Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Wash


Family faith expert Tom McGrath, offers a generous collection of easy tips and tools to help Catholic families realize a spiritual path, and to help parents inspire virtue, discipline, and hope in their children. Writing from personal experience and drawing from the experiences of others, McGrath—a father of two grown daughters—shows fellow parents how to bring faith into everyday family life through […]

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Cry

Female support

“Jesus wept.” This short verse in John’s Gospel always moves me. Because Jesus is both God and man,
he reveals the nature of God in a way we humans can witness and understand. When Jesus learned of the death of his dear friend Lazarus, he was overcome by tears and revealed the compassionate nature of God. God feels our pain and accompanies us in our sorrows. Life in a family involves moments of sadness, loss, or grief. Sometimes we may feel alone in our sorrow, but God is always close. As Jesus revealed and the mystic Meister Eckhart proclaimed, “Whatever God does, the rst outburst is always compassion.” Bring your sadness, loss, or grief and o er it to God who knows your heart and longs to comfort you in your sorrow. —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Accept

Portrait of affectionate family of four in isolation

A lot of the suffering I have known has come from failing to practice acceptance. Acceptance is neither resignation nor throwing in the towel. It is not a passive stance. Instead, it is taking the irrefutable step of saying yes to what is, rather than wishing for something else. Once we say yes to life on life’s terms, we give ourselves the power to choose our response and allow God enough room to act in the situation. Let us pray: “God, I know that this situation is difficult and disheartening. But I will not lose hope. I will rise to this challenge, knowing that even my smallest efforts will be outmatched by your desire for my well-being. Help me accept what is, so that I will be open to discovering with you what will be.” —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Serve

Mother assisting daughter in washing plate in kitchen at home

Research shows that children whose parents volunteer to help others are far more likely to volunteer when they grow up. My mother has inspired her children and grandchildren in this way for decades. She coordinated
so many events at the parish when I was growing up that we began to think that setting up tables and chairs was the Eleventh Commandment. Now in her 80s, Mom continues to volunteer—working with young people with special needs, washing and ironing the altar cloths, and working an afternoon each week at the thrift store that supports the local hospital. Here are two questions to add to your prayer before meals that will inspire your family to serve now and in the future: What am I grateful for today? Whom did I help today? —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Sort

Mother assisting daughter in washing plate in kitchen at home

Parents spend a lot of time sorting. We sort the laundry and the silverware, toys and coupons, junk mail and bills. We sort through which invitations and opportunities will make it onto the family calendar and which ones we’ll decline. There’s often too much to do, and it can be hard to keep sane. So how do you decide how your family will spend its precious time and energy? Jesus says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God,” which means put God’s will in the center of your life. Prudence, the virtue that helps us make decisions based on wisdom rather than impulse, can help you sort. When your family is feeling overbooked, exercise prudence by asking, “Which activities bring us closer to one another and to Christ, and which simply make us busy?” —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Witness


While driving on the expressway, a driver cut me off . Impulsively, I voiced my opinion of his character. Suddenly from the back seat, my two-year-old daughter repeated the nasty word I’d just spoken. I was shocked to realize
just how closely my daughter was watching me. Before I despaired over all the i y behaviors I’d exhibited in front of her, I decided to focus on the good behaviors I had modeled: praying before meals, speaking respectfully to her mother, singing enthusiastically at Mass, helping our elderly neighbor with yard work, readily forgiving others in the family, and speaking respectfully of people of other races and faiths. Every parent makes an occasional blunder in front of his or her child. But what positive values are you displaying day in and day out? —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Open

Close up of father holding his daughter hand, so sweet,family time.

It’s a painful day when your child comes home from school or play feeling broken-hearted and betrayed by friends. His or her natural reaction— and sometimes ours—is likely to become angry and spiteful. Your child may stop trusting because it’s easy for a heart to harden. But Jesus calls us to live openheartedly, ready to reconcile, trust, and forgive. That’s a tough lesson to master, but one that is at the very heart of being a disciple of Jesus (“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass”). We parents do our children no favors when we encourage resentment or spite. Instead, through our words and especially our example, we can invite them to the deeper satisfaction of living with hearts that are open to trust, forgiveness, and love. —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Close


When my daughters were little, we had a ritual every evening to put away their toys. They’d scurry around, gather up their items, and bring them to me where I knelt beside the toy box. As they’d bring each beloved plaything, I’d open the lid, and we’d each say, “Good night, block,” or “Good night, Noah’s ark,” and then they’d place that toy in the box. This ritual was a way of helping them wind down while bringing the evening to a close. Endings matter in a family—even the end of an ordinary day. They deserve a bit of care. Small endings handled well prepare our children for bigger endings, such as friends moving, getting cut from a team, or losing a loved pet or family member. Pay attention to endings, and give them their due. —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Continue

Close-up portrait of sweet newborn baby sleeping quietly in male arms. Indoor shot, concept image

I remember the day we brought our eldest daughter, Judy, home from the hospital. As I held my newborn
daughter, I felt tremendous peace and joy. And then she started to cry. Immediately I had two thoughts: First, shouldn’t there be someone here who knows what they’re doing? And second, I became terri ed with the realization that I was o cially on parent duty for the rest of my life. Becoming a parent changes your identity forever. You are for now and always this child’s mom or dad. This is an enormous privilege and an enormous responsibility. The trick is to “just keep showing up”—to begin each day with a prayer that I can provide what my children need and the commitment to, as best I can, do what love requires. —Tom McGrath

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time: Believe


You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “Seeing is believing.” It conveys a “doubting Thomas” brand of suspicion as in “I won’t believe it until I see the proof.” But Jesus had a different take. He tells us, “Believing is seeing!” The act of believing—that is, opening our hearts and losing our fears—can help us see that something better is possible in our present situation, no matter how dire it may seem. The very act of putting our trust and belief in the power of God opens our eyes to all sorts of possibilities, and that is certainly true in our families. With the eyes of faith, we parents can better see that God is at work in our home, helping us to be faithful, loving, generous, and, sometimes, even wise. —Tom McGrath

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