Updated: Sep 18, 2021
This is the last part of my 3-part series where I discuss the “9 things your priest wants your family to know.” Here are more things that I believe families will benefit from knowing and/or doing.
So without further ado ...
7) Families Should Live Out the 10 Commandments and Model Them for Each Other.
The 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:1-21) are not the “10 suggestions.” They’re life-giving commandments from a God who wants each person to have “life to the full” (John 10:10). Just imagine a world with no lying, stealing, adultery, and where everyone follows God’s plans. It sounds like Heaven on earth, right? Well, that’s exactly what we pray for every time we pray the Our Father: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” That takes effort and much prayer.
It would be great if each family hung an image of the 10 commandments somewhere very visible in their home and talked about them from time to time. They’d be surprised at how much this small act could change their family life.
Go one step further, and do a mental check of that 10 item list each day, perhaps at the end of the night: How did I do? What can I do differently tomorrow? Resolve to do better if you see areas you know you can improve.
When family members live out the commandments and model them for one another, everyone feels more loved and strengthened in their following the Lord.
Parents, explain the commandments to your children, perhaps with the help of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see the CCC, sections 2052 and on). Remember that if you do a great job honoring your own parents, your children will learn from your example what it means to live the 4th commandment well. They will imitate you whether you want them to or not, so if you model these commandments, you will be positively influencing your children.
Consider choosing a commandment each week or maybe each month, and work on perfecting it as a family. You can also try this individually if that seems more feasible at first. Come up with whatever works for you and your family. But whatever you do, don’t regard them as mere suggestions!
8) Families Benefit Greatly by Going to Confession on a Consistent and Frequent Basis.
While we should all strive to live out the commandments as I described above, we also have to be self-aware and recognize that virtually none of us are capable of doing so on our own. And when we knowingly choose not to follow God’s commandments or those that Jesus gave us, we commit sin.
But what is sin exactly? Well, one definition is that sin is the opposite of love, and we are made to love and be loved. If love is thinking, willing, and doing what is truly good for another, then sin is the opposite. Sin is doing what we know God wouldn’t want, and so we should strive never to give in to sin.
Thankfully, God is incomprehensibly merciful. That’s why He invites us to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also called Confession or Penance) to experience His forgiveness and to receive His grace to find it easier not to sin anymore.
Each time we make a proper confession, we are not only forgiven all the sins of our life, but we are given tremendous graces that make it easier for us to live out God’s commandments moving forward. Many people do not even know about this outpouring of graces! Confession is like a powerful injection of grace into our souls to strengthen us. Wouldn’t you want that “booster shot” of grace? I know I need it as I continue to strive to grow in holiness as a priest and spiritual father.
I know families who go to confession frequently, whether together as a family, or simply when they are each able to. Once every month or two is certainly not too often and will do incredible things for your family. Being one of the two Sacraments of healing, it has powerful healing and strengthening effects. When parents go, it sets a great example for their children, and when children go, they often behave much better and over time get used to striving to follow God more closely. This can set up habits that will benefit them (and all those they come in contact with) for the rest of their lives.
I am sure that the more often you go, the more you will look forward to going, even if right now you think you’ll never feel that way about Sacramental Reconciliation. But you will! You’ll love the peace, healing, interior freedom, and strength you’ll receive each time you go.
For more information about the Sacrament of Confession, you may find my personal webpage’s FAQ page useful.
And in case you were wondering, here are just a couple of places where Confession comes up in the New Testament:
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:21-22)
“Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
9) Tell Your Priests What They Can Do Better to Help Families in the Parish.
I hate to break it to you, but most priests don’t read hearts and minds like St. Padre Pio or St. John Vianney. Honestly, sometimes we priests don’t know the best ways we can serve you. It takes a lot of pressure off of us when you just tell us how. We like to hear from you, whether it’s the things you find helpful for your family, or the things you’d like to see done more often, or less, etc. Lay people have incredible ideas and usually excellent insights that priests can greatly benefit from. If you have some, I encourage you to share them with your priest.
Sometimes you may wonder if your priest is even open to hearing certain things. My advice is simply to kindly say that you think it could be a good idea to try doing “x” —”x” being your idea, of course. The priest will likely take the hint. If he doesn’t, just express it again in another and more obvious way. He may even ask you for tips on how to go about doing it or implementing what you suggest. Be warned though, he may also ask if you’re willing to help bring that good idea to reality. Know that it’s okay to say no if you really know you can’t, but I also encourage you to get involved if you are able to. A priest may like to do lots of things around the parish but he’s also not a one-man-show. Becoming involved in parish life, or even piloting an idea you pioneered could be the start of a beautiful collaboration and friendship with your priest. And that in turn could become an incredible blessing for your family and community.
“Okay,” some of you say, “but I really struggle to relate to my priest.” In that case, say a prayer and ask God to guide your actions further. Perhaps He will still want you to reach out. And you might be surprised! Sometimes priests may seem less friendly, but as you get to know them, they open up and you find out new things that make you warm up to them. Don’t assume they won’t be open; you’ll never know until you try. As a bonus, you may want to ask your guardian angel to get together with theirs and guide your conversations. That’s not a joke! :)
And if your priest comes off as unapproachable, be gentle and kind, but try to talk to him anyway. Even if he doesn’t agree with what you propose, he’ll respect you for sharing your thoughts. Moreover, if you don’t try, you’ll never know what great things could have happened!
And that wraps up the 9 things your priest wants your family to know. I hope you have found these suggestions helpful and fruitful in your personal and family life. If you ever need to revisit them, they’ll be right here. And remember, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)
Father Gregory Merkley
Father Gregory Merkley is a priest of the Diocese of Hamilton, in Ontario, Canada. Having grown up in a family where the faith was not very practiced, he lived for some years as a practical atheist. After his return to the Catholic Church, he gave his life to Christ and was ordained a Catholic priest on May 4th, 2019. Father Merkley is interested in anything Catholic, with a special love for evangelization, apologetics, Catholic Tradition, and canon law. When he is not praying, he is most typically involved in some form of evangelization or ministry. You can learn more about him at his personal website.