What will you leave behind?

By Charla Spalluto Misse

Oct. 22 was the Feast Day of Pope St. John Paul II. Being a saint of modern time, his prolific teachings and far-reaching efforts profoundly touched the lives of most Catholics today.
I remember his visit to New Orleans in 1987. While most youth encountered him when he spoke at the Superdome, I was blessed to perform in a Student Papal Choir when he visited the University of New Orleans (UNO).
If you were at UNO that day, surely, you remember the severity of the sun followed by a deluge of rain. And then, you remember, by the grace of God, the rain stopping just when the Pope began to speak.

The Holy Spirit’s presence was resounding on that miraculous day.
As I read the “Saint of the Day” summary on his feast day, I learned that Pope St. John Paul II’s deeply religious father played an important role in his spiritual formation after his mother’s death when he was 8 years old.
Of all the outstanding moments and defining achievements recounted of this great man’s life, that one sentence kept coming back to my mind throughout the day.

Many parents sacrifice significant time, energy and money on their children’s academic, cultural and athletic development; it is admirable and selfless – a parent’s calling.
I do this like so many others, but had recently realized that, simply, without faith, there is no hope. I had been moved to more greatly devote myself to my family’s spiritual development.
I thought to myself, if I were gone, what would I leave behind?
I can’t imagine a better legacy than to give my child unwavering faith that will carry him through life’s certain challenges. The faith that there is a reason for the rain and that Almighty God in his power and wisdom will stop the rain at the right time.

The Gratitude Tree

By Dawn Cusimano

With Thanksgiving coming up soon, I was reminded of a precious family craft that we were blessed to learn about last year and adopt called the “Gratitude Tree.” It was quick and easy to make, and only cost us pennies and some good, old-fashioned quality time.

First, we found a few bare branches in our backyard and situated them inside a vase.

Next, we cut some colored paper to look like fall leaves and punched a hole in each one so that we could loop a piece of string through it.

We then sat together on the rug in our living room and took turns sharing the blessings that we were thankful by writing them on the “leaves.”

My husband and I even added a few extra messages expressing gratitude for things about each other to find later.

Our sweet little “tree” project graced the kitchen table where we shared our family meals and reminded us daily of God’s goodness.

Savor Your Grandchildren

By Christine Bordelon

There’s nothing sweeter in the morning than being woken up by your 9-year-old grandchild singing and telling you she made breakfast for both of us.

She has learned, from being “my little cooking helper,” how to toast a waffle, make hot tea with lemon and chocolate milk all on her own.

That’s what my Marley does in the morning on the days she sleeps at my house and wakes up at 6:30 a.m. before I get out of bed.
Of course, I hear everything she does, so I know she’s ok.

She’ll come in my room, like I go in hers, singing “Wake up, wake up you sleepy head. Get up, get up get out of bed …” from the song “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along.”

My mom used to sing it to my son – her father. She has been gone now 22 years, so it’s a nice memory and carrying on of a tradition every time she sings it to me and I to her.

With grandchildren, you tend to spoil them a little more than your children.

I know that I’ve tried to be a little more patient, although that can be challenging since kids today just come out smart and sassy from the get-go.

With 31- and 24-year-old adult children, I have recognized how fast the time has flown by since they were children.

We must cherish the time with our new, littles ones while we can before they become grown-ups, too.

Tough Days

By Stacy LaMorte

We all have them: Tough days.  We have those days where nothing seems to go our way.

So, as Catholic parents, how do we teach our kids that these are normal and even necessary in our lives?

What I have found with my kids is that listening is the first course of action.  And I mean really listening – stopping what you are doing when you can and really giving them your undivided attention.

In our noisy, busy world, sometimes a child just needs to feel like he or she is not alone and that someone will take the time to really hear him or her.

I tell my kids that there are few things that a walk around the block or a cup of tea (or both!) can’t fix. There is something about the ritual of a cup of tea that makes old-fashioned sense of things.

