Family Prayer and Forming Disciples at Home
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“But we don’t talk to Jesus, that’s what Dad does.”

I am embarrassed to share with you that this was my three year old daughter’s response to our invitation a few weeks ago that we take time together as a family to talk to Jesus. She was confused because my wife and I normally only use that particular phraseology when we are hoping to not be bothered in some quiet corner of the house as we take as our personal prayer time.

How mortifying, though. “That’s what Dad does.” Her words struck a place in my heart where I carry my greatest fear. I will be vulnerable enough with you to admit that my single deepest fear is that, even though I will spend my whole “career” as an evangelist, helping to introduce people to Jesus, that my kids themselves with not know or follow the Lord, like the Catholic equivalent of the stereotype of the rebellious “pastor’s kid.”


This is the question that has plagued me since becoming a dad. As I raise kids in a culture that is subversive to Catholic teachings and practices, how do I help them root their identity so deeply in God that they do not walk away from Him once they leave our house? Ultimately, the terrifying part of this whole situation is that this is something I cannot force but can merely encourage. I can only lead them to the water and then invite them to drink.

My wife and I take seriously our role, not only as primary educators of our children, but also as their primary evangelists. If they do not hear the Gospel from us, and the invitation to a lifetime of discipleship, I really believe we have let them down. It was our late night conversations about how to best accomplish that that led to our recent changes in our family’s prayer routine.

For a long time, our family prayer life has read like the answers to a Catholic bingo card. We take the kids to daily Mass, we pray the Rosary together, we will even do Morning or Evening Prayer with them from the Liturgy of the Hours. But, recently, we have felt like adding a new way of praying together right before bedtime.


You see, my wife and I both come from very traditionally Catholic households, a gift for which we are grateful. For both of our families, a daily family Rosary was the norm and for as long as I can remember, both of my parents have spent the first moments of their day at the local 6:30 am Mass. Growing up, my parish offered confession times daily.

Yet, as we have talked about it as a couple, we both admitted to each other that a committed relationship with the Lord was not something we discovered until much later in life. In the fashionable parlance, I would not say that I was a “disciple” of Jesus Christ until years after I left my parents home. For all of the traditional Catholic praxis in our households, without later opportunities in life to encounter the Lord personally and then to be mentored by more mature Catholics in the discipline and relationship of a growing prayer life, the faith would have remained a cultural or intellectual reality for me more than a committedly personal one.

To put a finer point on it, I have watched too many kids from “good Catholic families” walk away from the faith to believe anymore that, in this culture, if I simply expose my kids to the traditionally Catholic elements of our faith, they will remain Catholic.

We realized that if we really want our kids to know God personally, then we needed to expose them to what it looks like to pray personally. If we want our kids to be disciples, then we need to help them see what that looks like.


So, for five to ten minutes before bed, we now talk to Jesus together as a family. The one year old has been given a bit of a pass as far as sitting still on the couch goes but my wife, myself and our three year old all sit on the couch and pray out loud, together.

We usually start by just inviting the Lord into our home, our hearts, and our time together. We use simple phrases like “Come Lord Jesus” and “Come Holy Spirit.” Then, my wife and I usually take turns sharing our hearts with God, out loud. We thank Him, commit ourselves to Him anew, say sorry, and ask for strength. We pray for healing, for joy, for grace. Then, we invite our three year old to share her heart, in whatever way she feels comfortable.

Following that, my wife and I pray over our kids out loud. We ask God to show them His love for them, to show them their identity, and we speak blessings over their lives. “You are good, Eva, and you were made good. Your heart was made to love and God is your Father. He loves you so much.” Simple, but real, things we really feel in our hearts. We are just letting our kids hear us pray them out loud.



We also ask for healing for our kids as we pray over them. For God to heal them from the hurts of the day and to heal the various boo-boos that the days activities has yielded. We want them to know that they have a Father who wants to heal and has the power to do so. Following a short time of silence to just let the Lord love us, we consecrate the day and the night to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by praying a Hail Mary together.

If you are familiar with the Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, Respond method of prayer, which I believe to be a great rubric for building a more personal prayer life, you will recognize the outline for how we are attempting to model our family prayer time.

