Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a celebration of their martyrdom for Christ. These little martyrs knew not Him whom they would die for. These little martyrs could not make an expression of faith, except that they were to die at the command of a jealous ruler. We rightly call these little ones, "Innocents" because they had not the ability to commit actual sin. What of our little "Innocents" in our own homes?
"A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." Mt. 2:18
"But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children." Luke 23:28
Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways." Proverbs 8:32
This feast, embedded as it is, in the middle of the great octave feast of the Nativity reminds us of the great cost Christ paid for our salvation, as well as the cost to ourselves. In the midst of our rejoicing comes the wailing of the mothers of Bethlehem. One might wonder at how the Mother of Christ joined her tears to those of these poor mothers. The loss of a child is a pain that not many are able to come to terms with, even after many years. But what of those mothers that lose a child to sin, thus the death of the soul?
This death of soul seems to be less mourned my modern mothers and fathers. How often do we overlook sin in our own children or even promote it through the activities, entertainment, and culture we thrust into our children's life? I have often pointed out this obvious fact in regards to modern video games. These, often extremely realistic games pull children into a fantasy world where they can kill and be killed, steal and rob, all in the name of reaching a high score, or simply for entertainment purposes. Many toys could also be called out for similar problems, such as immodestly dressed dolls promoting anti-family values of consumerism, or toys grotesque and imitating demonic forms.
As parents, we pay for these items, we go out shopping, we spend our hard-earned money for them, and why? Have we so succumbed to the cult of entertainment as to forget what Christ said about thwarting the innocence of youth, "it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea."? Mt. 18:16 These are harsh words coming from the One who could forgive those who had crucified Him! How can Christ look kindly on those that could forever mar the innocence of their own children in the name of entertainment!
This is a hard word, especially in this day of modern technology. Many parents fear their children will somehow fall behind the times if they are not up-to-date with the newest video games, cell phones, mp3 players, or social media outlets. Many parents, unthinkingly, give into their children's desires in order to please them or be on a "friend" level with them. These parents have believed the modern lie that by "friending" their children they will have a better opportunity to raise them. Unfortunately, many modern priests and bishops have too fallen for this fallacy. One must not be either extremely distant or aloof, nor too familiar and friendly to be respected and honored. Giving in to a child's fancy only lowers that child's respect for the parent, and in time, this will pay its own painful dividends. Eventually the parent must say no and reject the desires of the child that has increasingly become worldly and at that time the child will simply, "unfriend" the parent like they would any other friend that insults them.
So what are modern parents to do? First we must truly weep for our children, for their souls and their salvation! We must accept that we are called to raise up holy children for God and to give them a fighting chance of spiritual survival. Until we gather up enough courage to fight the onslaught of immodest fashions, evil entertainment, and mindless technology, we will always fall into the trap of "giving in" to the modern evils that are constantly knocking on our homes door. Once we have finally done this, we can begin to look for ways to encourage true Catholic culture in our homes. This may mean changing dress code, throwing out the tv and video games, embracing the practical skills of homemaking and homesteading, fostering hands-on skills such as hunting, fishing, and woodworking, and developing a rich liturgical life with all its feasts, fasting, prayers, and rituals. Our Catholic faith is the true antidote to the modern mess we find ourselves in, as Belloc observed even in his day, "Our generation lives in a world where Catholicism is the sole surviving positive force."
"All men have an instinct for conflict, at least all healthy men!" Hilaire Belloc
Advent is the time of preparation for the Lord's coming. However, in these days it is a time of partying and purchasing...and little in the way of penance. Just try and live a penitential Advent and you are sure to become distinct in your circles. Through your penance and refraining from parties and feasting, you may even make an enemy or two, who simply cannot tolerate your "fanaticism".
Maybe you take your friday fasts seriously...causing you to refrain from meat at a friend's home. Maybe you have made the hard choice to avoid perverted media and have had to refuse to attend a movie with a friend that you know contains morally offensive content. Or could it be that you have even had to limit certain family members from visiting your home because they cannot watch their foul mouths or dress immodestly? Again, it is no hard thing to make enemies when one takes one's faith seriously.
Modern men, unfortunately, in the name of tolerance and false peace and been trained to stuff away their, "instinct for conflict". We have learned to only allow it on the ball field or on the political floor. We have been forced to contain our virility during its surging years on teendom, and have thought it inappropriate to "fight". Long gone are the days when a wise father would counsel his son to "stand up for himself" and would take him out to the barn to train him in the fine art of boxing. This is not surprising in a day when the weak have degraded their manhood by taking up guns as some sort of new machismo. The real problem is not guns, nor fighting, it is rather the loss of real strength and true manhood.
I still remember a precious scene in the movie, "The Bells of St. Mary's" in which the mother superior trains a little boy in the art of boxing. She has witnessed him pummeled one too many times and knew that he needed to develop the ability to stand up to his bully. After some training, he finally gets his chance to fight back and gives his taunter a good knocking. In the end, the two boys shake hands and go share a soda, and also share a great moment of true masculinity...the ability to fight and forgive.
In these days, men need to develop a firm sense of identity in their faith and masculinity. Men should be willing to fight for what is right and true, and most of all develop into defenders of faith and family. It is not enough to be on the sidelines living out a fantasy through modern sports or toys, we must embrace the real battle...that battle for the souls of our family, the soul of our Church, and the soul of our Country. We cannot be afraid to have enemies, just as we cannot be afraid of the fight!
So here we are, about to begin the second week of Advent. Have you taken the spiritual lead this year as the man of the house, as the priest, prophet, and king that God has called you to be? Or are you sitting back, listening to old crusty Christmas tunes on the radio, putting up Christmas lights, and celebrating the Christmas season before it even begins?
This Advent has been encouraging thus far, even a couple of bishops in the U.S. have reminded their flock that Advent is a time for preparation and penance, not a time of partying and decorating. We only have to look at the bareness of most Catholic church sanctuaries and the color of the vestments to be reminded that this is something akin to the season of Lent. However, without male leadership in the home establishing the proper order and traditions, it is too easy to be caught up in the emotional tide of shopping, decorating, and baking. Let us men re-establish the true way to celebrate Christmas...and patiently wait for the Day of His Nativity, the 25th!
It is so difficult for men these days to establish themselves as the spiritual leader in the home. Spiritual matriarchy has reigned for so long that most men see praying and devotions as womanly. The truth lies in the traditions of our faith. St. Francis celebrated Christmas with the first official Nativity scene, or Creche. Moses, Joseph, David, and St. John the Baptist were spiritual giants and were definitely not effeminate!
This idea that real men only know how to pray while hunting or fishing is a bunch of excuses made by weak men that refuse to lead their families to holiness and sanctity. These men only know how to serve themselves and forget how important it is that they leave behind their own desires and stretch themselves as servant-leaders. As I have said before, it is not optional for the man to be the spiritual leader in the home...it is a God-given calling. Let's make this Advent a time to grow our own spiritual life by dedicating time to prayer, reading, and penance, so that we may become the leaders we know God is calling us to be.