Thursday, January 27, 2011

Passing On the Torch of Faith to Our Son

“We may tell them that spiritual matters come first, but they learn the truth by observing our lives. To influence your child to accept godly values, you will have to live out those values before him day in and day out. You cannot merely declare that something is important; you have to prove it by your actions. Values are caught rather than taught.” These are the words of David Rosales, the author of the book Raising Right-Hearted Kids in a Wrong-Way World! I agree with him. Our actions speak louder than our words, whether we are witnessing about our faith to strangers or to family members. But before I attempt to evangelize my neighbours, I believe that I need to be a “lamp on a lamp stand” first and foremost in my own home.

I have actively evangelized the people around me since I became a renewed Catholic on my first year in college. Twenty years have passed since then. I thank the Lord for the grace to remain steadfast and zealous in sharing my faith to anyone and everyone around me. Now that I’m a parent, I continue to share my faith at every opportunity I have. I write and talk about my faith and how God has been working in my life. But I bear in mind that my primary ministry is in my home. And my son is my most important audience. God has called me to write reflections and give talks every once in a while to evangelize people. Every day though, He calls me to talk to my son about my faith and my relationship with Him; and to walk my talk by applying my faith in our day-to-day activities. It is no easy task to raise a child. What more to raise a godly child!

It’s true what some people say that sometimes it is easier to witness to those whom you do not know very well. That’s because you don’t interact with them very often or everyday. Witnessing becomes extra challenging when you live with the people you are trying to evangelize. They see you every day as you put your faith in action. They see you make mistakes. They see you get angry or get hurt. They witness how you handle difficulties and trials in life. They get to observe the many choices that you make each day, both big and small. The great thing about it is that they also get to see how you learn from your mistakes and rise up to overcome them. They see how God’s Holy Spirit and grace sustain you in your troubles and empower you to be victorious. They see how prayer, service and the sacraments transform you to become more Christlike everyday, moment by moment. They learn how you arrive at your decisions and why you make those difficult choices. That is my ardent wish and prayer. That my son would be brought close to God by my teachings and by the way I live my life. That is also why I chose to be a stay-at-home mom while my son is in his formative years. I believe that training my son early would bear fruits that he can enjoy not only in his lifetime but also for all eternity.

I agree with David Rosales that as parents, our children need to see us practice the godly values that we teach them. It’s not enough that we tell our children that God is our first priority. They need to see that our time with God is sacred and that we protect those times that we set aside to commune with Him and nourish our relationship with Him. They need to see that prayer is an integral part of our daily lives. If we want to raise children who love the Lord and who are obedient to His Word, as parents, we need to model to them how to love God and be obedient to Him. If we want to teach our children that we can turn to God for our needs, then we need to show our children that we indeed bring to God our needs and expect God to provide for them. In short, if we want our children to have the Light of God in their hearts, we first need to be ablaze so our children can catch the fire of our devotion for God.

All these can be overwhelming even to Christian parents. I commit a lot of mistakes everyday as I strive to witness to my son. It’s so easy to sometimes let my emotions rule or get the better of me. Thank God for His grace to recognize my shortcomings and failings and for the resolve to do better next time. I was encouraged by the words that I read in the book Raising Right-Hearted Kids in a Wrong-Way World! The author David said that if we struggle to demonstrate patience and kindness to our children, as we yield our lives to the Holy Spirit, God will make up for whatever we lack. Those words comfort me. I am not a perfect parent and I know that it will take my entire lifetime to become one. But thanks be to God for His mercy and grace who supplies our every need – be it material or spiritual. He is the perfect parent indeed! I pray for grace everyday to look to God and learn from Him so I can be the parent that He wants me to be to my son.

David Rosales further says in his book, “God is dealing with us as much as He is dealing with our kids. By testing our patience and proving our character, He refines us into vessels of honor. Once yielded, we are usable tools in the Lord’s hand to mold the hearts of our children. God begins the heart-shaping lesson of obedience in us first, so that we will lead by our godly example.”

