Children and Money


“There is not a more wicked thing than to love money: for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale:
because while he liveth he hath cast away his bowels.” – Ecclesiasticus 10:10

“Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all
these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the
kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:31-33

I grew up like many Americans do with respect to money. As a child, I had a weekly allowance, starting at 25 cents when I was around seven years old. As I grew older, I was paid for doing chores around the house and, eventually, the farm. There were always some chores that were exempt, though – we boys did them just because we were part of the family. I saved up money working in the orchards one summer, and at age 14 bought my first vehicle for five hundred dollars – a ’61 Chevrolet pickup, straight six cylinder engine. I worked on our own almond farm, my grandparent’s farm, my cousin’s farm, and I worked for many of the other farmers in the area. I earned thousands of dollars before graduating from high school, was always proud of that fact, and I remain grateful for the lessons learned in the process.

But I do remember feeling kind of guilty when my grandmother would pay me. I adored her and felt a sense of obligation to her after my grandfather died. She was extremely generous and always paid a little more than I expected. Sometimes I tried to refuse, but she would insist and that was that.

Years later, when our children were old enough to work around the house, we considered paying them for chores or paying them an allowance. But my thinking had changed considerably by then. I really didn’t want them making such an explicit connection between work and money, or even thinking about money at all. Nor did I want them adopting the ubiquitous American error of confusing price with value: i.e., “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”. We’ve never given them an allowance, and only seldom paid them for chores. Although we do encourage them to save the money they earn from music performances and odd jobs, money is not one of their priorities. That may sound bizarre to American ears, but let me explain.

What is the highest Christian motive for work? It certainly isn’t money. A Christian works because he has an obligation to work, to do something useful, to serve God and his fellow man. Christian family life, in particular, ought to have a strong communal element. Marx, the son of a Jew who had converted to Christianity, wasn’t entirely off base with his dictum “from each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need”. As a matter of fact, he was paraphrasing Sacred Scripture:

And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them. And with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord; and great grace was in them all. For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the price of the things they sold, And laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need.

Now Marx, as we all know, took a little bit of Christian truth and used it for evil ends, creating a monstrous materialistic ideology. But every heretic has hold of some bit of truth, and in our combat against heresies the danger is that we lose sight of those truths. Family life ought to be lived communally, with every member contributing what he can, working not for his own private benefit, but for the good of his family. Children raised thusly will not lose sight of the common good of society when they leave the nest. Certainly, it may be prudent that children earn and save some money, and learn to handle money independently. The “real world” demands that adults be wise and enterprising with respect to Mammon. But the more important thing is that children are raised with the highest possible motive for work, which is essentially love – love for God, love for neighbor, and love for the goodness of work itself.

Sequens Lucem

Woman playing violin

(This painting is just something I found online, without attribution.)

My lovely daughter now has her own web log: Sequens Lucem. I think some of you may recognize yourselves, and perhaps others, in her second blog post. Her thoughts remind me that I may never know my children as well as I would like. At the same time, I realize that the protective “shell” she talks about, if not too hard and impenetrable, allows a child’s personality to develop as it should – and creates a little space reserved to God alone.

Why the religious liberty argument will backfire

The bishops and most Catholic political activists have made “religious liberty” the cornerstone of their argument against the HHS mandate. But this is extremely short-sighted in my opinion, and is likely to be used against us. In the first place, the concept of liberty is slippery and ambiguous. Consider two possible definitions of religious liberty:  1) the right to be free from legal coercion in religious matters; and 2) the right to be free from social and economic coercion in religious matters. This distinction is critical but is lost on most people. The bishops have definition #1 in mind, but the courts and the general public already think in terms of #2 … and #2 is a trojan horse with great potential to undermine Catholic institutions.

In 2011 a legal complaint was filed against Catholic University of America arguing that Muslim students have the right to their own prayer rooms – along with the right not to be intimidated by Catholic symbols everywhere, such as crucifixes in the classrooms. Religious liberty in this sense means the right of individual Muslims to unfettered religious expression and accommodation, even on a Catholic university campus. And why not? Liberty is liberty. To the extent that religious expression is in any way prevented or made difficult, religious liberty is compromised. Religious liberty, according to this understanding, depends upon the means and opportunity of expression rather than the absence of legal prohibitions. The CUA complaint went nowhere, but the logic is already employed in other contexts, so it isn’t far fetched to imagine all kinds of anti-Catholic mischief being justified in the name of religious liberty.

