Prayer of St. Francis For Parents

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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace in my home:

Where there is fighting between siblings, help me to remind them
     of their love for each other;
Where there are hurt feelings, help me to show their little hearts
     how to forgive;
Where there is negative self-talk, help me to remind them
     of the wisdom of their Creator;
Where there is discouragement in school work or relationships,
     help me to show them there is always someone to care and help;
Where there is darkness threatening to consume their hearts and minds,
     help me to be aware of its presence and know how to get them
     the help they need;
Where there are tears flowing freely, help me to always take the time
     to offer a shoulder and a tissue.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
a break at the end of a long day as to give someone else the comfort
     and rest they need,
to have my feelings heard as to listen to the tender feelings
     of my children,
to be openly admired and thanked as to shower small acts of love
     on my family.

For it is in lovingly preparing a home cooked meal that we receive
     true spiritual nourishment,
it is in forgiving the short tempers of tired, hungry children
     that we are forgiven our own bursts of impatience,
and it is in giving just a little more love at the end of the day–when we
     think we have nothing left to give–that we move one step closer
     to heaven.

  Amen.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Rush Of Angels’ Wings

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This week, our family chose to focus on the chapter on angels from Feeding Your Family’s Soul.

This subject instantly captivated my children. They were fascinated with the varying strengths of three of the archangels, and they loved coming up with all of the different ways their own guardian angels help and protect them throughout their days. And our conversations on the recent feast of the archangels and feast of the Holy Guardian Angels highlighted another strength of O’Boyle’s book: that you can pick and choose from the 53 different chapters, lining them up with a coinciding feast day or liturgical season.

As my children and I work our way through the many facets of our Catholic faith, they are growing in understanding of the power of God and His Church. They saw this week that they don’t have to rely only on their parents, teachers, or other authority figures for protection and guidance. There is Someone much bigger watching over them, and He has a multitude of helpers assisting Him. The angels are constantly fighting the battle of good and evil for us. And while they may not always be able to eliminate evil altogether, they are sure to always rush in and carry us through it.

Whether protecting us from bodily harm, guiding us from temptation, or escorting us to our heavenly home, the angels are always there. In the midst of even the greatest tragedies, you can hear the rush of angels’ wings.

This was the lesson we all learned this week. That a power greater than ourselves will never forsake us. That the trials of this world, however horrific, are passing, and the angels are committed to leading us through to that upon which our gaze should always be fixed: our eternal home in heaven.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Soul Project Week 5: The Consecrated Life–A Life For Everyone

Rob and Owen beatification banner

“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” Those are the words of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest from a farm in Oklahoma. A priest who, in his own quiet way, persisted through his struggles with Latin to become a priest, listened to God’s calling to fulfill a mission in Guatemala, and ultimately laid down his life for the Church and those he served.

This past weekend, my husband and my 13-year-old son traveled to Oklahoma City to attend the beatification Mass for Fr. Rother. My husband and I were hoping it would inspire our son, and give him some interesting substance for a school project.

Even though they arrived at the convention center early, throngs of people were lined up outside the doors. The convention center was full, and as my husband and son entered the lobby area, they were told that even the overflow seating was filled to capacity. There were probably 17,000 people seated in the convention center, and my husband guessed that at least 2,000 were turned away.

At first, this was a huge disappointment. But my husband tried to make the best of it and enjoyed some time with our son. They visited the Oklahoma City National Bombing Memorial and a science museum. And even though the original intent of the trip had fallen through, we realized that our son had been inspired. He was inspired by the crowds of people who wanted to witness a saint being made. He saw for himself the impact that a person who has fully committed his life to God can make.

My son saw the impact of a life of consecration that weekend–both in Fr. Rother and in my husband.

One of the compelling elements of Fr. Rother’s story is that he is an “ordinary martyr”. He grew up as a small farm boy in a family that simply practiced their faith–a family who knelt beside their modest dining table every night after dinner and prayed the Rosary–a family who worked hard, but also never failed to pray hard. But it was this simple life of devotion that led to the crown of martyrdom when the persecutions in Guatemala brought extremists to the bedside of Fr. Rother. It was this simple life of devotion that brought Fr. Rother back to Guatemala, even after a brief escape back to Oklahoma when he learned he was on a “death list” in his mission territory.

