Monday, May 19, 2014

Practice What You Teach

My family and I were blessed this past weekend to attend the Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate in our Diocese. A young man, whose journey to the priesthood we have been privileged to witness and be part of, was being ordained along with three other men. The Ordination Mass was just heavenly. There was so much richness to the various parts of the ceremony, from the candidates lying prostrate while the choir and congregation intoned the Litany of the Saints, to the laying on of hands by the Bishop, and the vesting of the new Deacons in stole and dalmatic.

One aspect of the ceremony which struck me most profoundly was when each Deacon-candidate knelt before the Bishop and was handed the Book of the Gospels, with the exhortation to "Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." While Deacons and Priests have a special anointing, by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to live out this exhortation - it occurred to me sitting in the pew, that we too, as Baptized Catholics, have a responsibility to live out these words in the world and in our domestic churches.

This realization was made all the more vivid by the fact that just a few short hours earlier, my children had reminded me that I needed to "practice what I teach." You see, our family's pre-Ordination morning preparations were slightly less-than-heavenly. They included a rushed breakfast, several wardrobe changes, tangled hair, a missing card, tears, and a fair amount of yelling on my part about how it would be totally unacceptable to walk in late to the Ordination Mass. The "huss-fuss", as my daughter likes to refer to these type of situations, culminated with my exasperated son saying "Why don't you practice what you preach!". My daughter, not to be outdone by her brother, added: "You know, we depend on you to teach us how to act!"

The sad fact is, they were right. I wasn't practicing what I taught. Not even close. I often ask the children to think of whether or not they would behave a certain way if Jesus was standing in the room with them. In looking back over my actions that morning, I know for sure that I wouldn't want Jesus witnessing my behavior. Our children do depend on us to teach them the right and holy way to handle stressful situations. I had failed, miserably.

The good news about parenthood catastrophes like this one is that the Gospels give us the tools to "practice what we teach" even in these less-than-ideal situations - the tools of love, mercy, forgiveness and good order. As parents, we will make mistakes, and lots of them. We will lose our patience, raise our voices and say things we shouldn't say. Even those incidents can be used as teaching moments for our children - moments which show them how to repair relationships when they injure them. After the dust settled, I asked my children for their forgiveness for my behavior. We all talked about what we can do to minimize the "late of Mass chaos" that seems to rear its head every Sunday morning. Most of all, I told them that even though I was not perfect, I loved them with all my heart.

As I received the Eucharist that day at Mass, I asked the Lord to help me live out those words "Believe what you read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach" more fully each and every day, so that my children can look to me to learn how to act, and react, in a way that reflects the Gospel teachings.

P.S. We did, in fact make it to the Ordination with 10 minutes to spare.

Read more related posts here:
The Angelus: Domestic Church Style
7 Lessons From Teaching My Children To Pray


  1. It's that messy Holiness where the rubber meets the road!!

    1. Amen to that Mr. P - it was certainly messy that morning!

  2. Oh, I can totally relate to this! I seem to transform into a shouty banshee on mornings before especially holy celebrations! Why is it so hard to get children into a church on time with all their shoes on? You are right in what you say about being prepared in advance - that's definitely something I need to work on. And to stop and pray - I always seem to forget that when I need it most!

    1. The shoes are the worst!!!! Yet, Sunday after Sunday I seem to repeat the same mistakes....Thank the Lord for his mercy! Thanks for stopping by! I loved your Seton article!