Satan is the father of lies, clever yet deceitful, hating God and all God loves. He leads the charge in the spiritual battle that exists for our souls, opposing God at every turn and trying to turn us against Him. yet, God has given us a glimpse of Satan’s playbook in the first three chapters of Genesis so we can better know our enemy and recognize some of the ways he has continued attacking humanity since the beginning.
The Sacredness of Creation and dignity of man
In the beginning, God created all things good. God blessed the living creatures (Genesis 1:22) as well as man (1:28), revealing the sacredness of all life. To man, God gave dominion over the living things (1:26f), demonstrating the hierarchy of life. man was also a unique creation in the material world as he was made in the image and likeness of God (1:26), being given the gifts of reason and free will. God breathed His own life into man (2:7), further elevating the dignity of the human person and bestowing into man His own divine life.
Man and Woman—For marriage and Family
In the creation narrative, the only time God says something “is not good” was when man was alone. God revealed man was created to be a social creature but the relationship with animals was not adequate. The relief for man’s solitude was another human and particularly a woman (Genesis 2:18f). To be in a relationship with this woman, man had to be willing to give up everything for her, even giving his own life in loving protection. With His consent, God formed woman from the side of man—not from his head to be superior to him, nor from his feet to be subjugated to him (2:21-24). They then formed an indissoluble covenant with each other (becoming one flesh). This relationship was not one of pride, selfishness, egotism, possession or subjection. It was to revolve around love, not lust (2:25).
Made for Communion with God
In the Garden, God walked with Adam and Eve (3:8), revealing a harmonious friendship. This relationship with God was what man was ultimately made for, but God wanted this communion to continue for all eternity. For man to fulfill his purpose, he only needed to respond to God’s love with love. Wanting to illuminate the path for man to achieve this, God gave man a few laws, not acting as a dictator but as a loving Father (2:18). These commands were:
◗ Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over it (1:28).
◗ Man was to guard and labor in the Garden of Eden (2:15).
◗ They were given access to everything in the Garden of eden with one exception; they were not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or else they would die (2:16-17; 3:2-3).
Losing Trust and the Slippery Slope of Sin
Genesis then shows how Satan cleverly and deceptively entered into the life of this first man and woman (3:1), hoping to lead them to doubt God and His loving plan (3:5). In their interaction, the devil immediately distorts God’s truths (3:1), implying God is a liar (3:4-5). Satan insinuated God was restricting their access to goodness, pleasure, power, wisdom and the fullness of life (3:4-6). Satan distorts the nature of God and the truth of who God created man to be. Satan wants them to revolt so he tries to convince Adam and eve that God is a despot. Satan prods the pride, selfishness, greed and envy within man, telling them there is something they deserve to have (to be like God) that God is withholding from them (3:5).
Satan also demonstrates that part of his plan of attack is to destroy their relationship with each other. First, he humiliates Adam by the sheer fact of his presence in the garden because this indicates a failure in Adam to lay down his life in loving protection of eve. Then, even though both Adam and eve are present in the garden, the serpent isolates them by speaking only to eve (3:1).
Satan also tries to manipulate Adam and eve by convincing them there are no negative consequences to their actions. The sly serpent tells them, despite God’s warning, if they eat of the forbidden tree, “you will not die.” No, rather “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:4). Satan, having rejected God, personally knows with certitude what happens when you turn away from God, yet this truth must remain hidden in order achieve his goal. Instead, he veils his lies with the appearance of compassion and concern giving the illusions: God lies. There is no truth. Satan, not God, has the means to our happiness.
Adam and Eve freely succumb to the temptations of the devil. But the impact of Satan’s war does not stop with this act. Immediately after they sin, their guilt causes them to hide from God or, as in the Hebrew chaba, to withdraw from God (3:10). Rather than repent, they refuse to accept responsibility for their disobedience, merely blaming one another (3:12-13). Finally, prior to the fall, Adam and eve did not bear children as God had commanded so this encounter with Satan impacts all their descendants—though not inheriting the guilt of the first sin, all humanity will experience the consequences.
