Rorate Caeli

Guidance for young parents: how to raise a big, holy Catholic family (ongoing series)

After posting a video of a Catholic family with 15 children -- that boasted eight religious vocations -- we asked our readers (see here) to write into us and share their stories on what it's like to raise a big family, and what they did or are still doing to make their family holy, happy and peaceful. Here is one of those stories.

Please consider sending your story to Rorate (see here for very flexible instructions) to post in this on-going series to help inspire young Catholic couples to forgo the abuses of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and simply go fourth and multiply with faith and confidence in a loving and all-knowing God.

To view all of these stories, click the "The joy of big families" tag at the end of this post. For those who have sent in stories, we will post soon:

Written by New York Mom:

My husband and I have 8 children ... 4 boys - 4 girls. We were married with the TLM almost 20 years ago. 

My husband just graduated from law school and I was in my third year of law school when I was expecting our first child, nine months after we were married. I have never used my degree outside of home but I sure use it inside the home! We have done it all as far as schooling. We have home schooled and some have gone to traditional school... very orthodox but away from home.  We have tried to find the best fit for each child and have made mistakes but I believe our kids know that we are trying to do the best we can for them.  If I had to say a few things that have worked for us in keeping our eyes on the prize .... Heaven .... I would humbly suggest the following:

1. No TV - maybe an old movie as a treat here and there but nothing on TV.

2. No access to the Internet ... I have a computer but I am the only one who has the password and I have to be there. It hasn't hurt them to read books and go to the library.

3. No modern music...classical only

4. Good literature ,,, no junk,,, read classics at the right age and lots of them and they will be lifelong readers, have an excellent vocabulary and ace the reading section of the SAT.  If they read junk they will never want to put in the work it takes to read difficult literature later.

5. Tell them that your family is different from the start and when things come up that you have to say no to ... They won't be surprised or unhappy.

6. Ask for observations from a parent or someone you trust who knows you and your family well. My mother has given us invaluable advice on what she sees going well in our family and things that aren't working. Sometimes others can see things we can't and it has been a blessing for us.

7. Always make dinner a fun time for talking and laughing and I think it is important to show your love for your family by making really good dinners. They always seem to respond to the effort.

8. Be there!  Be there for your children in mind, body and spirit and do not let all the distractions of the world into your home.


Edward More said...

#3 Yes, I agree, I've always thought that the vast majority of modern music has a corrupting influence, even if on a subconscious level. No wonder pop music was ushered in as people's morality came crashing down in the western world.
#7 Good dinners, what a wonderful idea! The children will thoroughly enjoy having a good meal with their parents and their siblings. Plus, a "good" dinner usually means a healthy one! In Spain, my home country, I don't think you can separate "delicious" from healthy : )

God Bless!

JTS said...

8 and 7 should be in first and second position. TV is addictive. We have TV and I'd be lost without it. I'd have to make a real sacrifice to do without it once the children are asleep. The children wouldn't mind though, they can entertain themselves very well if the TV is prohibited. Yes family meals are important times to bond and discuss things as a family and share funny stories. I'd struggle with your rules 1,2 and 3 but it sounds like you're doing well. Good job!

Long-Skirts said...

New York Mom said:

"7. Always make dinner a fun time for talking and laughing and I think it is important to show your love for your family by making really good dinners."

This is so very true. Lot's of week nights my husband couldn't get home for dinner with the family but I always made sure I had all the children together for the night time meal and Sundays I ALWAYS made sure that we had a big dinner and I still try to do that to this day. The poem below tries to convey the importance of being together. I never had silver and real china but with good music playing and a few candles and good food after saying grace you can feel like the wealthiest man on earth!


Cloth of cream
China plate
Crystal vases

Blossoms orange
Mums of yellow
Autumn eve
A Sunday mellow.

Sterling silver
Piney vapor
Scents the air
From brass held taper.

Dad and mom
Sipping wine
Roasting beef
Upon we’ll dine.

Chilly children
Crunch on leaves
Runny noses
Wiped on sleeves.

Whipped potatoes
In glass bowl
Salad, broccoli
Dinner roll.

Children sit
Carving begins
Under the table
They kick their shins.

Dinner music
Say the grace
To thank Our Lord.

Acorn scented
Breezes tame
Swirl around
The candle flame.

Soon to yield
To winter’s power…
But we’ll stay warm
In the roast beef hour!

Eva Felicita said...

I really enjoy Long-Skirts' poems. Thank you.

Julian Barkin said...

Hello those of Rorate Caeli,

It is good to know other families are going what is off the "mainstream "c"atholic grid" when it comes to raising families in the traditional Catholic sense.

However, after reading a number of these, I am noticing a pattern. I am aware of the guidelines you set from the start, but aside from your first story with a Novus Ordo family, I am actually being a little discouraged from these stories.