Furthermore, we really don’t believe in a generic form of “religious liberty” anyway, even in the sense of freedom from legal coercion. Consider the same-sex “marriage” controversy. Some religious denominations believe in it. Don’t their members have the right to religious liberty? Same goes for Muslims and others whose religions allow polygamy. And what about numerous other religious-based practices that ought to remain illegal – take female circumcision, for instance, or smoking pot? Better yet, let’s consider child sacrifice, which is known to be practiced by the adherents of La Santa Muerte.  Does child sacrifice as a religious liberty issue seem far-fetched to you? It shouldn’t. Devotees of this Mexican death cult are already here, as are Americans who believe in the right to kill children yet unborn.  The idea of religious liberty means that people should not be forced to comply with religious values they don’t believe in. Many Americans – including many religious Americans – don’t believe in Christianity’s absolute prohibition of child killing. Don’t they also have a right to religious liberty?

The fact is that any unspeakable horror can be justified in the name of religious liberty. Religious liberty isn’t the issue. The issue is Christian liberty, because Christianity is true and its values are good for society. That might be a harder sell, but it’s an honest one and it will never be used against us. As it stands, I’m afraid the more battles we fight for “religious liberty”, the more ground we cede to our enemies.

Concentrating the mind

The erudite Fr. George Rutler gently puts capital punishment in perspective with respect to Catholic doctrine in his latest article for Crisis Magazine, “Hanging Concentrates the Mind”:

“It is not my concern here to take a position on capital punishment which the Catechism (# 2266) acknowledges is not an intrinsic evil and is rightly part of the state’s authority. This is nuanced by the same Catechism’s proposition that its use  today would be ‘rare, if not practically non-existent. (#2267)’  As a highly unusual insertion of a prudential opinion in a catechetical formula, this would seem to be more mercurial in application than the doctrine of the legitimacy of the death penalty.  What is oddly lacking, however, is reference to capital punishment as medicinal as well as punitive. Tradition has understood that the spiritual aspect of the death penalty is to ‘concentrate the mind’ so that the victim dies in a state of grace.  Simply put, the less I believe heartily in eternal life, the more disheartened I shall be about entering ‘a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'”

Fr. Rutler proceeds to recount the history of sainted popes who imposed capital punishment in the Papal States, surrounding it with ritualistic dignity for the condemned man, making the sacraments available to him, even exhorting the citizens to fast and pray for him. The very antithesis of cruel bloodlust, it seems to me. It’s also worth remembering that a pope as recent as Pius XII was eager to see justice done in this way.

Earlier this week, the Catholic bishops of Louisiana lobbied governor Bobby Jindal, also a Catholic, to stop the execution of Christopher Sepulvado (on Ash Wednesday!), another Catholic whom they said is repentant and active in his faith. Governor Jindal declined, which was well within his rights, his office responding that the “trial was handled appropriately, and the punishment decided on by a jury of Mr. Sepulvado’s peers is proportional to the crime he committed.” I can’t help but think it unfair of the bishops to place the governor in a position of seeming to oppose the Church on a question of prudential judgment legitimately belonging to the state. Would that Governor Jindal of Catholic Louisiana also exhorted his fellow citizens to fast and pray for the soul of Mr. Sepulvado!

Friday roundup

It’s comforting to know that I am not the only Catholic who has misgivings about military service in our time. Clearly the armed forces have need of good and virtuous men – the more, the better. Soldiering is an inherently noble vocation. I have the privilege of knowing a few enlisted men today, all exemplary Christian patriots. But my misgivings grew after a brief attempt to join the Navy reserves twenty years ago and exposure to its morally depraved culture. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that Abu Ghraib was not a surprise to me. Things were going bad then; they are much worse today. Michael Avramovich summarizes my own thoughts quite well.


“Building a Village of God”, a sermon by Fr. Philip Anderson, Abbot of Clear Creek Monastery:

“Following the Blessed Virgin Mary, the ‘star of the New Evangelization,’ and, on the contemporary scene of this world, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, whose own tranquil faith continues to inspire us, let us construct right here at Clear Creek a small but significant corner of that true civilization of love. Saint Augustine spoke of the ‘City of God.’ May Clear Creek become the ‘Village of God’ and the rugged but beautiful birthplace of a new generation of saints for America and for the world.”

(H/T: Man With Black Hat).