Deceptive Snares Then and Now
Our first parents fell into Satan’s traps but we continue to hear echoes of these same deceptions in our lives today. Just as Satan distorted truth about God from the beginning, lies and deception continue:
◗ “There is no God. We are here by chance.”
◗ “Religion consoles and comforts people but it is not based on truth.”
◗ “Even if there is a God, He cannot be good and loving since there is so much suffering and evil.”
◗ “I believe in God but He has done nothing for me so why should I listen to Him?” Just as in the Garden Satan attacked who it was God created man to be and the dignity of human life, this is still under attack everywhere:
◗ “Humanity is depraved, wretched, unredeemable.”
◗ “Dog, cow, man, we are all the same. A creature’s level of consciousness or his usefulness to society determines its value; therefore, pigs and chickens are more valuable than a human fetus or newborn.”
◗ “Pregnancy is an inconvenience, a burden, a mistake.”
◗ The fetus is simply a clump of cells.”
◗ “A woman has a right to do what she wants with her body since the child in the womb has no rights of its own.”
◗ “A person should have the right to end his or her life if he or she feels his or her situation is too burdensome.”
◗ “Once a person is merely a burden on society, we have the right to end that person’s life.”
As with Adam and eve, the reality that it is God who is the source of our goodness and happiness has been rejected in favor of a counterfeit idea that we are to take what we desire and find happiness apart from God:
◗ “Seize the day. Do what makes you happy.”
◗ “What is true for me may not be true for you but let’s live and let live.”
◗ “If you hold to universal moral truths, declaring what is right and wrong for all, you are an intolerant bigot.”
◗ “Don’t impose your views on me.”
◗ “God’s moral laws are examples of imposed tyranny, you do not need to succumb to this.”
◗ “You do not need God or any church to do be happy.”
We hear a constant attack on marriage with propaganda denying the complementarity of the sexes:
◗ “If you marry, divorce is always an option if it does not work out.”
◗ “Why get married at all when I can enjoy the benefits without the commitment?”
◗ “It is about me and my body. Why not explore the different options? There should be no limits on satisfying my needs.”
◗ “There is no such thing as complementarity of the sexes—it is just whatever feels right in my marital relationships.”
◗ “There is no such thing as being born male and female, you get to decide for yourself.”
Since the beginning, Satan has been promoting a denial of the reality of sin. As we see in the Garden, this often leads to a refusal to repent:
◗ “Sin is when I go against my own personal values. You cannot decide for me what is and is not sin.”
◗ “You are an intolerant bigot for even suggesting what I did was wrong since it is only wrong in your eyes.”
◗ “A loving God would want me to be happy. He would not condemn me for living however I see fit to achieve this.”
◗ “God is a loving Father. I cannot imagine He created a place like hell but, if He did, my merciful Father would not send me there.”
◗ “That wasn’t my fault.”
Knowing our Enemy
We see the fingerprint of Satan throughout history and all around us today. He is powerful and cunning, always trying to convince us to doubt and lose trust in God like with our first parents. Father Vincent miceli, in his book “The Antichrist,” writes, “The intention of Satan is to make a physical and spiritual wreckage of all God’s creation.” We must be aware that Satan always mocks God, breathes contempt on anything sacred and ridicules all God has revealed. The father of lies wants us to believe he will lead us to true happiness more than any teachings of Christ. Father Miceli describes how Satan, with the help of men and his demons, has “succeeded in contradicting scripture, denying dogma, popularizing immorality.” He will try to deceive us in subtle ways, hoping to lead us further and further away from God, so we can never become presumptuous or let down our guard. Wanting to help us take care to not fall into Satan’s snares, God has given us many warnings and insights into Satan’s playbook, with one example being in these first three chapters of Genesis.
