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Grow in holiness.

The way to grow in happiness is to fulfill your desire to be a good child of your parents. You do this by doing the good things that they, and God, ask of you.

Jesus and Mary are the perfect examples of this. Jesus did everything that God the Father asked of him, and Mary did as well. By following your wholesome desires, you will grow in holiness.

But here is the problem; sometimes our desires are not always wholesome. The desire for friendship is wholesome, but how and why we make friends can be less than wholesome, less than virtuous.

Sometimes we just want to belong, or be affirmed, and will do things without thinking about the consequences.

Unfortunately, many people, (especially young people whose ability to judge prudently is not fully developed), may fall into the trap of being extorted. Extortion occurs when another person has some information about you or your mistakes, sins or weaknesses that they use to control you. Extortion is happening on the internet at an alarming rate, especially among young people.

Your son or daughter likes to make friends, and sometimes they might be tempted to make anonymous friends on the internet. That person may try to get to know your child by asking them about their greatest hopes, and affirm them. But then they may ask about their greatest fears or most embarrassing moments.

If your son or daughter gives any information to that anonymous person, they may threaten to use this information to manipulate them. Even family photos can be used to scare children into thinking that this anonymous person has the power to harm their family.

Parents, it so important for you to teach your children to be vigilant, to know how to make good friends in Christ so that they can have a fulfilling childhood and happy life as a Christian adult.

We must remind our children that if they made a mistake, or that someone on the internet is asking them personal questions, even posing as a friend or relative, let me repeat, even posing as a friend or relative, they should stop the conversation immediately and talk to you about it.

Aunts and uncles, grandparents, godparents, we need to form a vigilant community to help all children live fulfilled lives by reminding them never to give out information over the internet. Even when the format they are using says that it is private, or their anonymous gaming friend says that they can be trusted, do not give out any information that can be manipulated and made public.

Even if your child has made some mistakes, there are ways to protect your child and your family. But that depends upon one thing, if your child has the love, trust and courage to tell you what has happened. Pray for them, and talk to them about how it feels so good to confess your mistakes and sins, and take them to confession with you regularly to help form their conscience.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ theme is that we must be vigilant in following God’s ways of holiness in order to be fulfilled. Parents, we want our children to live fulfilling lives but it is impossible to abolish all the good things in the world that can be used to harm our children. The internet can be an instrument for good, but it can be used in a perverse way to cause much spiritual harm to anyone, especially your children. The only way we can strengthen our children and one another is to follow the example of Jesus and Mary who perfectly fulfilled God’s wholesome desires. We must be vigilant and fight against evil temptations that come our way. We must avoid the near occasions of sin.

If we do fall, we need to share with our children that asking forgiveness and confessing our sins is the ordinary way to reconcile ourselves with God and his Church and become stronger.

Jesus and his Church are here to protect all children from the criminality and impurity of the world which is only a couple of clicks away on the internet. That is why our Archdiocese has required Virtus online training for all volunteers who work with children, youth and vulnerable adults.

If you want to volunteer in any capacity that directly connects you with children, youth, or vulnerable adults, contact Maria Schultz at the parish office and find out more information about Virtus training online, which is an excellent way to keep all of us safe.

Lent begins February 22, and this season is an opportunity to grow in holiness so that we can protect our children and one another. I highly recommend that you become a Virtus trained adult and make this your Lenten resolution and sacrifice. This will help you and your children grow as vigilant and holy followers of Jesus Christ, and thus find everlasting fulfillment in the Lord.

There is a monetary cost to this, and so we ask that you consider donating that cost to the church. God bless you for making our parish church stronger and safer for our children and vulnerable adults.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Thomas McCabe

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