Monthly Archives: October 2013

Opportunities for Spiritual Learning at Halloween

It is the season of the year when many Americans are focusing on Halloween. Everywhere we look, it seems, from our own neighborhoods to the stores to the media, there are spider webs, ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, and frightening images everywhere. As adults, we are able to see these themes and write them off (at least to some degree) as “well, it’s that time of year again!” Some of our children face this time of year with great joy because of the opportunity to dress up and get lots of candy. Others, however, find this season frightening and can’t wait for it to be over.

Regardless of how we and our children look at Halloween, it is a time of year that allows us the opportunity to teach our children in the faith. How can we do that? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Together with our children, we can investigate Church history and how it relates to Halloween. For example, John Sanidopoulos, in http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2013/10/halloween-orthodox-christian-perspective.html, says “…The Church established Hallowmas as original holy days, not to sanctify an old pagan celebration among the Celts as has been popularly believed, but to celebrate an already well-established feast dedicated to all the Saints.” We can visit the article to see what more he has to say on the matter, and discuss it with our children. Fr. George Morelli’s podcast on Orthodoxy and Halloween, at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/morelli/orthodoxy_and_halloween, is another helpful resource for us parents to listen to, before we help our children learn more about this subject. This time of year is an opportunity to learn more about church history.

2. If our children do dress up for Halloween, let us encourage them to dress as their patron saint, a Bible character, or another saint who has lived a godly life. We need to also help them learn a bit about that person, in case they are asked, “And who are YOU dressed as?” This time of year is an opportunity to learn more about the saints, and emulate them.

3. If our children face this time of year with fear, let us use this season to lead them to the cross of Christ. We can again teach them about the power of the cross (not as a “magic talisman;” but as a reminder of God’s protection of us from evil/of our allegiance to what is right/of our commitment to Christ) and about trusting God in the midst of our fears. We as parents can listen to Dr. Peter Bouteneff’s excellent podcast on this subject at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/sweeter/halloween_demons_and_the_cross, for more on how to embrace the cross, and why it is so important in our lives as Orthodox Christians. The cross shows us both God’s great love for us, as exemplified through Christ’s death, and the hope that is ours because He has broken the power of death, which reigned over us, by His glorious resurrection. This time of year is an opportunity to once again focus on the cross and how we no longer need to be afraid, because of our Lord’s death and resurrection.

Whether we follow any of these suggestions, or find other ways to do so, let us all use even this season of the year for good, for learning, for increased godliness, in our children’s lives.

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Passing on The Faith to Our Children

As Orthodox Christian parents, our deepest hope for our children is that they will love God and embrace the Orthodox Christian faith with all of their hearts. But how can we make that become a reality? Can we make it happen? It must be the children who choose to live in such a way: we cannot make them do so, even though we love them; want what is best for them; and know that loving God and His Church in such a way IS what is best for them.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, in a homily on advice for parents, addressed this very concern. “If our children are to remain faithful to the path of salvation, then one important thing will be, ‘what did they see in their parents?'”  He goes on to say, that it is “…not the way you TALK about your faith, but the way you LIVE it,” as he suggests practical applications such as having family prayer times that include Bible reading and praying together regularly as a family.

The V. Rev. George Morelli, Ph.D., in his article, “Orthodoxy Today Smart Parenting XXII: Witnessing Dedication, Loyalty, and Dependability,” cites studies that show how modeling affects children’s behavior. (In this article, he is referencing showing dedication, loyalty, and dependability in specific ways that enable children to learn how to show Christ’s love; but the concepts apply to modeling love of God and His Church, as well.) His article states that children learn both positive and negative behaviors by observing the adults in their family. Therefore, our modeling positive behaviors (in this case, loving God and His Church) will positively affect our children.

So, in short, what can we do to bring our children up to love and follow God and The Faith?

Live it.

And invite our children to live it along with us.

May the Lord have mercy on us all.

To view Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s homily, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4Q8sfqMuJg&feature=player_embedded.

To read Father George’s article, visit http://www.antiochian.org/content/orthodoxy-today-smart-parenting-xxii-witnessing-loyalty-dedication-and-dependability

St. John Chrysostom On Raising Children

Having children is a matter of nature; but raising them and educating them in the virtues is a matter of mind and will.” ~ St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom’s teachings have carried through the centuries and are still applicable today. Here are a few of his teachings on raising children.