As we become more aware of our enemy, we then must heed the words of Saint Pope Leo the Great, in his Sermon 39 on Lent (III):
… let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But ‘stronger is He that is in us than he that is against us’ (1 John 4:4), and through Him are we powerful in whose strength we rely: because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid … He fought then, therefore, that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly-beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight.
Allison Tobola Low
© is a lifelong Catholic, passionate for sharing Christ and the Catholic faith with others. She works full time as a physician in Tyler, Texas, and also received a Masters Degree in Theology from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. Low finds time to teach and share the Catholic faith at every opportunity she can, including being a catechist for adult faith formation and RCIA at her local parish. She enjoys giving talks in parishes on a variety of faith-related topics and is also a regional leader for Saint Paul Street Evangelization. Her website is www.pillarandfoundation.com, where you can find short, simple Catholic videos she creates (that are especially for children/young adults).
Although we do not like to admit it, even to ourselves, we still believe that prayer happens suddenly or never happens at all. We kid ourselves that saints are born or created by an arbitrary decision of God who every now and then suddenly decides to top up humanity’s quota. This is a comforting idea that we harbor at the back of our minds because it absolves us from any serious effort to live in union with God. The predicament of the alcoholic is but a dramatic blown-up picture of all of us. The fact that our perilous plight is not so obviously dramatic is a mixed blessing. If it were, it would at least force us without undue delay to see ourselves stripped naked of all falsity and pretension, to face stark reality. Then we might come to a moment of decision that we might otherwise cowardly evade, drifting into a life of superficiality, merely existing on the surface of human experience. Often when an alcoholic hits rock bottom he or she becomes serious about changing his or her life by surrendering and dedicating his or her life to God through hard work, by practicing new habits. Alice made no secret of the fact that she was an alcoholic, although she had been “dry” for five months. She was only 26 when I met her but she had concertinaed the sufferings of a lifetime into a period of about five years. She had been through two marriages and was mixed up with a seedy set of degenerates who led her astray. In the end, she broke down under the strain of her lifestyle and took to the bottle. She used to drink between two and three bottles of whiskey a day. In desperation, she went to a local parish priest but he could do nothing for her. On one occasion, he took her to Alcoholics Anonymous, but she refused to go again so even they could not help. Things came to a head when she threatened to denounce the priest to the police for sexually assaulting her if he refused to buy her more drink. This seemed to be the last straw. She was brought up in a strict Irish home so the way she behaved toward the priest shook her into the realization of how low she had sunk. She smashed every bottle she could lay her hands on and rushed off screaming for help to Alcoholics Anonymous. The leader of the center told her there was nothing they could do for her until she reached “rock bottom” and admitted to herself that she was an alcoholic and absolutely helpless. Then they could step in and begin to help her to help herself. Until she faced reality and made this admission, they could do nothing. He admitted that one of the hardest parts of his job was to wait helplessly looking on until she reached the depths. He gave her a pamphlet containing the 12 steps of recovering alcoholics. The first was to admit they were powerless to help themselves and their lives had become unmanageable. The second was to come to believe in a power greater than their own which could restore them to sanity. The third was to turn their lives over to God as they understood Him. The other steps amplified these and emphasized the need to face up honestly to past faults and to try to make amends to those whom they had caused so much suffering. There can be no fresh start, no renewal in the life of any individual, group or community unless we are able to see and admit our own inadequacy and past failures. Once we begin to see, to experience and to admit our weakness, then we can begin to appreciate the fundamental principle of the spiritual life, namely that we cannot go a single step forward without God, not a single step. The Gospel does not say, “Without me, you will not be able to get very far.” It says, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Without me, nothing! The trouble is we just do not believe this, except as a purely academic principle of theology that we scandalously disregard in our day-to-day lives. We beat our breasts with a sponge, reach for a drink and nibbles and slump down in front of the television. If we did believe it, then we would scream out for God’s help; we would go to Him, find time to open ourselves to His healing power