothing about brands, fit or types of support for my particular gait. I was in over my head and mortified by my ignorance. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to know I was new; mostly because I felt vulnerable.

“Have y’all had a big rush since the new year?” I made conversation with the employee. “Ha, HUGE. It’s one of our busiest times,” she laughed.  “Yeah I wondered if I had just missed all the Resolution people,” I said, looking at big gaps in the shelf, obviously cleared recently by new athletes born from the new year. Maybe if I laugh about being new, she won’t realize I don’t know what I’m doing, I thought.

So maybe, unlike me, you’re a veteran athlete with the prowess of a cheetah; but we all have some sort of vulnerability that makes us take a step or two back. Understandably, we don’t typically volunteer our shortcomings, wounds and weaknesses – they’re the parts of ourselves we’re not proud of.

In this era of social media, we typically just see the best or most beautiful shots of others’ lives. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for gorgeous Pins on Pinterest, and I’m guilty of losing track of time on Facebook. It’s fun to see and share happiness and beauty, but with just highlights visible, it’s easy to believe that others don’t have the same struggles we do. I for one don’t like feeling uncertain or incapable, so my vulnerabilities aren’t usually out there for the world to see.

Most of us have experienced the fragility of a precious newborn. Defenseless and too weak to raise his head, a baby’s life is entrusted wholly to parents to provide everything from food to love. And it’s in this form that the mightiest being of all, the Lord Himself, came to humanity. Jesus was born vulnerable and He died the same way.

Follow my train of thought for a second: 1) As the all-powerful God, He could have chosen something a bit more impressive than a babe in a manger, but such is His divine nature. God is love and love is vulnerable. 2) Because we’re made in the image and likeness of God, we’re supposed to imitate our Creator. We’re supposed to do the best impression of the Lord that we can; therefore 3) to make ourselves vulnerable, is to imitate the Lord.

Now, the Lord doesn’t exactly have the shortcomings we imperfect people have, so this is by no means a call to cast your fragile pearls carelessly before everyone. I’ve learned in recent years that sharing my vulnerabilities with a precious few, can create a stronger bond with friends, family or even strangers when they echo the same hardships back to me. The “Me too” movement is powerful. It creates understanding, compassion, solidarity and safety all at once, which are most definitely gifts from the Lord.

Whatever your resolutions this year, don’t hesitate to share challenges with one or two trusted souls. You may find that you’re in good company, and you’ll no longer feel alone.

Keep Christ at the Center of Your Celebrations

by Katie Sciba

I sauntered through the Christmas section of a department store last year, beaming because my heart equates decorations and ornaments with bliss and glee. Ribbons, tiny pine trees and clunky wood signs were everywhere donned with reindeer and messages of “Merry & Bright.” Aisle after aisle overflowed, but it was only on a single, small rack where I found decor relevant to Jesus. Christmas has been secularized for years, I know, but more than any other year, I felt deeply bothered. The reality of God coming into the world He created is a more enormous and profound idea than our minds can comprehend. Christmas is the Lord’s birthday, yes, and also the dawn of man’s salvation. I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say we should keep Christ in Christmas, and in case you’re pragmatic like me, here’s a list of ways to do it.

1. Learn Salvation History During Advent

A fantastic way to recognize Jesus in the Christmas season is to spend Advent learning salvation history, and it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. Get your tree set up for Advent and decorate it with Jesse Tree ornaments. These special ornaments are hung one day at a time leading up to Christmas, and each has a corresponding scriptural passage about the ancestry of Jesus. Complete kits are available online, or you can sort through your own decorations to find ornaments relevant to this time-honoring tradition.

2. Give Catholic Presents

Maybe our kids are weird, but they get all giddy opening clothes as well as toys Christmas morning. We typically get them fun graphic tees featuring superheroes or fairies; but it occurred to me that our kids would relish showcasing their favorite saints on their clothes; they are, after all, real-life superheroes. Other meaningful Catholic gifts are saint medals, holy water, a blessed crucifix, art for bedrooms or living areas or a rope rosary. Or call your parish and ask for a Mass to be offered for your loved ones – the Mass card will make a perfect stocking stuffer, with out of this world perks!

3. Decorate for Advent

When it comes to big decor trends, the writing’s literally on the wall. We eat up signs with gorgeous lettering, so this year put up “Oh Holy Night” or “Glory to the Newborn King.” Display your nativity scene, heirloom or Fisher Price, and save the baby Jesus for Christmas Day. LSU fans know purple goes with everything, and it’s conveniently the same liturgical color for Advent! Deck your halls with all the purple and gold you have and you’ll see that your parish will feature the very same colors before Christmas. Trade them in for whites, reds and greens just before the Big Day to give yourself and your family a visual hint that the season has changed.

It’s time to actively underscore Christ in Christmas. Prepping our hearts with a Jesse Tree and short Bible readings, adding a touch of faith to our gifts and decorating our homes with words joyfully proclaiming Christ’s coming and birth will stir a change within us. Making exterior room for Jesus in our homes will in turn make interior room for Him within our souls. Our experience of Christmas will be happier than ever when we immerse ourselves in the “Reason for the Season.” •

 

Domestic Church: Taking Little Ones to Mass

by Katie Sciba

I have a confession to make: I haven’t always liked going to Mass. There have been some lengthy periods when the idea of going to Sunday Mass with my family made me want to head for the hills. Our kids were challenging and obnoxious in Mass, so much so that I was resolved that Andrew and I would attend Mass separately each Sunday just so we could avoid hauling our traveling circus into parish-view. We’ve received fantastic advice and insight from veteran parents that made going to Mass as a whole family not just possible, but enjoyable. It’s taken tears, fits and persistence to get us where we are, but we’re grateful for the wisdom passed to us.