By the duty of raising them I mean not only not allowing them to die of hunger, as people often limit their obligation toward their children to doing. For this, is needed neither books nor rubrics, for nature speaks of it quite loudly. I am speaking of the concern for educating childrens hearts in virtues and piety—a sacred duty which cannot be transgressed without thereby becoming guilty of the childrens murder, in a certain sense.”

If the Apostle commands us to take more care for others than for ourselves, and if we are guilty when we neglect their benefit, then is it not a much greater guilt when this concerns those who are so near to us? Was it not I, the Lord will say to us, Who gave place to these children in your family? Was it not I Who entrusted them to your care, making you masters, guardians and judges over them? I gave you complete authority over them; I placed all care for their upbringing in your hands. You will tell me that they did not want to bend their necks to the yoke, that they threw it off. But this should have been averted from the very beginning; you should have mastered their first impressions placed the reigns on them before they had the power to break away from them…

The youth to whom you give a good upbringing will not only enjoy general respect, he will also become dearer to you yourselves! Your attachment to him will not be a mere natural attraction—it will be the fruit of his virtue. For this, during your old age, you will in turn receive from him the services of his filial love. He will be your support. For just as those who do not revere the Lord also have contempt for their own parents, those who revere God, the Father of all men, will have every respect for those who gave them life.

Read a meditation on further teachings on parenting, by St. John Chrysostom, at http://dce.oca.org/resource/246/. More of his quotes can be found at http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/parenting.aspx. Thanks to both of the above sources for sharing his wisdom with all parents.

St. John Chrysostom, please intercede for us parents, and for our children, that we may be saved.

Oh, be careful, little mouth, what you say…

“All of us are accountable for our words…” ~ Dr. Peter Bouteneff, “Words and Accountability” episode of his “Sweeter Than Honey” podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.

How quickly we forget that we will be held accountable for all that we say. Everything. We are responsible for each word: spoken, written, typed; whatever has come out of our mouths. Those words spoken in tender compassion; those thoughts flung in frustration; those ideas expressed carelessly in moments of passion; those sarcastic comments: we are liable for all of them.

As parents, we need to be especially cautious of our words. We are being watched at every moment by our children: and whether we are speaking or writing, they’re listening, absorbing, learning, and ready to apply what they’ve learned. Perhaps we speak and then think, “Wow, I sound just like my mother/father!” Let us begin to pause before we speak to our children, and think: “Do I want to hear this coming out of my child?”

As Orthodox Christian parents, we need to especially make an effort to “…be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) The young believers in our home, under our care, are ever watchful and willing to absorb what they see. By God’s grace, may we indeed “let no corrupt word proceed out of (our) mouth(s), but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

For more on this topic, listen to Dr. Bouteneff’s podcast in its entirety at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/sweeter/words_and_accountability.

Parenting with the help of Saints

So often we feel that we are parenting alone. We are trying to raise our children in the ways of Christ, amidst a world that tries to teach them to do whatever they want. We long for guidance; for role models for ourselves and for our children; even for someone to tell us what is the best thing to do in a particular parenting situation.

Truth is, we are not alone. We are simply the current generation of parents trying to raise our children in the ways of Christ in a selfish world. Many others have gone before us: for generations! Among them are the Saints, who are excellent role models for us parents AND for our children. Their lives can show us how to handle tough parenting situations; and their prayers can help us to parent, day by day.

In order to better utilize this resource which God has provided, it is important that we learn more about the saints and teach our children about them, as well. Here are a few resources that we have found helpful, to that end:

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday is a short podcast (usually a minute or two) describing the life of a saint we are commemorating on that day. It is a beautiful addition to a morning or evening prayer time.

http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/american-saints.pdf is a downloadable, printable activity book about the saints of North America

Both http://www.goarch.org/resources/saints and https://oca.org/saints/lives offer information about the saints whose lives we commemorate each day; both can also be searched for specific days/saints.

Those of us with older children will benefit from adding to our daily prayers together, a reading from a calendar with a story and a quote from a saint, such as those available at http://livesofthesaintscalendar.com/

These are just a few ways we can begin to introduce our children to the saints, our older brothers and sisters gone on before us, who have “fought the good fight and finished the race.” Through the examples of their lives, we can see how Christians ought to live.
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, oh Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.