and urgently create space in our lives for prayer. The space and the time we find in our daily life is the practical sign of our sincere acceptance of our own weakness and of our total belief in God’s power, which alone can help us. You might say, “I would like to be a concert pianist or speak fluent French or become a scratch golfer” but I will only believe you mean it when I see you practice it for several hours a day. I will take you seriously when I see you hard at it, day after day on the piano or studying French grammar or tramping around the golf course. You would hardly meet a Christian, let alone a religious, who would not say he or she desired to come closer to God, to become possessed by Him, to build up a deeper prayer life. How can this be believed until a person relentlessly practices prayer, day after day? The desire is not enough, any more than are good intentions. Every alcoholic who desires to be better is full of good intentions, even high ideals, but something more is required. Learning to pray, learning to open ourselves to God, is like anything else: it needs practice and it takes time. There is no accomplishment of any worth that I know of that you can attain merely by desiring to have it. We think nothing of spending hours a day and working for years to get a degree, pass an examination or attain certain qualifications, and we quite rightly accept as a matter of course that the time we give and the energy we expend is necessary. Somehow we seem to think that prayer is an exception but believe me it is not. Those who wish to succeed in a particular accomplishment have to give hours of time, even if they have flair or genius. I heard an interview on the radio given by Arthur Rubinstein, the concert pianist, some years ago. Here is a man who was arguably the greatest pianist of the last century and yet at the age of 84 he admitted that he needed to practice for six hours a day. In his prime, he practiced for nine! Although he had a musical genius at the age of three, it took a lifetime to master the technique necessary to facilitate and maintain the growth of that genius and to enable him to share it with others on the concert platform. The same could be said of hundreds of great artists, performers, athletes and people from all walks of life who reach the top of their particular branch of human achievement. What right do we have to imagine that prayer is an exception to the rule because it certainly is not? We are supposed to be dedicated to the mastery of the art of arts and, at best, we drift aimlessly along like half-baked amateurs dabbling in something that demands the full potential of the professional. If we are only prepared to give the same daily time to prayer that would be required to reach a fairly reputable standard on the piano, then, in time, our lives will be dramatically and irrevocably changed. We might start with 10 minutes a day and gradually extend that period as we master the preliminaries, but as the months go by, the period will gradually extend so that in the end the problem will be to restrain rather than prescribe a minimum time. If all goes well, the prayer that starts and develops at set times ought to spread out gradually and filter through into the rest of the day. In the end, it will become co-extensive with all and everything we do. To begin with, the prayer period will be like a desert: dry, arid and barren. It will eventually become an oasis in our lives that we cannot do without. However, that is not the end, it is only the beginning. In the end, the oasis will become a fountain that will well up and brim over to irrigate the whole of our lives, as what Saint Paul calls “the prayer without ceasing” transforms our daily spiritual lives enabling us to say with him, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
On a recent Saturday morning, my sixteen-year-old son said, “Dad, I’m bored. What are we going to do for fun today?” Knowing my youngest son well, I translated this to mean that he was looking for something new and exciting and I was supposed to provide it. This all-too frequent discussion with my children has been the cause of considerable reflection of late. As adults do we also seek frequent engagement and entertainment? Does this desire for fun and excitement ever spill over into how we view our Catholic faith? I often hear complaints that the “mass is boring,” “the priest is difficult to understand” or “the priest didn’t wow us with an exciting homily.” Still more complaints (whining?) center on the lack of exciting music during mass or the “inconvenience” of having to attend mass weekly as well as all the Holy Days of obligation. I also frequently hear this comment: “I wish our parish was more like (insert name of any Protestant megachurch). They have a lot of fun in their services and the music is awesome. They even have a coffee bar!” The list of complaints is likely much longer, but I think you get the picture. Are we suffering from Spiritual A.D.D.? Much has been written about the explosion of Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.) in the past few decades. Many studies link kids’ over-stimulation from video games as a big contributor to the problem. Adults have the same challenges as we struggle with our own addictions to smart phones and information overload