It seems that only stereotypical "Trad Families" that live a lifestyle similarly espoused by the SSPX are the only ones who can do this. The message I`m getting is that you: Almost in all cases have to be a Latin Mass attending family, have to homeschool, have to deprive the family of internet and tv other forms of music aside from Classical, etc.

Look, I get that there are lots of other influences in secular media and society that will make it much harder for a family to live with the Traditional "family values" of Catholicism and maintain the faith. But when the majority of the stories released here so far seem to keep perpetuating the ``Stereotype`` of the ``Trad family``, it isn`t winning brownie points for the Latin Mass/homeschooling/Traditional Catholicism either.

Also as a side note, only a minority of Catholic women are practicing their faith out of a true desire for the Lord, not contracepting, etc. And that's in the general Church. A minority of that minority go to/appreciate/attend the Latin Mass. And of both EF and OF attendees, a highly miniscule percentage of those women would want to agree to a lifestyle presented in these stories, making young guys like me hopeless at such a "pipe dream".

I do hope there will be more "outliers" as it were in your future accounts that may dispel what I have commented on here. Pax.

culbreath said...

With respect to music, classical music is essential to a good cultural formation and should be there, but there's a whole world of decent music on the level of folk and even "popular" music (mostly 50+ years old in the latter case) that is harmless and fun. Why exclude it?

Adfero said...

Julian, first of all, this is a traditional Catholic blog, trying to help traditional Catholics. And that includes families. So of course all these examples are mostly trad families. I don't care about outliers: I care about helping trads, and showing non-trads they should be trads, and how to be.

You think only a minority of women not contracepting go to the Latin Mass? So the majority go to the NO? Where could you come up with that statistic?

Not one of these posts say this is exactly how you must raise a family. All differ from each other. But if you notice common themes, it's because there are indeed common themes that must be present for a truly Catholic family to thrive.

Adfero said...

Culbreath, you may think some of that music is harmless, but much of the 50s music is not. It's laced with sexually explicit lyrics.

I never noticed this until I listened with the ears of a father.

culbreath said...

Adfero, I'm well acquainted with the genre, and you're right that some popular music going back even before the '50s can be problematic. That's true of folk music as well, some of which can be quite bawdy. But I'm not suggesting an uncensored approach at all.

Bing Crosby, The Clancy Brothers, Roger Whittaker, The Chieftans, Allison Kraus, Patty Page, Doris Day, Andy Williams, Ricky Skaggs, Bill Monroe, Dean Martin, Nana Mouskouri, etc., just to name a few, have produced worthwhile music that keeps alive the best of our cultural inheritance. Exclusion is deracination.

Three of my children are award winning fiddlers, playing mostly Texas and Irish fiddle. In our trad community there are other fiddlers as well as mandolin players, folk guitarists, accordian players, and barbershop singers. A "classical only" approach to Catholic parenting is needlessly restrictive in my view.

De Liliis said...

Yes being Christian means being different.

No TV, classical music not cheap music, no Internet for the children, and solid prayer lives. :)

The simpler life. Less that's cheap. More that's slower to appreciate and truly valuable.

Lee Gilbert said...

Well, I hope this qualifies, since I was raised in a large family, and am the eldest of eight. With a late vocation to marriage we were only able to have two children, however, yet we did some things you might find of use. Our daughter became a National Merit Finalist, and at 33 is now a nun in a traditional Carmelite monastery; our son at 35 still practices the faith.

a) We got rid of the TV. Besides being a deadly spiritual threat, it fractures the children's attention span. In pre-kindergarten testing, school-district psychologists remarked-two years apart- that both their attention spans were extraordinary.

b) Although I badly wanted to homeschool, my wife did not, so we fell into what effectively became semi-homeschooling. Alternatively it could be called Family Evenings Together. This consisted of 1) 30 minutes of good secular reading, such as the Chronicles of Narnia; 2) 30 minutes of a good, book length life of a saint; 3) the Baltimore Catechism, and in that order. The lives of the saints made the Catechism come alive, and the Catechism explained the lives of the saints

Obviously, this program is easier to pull off in the Winter, and when it's rainy or dark. In Summer they wanted to play outside till dark, obviously.

This cannot be imposed in a stentorian, martinet fashion, but has to be made attractive, a joyous time together. Although it IS schooling, I would keep that label away from it. We did not insist on excessive reverence in going through the Catechism. If my son wanted to respond in an imitation computer voice, or while dangling upside down from the couch, fine. Just get it in your little heads what ever it takes.

We were able to pull this off till my son was about twelve, so this went on for eight years. It was the best eight years of my life. We had a blast. It was often hilarious. It was frequently inspiring.

