by Mariellen Rechtin
We are raising our children in a culture in which truth is relative, individuals are highly self-indulgent, and Christian morality is often seen as “old-fashioned”. People under forty have never known a time when abortion was illegal. The current political establishment is strongly pro-abortion and committed to passing anti-life legislation. The secular media bombards us continually with messages extolling the virtues of a “comfortable” life. Religious people are depicted as freaks, uninformed and unintelligent. At times it seems that our culture is waging war on our families.
How can we raise our children to carry on our pro-life values? How can we ensure that they carry the truth into the generations to come? Now, more than ever, we must be pro-active in sharing our values with our children. It will not happen by osmosis.
Following are ten suggestions to help you to grow a more pro-life family.
1. Watch your words
Although they may not admit it, your children are listening to every word you say. Express thankfulness for your children. Recognize them as one of God’s greatest gifts. Though you may feel overwhelmed at times, never say that there are too many children in your family. Remember Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, sons are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy the man whose quiver is filled with them; they shall not be put to shame when they contend with enemies at the gate.” Even if your family is small, speak in positive terms about larger families. Likewise, try not to say things like “two is enough”, or “I don’t want more than three” even if that is how you feel. In making statements like these, your unspoken message is that children are a problem. Remember, children are one of God’s greatest gifts. How can we turn down such a great gift?
2. Talk about life issues
Abortion, contraception, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, assisted-reproductive technology, cloning, embryonic stem-cell research your children are going to hear these terms on television, or read about them in the newspaper. Talk to them about the Church’s teachings on these subjects in an age-appropriate way. If they don’t hear the truth from you, their opinions will be formed solely on the basis of secular media, and the secular media is hardly pro-life! If you don’t know the Church’s teachings yourself, consider reading on the subject in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or encyclicals such as Familiaris Consortio (The Christian Family in the Modern World) and Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).
Teach your children at a young age about the dignity of all human beings. Help them to know that all people are created uniquely by God, no matter what their limitations, no matter how long their lifetime. Teach children that God is the creator of life. Only He knows when a new life is to be created and He alone determines when that earthly life is complete. In their teenage years, talk about the more complex issues. An understanding of the beauty of human sexuality within a sacramental marriage along with this foundation will prepare them to live a life of chastity into adulthood and marriage.
3. Read and view life-affirming media
Read as a family or have your children read literature that demonstrates the strength of the human spirit stories of overcoming adversity, faithfulness during suffering, and courageous virtue. Biographies of people who overcame disabilities (e.g., Helen Keller, Beethoven) or of those who helped care for the sick and dying (e.g., Mother Teresa, Father Damien of Molokai, Clara Barton) will help your children to see courage in action.
Novels such as the Little House on the Prairie series, or Anne Frank’s true-life account The Diary of a Young Girl, will show the strength of human spirit.
The Old Testament is filled with stories of courage and faithfulness: Ruth and Naomi, Queen Esther, the suffering of Job.
Make a point of watching movies that carry a strong family or pro-life theme, such as The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie reruns, or movies like It’s A Wonderful Life, Yours Mine and Ours (original version), Cheaper by the Dozen (original version), The Sound of Music, and Bella.
4. Make do with less
Our culture is continually driving us to want more, do more, have more. We need more stuff, more activities, more busyness, more, more, more! Yet in reality, most of us have way more than we could ever need.
The truth is that things will never make us happy or help us to be content. Teach your children to want less and to take care of what they have. Trim back the wish list, cut back on the extra-curricular activities. Eat dinner as a family more often. Give your surplus “stuff” to charity. By cutting back, you may find that you have more room in your heart and in your home for others.
5. Be open to new life
It’s true, it does cost more to have more children. There are additional food, clothing, and education costs. But the joy of being blessed with a new family member far exceeds the costs. How do you put a price tag on a new soul ready for his journey to heaven? Besides, you may find that if you have cut back on unnecessary expenses, you may be able to afford more children than you think. Unless serious conditions preclude your ability to do so, open your heart to having another child. Our culture needs more children to be born into stable, loving homes.
6. Consider adoption or foster parenting
International or domestic, state or private adoption, foster parenting there are so many children in need of loving homes. Adoption is not just for those who are unable to have biological children. Many families with biological children find that adoption and foster parenting are a way to “give back” to others in need of a family. Not only does the adopted child gain a family, the biological family members learn to be more welcoming to others, as well as to appreciate their own family blessings. Giving back to those in need is an obligation, and is not limited only to financial giving. Even on a bad day, we have so much to give. Open your heart, give of yourself and make a difference in someone’s life.
7. Welcome senior citizens into your family life
It goes without saying that grandparents should be a welcomed part of your family unit. But when grandma’s health begins to deteriorate, what is your first move? To call a nursing home? Consider whether you can care for the grandparent in your home. It will not be easy and will require adjustments to your family’s lifestyle. However, your children will learn from your unselfishness. If home care is not possible, find a nursing facility within close proximity to your home and visit often. Take your children with you, and have them make cards, treats or small gifts for grandma and the other residents.
In addition, look for opportunities to help your elderly neighbors. Deliver hot meals, help with grocery shopping, or provide transportation for a neighborhood shut-in. Take your children with you. Once again, they will learn life lessons about generosity.
8. As a family, support pro-life causes
Participate in peaceful pro-life protests at abortion clinics, distribute pro-life materials, volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center, use pro-life bumper stickers or license plates. There are countless ways that your family can strongly witness for life. Parish bulletins often list opportunities.
Children are never embarrassed to stand up for a cause. You may be a little uncomfortable at first but keep at it. By getting involved, you will become more committed to the cause of life. You will also meet other concerned families and forge friendships with a common bond.
9. Vote for pro-life candidates
The American bishops said it best in their document “Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics” § 34:
We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God’s children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable. We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue or lack thereof is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest.
(Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics 34, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 1998. Accessible online: www.usccb.org/prolife/gospel.shtml).
Get involved in the political process. Support pro-life candidates. Work the polls; pass out pro-life ballots. Have your children help with this work. They will learn through your example the value of citizenship, and the courage to stand up for the cause of life.
10. Pray as a family
Pray! Pray! Pray!
Center your family life around God and His Church. Attend Mass as a family every Sunday and urge your children to pray for an end to abortion and for a greater appreciation for human life. Pray together as a family often, at meal times and before bedtime. At one of your prayer times, encourage every family member to express thankfulness for something good in his life. This is an excellent time for you to re-emphasize your thankfulness to God for the blessings of your children. Gratitude is such a beautiful virtue, and one that is necessary for having joy and contentment in life.
The Catholic family is called to be a light in this world of darkness. We must carry the joy of God’s love with us and demonstrate to all the great value and dignity of human life. Through our conscious efforts to share the awesomeness of God’s gift of creation, our children will be prepared to lead the fight for the right to life into future generations.
Mariellen Eisenacher Rechtin has an MBA from Xavier University, Cincinnati. For fifteen years she worked in managerial positions in the telecommunications industry. In 1996, she joyfully embarked upon her most fulfilling career, as a stay-at-home mom. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, Tom, and seven children.
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