from computers, TV, etc. Is this problem spilling over into our spiritual lives? Do we go from parish to parish looking for some sort of “Catholic buzz” to keep us entertained? Do we flirt with hearsay by attending non-Catholic churches? Are our brains, craving more and more stimulation, incapable of finding peace? We need to tune out the “noise” to achieve the quiet and focus required in the mass. Spiritual Shepherd or Entertainer-in-Chief? Do we ever take a moment to consider the challenging life of a Catholic priest? In addition to being our spiritual shepherds, parish priests are the administrators of complex organizations often beset with unique problems ranging from people issues on the staff to budget shortfalls. Their days are filled with saying mass, presiding at weddings, funerals and baptisms, hearing Confessions, visiting the sick, prayer, study, meetings with parishioners and dozens of other duties we may not fully appreciate. They are not our entertainment directors. Before we complain about something these men of God did or did not do, we should reflect a little and say a prayer of thanksgiving for their life-long commitment to help us attain Heaven. These good men need our prayers and our support every single day. They do not need nor deserve much of the criticism that is sent their way. The Eucharist Do you ever notice that entering the church for mass these days often resembles people finding their seats in a theater before a movie begins? There is lots of noise and chit-chat all the way up to the beginning of mass. Where is the reverence? The respect? The humility? Time spent preparing to enter into the mysteries? We are about to receive Holy Communion, the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we sometimes treat this sacred time like a secular family reunion instead of a holy celebration. Maybe one of the reasons people feel bored with the mass is they have forgotten that the center of the mass is Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice. “The Christian faithful are to hold the Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration; pastors, clarifying the doctrine on this sacrament, are to instruct the faithful thoroughly about this obligation" (Code of Canon Law #898). A little Self-Awareness and a desire to change If anything that you have read so far sounds familiar and hits too close to home, there may be a problem and change needed. Too often we do not know how we are behaving and coming across to others unless we hear it from a friend. More importantly, if we are in the “complainer camp” can we change course? A thorough and honest examination of conscience provides an excellent way to identify our sinful behavior before having those sins forgiven by a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. With more self-awareness and a contrite heart, it is only logical that we can now focus on what is really important about the mass and better understand the critical role the Church plays in our lives. We cannot Be Bored if We Are Sincerely Seeking Him Boredom is a side effect of our fast-paced, materialistic culture. We feel bored because we are constantly being over-stimulated and sold on the idea that we can have it all now and that something better is always around the corner. As rational human beings, we must realize that this is neither true nor sustainable. If we are sincerely seeking Christ, we will find Him through the Church He founded. The world offers celebrities to idolize … the Church offers saints to follow. The world offers noise … the Church offers peace. The world offers false dreams … the Church offers the truth. The world offers and celebrates vice … the Church offers a life of virtue. The world offers earthly pleasures … the Church offers eternal heaven. Fixing catholic Boredom in Six easy Steps Every issue I posed has been an ongoing challenge for me and countless other people I know. We must realize this is not healthy behavior. How do we change? To sum up, here are the key points you have read, summarized into “Six Steps to Cure Catholic Boredom”: 1. “We have to turn off at least some of the noise.” Our spiritual A.D.D. is fed by our addiction to too much input from various sources. Do not listen to the radio in the car. Eliminate most, if not all, TV time. Read more books. Get outside more often. Find time for quiet reflection and prayer every day. 2. “Show more respect for our priests and quit looking to them for entertainment.” They are not here to make mass “exciting.” We are at mass to offer worship and receive the Eucharist, not to hear an emotional homily or loud music. 