Taking a walk together is really a great way to get a little fresh air, a little sunshine and some endorphins to help your child feel better.

Living close to Lake Pontchartrain gives us a perfect kind of route there and back which usually gives us enough time to work through things.

The beauty and expanse of the lake also allows me to think more openly and appreciate the greatness of God’s splendor (almost like a mini-beach vacation!)

Above all, as Catholics, we need to help our kids understand that God has a perfect plan for this hour, this day and this life.

Just because it doesn’t go the way we planned, it doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it and try to learn from God’s way.

Our Father does know best, after all.

How do you help your kids deal with those tough days?

Why My Son Opens Doors for Women

By Ana Borden

While dating my husband, we often cooked together, recreating meals from dining experiences as well as grocery shopping together.

Following the first meal we cooked together, I served his plate first. He was silent for a moment but then followed with, “I can serve myself.”

I had watched the women in my life serve all their loved ones first before themselves – it was a sign of respect and a cultural difference I had not noticed until that moment.

Of course he could serve his own plate, but my instinct was to serve him before myself.

This is one reason I have taught our son to hold doors for women. It is not because I think women need to have doors opened for them as a sign of weakness, but out of respect.

Could you imagine a world where you put the needs and care of others first before your own?

Jump forward a decade and a half later, and my husband and I instinctively take turns serving each other and our little one’s dinner plates every night.

How do you show respect and God’s grace to your loved ones?

God Will Give You Everything You Need (Psalm 23:1-3)

By Kristy Solis

Universally, we are all tired.  Parenting is a full-time job with a full schedule of its own.

If you are like me, it is not your only duty.

Whenever I feel weary, I reflect and ask the Lord, “Have I lost my way? Is this the path you created for me?”

The answer may be “keep moving” or “this is the way.”

I have learned that a full schedule is a blessing, if what fills it has a purpose.

As my children grow, I sense when they are tired.  I remind them “God will give you everything you need, not what you want.”

My girls used to ask me all the time, when will we have a baby brother? And I would tell them God gave me everything I ever needed with the two of them.

One day, my oldest daughter said, “Maybe God thinks you need another child.“

Guess what? I could not argue that God will decide what I need and what my family needs.

Let us pray to the Lord, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, and he refreshes my soul.”

We Shall Find Our Little Ones Again Up Above…

By Casey Sprehe

After finding out we were pregnant in 2016, I told my husband not to tell anyone which, for us, is weird.

For us, a part of being pro-life is telling people when we are pregnant right away, acknowledging the fullness of the person from day 1.

I was uneasy this time, though.

For the previous week had found me awake twice at night with bad dreams – both about miscarrying a baby.

I’m, in general, an anxious person, so Kevin brushed me off a bit (warranted, given my track record). But not willing to upset a hormonal wife, he acquiesced.

Two weeks later, I miscarried.

Sometimes, I get so caught up in the day-to-day of life, that I forget there is a God up there who loves me intimately and acts closely in my life. He ordained the moment to lift the veil between heaven and earth and prepare me for the loss of our baby.

During the miscarriage, I had a very strong sense of the presence of St. Benedict. We got engaged at the St. Joseph Abbey. I spent many summers there as a kid, so it wasn’t entirely foreign. I just sat with the moments when they came and asked for his intercession.

When Kevin came home from work that evening, I shared with him that God had placed the name, Benedict, on my heart. With chills on his arms, he turned to me and said, “I got the same name.”

The Benedictine motto is “ora et labora,  or in English “work and labor.” I was praying; Kevin was working.

God was intimately acting.

Joy in the Chaos

By Sarah McDonald

This weekend was one of those weekends. Between having to take shifts at the soccer fields all day Saturday, the kids seemingly doing everything in their power to annoy one another (and us), and my husband and I both fighting off those colds that hit you when you are just tired and worn down.

By Saturday night, I was already done.

Then came Sunday evening.

The kids started to get along, because they would rather do anything than clean their rooms, so we were on the right track.

