Habit #1 of Holy Catholic Families

Posted by James Hahn on

Thanks for continuing on this journey with our family as we explore the 7 Habits of Holy Catholic Families.  As we move forward I've chosen to outline each of the habits with the following format.

  1. The Habit – introduction and explanation.
  2. Memory Device – a way to commit the habit to memory (use ours or make up your own).
  3. Faith Connection – Where are some places we can find this habit in our Catholic Faith.
  4. Sacrament Connection – Which sacrament can we associate with this habit and why.
  5. Virtue/Vice Connection – Which virtue pairs well with this habit and which vice gives us the opposite “bad” habit.
  6. 5 Practical Steps – things you and your family can do to exercise the habit.
“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” Charles C. Noble.


Before we begin this journey, something must be said about the power of habit.  We all have habits, both good and bad.  They are part of who we are.  Many of them we don’t recognize and we would find it nearly impossible to pin-point when we picked-up an individual habit.  Habits are great because they are like putting certain parts of our life on “auto-pilot”.  I can’t imagine reading the instructions on the coffeemaker every morning in order to make coffee!!  Habits are also dangerous because they are like putting certain parts of our life on “auto-pilot”.  I’ll spare you an example…
Our habits can make us or break us.  However, the great thing about habits is that we get to choose which ones we keep and which ones we discard.  I know it’s easier said than done but it is possible.  The key, I think, is to not simply stop a bad habit, but to replace it with a good one.  Don’t leave a void, rather, create a new and better habit.
When we began teaching the habits, our son Christopher wanted to break his bad habit of leaning back on the kitchen chair.  He may have also just been tired of me yelling out “4 on the floor…er…I mean 6.”  Anyway, the first day he kept tally marks of how many times he caught himself leaning back.  This gave him a benchmark and a goal to beat.  The next day, when he was tempted to lean back he would instead say a little prayer for someone.  He was proud as the days went on and the prayers increased while the tally marks and leaning decreased.  You too can use this same type of system to replace bad habits with good ones.  But before you jump in, let’s look at the first habit because without it, all attempts to change will fail, miserably.
Habit #1 – Be Proactive


Tally mark keeper for language day.
No foul language like can't,won't, don't, have to, etc.
I hate to reveal this to everyone but my kids aren't perfect.  In fact they fight, each other, a lot.  They also blame each other for everything.  They complain about the weather, time allowed for gaming, chores, and a whole host of other things, so do I.  Trust me, if anyone doubts the existence of Original Sin, they need only spend a day at our house.  This behavior is to be expected in a house full of testosterone and it will continue until the Lord returns.  However, the problem lies in the fact that this can become a terrible habit, the habit of reaction and the negation of self-control and self discipline.
Being a proactive person means gaining control of self.  “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” VictorFrankel.
What we are sharing with our boys is that there is always that space between the stimulus and our response.  What that stimulus may be really doesn't matter.  What matters is that space and our response.  The stimulus could be a foul day, kick in the face, bad grade, or a host of other unpleasant and painful experiences.  No matter what the stimulus, we are in control of the space and response.  Gaining control of that space, that pause, takes practice and it must become a habit.
Memory Device – URN-Ctrl


We chose the URN-Ctrl as our memory device because in our computer driven world, we knew that they would see that button everyday on the keyboard.  The little dash between the URN and the Ctrl reminds us of that space between stimulus and response.  Like the 1st Habit, the Ctrl button is nearly invisible but very powerful.  If you don’t believe me, try holding the Ctrl button and hitting various keys.  You are in control.
We also helped the boys by talking about “pushing pause”.  This means that when faced with some sort of stimulus, before we act, we have to push pause.  Having them touch their forehead served as a great physical reminder to push pause because they were in control.
Faith Connection – Ctrl in Salvation History


Scripture is full of stories about men and women who did or did not push pause.  Eve did not push pause nor did Adam.  Cain did not push pause.  The sons of Jacob did not press pause when they threw Joseph in the pit but Joseph was a man who was in control and used that space between stimulus and response often.  Moses and David exercised the habit of being proactive…sometimes. 
Ultimately we will see as we go through these habits that Jesus exercised each of the 7 Habits perfectly.  He was definitely in control and had perfected the habit of pushing pause.  As you read through the daily scriptures see if you can locate this habit.
Sacrament Connection - Confirmation


We see Confirmation as a sacrament that we can associate with being proactive.  Belonging to the Roman Rite we recognize that this sacrament is one of choice.  We would no sooner force our children to be Confirmed than we would to be married or become a priest.  We also recognize that “..the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.”(CCC 1285)  Life has taught me that they and I need these graces if we are going to be able to even think about being proactive and pushing pause.  There’s a great deal of stimulus in the world that needs to be held at bay, reflected upon, and then responded to if we are to cultivate a culture of life and faith.  Confirmation gives us the graces we need to do just that.
Virtue/Vice Connection – Temperance/Gluttony


The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that temperance “ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable.”  Gluttony of food, electronics, sex or anything else doesn't recognize either the pause or the Ctrl button.
5 Practical Steps

  1.  Discuss habits in general with your family.
  2. Encourage each member to identify a habit he or she would like to change and a good habit to take its place.  It’s important to help them identify, NOT point it out.
  3. Help each other recognize the STIMULUS – SPACE – RESPONSE concept.  Role play if it helps.
  4. Have each member set a goal for breaking the identified habit and a way to measure it.  Simply keep track the first day for a benchmark.  Work with each member toward their goal.  Remember: Encouragement not correction, habit breaking and developing is most effective when it comes from within.
  5. Find Habit #1 in the daily or Sunday Scripture readings and throughout the day.

Exercising this first habit and the ones to follow shouldn't be a burden.  Rather, it should be a family journey towards becoming a Holy Catholic Family.  There is a temptation to use the habits as a form of control over your children but that should never be the goal.  Young men and women in the practice of exercising these habits are the sort that we want leading future generations.  The next habit will address the real reason for including these habits in our family life.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us!
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How to get better at prayer.
  1. Set a prayer appointment - Set a time on your calendar each day to meet and speak with God.
  2. Slowly increase your prayer time. - Don't jump in with an hour right from the get-go.  Build up your "tolerance" so to speak.
  3. Commit - to praying and slowly increasing your prayer time for 30 days.  Mark off the days on your calendar.  If you miss a day, jump right back in, don't give up.
  4. Pray - praying is talking to God, it's spending time with your attention focused on Him.  I enjoy spending time with my children regardless of their level of development.  God is the same way.  Spend time praying as best you can.  Use formal prayers if you want or simply speak in conversation.  Don't forget to listen
  5. Journal - Our newly revised 4 Simple Steps to Better Scripture Meditations: Guide, Workbook, and Journal walks you through 4 easy steps that will help you go deeper in your prayer life.  It includes 31 days of workbook and journal pages too!
  6. Read other good books about how to pray better - Prayer PrimerDeep Conversion, Deep PrayerTime for GodThe Spiritual Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Catholics Seeking Salvation.
* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

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