My Therese is getting so big it is hard to believe. She is such a sweet, happy thing always flapping her arms like a little bird when she gets excited or wants to be picked up. She is also becoming less willing to sit quietly in Mass. So much to see, so much to do! How can she sit still?
Today after I had exhausted all my tricks to try and entertain her in the pew, I stepped into the side aisle. Mary Bear wanted to follow me, but I told her to stay put. (Mary Bear doesn’t know how to stand still in the aisle. She is always dancing around tugging on Therese!) Mary gave me an indignant look and stood right at the edge of the aisle. There is actually a line where the pew ends and aisle begins. She stepped over it and I went over and moved her back and told her to stay behind the line. She edged her shoe all the way up to it. Then she slid one toe over it, then the whole foot. I was paying attention to the Mass, but could see what was happening out of the corner of my eye. I shot her a look trying to convey the need to step back. She then placed her second foot over the line! So I had to go and move her back again. Mary was sure the other side of that line held true happiness and I was keeping her from it!
As my children get older, this idea of where exactly the line is and how far is too far, begins more and more to creep into their way of thinking. I can remember wondering myself as a teenager and into college about the line in so many areas; alcohol, dating and all that entails, etc, etc. Just how far is too far?
There is nothing wrong in exploring this question as a youth, and even as an adult. We should desire to do what is right. However, we must be careful not to rationalize taking our behaviour all the way to what we consider to be the line. There are several problems with this way of thinking and acting. First, what if what we have deemed the line is not the line? Second, it is unholy to take a behaviour all the way to the point of becoming gluttonous or going too far. Finally, even if we have the line exactly right - when we move all the way to that line, before we know it we have one toe over it, then a foot, then both feet just like the Mary Bear.
The best advice I think for myself, and what I tell my children, is to stay far away from that line. A holy priest once told me when I was unsure if something was right or not, to go with what I knew to be right. If I chose what I am unsure to be correct, my actions state that I am willing to sin if I am incorrect. Sin is a tricky, sneaky thing. Sadly, we are too easily led astray. The sheep need to stay close to the shepherd!
St. Dominic Savio, a young Italian boy who died at the age of 14 famously said, “Death, but not sin!” This is the motto I desire for my own heart and certainly for my children. We have lost so much in our world today an aversion to sin. People look at their children and seem to justify their bad behaviours by thinking they did the same thing and survived. If I play with fire and by the grace of God survive, I certainly would not want my children to do the same. Who is to say they survive? Even if they do, they are likely to be burned, as I was. Scarred and left in pain as sin always leaves us.
No, we must seek to be clear about lines with our children. We must be clear about boundaries with ourselves. What is right and what is wrong. We are going to have to talk about uncomfortable things. We are going to have to be an unpopular parent. We are going to have to sacrifice much time and energy. The task ahead is monumental. There is no doubt.
As I talk to my family and friends with older children, I am catching glimpses into how many temptations they are going to face. So many more pitfalls and readily available evils than when I was in high school and college. How can they possibly follow Christ and remain pure if I don’t start doing the hard work now? Let me be the first to tell you this is difficult for me. Being firm and consistent - but at the same time charitable. Another friend always reminds me if I did this perfectly I would be the Blessed Mother or be in heaven! Since neither of these is the case, I must struggle on as best I can. Fortified by the sacraments and begging God for the graces necessary to be a good and holy mother are my best weapons.
Therese will continue to squawk and fidget in church. Mary will continue to test that line - as will my other children! I must do my part to teach and protect them to the best of my ability. I also need to lead by example and avoid sin at all costs as St. Dominic Savio encourages us.
St. Dominic Savio, pray for us! JMJ