"The lesser of two evils." It's a phrase bantied about in politics, education, business, ok, well in just about every aspect of life. This phrase is used to justify just about anything that might go against my ideas and philosphy of life, but seemingly demands a decision. I use the word justify loosely, for is there really any justice in choosing an evil?
As men we are constantly bombarded with decisions that demand a response. The challenge for many is to see that there may be more than just the two options presented...there may be a third way. Although many may think I am refering to politics, lets take a real life scenario that may be presented to a father in a properly patriarchal family: sports. What is a father to do when deciding how much his children will be involved in sports?
One might see that there are two options, either my children play in organized sports or they do not. If they do, that means practices and games which may conflict with family meals and religious observances. If the children are not involved in sports, well, they may be deprived of the physical outlet for excess energy and the learning experience of playing on a team. These two options are all many parents will ever consider. But wait, could there be a third or fourth option?
Let's face it, many of us just don't put the effort into thinking through these things until we learn that our child learned some new four letter words or worse yet, was exposed to some evil on a peer's cell phone while traveling with the team. We seem to be more concerned with being perceived as overprotective or controlling by other parents than holding a true standard of goodness in our homes. God forbid that our child would be deprived of the great learning experience of playing tee-ball!!!
So what is a father to do? The decision always has to start with our eternal goal in mind. What benefit is this to my child's soul and eternal salvation? What is the effect on the child's soul by opting out? The next step is to face our own insecurity and baggage - Why do I want my child to play midget football? Why do I feel like I am neglecting my child's welfare by choosing to not enroll him in the local soccer league? While this sports discussion is just an example, this decision making process goes for most every decision related to my family's welfare. Do I make decisions for the eternal good of all or am I earth-bound and making decisions based on worldly concerns?
Of course, the really hard part is facing the consequences of our decisions. Am I seeing my college-age child distancing himself from the faith because of his sports performance anxieties? Am I able to embrace the cross of children playing around the house, rather than farming them out to some volunteer soccer coach?
The following is a quote that really convicted me that the sin I commit doesn't just affect me...it also affects my children. As I am duty bound to raise them in the saintly virtues and in the faith, I am also required to give them good example and protect them from "evil company". How does this quote hit you? This is a quote from Fr. Goffine's book, "The Church's Year" - a must have for every family!
"How do parents give scandal?
By giving their children bad example; by excessive anger, cursing and swearing; by avarice, injustice and cheating; by discord and quarrels; by gluttony in eating and drinking; by extravagance and vanity in dress; by sneering at religion, good morals, etc.; by not keeping their children from evil company, but sometimes even bringing them into it; by not punishing and endeavoring to eradicate their children's vices. How much parents sin through such scandals, cannot be expressed; at the Day of Judgment their children will be their accusers!"
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."