My godson was baptized this weekend and that experience got me thinking about what kind of man I hope he grows up to be. I wrote him a long letter for him to read once he is a teenager. I modified that letter and it is here below. Since my godson is Catholic, many of the things relate to how to be a good Catholic, but also many things have to do with just how to be a good person. It also reflects a lot of what I see wrong with our culture and the way boys and girls are raised whether it be from the culture, from their parents, or in the educational system.
You don’t know me, but I have a few things to tell you. I think that you may not have heard this stuff yet or maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet. These are all the things that I wish I had heard as a teenager, or heard more often. So, here are some things that I want you to know, all the things that I hope you have learned or are learning now, the things that will help you grow up to be a good person.
Here we go:
1. You are loved and you are worthy of love. In fact, you were made to love and be loved by God in return and when I say love I am not talking about cheesy romance or anything. I am talking about sacrifice, lay it on the line, die for you kind of love. And I know this sounds grandiose, like, do I seriously expect you to die for people? Well yes and no. Love, real love, is about sacrifice and sacrifices come in different forms. Sacrificing your life would be the biggest one, but it’s definitely not the only one. It’s a sacrifice to let your mom win an argument when you’re sure she’s wrong. It’s a sacrifice to not tease your brother. It’s a sacrifice to hold the door open for the person behind you. Love is sacrifice. Love is putting the other person before yourself.
2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t try and hide who you are to fit in. Some people will make fun of you for being yourself, but others will like you more for your honesty. Either way, you were made in the image of God and to hide who he made you to be is rude to him.
3. Ask questions, ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to doubt things or question why something is the way it is. It’s okay to be skeptical. Questioning things is how you learn more about them. There are a lot of things I questioned as a teenager, especially things in the Church. I was lucky in going to a Catholic university where many of my questions were answered, but , if I hadn’t my faith might be radically different today. Basically I am saying it’s good to ask questions and be skeptical, but you have to seek out the answers! And you have to go to the source. This is especially true with issues of faith and Catholicism especially. If you don’t understand something the Church teaches, ask them why they teach it! You can ask your priest, or a teacher, or me, but it’s even better to go and read Church documents. Read the Catechism, read the Pope’s encyclicals, read the Bible!
4. While you are doing all this questioning, if you think the Church is wrong, still give them the benefit of the doubt. Recognize that they have been doing this for over 2000 years and that maybe, just maybe, that collective knowledge is greater than one tiny you. Trust the Church.
Boys: Be a man. There are far too few men in the world right now and the males you see on TV are caricatures and/or overgrown boys. They are not men. Men are gentlemen, they are strong, confident, respectful, considerate, protective, God-fearing, honest, and brave. As a woman, I can’t really teach you how to be a man, but I can tell you who to look to. Look to Godly men in your own life. Additionally look to: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Joseph the father of Jesus, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Bl. John Paul II, St. Augustine, and, most of all, God the Father and God the Son. Read about them, pray to them, and try to act like them.
Girls: Be a lady. Ladies are truthful, forthright, strong, and humble. Being a lady does not mean you are a shrinking violet, but it does mean that you don’t talk bad about people behind their backs and you respect your body enough to take care of it and dress modestly. Women are too afraid of being alone so they sacrifice their own dignity in the hope of finding “the one.” You are worth so much more than that. Furthermore, hold men to a high standard. Don’t complain that there are no good guys out there and then let the bad ones treat you poorly. Men will rise to your expectations. Expect more.
6. Do what you are passionate about every day. Make it your job, if you can. You will spend ⅓ of most days at work, so you had better like it. It may be nice to have a job that pays well, but, in the end, your time is worth much more than the money is.
7. Honor your obligations, but don’t stick around doing something that you hate because you FEEL obligated to keep doing it.
8. Go to Mass. If you think it’s boring, don’t blame the Mass, blame yourself. And try to learn more about the intricacies, mysteries, and beauty of the Mass. You may be surprised. Did you know that most of the words of the Mass come directly from the Bible? Either which way, not going to Mass each Sunday is a mortal sin. It’s kind of a big deal. So go! Even when it seems boring and pointless, one day you will be glad you did.
9. Pray. Talk to God. Praise him. Thank him. Ask him questions. Listen to God. He has things to tell you, but, if you aren’t taking the time to be quiet and listen to him, he has a harder time telling you. One of my favorite times to listen to God is during Eucharistic Adoration. You should try it out 🙂
10. Read every day. Yes every day. Read for fun. Read to learn. Read the Bible.
11. Speak up when you see injustice. You will feel guilty if you don’t. Moreover, it’s the right thing to do. And I don’t just mean at big things. I mean with small ones too, like classmates talking about someone behind their back. Bad things only happen when good people stand by and let them happen.
12. Be honest, but charitable.
13. Listen. All the time, even when it’s someone boring and lame, ESPECIALLY when it’s someone boring and lame. They will appreciate it more than you know.
14. Be a kid. It’s okay to rebel. That’s part of growing up, but do try to honor your parents, even when you think they are idiots.
15. Even when things seem awful, there is still good. God created you in his image and likeness and he loves you. He wants you to one day be with him in heaven. Sometimes the process of getting there hurts, a lot. It’s worth it in the end, even if it doesn’t seem like it in the middle.
16. This may sound strange to you, but you are not special. You are one person out of 7 billion in the world today. You have talents and gifts, but so does everyone else. You are not special, so don’t expect the world to treat you that way. Don’t expect the world to give you handouts and extra attention like your parents do, because you are not special. However, you are unique. There may be 7 billion people in the world, but there is only one you. God has a plan just for you. God has a plan just for you; he has a mission for you and he created you just the way you are to fulfill it.
18. No matter what sort of hellish torture they seem to be putting you through, your parents do love you (except in rare sad circumstances). They are not perfect, but they are trying their best to raise you right.
I know this is a lot, but I hope you get something out of it. You are so amazing! God made you to love him and he loves you for it. If you have questions about anything I have written, I would love your comments. Additionally, there are some great resources out there about some of the things I have talked about. Some of my favorites are:
www.chastity.com -you can listen/watch entire talks by Jason Evert and their Q & A section is practically encyclopedic
www.newadvent.org -a combination of a news aggregate site and a full Catholic encyclopedia
www.catholic.com -they have an 800 number where you can call a Catholic apologist and ask them anything
www.catholicjobs.com -tons of great jobs out there
www.simchafisher.wordpress.com -a very insightful woman
www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic -a very insightful man