3. “Remember the mass is about the Eucharist.” Have we prayed to be worthy to receive Jesus? Have we thanked God for this gift? Have we prayed to let others see Christ in us? Reverence, gratitude, humility, worship … these are the keywords to remember about the mass. 4. “Go to Reconciliation as often as possible.” Do a thorough and honest examination of conscience. Where have we fallen short? Confess these sins to a priest and be forgiven. We will be less critical and eliminate boredom if we are acutely aware of our thinking and behaviors that lead to these avoidable sins. 5. “Get involved and make a difference.” Sitting on the outside and complaining is boring. Why not join a parish ministry and contribute our time and talent in a more productive way? 6. “Quit trying to please both the world and God.” “you cannot please both God and the world at the same time. They are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires and their actions” (Saint John Vianney). Feeling bored about our Catholic faith is subtle and dangerous—it sort of creeps up on you. When we are bored we tend to be critical and seek more excitement. This is the wrong path. The world offers us false gods and tries to paint a negative picture of Catholicism that is an illusion. We have to fight through these lies. Perceived boredom may lead some to leave the Church for other faiths. They are often drawn to the excitement and buzz of Protestant megachurches but will learn in time that they had everything they needed in the Church Jesus founded. Let us reflect on how we feel right now about the mass, priests, Church, etc. If we feel bored or critical, let us follow a sound road map to bring us back from this dangerous territory. We have so much to be thankful for as Catholics if we will only take the time to appreciate. The choice is ours and I humbly pray that we will make the right one.
We have all experienced that feeling: a sinking in our stomach, a lump in our throat, tears springing to our eyes. We have been let down, disappointed, rejected. maybe we have been tempted to think, “I am never putting myself in that situation again,” “I never want to get hurt again” or “It is not worth it.” Vulnerability is dangerous! We open ourselves up—perhaps in a friendship, a new relationship, an opportunity in ministry or in the workplace—with the risk of being let down. Sometimes, it feels like there is no point in making ourselves vulnerable. Is it not safer, easier, to keep our hearts closed and never get hurt? Not too long ago, I was in a situation almost exactly like one I have described. I opened my heart up, only to feel rejected. I wondered why God would let me experience this horrible feeling. I thought it would be safer to close up my heart. 1. S. Lewis tells us, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken: it will become unbreakable, impenetrable and irredeemable.” Vulnerable like Christ To love at all is to be vulnerable. To love and live as Christ did, we have to take the step. We have to open our hearts. Jesus is not asking us to deliberately hurt ourselves. If you have been in a relationship of abuse and mistreatment, He is not calling you to continually put yourself back into that situation. Do not confide in a friend who is known for spreading gossip. Perhaps there is a friend with whom you have been waiting to confide but you were stopped by your pride. Maybe you have an opportunity to share your gifts in ministry, but you hesitate for fear of not being good enough. God may be inviting you into a deeper relationship with someone, yet your past wounds are stopping you from taking the leap. Christ made Himself vulnerable to us. Look to the Cross! That is the ultimate picture of vulnerability, the ultimate picture of love. If we want to be like Him, we must imitate His vulnerability. We have to lay down our lives. How can we do this if we are constantly worried about getting hurt? Vulnerable to Christ Jesus Christ is calling us into a relationship with Himself. Have we entered fully into this relationship? Or are we holding back, hiding our hearts from the One who loves us, out of fear? Many times, I have thought to myself, “I cannot give my life to Jesus. He will take something away from me: this relationship or that comfort, these goals and ambitions.” But He is not a God who takes away. He has already given us everything on the Cross and in the Eucharist. He is asking each of us to be vulnerable with Him in prayer. This may seem impossible at first. But He is listening. He knows our hearts. Tell Him you are afraid to open yourself up to Him. Share with Him your insecurities, your hurts, your anxieties. Offer Him your life—ask Him to help you offer it, day by day, hour by hour and moment by moment. Vulnerable with Christ It can be overwhelming to give of ourselves. We can feel exhausted, mentally and emotionally. That little voice inside of us pops up to whisper that it would be easier to lock our hearts away and avoid the risk of pain or rejection. yet, we are not alone; Jesus walks with us. He, also, experienced pain and rejection. His closest friends abandoned Him and the people He came to save crucified Him. He experienced sorrow and heartbreak. He wept at the death of His friend Lazarus and He weeps at our pain, as well. He knows. He has experienced all of this. That is why He came to earth—to intimately experience our unique human lives and sufferings. We do not have a God who is far off, examining us from a distance. We have a God who is united with us. Vulnerability may sometimes lead us to suffering and pain. Offer that pain to Jesus Christ. Nail it to the Cross. He will transform it and make it redemptive. Thank God that we have vulnerable hearts! A vulnerable heart is a heart for relationship, a heart for giving and loving. It is the key to living life in and with Christ. By opening ourselves to Him and to the people He places in our lives, we give the Holy Spirit the chance to work in us and through us to bring about the glory of God.