I realized that all seven of us were in the kitchen, each doing our own “job” to prepare dinner, even if that role was to sit in the rock ‘n play quietly smiling so mom can slice the onions.

There was lots of noise, there was a lot of action, and there were a lot of smiles.

Everyone was happy. In that moment I was filled with joy in the midst of our chaos, and, in that moment, I stopped to give thanks to God for my family and our own grace-filled chaos.

Primary Vocation is at Home

By Kevin Sprehe

A daily difficulty I face is turning off work. My life, what I do and how I need to think and operate does a 180-degree flip as soon as I walk through my doors.

How I relate to a coworker or client just isn’t the same as when I interact with my kids or my wife who has had a full day with four little kids.

How do I turn off the work version of me and turn on the husband and dad version so quickly?

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. Whether you have a five-minute commute or an hour, I’ve found that time between work and home is crucial.  Make it a priority to get any last thoughts, stresses, frustrations and to-do items out of your mind.

Personally, I run through those items in my head on the way home. Then, I hit this point on the way home where the speed limit goes from 35 mph to 20 mph. It is precisely at this point that I am given the reminder to, literally, slow down and to give it all over to God.

Those items can wait until the next morning. If they can’t, maybe, it’s time to ask yourself if you are in the right profession as a dad of little kids.

For many dads, our time with our kids is quite restricted, so when the evening time occurs, let it be restricted to them alone.

My priority has to shift to my home where my primary vocation truly lies.  I remind myself that I am responsible for the other five souls in this house, and the way I come home and respond to them can have lasting impacts on them.

God will likely not care as much about the amount of emails I send out each day or the buildings I complete.  He will more likely judge the way I love and serve my wife and the time and love I give to my children.

Who Are You?

By Leslie Bertucci

“If you are what you should be you will set the world on fire!”

This quote from St. Catherine of Siena has always been one of my favorites.

In my experience with youth ministry as well as with parenting, one of my greatest goals has been to show the kids who they really are, who God created them to be.

But this is easier said than done.

So many people today, especially young people, hang their identity on what they do rather than who they are. Or worse, they base it on other people’s opinions, which are often negative.

To these kids, I just want to speak these lines of a poem I wrote several years ago:

Maybe we all need to hear it again.

Maybe the last time was, I don’t know when.

It just needs to sink in again and again like a song:

We are beautiful, we’re beloved, we belong

To the Father who made us.

We are beautiful, we’re beloved, we belong.

The simple truth is this: Each of us is a beloved child of God. Before we are a mother or father, son or daughter, spouse, student, artist, athlete, gamer, writer, doctor, lawyer, laborer or friend. Our core identity lies in Christ.

As soon as we realize this, we will set the world on fire.

Come Holy Spirit, show us who we really are.

Answering God’s Call

By Ty Salvant

Like many families, when our oldest was 3, we began looking at schools. We gathered information on early childhood programs and potential schools for children his age.

When considering what was offered, I wasn’t drawn to any of the options for various reasons and eventually contemplated homeschooling.

When I proposed the topic to my husband, Derrick, he was hesitant. His initial concerns included socialization, my commitment to the process and his example for our kids.

After reading several books on homeschooling and praying for guidance, we had a few more conversations. I acknowledged and addressed Derrick’s concerns.

Fortunately, homeschooling has changed over the past 30-plus years, and parents no longer homeschool in isolation. Quite the opposite. There are so many groups, co-ops, classes and opportunities to interact with other kids during the day that it can be a struggle to make time for academics!

I have many passions, and I’m always drawn to the next new thing, so wondering about my commitment was valid.

The compromise we made was to reevaluate the decision on an annual basis to ensure that we were both satisfied with the progress that we were making.

Finally, regarding his example, we discussed that school doesn’t necessarily change personalities. He was quiet when he started and finished school, and I was quite the opposite. Neither of our school experiences changed who we were as individuals.

When Derrick and I married and talked about our future, homeschooling was not on the radar. AT ALL! However, I am so happy I answered God’s call, as it has been one of the biggest blessings to our family.