Monday, November 5, 2012

Celebrate Often

As I look back on my own childhood, I find that many of my happiest memories came from times when we gathered together to celebrate something as a family. We didn’t do these things all that often. We would gather as a family for Christmas, New Years, Easter, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving. We gathered with family and friends for birthdays. Each celebration was different from the other but done the same way year in and year out. During these celebrations, our family put aside the fighting and the worries to spend time with one another sharing good food and making better memories.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

One of the things I love most about being Catholic is that the Church teaches us there is always a reason to celebrate! We celebrate the liturgy every single day, 365 days of the year, whether mourning the loss of a loved one or rejoicing at the birth of a new life. We celebrate while mourning because in it we are reminded that through Christ’s love this end is nothing more than a beginning of a new stage of a more perfect life for the person we love, a perfect and eternal life. We celebrate at the birth of a new life because we celebrate the hope for a better future that life represents.

Even during Lent, when the Church enters into a solemn period of reflection on our sins and the damage they have caused, she still sets aside a Sunday to REJOICE, reminding her children that although they have sinned and lost their way, the sorrows of sin will soon be washed away in the blood of the Lamb. At the core of every Catholic celebration of the Liturgy is the Eucharist. The word literally means Thanksgiving in Greek. It is because we have so much to Thank God for that we can celebrate in every season, and so the source of our celebration is our gratitude for a good and loving God who brings light out of darkness and good out of evil.

What we can learn from the Catholic Church about parenting our own children is that we should be guiding them to a daily reflection of the many good things in their life and rejoicing together with them over those things. Even when the car breaks down, or the pet dies, or Dad loses his job there are still good things to be found and reasons to celebrate. Celebrating often doesn’t just benefit our children, it benefits the whole family. It eases tensions and relieves stress by focusing our minds on the good things rather than the negative things. Teaching our children to celebrate often creates a happy home and makes the hard time easier to get through.

When we celebrate, we focus on reasons to be grateful. This kind of attitude – an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving for the good in every situation – is the very kind of attitude that will carry them through the storms of life in safety. Gratitude inoculates our children against the severe depression that leads to suicide. A study by Dr. Michael McCullough (http://www.familycorner.com/parenting/ages/gratitude_attitude.shtml), professor of psychology and religious studies at the University of Miami and co-author of The Psychology of Gratitude showed that this kind of daily reflection on gratitude created happier patients in as little as two weeks. Two weeks to a better life!

More than Just Gratitude

Of course, celebrations are more than just exercises in gratitude. They are also more than just parties. They are ways of taking the good news and sharing it with others so that everyone gets lifted up by it, not just the person who received it or experienced it initially. The Catholic Church has a seven step process that she undergoes for each and every celebration.

1. Gathering together

When we gather everyone together for a celebration, we’re inviting the people around us to share our joy with us.

2. Sharing Music

Music is a natural expression of joy. The music should be appropriate to the event, and to the nature of the celebration. The music you use for a wedding will be different than the music you use at a funeral, for example. Encourage people to sing along with the music. It’s hard to hold on to anger or even sadness while singing something happy.

3. Proclaiming the Good News

Reading or speaking aloud the good news is a way of sharing it with others. It helps if you can explain to those around you why this good news is good news, or to talk about what this good news means to you personally.

4. Recalling the needs of Others

Recalling the needs of others really helps us to understand and see just how blessed we are and motivates us to do something about that need.

5. Expressing Unity

In expressing unity, we show that we are grateful not only for the things and the events in our lives but for the people that are there with us to walk through the hard times and cheer the good times. Expressing unity can take the form of simply thanking everyone who took the time to show up and thanking people for the daily contribution they make for the betterment of all.

6. Breaking Bread

Sharing food with one another is an extension of our expression of unity. It puts the proof behind the words of thanks that we gave them earlier, showing that they mean enough to us that we are willing to share with them something so basic to our survival. Plus, full bellies make it much easier to see and enjoy good things.

7. Sending forth

Once it’s time for the celebration to end, we are sent out with a mission: to continue to share the good things with people we meet along the way and to be living proof of the existence of good things in a world that so often forgets they exist.

While we don’t have to incorporate everything the Church does in our celebrations, using this formula does instill our celebrations with more meaning and become a tool for transforming our lives in a deeper and more profound way. Chances are that you already do at least three of the seven things already, and adding even one more will make it that much better.

Conclusion

Celebrating often is a way to encourage our children to see the good things in life, to notice and appreciate the blessings they have received, and to share this with others.  I hope you have enjoyed this chapter of Catholic Parenting: What the Catholic Church Teaches Us About Parenting.  If you are just joining us, you can find the introduction and earlier chapters by following the link above. I hope you will join us tomorrow for chapter 22: Stand Your Ground.

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