There comes a time when parents simply want some quiet time to themselves. Handling the rigors of parenthood by meeting the temporal and spiritual needs of our children can take a physical and spiritual toll. This carnal desire is something almost every parent goes through. It is not a sinful desire per se for a parent to seek a retreat or respite of sorts from his or her children. What can lead this desire toward the stages of sinful behavior is the intention of deliberately removing ourselves (isolating) from caring and teaching our children. A subtle but troubling trend I have witnessed over the last several years is the parental desire for some peace and quiet replaced with the act of parents isolating themselves from their children. What I mean here is a gradual separation of the spiritual, emotional, physical and psychological relationship between parent and child. Whether the reason is work, family structure (i.e., singleparent family), working parents or the daily distractions that come from daily living, the intimate relationship between parent and child appears to be gradually eroding for more reasons than the ones just mentioned. By nature, children desire to be near their parents—it is part of the protective nurturing process all children seek. When this parent-child structure is interrupted the alternatives may not always be spiritually healthy and in a worst-case scenario lead to direct isolation which then becomes the norm of parenting. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (“CCC”) reminds us that the Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. … The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a sharing of thought and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing (“CCC,” 2204-2205). The Sin of Isolation In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love (4:15-16). Our identity as parents rests in our understanding and willful intent to place Jesus Christ at the center of everything we do, especially our parenting. every time a parent asks, “What should I do about my son?” I immediately tell him or her to first begin to be genuinely present. It is very important that a child knows that his father and mother are there both spiritually and physically. The ease by which one can fall into what I call the sin of isolation from their children is why the virtue of presence is so important. When isolation begins to occur, the child will, more often than not, direct his attention toward something that will draw his desire away from his family and replace it with another outlet, typically one involving social media. Saint John Paul II reminded us that the family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do (Familiaris Consortio, 17). This means that our actions as parents are intimately called to re-echo Christ. One facet of this action is to bring Christ into the home in prayer. When we invite and initiate a relationship with Christ within the home, it strengthens the family unit and provides a spiritual base by which the family can withstand the sin of isolation. Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule (“CCC,” 2222-2223). A recurring theme on the family found in the “Catechism” is the practice of showing respect to our children. This act of love is very important in avoiding the sin of isolation because it reaffirms the Christian anthropology of the family. This means that the parent child relationship was not created to be isolated from one another. Addressing the Sin of Isolation A sound and practical way of avoiding the sin of isolation is by being present to our children, especially in prayer. Children desire reassurances from their parents, which include their physical presence. The process of accompaniment between a parent and child involves the simple act of recognizing the dignity of the child. This act of love dispels any temptation to isolate ourselves from our children because we see them as authentic gifts from God. One of the surest ways to dispel parental isolation is through the practice of intercessory prayer. Simply put, intercede (pray) on behalf of your children and offer them to Christ. At the heart of the act of intercessory prayer is the deliberate act of the will to think of someone other than yourself. You place the intentions of the person before yours and in this case our children before us. The gift of intercessory prayer is that it allows us to always be present with our children and that is exactly what our parental call is all about.
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