Thursday, July 28, 2005

Raising a Countercultural Army

[Welcome, Catholic Carnival visitors. Please feel free to poke around.]

In today's StarTribune, Katherine Kersten profiles (may be FRR) a countercultural family living an alternative lifestyle. Jim and Nadine Reinhardt, married 19 years, have nine (count 'em, nine) children ranging from 3 to 18 years old.

Walking into the Reinhardts' modest home, you'd expect to see a harried mother, a father desperate to escape to a TV baseball game, and a living room without an uncluttered square inch. But on a recent visit, I was welcomed into a spotless kitchen by relaxed and smiling parents, and a passel of helpful, polite kids.

I listened with amazement as the older girls described the family's recent 30-hour drive home from Zion National Park in a 15-passenger van. I had visions of mortal combat over an iPod, Oreo debris everywhere, and parents ready for the insane asylum. But 11-year old Liz bubbled: "We had fun the whole way, playing in the back seat, talking and having contests. I love being in a big family."

Jim and Nadine Reinhardt don't have advanced degrees in Parenting Studies. They've just got a few good ideas about what makes for family happiness -- ideas our culture has largely forgotten.

The first is about the source of happiness. Every day, cultural messages insist that happiness means getting what we want (or think we want). But the Reinhardt household has turned this message on its head. There, happiness comes not from "getting what I'm due," but from interdependence and loving self-sacrifice. ...

The Reinhardts' second insight concerns the importance of connecting effort with rewards. Contemporary parents often believe they should do all they can to smooth their children's path in life. But the Reinhardts stress the self-respect that comes with earning your own way. ...

Finally, the Reinhardts stress the importance of clear rules and expectations -- curfews, no sleepovers, and the like. We baby boomers can find it hard to say no to our kids, because we're often tempted by a desire to be their pals. The Reinhardts use their parental authority to try to build character.

"We discuss everything with the kids," Jim says. "But in the end, we make choices that will help them become virtuous adults -- honest, generous and self-controlled."

Even so, there's plenty of room for fun. Jim says that two essential ingredients for family happiness are "music and humor." ...
So what motivates the Reinhardts' countercultural approach to life? Here's the truffle quote:
"We feel we have a calling to family life," Nadine explains. Their faith, she says, gives them the overriding sense of purpose, strength and joy they need to anticipate each new morning.
It sounds like they have taken a cue from a reputable source:

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child's earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.

[Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2226]
Yup. They're Catholic. In fact the live in the same suburb The Clan does, and they attend Mass at a parish near the Troglomatrix. I'm thinking we need to get to know these people because the Troglodytrix and I have not quite created the same order with the seven Troglotykes. Nevertheless, our calling is the same, and it is good to know they are out there.

Finally, I have said it before, and I will say it again. It is folks like the Reinhardt's who are the key to winning the culture clash in which we find ourselves. A shrinking group of nihilists mired in relativism are no match for a growing army of the virtuous and well-adjusted in the Church Militant. May God bless them.

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