Later, more than 20 years later we discovered that my daughter had developed a devotion both to St. Therese and to (Bl?) Jacinta when she was about 8.

One thing that was implict in all this, of course, was that the Catholic faith is a very big deal. We never had to say as much, nor did we ever have to explain to them why we went to Mass, nor did we ever encounter any resistance in taking them to Mass, nor was there ever the slightest teen age rebellion from either of them, although they are both strong personalities.

All of this I attribute to the grace and the goodness of God. In fact, getting rid of the TV was in response to increasingly insistent nudges. This created the void, the aeons of time that had to be filled up with something. It created the space that made our family evenings together possible, even necessary.

jeff said...

I agree. we have the tv but we restrict what is watched. our children can't be shielded forever from the big bad world so we engage with a critical eye. we let our kids know when something doesn't stack up with the faith.

and kid's tv isn't all bad.

Dymphna said...

I grew up listening to classical music but not exclusively. We had Easy Listening, blues, R&B and country. No moden music means no Sinatra, no Gotschalk, no Shostakovich, no Andrews Sisters, no Old McDonald Had a Farm, no DoWop and no Johnny Cash. No thanks. Besides, if you look at their lives, Verdi, Wagner, Listz, and Thchaikovsky had sexual sins that make modern celbrities look tame. That being said, as long as the children are happy, healthy and can function in the real world I try not to criticize how other people raise their kids.

Ramadan said...

In our home, the following rules apply:

No radio or TV except EWTN.
No newspapers at all except the Dominican newspaper, Alive;
No films except classics like The Robe, Quo Vadis or A Man for All Seasons;
No magazines or journals except missionary ones, The Wanderer or the Brandsma Review;
No books other than those that have the approval of a saintly Jesuit priest we know, mostly classical literature and the lives of the saints;
No music except sacred music and a careful selection of classic orchestral works (e.g., no Carmina Burana, no Madame Butterfly for obvious reasons);
No internet as the web is such a source of evil and vile material;
No theatre or live shows.

I know that kids' tv shows on EWTN are pathetic in terms of their production style, glitz and gloss compared to the commercial world,but the content is so rich and faithful. "The Friar" and "We are Catholic" are such wholesome counterpoints to Dora, Barney and the vile single-parent duck.

Clearly "our children can't be shielded forever from the big bad world" but they can be protected against the deeply sinful influences arising in the mainstream media today that so often puts souls in mortal peril.

Dymphna said...

Pardon me, but Ramadan, are you joking or serious?

Jenny said...

I am a new reader to this blog, even though I have been attending the TLM since I was a toddler. I am a homeschooling mother of six, and as the oldest is only 12, I am still in survival mode, and so not an authority to speak on what works/doesn't work for sure........

However, I want to sincerely ask all of the "classical music only" commenters this: What do you think MOST of the saints who populate Heaven grew up listening to? Not modern music, obviously, but also NOT classical music. They didn't have the ability to pop in a Mozart CD while washing kitchen dishes. Instead, they were probably humming and singing the songs of their local culture. Local folk music is made up of the stuff of the average, war, drunkards, tax men, whiskey, unfaithful lovers, etc. Oh the horror!!!

My other question is for those who believe that the internet is the den of iniquity, or as Ramadan put it: "No internet as the web is such a source of evil and vile material"
How is it that you are commenting on this website? Do you have internet or don't you? Or are you running down to the library to use their internet? If you really believe what you write, then how do you justify getting on the internet at all, even to glean from the "good" websites?

Ramadan said...

Why would I joke about issues pernicious to one's immortal soul?

My children, being under 18, are all minors. I would be derelict in my duty to introduce them to the cesspool that most of the web has become. I have access through my work phone. Do I need to justify something I do in furtherance of the well-being of souls? Would you let your children swim in a crocodile infested lake? Do you want to do everything to safeguard your family's faith and morality?

Dymphna said...

Well Ramadan, it's the logistics of it that stun me. I read a book a week. I can't imagine running them all by my priest. Even if he was retired the amount of time it would take for him to approve everything would be huge.

Mom in the Shoe said...

I have to admit to being discouraged also. Here at our house, dinners are difficult...and I mean VERY difficult.

As much as I would "like" to have something different, the hard truth is, with six kids ages ten and under, I CAN'T manage to get something super-good on the table - no matter how fabulous a cook my mother or mother-in-law was, and how pitiful my attempts are.

Many mothers, especially the young ones with a lot of littles, can get very discouraged with the heavy emphasis on the "good meals"...implied in that is that you have to have extremely good well-balanced all the time, regardless of what your day was like, especially if you are homeschooling four different grades and are expected to provide them with a classical college prep education. Now, granted, there are some Moms out there who can manage just fine, but there are those of us who have been juggling and juggling and juggling for years while we have had babies, dealt with the pressures and now find ourselves extremely unhealthy as a result.