Having only adopted this practice a few weeks ago, I already feel compelled to share it with you because of the incredibly positive impact it has had on our family. Not only do I feel the ineffable workings of grace increasing in our home, but I have noticed a greater openness to the things of God in our kids. It has led to better relationships amongst all of us and has bonded us around prayer in a way nothing else has.


I will never stop loving the Rosary. I have done St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Mary almost every year for the last ten years. I will never stop loving the Mass. Daily Mass, to me, has been the perennial blessing and comfort of my life. We will never stop exposing our kids to these things. But, as I read the Catechism and St. Thomas Aquinas, not to mention Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and find within them a consistent calling to relationship, encounter, and faith in order for the Sacraments to affect the greatest possible change in the human heart, I cannot help but think that this more personal way of praying together as a family is an indispensable part of preparing our children for giving their entire lives to God for the rest of their lives.

It seems to me that until we stumbled on this new way of praying together in our fumbling attempts to introduce our kids to the Lord, our family prayer was missing something.


Tim Glemkowski
Called: An Interview with Kevin Cotter on His New Book!
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I think that Kevin Cotter, the executive director for content of Amazing Parish (amazingparish.org) is one of the more genuine, prayerful and passionate leaders and missionary disciples in the Church today. I love the concept of his latest book from Ave Maria Press, Called: Becoming an Everyday Disciple in the Post-Christian World. It’s a five-week guide to becoming an everyday disciple. To me, this book fills one of the big missing pieces in the conversation around discipleship in the Church today.

My recommendation is that you buy 10 copies of Called and work through it together with a group of leaders at your parish.

Kevin Cotter is the Executive Director of Programming at Amazing Parish. He previously served with FOCUS for 11 years as a missionary and Sr. Director of Curriculum. He’s the author of numerous FOCUS resources and five books, including Dating Detox with his wife Lisa. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Benedictine College and a master’s degree in Sacred Scripture from the Augustine Institute. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado.

Inspired by Called, and wanting to share about it with friends of L’Alto, I reached out to Kevin and conducted a brief interview to give you all a fuller sense of what inspired this book. Without further ado, enjoy!


L’ALTO: Kevin, you have been involved in the work of evangelization and discipleship for a long-time, professionally through your work at FOCUS and now at Amazing Parish, and in your own life. What do you see as the current strengths of the Church in the U.S. with respect to the New Evangelization and what are our weaknesses?

KEVIN COTTER: I believe the biggest strength is the amount of energy right now aimed at evangelization and missionary discipleship. From the bishops to priests, to the laity, there's an understanding that we can't simply continue to do what we've done in our Church and in our parishes. There's an acceptance that the secular culture has driven many people away from the Fath and that we need to do a better job attracting people to it. We must go on mission and there's still a confidence that something can be done to turn the tide. 

In regards to weaknesses, there aren't a lot of people who know how to fix the problem, so to speak. Like many things in our society, we look for quick fixes that can be provided by programs or campaigns. In reality, the problem is much deeper. We are in need of a deeper conversion if we are going to be deeply convicted about evangelization and see a significant shift at the parish level. It will take much more effort and much longer than people realize to have our Church switch to mission mode.


L’ALTO: I think that Called fills a really important gap in the current offerings and resources surrounding discipleship. What were you hoping to accomplish with this book? What was the need that you saw?

COTTER: By our Baptism, every Catholic is called to evangelize. The problem is that so few people know how to do this. We still don't have a very deep culture of the laity spreading the faith. I love the Church's call to evangelize, but it can be frustrating to be asked to do something that you don't know how to do. It's easy to talk about evangelization as a concept or a theory, but I felt like there needed to be more content on how to actually start the process. The goal of this book was to give practical steps on how to begin to evangelize. 


L’ALTO: I love how you walk the reader through an intentional process of Win-Build-Send as they journey through the 5 weeks of daily reflections. To me, this was a really unique and effective way for a book to be laid out. Tell me more about the decision to structure Called this way. 

COTTER: The goal of 5 weeks of daily reflections is to help the reader create a habit of thinking, praying, and working on how to be an evangelist (many habits take 30 days to begin to form). Each day is short enough to get through in just a few minutes and there are reflections that can lead to a time in prayer. The book is broken up into Win-Build-Send in order to show the progression that many evangelists must go through. While you don't have to uniformly progress from one stage to the next, it is important to see that we must have encounter with Jesus and His Church (Win), that we follow after Jesus and learn to be like Him (Build), and that we go out to share him with others (Send). 