Our son is slowly catching the fire of our devotion to God. He talks to Jesus every day. He even considers Jesus one of his best friends and playmates. He looks forward to going to church. He participates actively during the mass by singing the songs that he already knows. He dances with abandon and sings his heart out at prayer meetings. He likes to “read” the Bible and the devotionals that I use. In fact, he learned to read JESUS, GOD, OUR DAILY BREAD and BO SANCHEZ by reading these books with me. He prays to Jesus for his concerns. He is quick to pray a prayer of intercession when you share an intention with him. He loves to watch and listen to stories about Jesus. He sings a lot of praise songs repeatedly during the day. He says “Praise the Lord!” when something good happens. All these and so much more bring joy to my heart as a first-time parent. There is still much that I’d like to share to Him. I’m taking it one day at a time. I simply choose to make the most of every opportunity to pass on the faith to Him.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I pray for the grace to diligently teach my son to love the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might. I pray that he would grow to have a strong faith and personal relationship with God. I would be very happy and at peace even if these would be the only things he would remember from me. For armed with these values, I know that he can overcome any storm and accomplish great things, even impossible things with grace of God.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Miracle Continues

The sun was already hidden behind the clouds. The moon and the stars bring sparkle to the dark blue sky. I looked around and saw that there are already people seated on the monobloc chairs; while Jun, our technical assistant, was busy setting up the computer, lcd projector and the sound system. I approached him and greeted him “Happy New Year!” I hurriedly enumerated to Jun the items we would be using that evening to check if everything is ready. He assured me that all is in place. Then, I saw our lectors/readers, commentator, instrumentalist and singers arrive one by one. I felt relieved. But we still need one more reader and the ushers have not yet arrived. I walked around the clubhouse to look for a couple who can carry the wine and the host during the offertory. Thankfully, I found one right away who readily accepted my invitation. I gave them some instructions and waited at the back for the ushers to arrive.

Then, I saw the priest presider step into the clubhouse from the entrance near the Administration Office. I started to panic and texted the ushers right away. As soon as I sent my message, I saw a familiar face walk into the clubhouse. I hurriedly approached him and asked if he could be one of the lectors that evening. He readily said yes and excused himself so he can get his eyeglasses. That was Mr. Tony Asence. He’s the only male volunteer among our readers and commentators. He started serving as lector during our Simbang Gabi masses last year. He’s one of the blessings God has given me personally as I organized our masses in our condo community. He was also a very big blessing to the residents who attend our masses because he read very well and very clearly. He had a well-modulated voice that proclaimed God’s Word effectively during the mass. Thus, I was not surprised when I found out that he was a broadcaster in the past. Our ushers came and our first anticipated mass for the year 2011 started. Mr. Asence read one of the readings; and as usual, many felt happy to hear him read the Word of God loud and clear.

That was more than week ago. Yesterday morning, Mr. Asence passed away.

I received a text message from another resident yesterday morning informing me of his demise. I initially thought that the one who sent me the message made a mistake. I also prayed that it was just that… a mistake. Our Liturgical Committee has just met the night before. Although Mr. Asence wasn’t there last Saturday because he needed to go to the wake of a relative who passed away; he expressed his willingness to serve as lector in the succeeding masses. We even assigned him to read the first reading on February 5 when our weekly masses start next month. But the one who sent me the message confirmed with me that he truly passed away yesterday morning due to heart attack. I was shocked. I also felt sad that one of the volunteers in our Liturgical Committee can no longer serve in our next masses permanently. We will surely miss him and his voice that echoes around our clubhouse walls each time he proclaims God’s Word during the mass.

My family prayed for his soul as soon as we confirmed his death. We offered a decade of the rosary to him as we prayed on the car on our way to celebrate mass and attend a prayer meeting. I wished that I would have the chance to pay my last respects to him and go to his wake. God granted my wish for I was informed yesterday afternoon that his remains are in Cainta. My family was in San Mateo then, visiting my parents and my brother. I felt happy that God made a way so that I can at least drop by at the wake.

We were planning to go to the wake around 7 pm. But we were delayed because it took some time for our two year old son to finish his dinner. Moreover, he pooped when he was about to finish his dinner so we had to clean him first before we could finally leave my parents’ house. But I was glad I still chose to drop by at the wake even though it was already late; for I wouldn’t discover the miracle that God has done in Mr. Asence’s life through the masses that we organize in our community if I had not done so.

I learned from his older sister that serving as lector in our community masses has given Mr. Asence so much joy. She said that he looked forward to those times and he would even call her just to tell her about it each time he would be assigned or asked to read. His sister thanked me for giving him the opportunity to serve and use his voice and his talent to serve the Lord in our masses especially last year during the Simbang Gabi because she said that it made her brother very happy. She said that many were shocked because of his sudden death; but she was comforted somehow to see that her brother was at peace and happy when he died. She then invited me to look at his brother in the coffin.

She was right. His face was a picture of serenity. It was a face of contentment and joy. As I gazed at Mr. Tony Asence’s face one last time, I thanked the Lord for giving me the opportunity to serve with him even for a short time. I thanked the Lord that He has paved the way for us to have the Simbang Gabi last year in our community for the first time. Through them, Mr. Asence was able to use his God-given gifts to bless us, his neighbours. I thanked God for the opportunity to know about this miracle that He performed in this man’s life. I may not know him well. But I do know that he was a man who spent his last weeks on earth serving God through his talents and allowing God to use him as an instrument of blessing to others.

