Let me outsine the moon by Nikki Q (2009) via Flickr, CC. Let me outshine the moon by Nikki Q (2009) via Flickr, CC.

There’s no denying it: even the most seasoned Catholic moms with homes adorned with first-class saint relics and enough holy water fonts to put out a small fire are still susceptible to certain missteps. What’s scary, for me anyway, is that falling into these temptations can easily become habitual, causing us to lose sight of the damage being done.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m guilty of all of these and more. In an effort to steer myself and others away from these tendencies and strive to be a mother who attracts others to the faith, here are a few things I believe the worst kind of Catholic mom is inclined to do.

She uses asking for prayers as excuse to gossip

Few things are more classless than calling attention to someone else’s shortcomings and struggles only to finish the bashing with, “So we need to pray for them.” Of course, it’s quite possible to sincerely request prayers for someone else by indicating that they’re going through trials. It’s also possible to acknowledge someone’s difficulties without gossip taking place. It becomes problematic, however, when specific details are needlessly exposed and the circumstance is unnecessarily poked and prodded for the purposes of making small talk, entertaining others or satiating curiosity.

Come on, Catholic moms. Do we really need to remind ourselves that not saying anything at all is better than saying something unkind? This is where discernment comes in and we ought to recognize our true motives for bringing something up or partaking in a discussion.

Prayers are powerful and can have dramatic effects in people’s lives so requesting them for someone is a great act of kindness. Too often though, some absent person’s marriage troubles, financial issues or personal struggles become discussion topics and judgment ensues.

She surrounds herself (and her kids) with only Catholics

To be honest, many of my close friends are Catholic and there is, of course, nothing wrong with that. Friendships thrive when those who share them can openly discuss the deepest convictions of their hearts. Coming together through belief in and love of the Eucharist is a beautiful thing. We cannot, however, allow this to create division between us and those who don’t share our faith.

What’s worse, we are seriously misguiding our children if we give the impression that those of other faiths and backgrounds are somehow lacking in worthiness of our time and attention. I remember a very wise woman once asking me how we’re ever supposed to share God’s light if we never venture into the darkness.

I was struck with the value in reaching out to everyone several months ago as I was leaving a downtown church that sits across the street from a soup kitchen. The people exiting the church with me were generally of the same class and, of course, faith as me and I felt comfortable among them. The people lined up across the street, however, made up the social circle where the savior of the world would have been comfortable. Even as a poor carpenter, Christ made himself present among those of all faiths and social statuses and we should not shy away from following his example.

One of my favorite parts in Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet's book, Divine Mercy for Moms, is when they write about the corporal work of mercy which instructs us to shelter the homeless. "If we live out our faith, our homes can be spiritual shelters to those who come into them and learn about God." This is why it is so fruitful when we and our children nurture relationships with those who are not familiar with or far from the faith. Through welcoming them into our homes and lives, we can provide spiritual nourishment they may have no other way of accessing.

She takes responsibility for her children's good behavior

I once heard a radio show by Dr. Ray Guarendi that woke me up to the far-reaching extremities of pride. While addressing a Catholic parent whose friend’s child was struggling with some devastating addiction, Dr. Ray said, “Be very careful not to let pride creep in.” He went on to explain that the tendency is for Catholic or Christian parents to view such situations and credit themselves, their faith and parenting practices for their own children’s moral behavior. Good thing I brought my children up in the faith, we’re inclined to think, so they know how to make good decisions.

How often are we tempted to think this way as Catholic moms? If someone we know who is not practicing the faith has a child with behavior issues, it’s so easy to start thinking, If only she brought him to church like we do.

The reality is that nothing we do can merit the good behavior of our children. Undoubtedly, there are effective and ineffective parenting methods and raising our children to know and love the Lord is the greatest thing we can do for them. But, as Dr. Ray pointed out, our kids are up against not only their own fallen nature and inclination toward sin but also a corrupt culture that relentlessly pulls at them, offering innumerable opportunities to stumble.

I know goodhearted, faithful Catholics whose children have made extremely destructive decisions. We can do everything right as mothers and still end up with little ones whose behaviors drive us bananas, leave us embarrassed and send us to our knees begging for help. In truth, though, not one of us does everything right.

When our children do something praiseworthy, our reaction should be to glorify God, not ourselves or our parenting methods. When someone we know is struggling with a child’s misconduct, the last thing we should do is attempt to assess the presence of faith in their home. First and foremost, we should be merciful.

And make sure that if you ask for prayers on their behalf, it doesn’t become gossip in the process. Just saying.

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With all of these, self-awareness is the key to conquering. We should be familiar with ourselves and aware of what we're thinking, saying and doing and whom it's affecting. It's not always easy and of course, we will continue to fall and seek God's mercy. The more we understand and correct ourselves, however, the more joy we will find in who we are and what choices we're making. As Saint Augustine prayed, "Grant Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee."

Have you ever struggled with one of these tendencies that take away from your greatness as a Catholic mom? Have any advice for how to avoid them?

Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Pardi