…all goodness is pleasing to Him by nature, always and everywhere, whether it be in angels, in men, or in other creatures…Similarly all evil displeases God everywhere and always and in whatever it exists.
Dads, do we delight in the accomplishments of our kids? I’m sure we do most of times. If you are reading this, I doubt your heart is made of stone. But there two points to make: 1. Do we delight in our children’s accomplishments even when we are distracted with other things? and 2. Do our children know we delight in their goodness?
I am sure some of us are quick to praise. My Dad was. I knew when he was proud of me-and so did everyone around. If he met someone he knew while we were grocery shopping, (yes, my Dad did the grocery shopping-I think it had to do with loving his wife a lot) he made a point to tell that person how proud he was of me or whichever of his children were with him. We always knew Dad would notice our goodness.
I think this praise also gave us kids a better sense of sorrow for sin when we did things not to be so proud of. This is essentially the difference between perfect and imperfect contrition. Do we want our children to have sorrow for things they have done wrong because they were caught and getting punished (imperfect)? or because they have disappointed their parents-and ultimately God (perfect)? Recall this part of the act of contrition:
I detest all my sins because of the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offended Thee my God who art all good and deserving of all my love. (emphasis added)
Myself, I didn’t inherit all this virtue of my father. I am very good a picking out faults (not just my own.) This critical nature of mine, while having uses, is not always so helpful in raising children. Yes, they need correction, but they also need praise. God delights in goodness, and we should also. (Our delight in goodness should not be less pronounced than our rejection of evil.) Be quick to praise publicly and privately. They need to know you are proud of them in so many ways (they are sure to hear about it when they’ve messed up!)
There was a second part St. Thomas mentions isn’t there? Evil displeases God. Does it displease us? or do we even notice when it invades our house?
Several years ago, Lori and I gave up television for Lent. Now we didn’t watch a whole lot to begin with, but we had our favorite prime-time TV shows which we watched several times a week, along with new-release movies that we would rent. After 40 days of no TV we sat down and watched our favorite shows. We were surprised at how much filth had been added to those TV shows in 40 days! – or was it us that changed?
We had been desensitized to the sex and violence on TV so much that we didn’t even notice it coming into our house and family. It took 40 days of cleansing (replacing TV with prayer, spiritual reading and discussion) for us to realize what evil we were welcoming into our house and family.
We are affected by what we watch, even if it be in subtle ways. An ancient saying goes “the eyes are the window to the soul.” Lori and I have changed our viewing habits since then. We are more careful about what we welcome into our house.
I am reminded of this particular way evil can enter our family every time I read these lines from Psalm 101:
I walked in the innocence of my heart, in the midst of my house.
I did not set before my eyes any unjust thing:
I hated the workers of iniquities.
The perverse heart did not cleave to me:
and the malignant, that turned aside from me, I would not know…
He that worketh pride shall not dwell in the midst of my house:
he that speaketh unjust things did not prosper before my eyes.
TV is an easy example. But there are others, be it the things we read or the people we associate with or the way use our computer.
One central theme in the CS Lewis classic The Great Divorce is that if our souls are not compatible with Heaven-we won’t enjoy Heaven, and thus, we will chose Hell. Our time on earth is the opportunity to mold our souls to be compatible with Heaven: we must do this by delighting in goodness and rejecting evil in all its forms.
We must realize again that our children will often imitate our delight in goodness (or lack thereof). Look at your children. (Of course they have their own personalities, natural virtues, and natural weaknesses.) Can you see if they delight in goodness; are they attracted to it? How about their friends? Are your children quick to praise their siblings, or quick to criticize? This may tell you something about yourself.
Finally, one way to keep on track in rejecting evil is to add the St. Michael prayer to your family prayers every night:
Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -by the Divine Power of God -cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen