Priest offers parents practical ways to teach virtues

| By Susan Klemond For The Catholic Spirit | November 18, 2010 | 1 Comment

Fr. Francis J. "Rocky" Hoffman

In teaching their children about faith and virtue, it helps when parents offer a few examples, according to Father Francis J. “Rocky” Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio.

“When Mom and Dad love each other, kids know that they love each other,” he said. “When Mom and Dad love their kids, kids know that they love them. When Mom and Dad love their faith, then the kids love their faith. It’s that simple.”

Offering practical advice and wisdom gained through his own life, priesthood and experience as a Chicago-area preparatory school chaplain, Father Hoffman recently spoke to more than 500 parents and others on the topic “Five Virtues All Catholic Parents Should Pass on to Their Children” at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul.

Virtuous blessings

Beside encouraging parents to demonstrate their Catholic faith by loving each other, their children and their faith, the host of the radio show “Go Ask Your Father” cited work, sincerity, piety, poverty and purity as virtues parents can and should teach their kids.

Noting that God assigned tasks to Adam even before the introduction of original sin, Father Hoffman said children should be taught that work is a blessing.

“Work fills us with satisfaction,” he said. “Participation is a great blessing, and you have that ability to train your children for the taste of hard work.”

Labor is also a means to perseverance and purification, Father Hoffman said. “Work is to the soul what a plow is to the soil,” he said. “The taste of hard work helps us weed out those weeds deep in our soul.”

Another virtue children should learn is sincerity, which involves knowing themselves, he said. “If we can train them in sincerity it will help them a great deal.”

The sacrament of reconciliation provides kids with a good opportunity to grow in self-knowledge. Father Hoffman said.

“There’s something so therapeutic in going down on your knees and saying, ‘Bless me Father, I sinned,’” he said. “I did it. It’s my fault and I’m sorry.”

He added that it’s important to train children to not feel sorry for themselves.

Along with self-knowledge, children can learn knowledge and affection for God, called the virtue of piety. To grow in affection for God, kids should learn to love the Blessed Mother and the Eucharist, Father Hoffman said.  Through the mystery of the Incarnation, love for the Blessed Mother helps in understanding Christ’s humanity.

He recommended praying even an abbreviated rosary as a family and also making Sunday Mass attendance special. “It’s important to inculcate in children a sense of the presence of the Eucharist,” he said.

While kids learn reverence, they can discover creative ways to grow in holiness through poverty, said Father Hoffman, who offered three suggestions for living out the virtue.

First, he said, don’t consider things as exclusive, personal possessions. Second, try not to have any unnecessary things. And, third, don’t complain if lacking some necessity. Also, he emphasized the benefit of teaching children to tithe at an early age.

The final virtue on the list was purity, which Father Rocky said can be passed on through parents’ attitudes at home. By monitoring various forms of media, he said, “You as parents have a responsibility to make sure that garbage doesn’t come into the house.”

As Catholics, “we’re not prudes but we’re not foolish, either.” To keep an eye on what children are doing on the Internet, Father Hoffman suggested placing the computer in a public place, such as near the refrigerator, which he jokingly called “the icon of hope.”

Lastly, he stressed the importance of modesty in speech and dress. “Modesty is to dress in such a way that when people look at you they want to look at your face because that’s where you communicate most,” he said.

Practical lessons

Christopher Marble, a member of St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center, said he picked up tools at the talk that he will use in raising his three young daugh­­ters.

In the area of purity, he said he learned “how I treat my wife affects how my children view themselves and view their parents.”

Katie Kaari of St. Michael in Stillwater said she recognized the importance of honesty and teaching her two daughters about confession.

“It reminded me to attend confession more, not just for me but also for my children.”

She added, “The presentation inspired me just by giving me reminders of how to live day-to-day life in Christ.”

Father Rocky Q&A

Father Francis J. “Rocky” Hoffman is executive director of Relevant Radio and also hosts the radio show “Go Ask Your Father.” He spoke with The Catholic Spirit during a recent visit to the Twin Cities.

What are two or three of the top challenges that U.S. Catholics face today?

I would say the first one is faith in the reality of God’s presence and his providence.

The other is related to that, and that is materialism, which deceives people to think they will find satisfaction in temporal goods or temporal realities, and deceives them to think they can control things. What happens is if everything’s in control, whether or not they admit it, they think, ‘I don’t need God.’

I think the third one would be … a lack of gratitude to God for his providence and his gifts.

Certainly we could think it’s the culture, it’s the governmental system, it’s the Congress, but I think all the real challenges we face are within ourselves.

How is Relevant Radio helping Catholics address these challenges?

Relevant Radio helps people because — we call it ‘Talk Radio for Catholic Life’ — we’re telling the human story and we’re letting Catholics, no matter where they are in their faith life, tell their own story. It becomes a platform by which people can witness to each other.

There’s something transformative when you just focus on the word. That’s why it can be so powerful and so persuasive. You’re concentrating much more.

We also make a deliberate attempt to follow three guiding principles: faithfulness to the magisterium, unity with the bishops, and [remaining] under the protection of the Blessed Mother.

You’ve been executive director of Relevant Radio for about six months. Can you give a progress report?

Thanks be to God and through the intercession of the Blessed Mother; we’re making progress . . . and carrying out the apostolate which really works well for us. We are finding the means we need to stay on the air and bring messages which are inspiring and transformative to many, many souls.

We received 40,000 prayer intentions last year, and every single one is prayed for individually. We take that very, very seriously.

My job is to be an obstinate enthusiast. I’ve never worked harder and prayed more.

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Category: The Lesson Plan