While my husband and I fortunately don’t live in mission territory under such severe persecution, we do have daily battles to face. Over-committed schedules, exhaustion, homework, and illness threaten our family’s prayer life. The pulls of worldly pleasures and technology threaten our focus on God. And, at times, we even feel deterred from the “good things” we try to do–like attend beatification Masses.

But, as Fr. Rother said, “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” As parents, we are here to shepherd our children–to guide them into the safety of the chosen flock in heaven. We cannot run. Even when it is difficult, even when we don’t feel like it, even when we fail, we must get up again. We must return to our mission territory of our children’s hearts and face whatever awaits us there.

That is what I saw my husband do this past weekend, and that is what my son saw him do. They may have felt the loss of a small battle in missing the beatification Mass, but my husband stayed committed to his life of consecration–that of husband and father. And that was all the inspiration my son truly needed.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Soul Project Week 4: Humility

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“Sometimes God allows [the devil] to cause some obstacles to hinder our work, especially when we are working for the salvation of souls.” –Fr. Andrew Apostoli, Fatima For Today

“Be the kind of woman who, when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says “Oh, no! She’s up.” –Joanne Clancy 

Do you know how much the devil would love to have your children’s souls? And how much he would love to have your help in acquiring them?

As parents, we are in a daunting business. The business of saving souls. No one is more aware of this than the devil. He loves to tempt us away from our duty. To fill us with discouragement, with feelings of doubt and inadequacy. He loves nothing more than to see us allow the family Rosary to go by the wayside for a week, or to feel so frustrated and exhausted by the end of the bedtime routine that we forgo bedtime prayers.

I’ve certainly felt the devil’s pull this week. The temptation to give up. The thoughts that I’m not good enough, or that nothing I try to teach my children will really make a difference anyway.

But when I have thoughts like that, I have to remind myself of their source. I have to remind myself of the objective truth that instructing my children in the faith is worthy of pursuit, whether I feel like it or not. And so, even though our family didn’t all quite make it to the table together every single night this week, and even though I felt like I was at the end of my rope some evenings, I still opened Feeding Your Family’s Soul and tried my best to have a faith filled conversation with my family.

We learned together about St. Catherine Laboure and her visions and instructions for casting the Miraculous Medal. We marveled at her humility and persistence. She didn’t boast to others about her visions of Mary. And she didn’t give up when even her confessor didn’t believe her. It takes true humility not to boast, and it takes true humility to speak the truth when it is difficult. It is through humility that we veil our gifts from pride even while the glory of God can’t help but shine through.

This week, our family supplemented the wonderful discussion questions in O’Boyle’s book with points from a little handbook called How to be Somebody: Cultivating the Interior Garden FULL CONTACT by Mark Mendes. I adapted questions from this book for my children to ponder, such as: “Do you think that what you do or say is better than what others do or say?” and “Do you think that all your talents, gifts, and qualities are all yours and are not on loan by the Merciful Savior?” and “Do you frequently interrupt people while they are speaking?”

It is especially on the days that are the hardest that God will reward our efforts to teach our children. It takes humility to return to prayer when we’ve fallen away. It takes humility to apologize for an impatient outburst and ask our family for a second chance. It  takes humility to rise each morning, prepared to fight the devil, knowing that we can only do that by relying fully on God.

Humility allows us to empty ourselves and make space for God. As our family studied this virtue together, I was reminded of its importance–and the importance of gently reprimanding my children when they are less than humble. While some are more naturally humble than others, I think it is a lifelong process for everyone to turn themselves completely over to God’s will. Hopefully, in time, my family and I can all help each other to model ourselves after the humility of the Holy Family. And when our feet hit the floor each morning the devil will say, “Oh no! They’re up!”

