How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard University by Aurora Griffin

I have just finished reading the book, “How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard University” (Ignatius Press) which was written to help students remain active and grow in their faith while away at college.  It is an excellent book and an easy read but more compelling was that it was a book for all people who want to maintain and grow in faith.  All practicing Catholics of all ages should read this book to see how they can continue to grow and learn about their faith throughout their lives. 

The following is the Description from Ignatius’ Press website:

A Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, and devout Catholic tells you everything you need to know about keeping your faith at a modern university. Drawing on her recent experience, Aurora Griffin shares forty practical tips relating to academics, community, prayer, and service that helped her stay Catholic in college.

She reminds us that keeping the faith is a conscious decision, reinforced by commitment to daily practices. Aurora’s story illustrates that when you decide your faith matters to you, no one can take it away, even in the most secular environments and under strong peer pressure. Throughout the book, she shows how being Catholic in college did not prevent her from having a full “college experience,” but actually enabled her to make the most of her time at Harvard.

Aurora encourages students who are about to begin this formative journey, or those now in college, that the most valuable parts of college life — lasting friendships, intellectual growth, and cherished memories — are experienced in a more meaningful way when lived in and through the Catholic faith.

Why a Masculine Example of Holiness is Vital for Children

Feature for Father’s Day – National Catholic Register

Joseph Pronechen

The father knelt in the dark of night, deep in prayer.

Sometimes his young son would wake up and witness his devotion.

Such witness made a deep impression on the son.

Who were this father and son?

A young Karol Wojtyla — the future Pope St. John Paul II — and his father.

Karol Wojtyla Sr. well recognized that a father’s primary duty is to get himself and his family — wife and children — to heaven.

Others have been likewise impacted by a father’s faith.

“My dad was very much the spiritual leader of our family,” recalled Father Richard Heilman, pastor of St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff Church in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, and founder of the website What dad Walter “represented for us kids — I’m third of seven children — is all of us got to Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation, and we were active in our parishes helping out. That was instilled in us early on.”

Today, all his brothers (one is deceased) and sisters are joyful Catholics. “They all love their faith,” the priest said, “and Dad did it with such great joy, too. He loved living out his faith, primarily at the local church.”

It’s essential for fathers to take the lead with their children. Father Heilman and others point to the findings of a study conducted by the Swiss government in 1994 and published in 2000, which revealed that the religious practice of the father of the family “determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.”

The study found if a father doesn’t attend church, “no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions — only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, 75% of the children will continue as churchgoers.

“This confirms the essential role of father as spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood,” said Father Heilman.

Such masculine example is increasingly important. In January, a Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University national study of young millennials who left the Church found that 74% decided to leave as young as 10 years old, and only 17% replied that when they were Catholic, they went to Mass weekly.

And in 2015, the Pew Research Center found that, among Catholics, 73% of those who say “religion was very important to their family while they were growing up describe themselves as Catholics today, compared with just 38% among those who say religion was ‘not too’ or ‘not at all’ important to their families.” Matthew James Christoff is helping men turn the tide through the “New Emangelization Project” (

“A Catholic man’s greatest duty is to lead his spouse and children to meet Christ in the Mass,” said Christoff, on Sundays and holy days of obligation, as the Church dictates. Men leading their families to Sunday Mass “will have a lasting impact.”

He cites dire findings that Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix referred to in his apostolic exhortation to Catholic men called “Into the Breach” in 2015. The statistics include: Only 29% of Catholic men believe attendance at weekly Mass is “very important”; merely 34% strongly agree Catholicism is among the “most important parts of life”; only 26% think of themselves as “practicing Catholics”; only 33% say they attend Mass weekly; only one-third pray daily; and less than a third believe confession is important.

In “Into the Breach,” Bishop Olmsted noted, “[T]he truth is that large numbers of Catholic men are failing to keep the promises they made at their children’s baptisms — promises to bring them to Christ and to raise them in the faith of the Church.”

“Fathers who lead their children to Mass are helping in a very real way to ensure their eternal salvation,” emphasized Bishop Olmsted.

“The Mass is a refuge in the Spiritual Battle, where Catholic men meet their King, hear his commands, and become strengthened with the Bread of Life.”

Fathers need to take the lead, Christoff agrees.

“As a man, the father needs to build unity at the top,” said Christoff. “The father plays a very significant role.”

The fatherly witness of prayer, participation at church and actively teaching children the faith “has a huge impact on children” as part of the “domestic church militant.”

Father Heilman said his father’s faithful witness “instilled … that we take our faith seriously. It’s not a matter of fulfilling our obligations, but putting it into practice. That’s the key,” adding: “If you take your faith seriously — more than just fulfilling an obligation and looking at your watch, but you understand that faith is a daily matter — when duty calls, you’re first in line to say, ‘Send me.’ Children are watching. That was the way in which faith has been anchored in each one of us. It wasn’t just an obligation of worship, but actually doing everything the Church asked us to do, and doing it with joy.”

In growing in faith, dads should look to faithful examples of the saints, including Jesus’ earthly father, St. Joseph.

“Our ultimate goal as men is to be spiritual fathers,” said Christoff, and for fathers who do so, “their children will see how the faith has made their father better. As the father grows in holiness, the family realizes and naturally follows.” Christoff is also a co-founder of, “a website dedicated to help men meet, get to know and build a friendship with Jesus Christ.”

Another program helping men fulfill their faith-focused mission is

As a parish youth director, co-founder Jason Craig wanted to support men in faith formation.