1. Up your pre-game.

We’ve learned there’s no such thing as getting ready for Mass “real quick” for our family. It has to start 1 ₂ to 3 hours ahead of departure time, and it takes a divide-and-conquer approach from Andrew and me. Teamwork from us parents is a must if we want to arrive on time and stave off mutual resentment. The kids’ Mass attire is presentable, but it has to be comfortable, too. Uncomfortable shoes, pants and shirts make it hard for the kids to deliver good behavior. To avoid further disruption and tears during Mass, every child takes two trips to the bathroom an hour before and immediately prior to our departure. Though things can be pretty chaotic at our house, we try to keep Mass prep slow to avoid the stress of rushing.

2. Check and voice expectations.

Regardless of how terribly or well our preparations go, the ride to church is a behavioral pep talk. We’ve been going over the same rules every Sunday for years, and now every little Sciba can recite them. They know there won’t be any trips to the bathroom, they have to be prayerful with their bodies – folded hands and upright posture – and they have to pray along, saying the responses. Three simple rules. When our kids slip in any area, we give them a nudge and then model what we want them to remember.

3. Sit up close and talk.

This one is counter-intuitive. It’s tempting to sit toward the back in case we have to make a quick exit with a fit-thrower or potty-goer; but it turns out that kids with comfy clothes and empty bladders are more likely to behave, and with the added bonus of being able to see, the whole family has a shot at making it through Mass, sanity intact. There in the front pews the kids experience every part of the liturgy in plain sight. For our younger ones, we hold them and whisper what’s happening on the altar, “See how Fr. Dan kisses the Gospel after he reads it?” “Watch the servers when they ring the bells. They do it because Jesus is here.” We talk almost the whole Mass to our little ones learning so we can help keep them focused.
4. Respond to behavior.

For the children with angelic manners during Mass, there are stickers or check marks on a chart at home; high fives for the older ones. Whatever we use to reward, the kids get psyched for it. For the kids whose behavior needs tweaking (or revolutionizing), there is a conversation about what they need to work on with follow-through the next Sunday. Really bad behavior gets bigger discipline.

Above all, the biggest, most important tip I’ve received was to KEEP GOING. Practically speaking, parents and kids need consistent practice for behavior and experiences to improve; but even setting this aside, there is nothing more powerful than bringing our families before God. Wild kids will at least be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, as well as their tried and tired parents. The Lord sees our persistence, our struggles and victories with our families, and loves us in both.

Domestic Church: Help Us, Lord! We’re Sinking!

by Katie Sciba

My friend texted me, “Pleading for prayers for my husband,” she began, “All these scandals in the Church have shaken him up and he’s got one foot out the door of the Church.” Unfortunately it wasn’t the only message like this I received. Another friend called upset saying she knew an abuse victim in a diocese out of state; still another said her dear friend and favorite priest was removed from ministry to be investigated.

The present crisis in the Catholic Church is like a cancer; some way or another, it touches all of us in the Body of Christ.

My emotions have run all over the place: anger, disbelief, deep sadness, fear for what will happen to the remaining faithful. At times I’m sure that whatever the future holds, all will be well for the Church that’s been protected for 2,000+ years by the Holy Spirit; however, I have moments when my confidence is more like the disciples’ caught in a storm on the sea, “Help us, Lord! We’re sinking!”

Though the Lord lay sleeping, wasn’t He there with His frightened friends? While the scandals rock the Church at large, Jesus remains; only now the vessel caught in upheaval is the universal Catholic community, and Christ is still, yet present in the Eucharist.

I was in the grocery store when a young man, a stranger to me, approached and invited me to his church’s Bible study. Smiling, I declined saying I was already in one. His friendly expression fell when I told him I was Catholic. He was quick to ask if I had seen the news lately, and he reminded me of the deeply-rooted and widespread scandal in my Church. “You have to be looking for a new church home. How can you stay Catholic?” he asked, almost to himself. “I’m Catholic because of Jesus,” I replied.

God moves and loves us through others – especially through the leaders in our Church; still, though leaders fall or fail, though we may lose faith in people, it’s paramount that we keep our faith in Christ, who is after all, the very reason any of us are Catholic.

And in any moment when we struggle to trust in God’s wisdom, think back. Not only has He upheld the Catholic Church as a whole, He’s upheld us in personally trying circumstances. Psalm 143 says, “I muse on what your hand has wrought” — how has the Lord outstretched His hand and given grace the very minute we need it? How has He supported us each when we’re burdened? A mother of a young abuse victim told me that it was reading scripture, especially the words of Jesus, that kept her and her family in Mass.

The epic drama within the Catholic Church will not likely conclude quickly, but we can allow ourselves to be still and know God, who has forever upheld the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so. We can proceed bravely into the unknown armed with hope and certainty in the Eucharist. Above all we have to pray, offer sacrifices in the day, and penance for victims of abuse, for conversions of abusers, for faithful priests and laity to support the truth with humility and peace.