“Chastity and the Restoration of Catholic Culture”, by Dr. Taylor Marshall, argues for truths long neglected by modern Catholics:

“Our Catholic forefathers believed that a man who could tame his sexual passions was truly honorable and heroic. This is why only celibate men were chosen for the priesthood. Their strong resolve communicated not effeminacy, but manly fortitude over their sexual passions. This power over the sexual appetite was transferred to evangelical ferver, missionary endeavors, and feats of penance. In fact, this produced a healthy spiritual imperialism in the Catholic Church. Moderns turn up their noses to the idea of  ‘imperialism,’ but the Christ of the cross who is the Prince of Peace is the Emperor of this Empire, what’s there to fear?

This spiritual imperialism of Christ was fully appreciated by our Christian forefathers. We, however, have forgotten the ancient feats of strength demonstrated by the monastics of old. For example, the penance of the Desert Fathers would have brought a sense of wonder even to the Roman Stoic Cato. We have forgotten the triumphant Roman martyrs, such as Saint Lawrence who would have kindled awe in the bravest Roman pagan warriors, such as Mucius Scaevolus. As the baptized have forgotten the noble army of martyrs that once fertilized the Eternal City with faith, so also have they lost esteem for Rome’s spiritual dignity.”

has resurrected a charming and instructive video series for young people from the 1950s.
Here are a couple of samples:

Family life, personal sanctity, and The Great Catholic Migration

Some eight years ago we packed up and moved almost two hours away from a thriving, orthodox Catholic parish in Sacramento. There were lots of reasons. With young children, fighting the wicked culture of the city was becoming a daily nuisance. I wanted a more serene life for my family, preferably in the country. We wanted to move closer to aging relatives. My wife was having ethical conflicts in her employment. It all seemed to come together at once. We bought a small ranch and started a little homestead. Our children were blessed by it in many important ways. The only problem was that we could not take our parish with us.

We planned to solve the “church” problem by driving to the city on Sundays. That was fine, but it left little opportunity for traditional parish life – choir rehearsals, altar guild, first communion classes, feast days, home school co-ops, volunteer work, and the like. Very soon thereafter the possibility opened up for a weekly Latin Mass in Chico. We felt obliged to support the fledgling new community and try to help it grow. Visits to our former parish in the big city became few and far between. So also did exposure to vigorous, challenging, orthodox spirituality in the homilies at mass, in confession, and in the lives of our fellow parishioners. Friendships and community life suffered as well. While we are immensely grateful for the Latin Mass in Chico, our numbers are dwindling, and it does not come close to replacing what the F.S.S.P. provides at a wholly traditional parish.

We’re staying put, and it’s for the best, but I can’t recommend that anyone else follow this pattern in their own lives. It is vital to stay close and connected to orthodox Catholicism in all of its manifestations. In the history of salvation there have been many saints who achieved holiness in near isolation – the prophets, the desert fathers, hermits and anchorites, and so forth. But this isn’t the norm. For those of us who still lack heroic virtue (and that’s most of us), the many helps of Catholic culture are essential. We need to hear the whole unvarnished truth of Christianity from the pulpit: the “be nice to everybody just like Jesus was” mantra doesn’t cut it. The effect of weak and insipid and unspiritual homilies, Sunday after Sunday, is absolutely pernicious. And how does one raise children to respect priests and the priesthood when, on the drive home, it is always necessary to explain why Father was wrong about this or that point of basic Catholic doctrine? We need homilies that strengthen our faith rather than water it down. We need to be challenged to grow spiritually. We need the support and example of holy, orthodox priests who are clearly devoting their lives to Christ. We need the fellowship and inspiration of better Catholics. Yes, that’s right, some Catholics are better than others, and there’s nothing elitist about admitting this. Just as chess players seldom improve unless playing with those who are more advanced, so Catholics seldom grow in their spiritual lives unless they spend a lot of time around their betters.

Which brings me to Dr. Taylor Marshall’s recent post on The Great Catholic Migration. I am convinced, as he seems to be, that the majority of Catholic parishes in this country are beyond human help. You can’t save your lukewarm Novus Ordo parish by staying and fighting. If you’re lucky, you might succeed in tinkering around the edges – eliminating the most grievous abuses, getting the tabernacle back on the altar, maybe improving the music a little. Meanwhile, you exhaust yourself and put your family at risk. Worse still, you will develop a nasty habit of criticism. That’s right. The whole Novus Ordo mentality, in which everyone is supposed to “participate” and be “involved”, in which every taste and preference and opinion is supposed to be accommodated, encourages constant criticism and endless tinkering. Your tinkering, if generously permitted, is viewed merely as the preference of another faction that needs to be appeased for pastoral reasons. My advice? Get out of Dodge. Flee, if you can do so without sin, to those parishes and communities where the holy Catholic Faith is taught and lived without compromise. A good rule of thumb: stay close to the F.S.S.P.