I wrote one of the big Catholic family stories, so I am right in there with you. The important thing is, you have to keep this MANAGEABLE, or you won't last very long. If you stack up a to-do list for yourself with a ton of "shoulds", you will head straight for burnout.

And a final comment, and this is directed to fathers -- please forgive me if I offend anybody -- for Heaven's sake, KNOW your wife. Learn about what she needs and doesn't need from you. Be genuinely interested in what she really needs, don't criticize her and encourage her a LOT. You can NEVER overdo the encouragement. If she can only muster hot dogs for dinner, then give her a big hug and tell her she's beautiful and that you thank God daily that He gave you such a wonderful wife. Trust me, she'll feel like a queen, and that's what every Catholic wife should feel like.

culbreath said...

Mom in the Shoe:

Ideals are meant to inspire, not discourage. Every family is going to fall short of the ideal in one way or another. As one good priest used to tell me, "don't make the perfect the enemy of the good". Choose your battles, serve your hot dogs, and be at peace.

Long-Skirts said...

Mom In The Shoe said:

"Many mothers, especially the young ones with a lot of littles, can get very discouraged with the heavy emphasis on the "good meals"...The important thing is, you have to keep this MANAGEABLE"

"Not that housework will kill you, but why take the chance?"

Manageable is right. Even though I write a poem about my beautiful Sunday dinners with "brass", "china" & "crystal"...I NEVER have had that! My candles and holder are always from the Dollar Store along with my glass bowls and plain plates.
My meals have been very BASIC. Chicken baked in the oven, potatoes, vegetable & salad along with your everyday Box Cake Mixes which are delicious!
I learned years ago to make a menu every week, meat, starch, veg., salad, fruits/desserts and then when I got up each morning I knew what to defrost for the dinner. I NEVER had money for anything but the BASICS. I'm not into worrying about whether or not something is "natural"...Lord, death is natural...I had to feed the family!
I'm sorry if I gave you the idea that everything was easy, it's not, that's why I mentioned the "E.R." trips (true) and our son who has abandoned the Faith...I still believe though that prayer is the key of the morning and lock of the night no matter what happens in between. Do, keep it simple and don't let anyone judge your meals if you're doing the best you can...Lord, knows there are too many "food police" out there today.

BTW...I LOVE Madame Butterfly and Johnny Cash!!

And one last thing for ALL Catholic couples, "Murder yes, divorce, never!"

Dymphna said...

Don't be discouraged by other people's examples. My family rarely ate at the dinner table together. My mother or my dad cooked and everyone over the age of three fixed their own plate buffet style and sat down at the table, or the couch or the floor. We were perfectly happy.

Mom in the Shoe said...


I respect your position on these issues, but I was raised in a not-too-different environment (in some respects). Your list is not exactly a carbon copy of the rules of our home, but very similar.

To this day, none of us have a good relationship with our parents. My siblings moved away as fast as possible, being the youngest I stayed home the longest, but now I'm the sole caregiver to parents with whom I barely get along. They complain all the time that I don't visit them enough (I live next door). I have made some very different parenting choices, which they condemn very vocally. It matters not one bit that I am a homeschooling, traditional-Mass-attending, skirt-wearing (and my daughters also) stay-home mother, if I am not exactly like them, they don't like me. That's fine, but it is not exactly the way I would like it to be. I am a bit wistful at all the ladies I know who get along fairly well with their parents.

Rigidity has accomplished nothing in our family except put wedges between everybody. My parents complain about us all the time, none of us are good enough, and when we all get together we just sigh and realize they are going to be what they are going to be, we can't change them, and meanwhile we continue to hear about what lousy children we are and how much better they treated their parents. Oh, well...

rosesinwinter said...

The rules themselves may not be the bad thing though. Maybe thous rules could work for some. I think a lot has to do with the delivery. Why are they there and are they delivered with love? Sometimes the removal of these 'things' from our lives can clear the way for a deeper and more profound faith. If these 'things' are obstacles, that hinder us on our way to a happy and holy family life, then it would be prudent to limit or remove them. Every family is different, different things work for different people. I love reading all these stories. I have learned a lot. We can learn form those that have found the way. Recognizing that there is a problem is the biggest step to making a positive change in your family life. But we should all strive to know God better and allow Him to be the most important member of our families.

Adfero said...

Mr. More, I did not block your comment. Try again.

Adfero said...

Culbreath, I agree, folk is very important and fun. In fact, we posted a list of great singers a couple of years ago on Rorate, all folk. And yes, some 50s music sounds innocent, but the rythms many believe are straight from hell. As is jazz.

There's a great sermon on Audio Sancto focusing on this.