What is an Anam Cara? It is a Celtic word, often translated as “Soul Mate”. In it’s truest sense it means “Soul Friend”: one who accompanies you on your spiritual journey, a guide or companion along the path “home” to heaven. Anam Cara could be a spiritual director or a deeply spiritual friend, even a parent; one with whom you can share your interior life and have a conversation on an altogether higher plane, anyone who touches you on a soul-to-soul level.
I feel so blessed that God, in His infinite mercy and love, has given to me a handful of these beautiful people in my life-- people I would say, that have poured into my soul on a significant level and have had a remarkable impact on shaping my faith.
In the next few postings I am going to talk about who these Anam Cara are in my life (not by name, but you may recognize yourself in there somewhere), what they have done, and how they have done it, and hopefully, by God’s grace, you will be inspired to share your wisdom and heartfelt friendship similarly with someone He has placed in your life. You never know how God will speak through you when you are lovingly speaking of Him to others.
The first touch to my soul were my parents. If you also had the grace of loving, God-worshiping parents, not only did God use them to collaborate in the process of breathing physical life into your mortal body, He also, hopefully, used them to fan the flame of your spiritual life, animating your immortal soul. At the bidding of God, they would have been the first ones to speak Life into your being and encourage your spirit to blossom. As parents, that is our most important role-- to love our kids by passing on our faith. Even if you do not have your own physical children, perhaps God has chosen you to parent someone He has placed into your path.
Let’s start with mom. A beautiful Persian proverbs states; ”If you teach a man, you teach one, but if you teach a woman, you teach the generations.” (Sorry guys- I did not make this up! BUT… you are not off the hook...read on!) My mother had a huge impact on my spiritual formation. Firstly, she was not only loving and long suffering, she was (and still is) the picture of Christ in her gentleness and “sweet aroma”. She took her clues from the Ruby Woman in Proverbs 31. While my mother was kind and tender it did not make her passive and lazy --she may have taken a few naps-- but it was only to “re-load” for the next task ahead! She knew her God-given delight and duties were to 1. Love and worship God. 2. Enjoy Him by getting to know Him through His word, prayer and the church. 3.Pass this on to her family by loving and teaching them and all she came into contact with.
Every morning I would find her up early sitting at the breakfast table with her Bible open reading the daily readings and praying. She loved to pray for the missionaries listed in her daily prayer book. She learned this from her mother and when she would visit, there they would sit, side by side, reading and praying the names aloud together. I would join in and it is where I got my first taste for intercessory prayer and a desire to be one of those missionaries.
When children feel and see this in action, they get a picture of the loving, nurturing, tender, practical and applicable ways of God and how He wants to be involved in their daily lives-- working through the nitty-gritty of our everything. We must teach them not to “compartmentalize” God, relegating Him to Mass on Sunday-- but that He is to be our “Oxygen”; the most vital reality of our daily lives.
Moms-- what are you doing to pour the love and knowledge of God into your kids lives...TODAY? Are you praying for them and “placing a crown onto their heads and letting them grow into it” by encouraging and speaking GOOD things into their lives and telling them how much they are adored, not only by you, but by God? Are you helping them to see themselves the way God sees them? As children of faith and virtue? We heard in Sunday’s gospel that Christ called Simon “Peter,” not because He was a rock-solid-spiritual giant at the time, but because He knew what he COULD be. Find verses that encourage you and your children and tape them up so your kids can see them and you can memorize them together. It will do you both good. ( See this link for easy verses for you and your kids: http://www.simplecatholicliving.com/uncategorized/scripture-verses-to-memorize )
Dads-- what an opportunity you have to be “the picture of God” to your kids. Because God is called “Father” in the scriptures, you, whether you like it or not, are the first impression a child has of their Heavenly Father. This can be daunting! But here is what I saw in my own father: Not only did I feel and see him love us by providing for us and playing with us and loving my mother in real and concrete ways, but I also saw him lead the way to Church each Sunday and pray! He began and ended his day on his knees-- literally. He would roll out of bed onto his knees and pray and then each night he would come and kneel beside my bed and pray with me. (He would even pray when my friends spent the night! It was so embarrassing, until one night my dear friend said, “I wish my dad would do that with me. I want to know God like your dad knows God.” And she joined the church because of it.)
Seeing this example gave me the foundation I needed to be “strong in the Lord.” Why? Because I thought my dad could DO anything and knew EVERYTHING! And if HE needed to to go to Church and to pray and seek advice, guidance and help from God on his knees each day, I knew there was something BIGGER and BETTER than my dad out there. If anything ever happened to him, I knew I was covered.
Dads, the best gift you can give your kids is to love God, love your wife, love your kids, go to Church and PRAY! And let them see you do it. It assures them that there is Someone even greater than you out there for them, and believe it or not, that is of great comfort to them.
How are you pointing the way to Him? Learn to pray, and encourage your family to pray before meals, before bedtime, when traveling, when in time of need, as a thanksgiving. Say a rosary or an Our Father together. Pray a blessing over your kids, your wife, or your home. Pray! And see what fruit this brings to you and your family. You have a special role as father… use it to humbly and courageously point your kids to God. ( See below for special prayers for your kids.)
We all need role models. If you did not receive faith from your parents, it might be hard to pass it on. Perhaps find some “spiritual parents” to help you. Look around at your church and see who you think are “doing it right”. Go to coffee or dinner with them and ask for advice. Get in touch with others and with God and pass it on to your kids. Be the first Anam Cara they experience and soon, all too soon… they will be passing it back to you.
“Bring up a child in the way that he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Help! I want to be a good spiritual role model for my kids. I long to love them the way YOU love them. I long for them to know and love You and Your Word with all of their heart, mind and soul. Please Lord, give me the grace to do it first! Let them see the love I have for You and long for it, and let that love pass through me to them. I do not want to be a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another. Please Lord, have mercy on me and give me all I need, not to point a finger at them, but to point a finger to You. Lord, give me a heart like Yours to love and to guide, and keep me smiling all the while, knowing that You are there, not only to support and help Me, but also for them.
I ask this in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Prayers for our children taken from: (http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=71)
O God the Father of mankind, who hast given unto me these my children, and committed them to my charge to bring them up for Thee, and to prepare them for eternal life: help me with Thy heavenly grace, that I may be able to fulfil this most sacred duty and stewardship. Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me to be gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful; and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence, and the excess of severity; and grant that, both by word and example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety, so that at last I may, with them, be admitted to the unspeakable joys of our true home in heaven, in the company of the blessed Angels and Saints. Amen.
O Heavenly Father, I commend my children to Thy care. Be Thou their God and Father; and mercifully supply whatever is lacking in me through frailty or negligence. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour Thy grace into their hearts, and strengthen and multiply in them the gifts of Thy Holy Spirit, that they may daily grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so, faithfully serving Thee here, may come to rejoice in Thy presence hereafter. Amen.