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Soul Project Week 3: Finding Our Little Way

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”

–St. Therese of Lisieux, as quoted in Feeding Your Family’s Soul by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

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It can be far too easy to forget how much God loves us. In a world that favors noise over silence, doing over being, and distraction over recollection, the still, small voice of wisdom gets lost. The heart that burns for us is neglected, and the One who thirsts for us remains parched.

But over the last week, as my family and I learned about St. Therese and her Little Way, we saw God’s love re-emerge as a mainstream topic. Perhaps God wasn’t always mentioned by name in a newscast, and we never saw Jesus Himself walking amongst the crowds in the hurricane shelters, but everyone felt it. The love. The great love that was evident in so many small acts.

Surely it was Christ’s pierced hands that passed out water bottles to displaced hurricane victims. Surely it was Christ’s pierced feet that walked through the saturated rubble to help a neighbor salvage possessions. And surely it was Christ’s pierced head that organized rescue missions, initiated supply drives, and counted money to be donated.

This week, we were reminded that the simplest acts are what pull us together. We were reminded that a glass of water, hot meal, and a smile, when given with great love and true compassion, break all boundaries.

We learned to give love, and we learned to receive love. Even in the midst of pain and suffering, we remembered that we are loved. Because especially when all else is lost, we finally learn that it is only the love of God that satisfies.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Soul ProjectWeek 2: Blessed Are They

rosary and burlap photo with wordsThis week around the dinner table, our family has been discussing the Beatitudes. In Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book, Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality, she gives us a list of the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the  kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3-10)

According to O’Boyle’s book, the word beatitude means “a state of deep joy and happiness”. So my challenge has been to explain to my children how things like persecution, mourning, and poverty will make them happy.

The secret is in the seeking.

We must teach our children, both by word and example, a zeal for the faith–a burning desire to bring others closer to Christ. I found I was asking myself things like, “Do my children see me praying often enough? Do I talk frequently with them about how to speak up for what they believe in? Do I find ways for them to actively live out the Beatitudes?”

This week, our family focused on two of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” and “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied”.

One of our dear school teachers lost her husband this week after a long, hard battle with cancer. Discussing his passing in light of the Beatitudes gave my children a deeper understanding of the importance of comforting and praying for their teacher and her husband. Our whole family attended the Rosary–something I might not have normally had the courage to do with all six kids!  But the simple teaching in O’Boyle’s book helped even our youngest children to understand that praying the Rosary was a way to provide comfort to a friend who was mourning.

The second Beatitude we focused on, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” sparked an especially good conversation point with my 13-year-old. I had heard recently from a mom-friend that some students in my teenage son’s Catholic school class were talking about abortion and suggesting that it was acceptable. My friend and I weren’t totally sure where this idea was coming from, or how many students were talking about it, but it made me realize that my husband and I need to be having the abortion conversation with our children before their peers do!

It’s so easy to assume that when our children attend Catholic school, go to Mass regularly, and associate with other Catholic families, that they “just know” where the Church stands on big issues like abortion. But we, as parents, need to teach them these principles. My husband and I try to foster a culture of life within our home and family, but our children still need to hear Church teaching clearly in conversation with us.

My son said he hadn’t heard any talk about abortion from his classmates, but I still started a conversation with him about the gravity of abortion and how important it is to speak up if you ever hear anyone condoning it.

Pro-life activist Monica Miller told a story in one of her talks at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference this summer. She was getting ready to board a plane when she spotted someone who had a notorious career as an abortionist just feet away from her. She said she wasn’t sure what to say to him, but she knew she had to say something. She walked up to him, handed him her recently published pro-life book (Abandoned: The Untold Story Of The Abortion Wars), and simply told him that he had to stop what he was doing. Perhaps she hadn’t convinced him to change his ways by the end of their conversation, but what courage! She couldn’t NOT say anything! And hopefully she planted a small seed of conversion in his heart.