Fraternus, which has several chapters around the country, has become a place where fathers pass on their faith to future men, whether they be their own sons or fatherless boys or those who are fatherless spiritually.

“Every faithful Catholic man can point to a mentor or a man that really taught him to be a Catholic man,” Craig emphasized.

“If as young adolescent men they don’t have fathers or fatherly mentors, they will not practice the faith without a man’s intervention. The Son reveals the Father. If you don’t have an image of fatherhood, it’s hard to understand the faith.”

“In Fraternus, we look the man in the eye and say, ‘You are the example.’” Craig explained it as foremost a training for men, who then bring young men to maturity via solid faith formation, conversations and catechesis about the virtues, in addition to Mass attendance and other prayer practices.

As fathers become leaders in faith formation, Father Heilman agrees that there should be a sense of integrity.

“If you want children to grow up and take their faith seriously [you must guide] by the example you’re setting.”

Father Heilman also strongly recommends fathers exhibit Christian joy. He well remembers, “Dad was joyful in the faith.”

Joseph Pronechen

 is a National Catholic Register

staff writer


Marital Friendship and the Raising of Children

Marital Friendship Pic

Marital Friendship and the Procreation of Children

COMMENTARY: The connection between the flourishing of parents and the difficulties of raising children is found in friendship. By Christopher Kaczor – Posted 5/27/18 at 9:29 AM

William Faulkner once said, “Writing a novel is like a one-armed man trying to hammer together a chicken coop in a hurricane.”
Raising children is something like that. No experienced parent can deny the challenges of being a mom or dad. Yet the Second Vatican Council taught, “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”
Blessed Paul VI emphasized this teaching explicitly in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. The goodness of the procreation of children is not just Catholic teaching, but has biblical roots going all the way back to God’s words to Adam and Eve in the Garden, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
Can the same thing be both challenging and a gift? The connection between the difficulties of raising children and the flourishing of parents is found in friendship.  In his best-selling book The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, the psychologist John Gottman wrote that the determining factor in whether a wife or husband feels satisfied with the sex, romance and passion of their relationship is the quality of the couple’s friendship.
Friendship could be defined in terms of mutual goodwill, shared activity and shared emotional life. Having children together fosters marital friendship because shared children give the parents an extra reason to have goodwill for each other: This person is not just my wife; she is also the mother of my children.
In virtue of loving the children, I have an extra reason for loving her. When difficulties arise, as they inevitably do, children provide an extra motivation to make things work. Couples who know that the children will suffer if a marriage falls apart have an extra reason to seek reconciliation.
The activity of raising children, as well as accompanying them as adults, gives the couple a shared emotional life. Mother and father are united in joy at first Holy Communion, graduation from high school, celebration of a wedding or the birth of a grandchild.
Mother and father are united in sorrow at schoolyard bullying, high-school hazing, an arrest of a child for drunken driving or the unemployment of an adult son or daughter. A child inevitably brings to his or her parents times of frustration and desolation and at other times elation and exhilaration.
The rollercoaster ride of parenthood goes from panic, rage and stress to serenity, tranquility and exhilaration and then back again. Whatever their emotional ups and downs, children benefit parents by providing them resources for a shared emotional life, enhancing their friendship.
Aristotle famously distinguished between friendships of pleasure, utility and virtue. We love in friends what is pleasurable, useful or excellent, and so, from a focus on these three things, different kinds of friendships arise. Children do not aid a friendship of pleasure, that which is based on having fun and hedonistic experiences; friendships of pleasure, however, tend not to last anyway. Children also do not much aid a friendship of utility, since children usually need our help rather than offer it.
Our spouse, moreover, is less likely to be useful to us if he or she is focused on helping the children. But a friendship of utility is, by its nature, a second-rate kind of friendship.
In a friendship of utility, I don’t really care about my friend as much as the benefits that friend gives to me. But what about a friendship of virtue? In this friendship, friends care about each other not simply because they give one another pleasure or utility, but because of the excellence of the other person.
How do we gain virtue? At least for the acquired virtues, we gain an excellent character by repeatedly doing excellent acts. When a couple has a child, that vulnerable baby needs round-the-clock help. In performing caring, gentle, kind and loving acts for
their baby, their toddler, their grade-schooler, their teenager and their young-adult child, parents grow into more caring, gentle, kind and loving people. Inasmuch as the couple have more children, they have further opportunity for growth in virtue. Inasmuch as they grow in virtue, they establish or strengthen the basis for a friendship of virtue.
Of course, raising children does not automatically make a person virtuous. To become virtuous requires a difficult task, but not one that completely overwhelms. For this reason, the Church encourages responsible parenthood rather than maximal reproduction.
Responsible parenthood involves practical wisdom about the strengths and weaknesses of the couple, their economic situation and all the relevant circumstances. To have children contrary to what practical wisdom would warrant is not conducive to virtue.
All people are called to be generous to the poor in giving donations, but it would, for most people, be contrary to practical wisdom to give away 90% of the family’s income. So, too, married couples are called to be generous in giving life, but it would be contrary to practical wisdom, for most people, to have as many children as biologically possible — this is where the Church’s teaching on natural family planning comes into play.
So, where does that leave us? The most rewarding and meaningful things in life are also the most difficult. To become a black belt in judo, to graduate with honors, to write a novel or to raise a family fall in this category. When we look back on our lives, the black belt, the honor roll and the novel will pale in comparison to raising a family. Even if we become president of the United States, we would almost certainly say to our children, as one president did, “Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”
To be a mom or to be a dad is to participate, however imperfectly, in the action of the Divine, the friendship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Christopher Kaczor is a professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University
and the author of The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church.
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