Thursday, July 12, 2012

Holiness and Character Formation

John told the kids tonight during prayer time a wonderful story about his Uncle Tom. His uncle had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa while he was a seminarian. She walked with him for some time while holding onto his arm. This is what she told him.
"Be a HOLY priest. There are a lot of good preachers, educators, and teachers, but there aren't many HOLY people." 
This made me think so much about all that I may be trying to be.  I am trying to be a lot of things, but HOLY has been off my radar for a while.
Oh, SMACK. I know these life lessons are more for me and not the our chickens. I have been way off for a while now. I have taken my eyes of holiness. I have been so busy trying to be a good mother, good wife, good sister, good cook, good teachers, and get in great shape that I forgot to be HOLY. Do I even understand the difference? I am not quite sure where I even should start because I know right now, I am not holy. I know that I am good person like most people, but HOLY??? nope.
I know that holiness consists in a lot of humility and accepting what God sends you each day and seeing it as such, but I have fallen into a lot of management instead of holiness.
For the past three days, I attended a homeschool practicum which always propels me deep into thought about homeschooling and where we are headed. This year, one resounding theme keeps running through my mind.
I told John tonight while cleaning up dinner, "For school this year, I think we need to focus on their and our character." Most years, I am so occupied with curriculum choices and extra-curricular events that I haven't given much specific thought to our main focus which should be character formation of each of our people.
My mind has been running wild the many things I want to focus on with their character formation, but John landed the plane tonight when he told that story about holiness.
In reflection on last year, I am realizing that more and more I have become increasingly concerned more with their physical and educational formation as a person and less concerned with their character formation. It is not that we weren't concerned about their character, but it was falling secondary to academics, sports, music, plays, friends, and social events. All those are important, but not at the expense of their character. Meaning, Are we teaching them to establish prayer time in their life every day apart from our family prayer time? Are we teaching them to examine their conscience each night? Are we teaching them time management skills in their school work or are we teaching them to wait until the last minute? These are a few things I've been thinking about and all relate to the character of a human being. So, this coming school year our main focus above academics will be on character formation. For example, I have noticed during swimming lessons this year several character issues that have arisen in several of our children. The teacher would be talking to them and they would be busy bobbing under water, looking around at the other kids, and not giving the teacher the attention she deserves. She would ask them to do specific things i.e. like the American crawl and they would do it, but I noticed an increasing frustration with the teacher asking them if they heard what she asked them to do. So I said to the kids today before class, "I want you to look at your teacher in the face while she is talking to you. I want you to stand against the wall patiently waiting your turn. This is a time to learn, not to play. Most importantly, I want you to acknowledge what your teacher asks you to do with a response like "Yes, Mrs. Bailey, I will work on that" so she knows that you heard her. At the conference this week, our older four children were at day camps downstairs while I attended the conference upstairs. Dominic's teacher spent a good amount of time teaching them how to shake hands with someone. You give a firm grip, look the person in the eye, and say "Hello. It is nice to meet you." Upon leaving, you shake again, look them in the eye, and say "It was nice to have met you." My parents use to have us stand when an adult entered the room as a sign of respect towards them and ourselves. Manners aren't only important for your relationship with others. Manners bring dignity to you as a human being.
Once again, a leaf has been turned over in my life and I need to ponder the thought of holiness namely for myself and secondly how God is asking us to cultivate that virtue in our children. I am grateful for this awareness as my compass has not been pointing towards that virtue.


  1. A great post that will reach many, many thoughtful readers. Each year on the first day of school, we have the boys take a moment to write, as best they can, a list concerning three topics based on Luke 2:52: 1. What do you want to study this year? (Intellectual/wisdom) What activities would you like to try? (Stature/Physical) 3. In what ways would you like to grow in your relationships with God and with others (favor with God and man). This creates a tangible reminder that we can go back to to encourage the kids, so it's not just our desire for them, but it becomes their personal desire to grow in holiness. I am working on a blog post right now about that specific bible verse and raising boys, but thought I would share it with you, since you offered such wonderful insights on your goals for the upcoming year.

  2. Wonderful reminder for us all! Sometimes what God asks of us and what we ask of ourselves are not the same!

  3. Thank you for this post! And thank you for your blog--as a new wife and mother I love reading your posts, they are so insightful and helpful. :) I too have been seriously lacking in focus when it comes to my own holiness, and realizing that if I don't have character and virtue ... I won't be able to pass it on to my son. And homeschooling as character formation--that is so important!

    Thank you again, and God bless your day. :)

  4. what a beautiful reflection. I tend to compartmentalize holiness but you are right, it should be something that we all radiate.

  5. Swallowed hard when I read that post. It is so easy to get distracted from the main purpose in raising our children. I think when homeschooling one can be even more vulnerable in some ways because you are making so many choices about academics and then there are lessons that "must" be met and then of course their are sports which is a big must in our family. This post was timed perfectly for me because I'm getting myself all excited about the new school year and what we will be doing and how we will fit it all in that it is very easy to lose sight of the goal here. I'd love to hear more on this subject as you go along and see what you come up with.

    p.s. Was is it the Classical Conversations 3-day practicum you attended? I would really love to hear how you schedule that with all the kids. We will be doing that this year (I think) and I'm really excited/nervous!


  6. Lovely post. Gives me a lot to ponder on. Thank you so much!

  7. You're right. There are so many things that we must teach our children and remember ourselves. I'm listening to the children yell at one another downstairs (they're fort-building) while I take these few minutes to get off my feet and rest, maybe read this or that online. I'm not thinking about being holy, I'm thinking about how sick and tired I am of their bickering. *sigh* In spiritual direction, Monsignor N told me that when the children begin bickering, I should stop what we're doing and lead them in prayer. We began to learn the Prayer of St. Francis but I wearied of the repetition over several months and stopped the practice. Why did I stop? It actually worked quite well. Time to get back on the holiness wagon!