L’ALTO: If you could pick one out of the 35 reflections for someone to read, which would it be and why? 

COTTER: I would start with the first chapter for a couple of reasons. The first chapter begins the week on encounter. In order to be great evangelists, we must have a deep encounter with him and continually encounter our Lord each day. This chapter uses stories from the lives of the saints and how a deeper encounter can naturally lead to following Jesus more closely and sharing him with others. I think it sums up the goal of the book well. Also, starting on the first chapter helps people begin the journey to learn how to evangelize. Starting can be the hardest part, but it can lead to an amazing journey.

L’ALTO: Is discipleship just a buzzword? Is this a fad? 

COTTER: Well, on one hand, discipleship is a buzzword and fad right now, but on the other hand, it's something that's been around for 2,000 years. One hallmark of Vatican II was to go back to the early sources of our Faith, to Scripture and to the Early Church Fathers. I believe that the concentration on discipleship is apart of this. We are remembering the great tradition of what it means to follow Jesus and to invite others to follow Him as well. This is the beginning of our faith, something that will never go away, and it's just as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago.


Get your copies of Called today by clicking HERE.

Tim Glemkowski
L'Alto's expansion featured across Catholic media!

As you may have heard, L'Alto Catholic Institute announced some very exciting news. We are expanding our organization's mission nationally!

Catholic News Agency wrote a fabulous piece on our expansion that was then picked up by various other Catholic publications. It was a blessing to have the word spread about our mission so quickly!

You can read CNA's piece here

Tim Glemkowski
L'Alto featured on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air"

I had a great time on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air" a couple of weeks ago talking parish renewal through forming disciples!

Morning Air was the first ever Catholic radio program that I heard growing up. When my mom would drive me to school my freshman year in high school, she would always put on Morning Air with Jeff Cavins! It was an honor to be featured on one of the biggest Catholic radio programs in the country.

For the audio of my interview and a summary article, click here

Tim Glemkowski
Doing It for the Right Reasons
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I talk with a lot of pastors who are motivated to make changes to the way their parish functions because they see a need for renewal. Some begin a conversation with me because they see an aging population in their parish or have read statistics about decline in church membership around the country or have less volunteers or less money, etc. etc. 

While experiencing these "pain points" can be great for getting us out of our seats and awakening us to the need for renewal, they can only get us so far.

At the end of the day, the courage to make real changes to a parish stuck in maintenance mode has to come from a deeper place. Being in this game for the right reasons is so important. As with anything in life, the intention that we bring to our work of parish renewal is crucial. 

This past Sunday, we heard this from Jesus, "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. in the Gospel from." I think the same is true of us in ministry if we aren't motivated by the right reasons. In my opinion, there are really two fundamental reasons that we should gather around in working to renew our parishes around a vision for evangelization and discipleship.

1) Love of God

2) Love of Neighbor

Love of God because Jesus Christ Himself gave a single mission to the Church and that was to make disciples of the entire world. We exist fundamentally for the salvation of all. Obedience to Jesus Christ is the primary reason that we work to make disciples.

Love of neighbor is more commonly my personal motivation in evangelizing, though. When I was eighteen years old, I encountered the personal love that God had for me in a new and profound way. From that moment, everything in my life changed. Having known the darkness, loneliness, and emptiness of a life lived not in relationship with Jesus Christ, my heart breaks for anyone who has to walk through this world not knowing that love. Furthermore, I believe that it is possible for people to eternally reject the love that God holds out for them. In other words, Hell is real. If a relationship with Jesus Christ is the happiness of my neighbor in both this life and the next, how much would I have to hate somebody not to work patiently so that they might know Him?

Only these reasons will help us plow through the frustration and confusion of attempting to bring about culture change. If we're just in this because we want to be in charge of the most vibrant parish in the area, then we will just want to please everybody and won't make tough decisions that might offend people. If we want to form disciples just because we want more butts in the seats, then we'll be tempted to look for silver bullets instead of the long faithfulness of walking with people as they become fully mature missionary disciples. Only love, of God and neighbor, can truly propel us forward in becoming the life-giving parish that God is calling us to be. 

 

Tim Glemkowski