I only stayed in the wake for a few minutes. I talked briefly to his sister and daughter, said a prayer and left. I brought home in my heart however, an abundance of insights from what I have discovered and learned.

I could not help but shed some tears as I pondered on yesterday’s events and as I remember Mr. Asence. I thanked the Lord for the grace He has given me to courageously accept the task and responsibility of organizing the Simbang Gabi last year. I have just discovered another miracle brought about by the Simbang Gabi masses and the anticipated masses we hold in our condo community. I’m very happy to know that another life has been touched and that my sacrifices made a difference in someone’s life particularly during his last days. I feel honoured and at the same time humbled. I feel that what I’m doing is just a speck compared to the great miracle that the Lord is giving us at every Eucharistic celebration. Nonetheless, my heart is filled with praise and thanksgiving for He has chosen me to work with Him in bringing His love and His mercy to many. This is one more story that I will treasure and ponder in my heart as I head our community’s Liturgical Committee. I may not know the extent by which the rest of our neighbours who attend masses in our clubhouse are blessed. But I’m content right now to know that truly, the miracle of the Holy Mass continues…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why I Don’t Feed My Baby from My Own Spoon and Insist that He Uses His Own Eating Utensils

It might seem trivial or harmless to some; but, feeding your baby or toddler from your own spoon or from any spoon other than the child’s own utensils can harm him/her. I have always been strict about hygiene and sanitation at home even when I was still single. This behaviour has been highly influenced by my upbringing and the Microbiology and other Food Safety and Sanitation subjects I had when I took up Hotel and Restaurant Administration in UP, Diliman. The parenting books I read when I was still pregnant also taught me a lot about it. Thus, I became all the more conscious about sanitation when I finally gave birth to my baby.

My younger brother and I grew up having our own set of plates, glasses and eating utensils. It wasn’t our practice at home to share these things unlike in other households. And it was with this same mindset and approach that I planned to raise my child. So when our little boy started eating solids, we excitedly purchased him his own set of bowl, plate, cup and eating utensils.

Then just before Christmas, our two-year old son got sick. Our very active toddler suddenly didn’t have the energy to play. He refused to eat or drink. He had high fever that reached almost 40 degrees Celsius and he was vomiting. I got worried so I brought him immediately to his pediatrician. That was when we discovered what was bothering him. He had plenty of “singaw” inside his mouth. (The medical term is quite long and I had some difficulty reading his doctor’s handwriting.) That caused his high fever and refusal to eat or drink. A “singaw” may just be a source of discomfort to us adults; but in young children, this can cause fever. The doctor said that children with high fever usually vomit. That explains it.

But how did he get “singaw?” The doctor asked me and our maid if we had “singaw” at that time. But we didn’t. She said that it is viral and contagious. One can get it upon contact with the saliva of the person with “singaw” like if you used the eating utensils of the person with “singaw.” So, from whom did Yanthy get his “singaw?” We discovered early that evening that Yanthy got it from his Dad who had fed Yanthy the night before from his own spoon while he was eating dinner. My husband and I have already agreed in the past that we will only feed our son using his own utensils but he sometimes forgets. This could be because he grew up sharing his eating utensils with his immediate family members. It was a habit that he finds difficult to break. Unfortunately, this bad habit caused our toddler to get sick.

It was very challenging to feed Yanthy while he had “singaw” in his mouth. He found it painful to eat or drink. He refused to drink even his milk. He lost a lot of weight. And he continued to have high fevers which led him to vomit. I just kept wiping him with a face towel dipped in cold water to keep his fever down because his fever was high even with paracetamol. His doctor said that his condition will only improve once the many “singaw” in his mouth decreases in number and eventually disappear. His appetite went back after around a week which was what the doctor predicted.

The other day, I read in a parenting magazine that one can also pass on cavities to babies or toddlers through their saliva when they share their eating utensils with them. The article said that babies naturally do not have that bacteria in their mouth and they usually get these from their moms when the moms feed them using the mom’s spoon or fork. Having learned that, I grew in conviction to be vigilant with what goes inside my son’s mouth.

Sharing food with a baby or toddler seems to be a very sweet gesture but it can be very harmful. It can bring sickness or cavities to the child. So, next time you are tempted to feed a child using your own spoon, remember that you’re not only sharing the food… you might also be sharing a virus or cavity-causing bacteria. Use his/her own eating utensils instead. It’s better to be safe than sorry; because in the end, the child will suffer either from “singaw,” high fever and vomiting or toothache.