These are the types of children we need to be raising. After all, they are the next generation of voices for the voiceless. When my children are tempted to remain silent or are fearful of how others will respond, I want them to feel like Jeremiah when he was tempted not to speak of Jesus: “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” (Jer 20:9)

It should be more difficult for our children to remain silent about Jesus than to speak of Him. This is the seeking that will make them happy in spite of persecution. This is the purpose that will drive them even when their goal seems impossible. A discontent with sin will motivate them to seek what truly satisfies–to comfort those who mourn, to fight for justice for the most vulnerable, and to restlessly pursue the rest of the Beatitudes until, one day, their hearts finally rest in God.

Copyright Charisse Tierney 2017

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The Soul Project: Week 1

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It started with the bickering. It was the first Monday of the school year, and the day was already feeling long when I picked my children up from school.  Tensions escalated as we approached the dinner hour. My 8-year-old daughter erupted over something and stormed down the hallway, slamming the door to her room. I breathed a sigh of relief when my husband got home from work, took our fussy baby, and distracted the other children from all of their arguing. My 8-year-old finally emerged from her room and seemed to have cooled down a little, and I was able to resume dinner preparations in a rare moment of peace.

But just when I thought our evening was looking up, the baby spit up all over my husband while simultaneously creating a toxic waste of a diaper. My four-year-old, having witnessed all of this, promptly walked into the kitchen and threw up all over the floor. And it was at about this time that my husband and I realized our 13-year-old had slinked off to play video games without permission.

So…put baby and four-year-old into the bath, discipline the 13-year-old, console the 8-year-old, all while yelling at my 6-year-old to “Stay out of the kitchen until I can clean up the throw-up!” Dear God, please don’t let anyone else throw up!

As I mopped up the mess, I looked at the book on my kitchen counter and remembered. This was going to be The Night. The night we sat down to a peaceful family dinner and started the prayers and conversation starters in the book Feeding Your Family’s Soul : Dinner Table Spirituality by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.

In the midst of a busy family life, there never seems to be an ideal time to intentionally teach our children about our faith. We attend Mass, but it’s often a panicked rush out the door during which we realize that someone is missing their shoes. We pray before bed, but the raspberry-blowing baby has everyone giggling the entire time. We sit down for a family Rosary, but the tired toddler is screaming and using the Rosary for anything but sacred prayer. I want to read stories of the saints to my children, but between homework, piano practice, and bedtime exhaustion…when?!?

Maybe the chaos is a blessing in disguise. As a family, if we are going to live our faith, we have no choice but to act on it during the messiest times of life. We have to squeeze bits and pieces of focused discussion and instruction in when we can, and use the rest of our time to actually live our faith. We have to practice patience with each other when we’re all tired and hungry. We have to take a few minutes to set aside a portion of our family’s meal to share with someone in need. And we have to take advantage of time in the car together to pray a decade of the Rosary.

We’re living the missionary life in the heart of our domestic church. And Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book is a help-mate along the way.

So, after I cleaned up the throw-up last Monday evening, I finished getting ready to feed my family’s bodies, and then I grabbed Feeding Your Family’s Soul and prepared to do just that. I want my children to know their faith; I want them to always embrace the Church and her teachings; I want them to become saints and get to heaven. But those things will be much more difficult to achieve if I don’t take consistent steps to help them.

Feeding Your Family’s Soul gives our family simple steps to follow–steps that seemed simple and do-able even after an especially chaotic afternoon. In each of the 53 chapters of her book, Donna-Marie gives a short dinner time prayer, a brief lesson on an aspect of our Catholic faith, some points from a related saint, and a plan to put the lesson into action over the next week. There are also some fun recipes to try with your family. It’s easy. It’s flexible. And it works! The discussion questions have opened up lively conversation at our dinner table, while also giving us focused, Christ-centered reflection. Sometimes my children have a lot to say in answer to the reflection questions  at dinner time. Other times, they bring up an idea for carrying out the “dinner table teaching” long after the dishes have been washed and put away.

The purpose of the book is already evident in the climate of our home. Most evenings, we only get around to briefly discussing one reflection question, but it sets the tone for our actions for the entire week.

My goal is to work through all of the chapters in Feeding Your Family’s Soul over the next year. Watch for more “Soul Project” posts as I chronicle our successes and learning moments while we grow in our faith.

Copyright Charisse Tierney 2017

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