Monday, March 8, 2010

Frugality in Marriage part 2

So let me go through Father Dubay's list of features of marital frugality.

First is Value Motivation.

That means that what you do is ordered towards what you believe, what you place importance in. We've discussed this in past posts. The distinctive for married life, I suppose, is that it's explicitly meant to be modelled for and discussed with one's children so that they can truly be like arrows out of one's quiver. Children should know by atmosphere, discipline and living ideas the value of sharing, frugality, focus on eternity and integrity of thought, word and act.

The specifics have to be left up to the individual family. Certainly one aspect is that your children should see your almsgiving and fasting and prayer. They should be allowed to participate. I say "allowed" because in my mind it sometimes feels like I might trespass on "compelling" but usually when I trust my children enough to offer them a chance to do something noble they are quite decent and conscientious in following it out and fostering the habit in themselves. Too often I hesitate though.

One easy approach is to read stories to the children, and encourage them to read stories, of generosity and idealism. I have done quite a bit of this. And as your children get older discuss the reasons why the family does what it does, and possibly work on ironing out inconsistencies (teens are great at pointing out inconsistencies -- take it as a favor, it can be a great help to the family!)

So, consciously foster a sparing/sharing family witness and try to emphasize the ideas -- not by hammering them home, but by keeping them present in the family consciousness. That would be my advice (to myself -- LOL).

Second is Maintaining One's State

What's different between the state of a married person and a celibate religious one? Married people generally have jobs or duties in the secular world. Their task is to make their own presence and effort a Christian one. You can be a Christian in a secular job or in a home planted in the midst of the world. But certainly there are more exterior distractions here than there are, say, in a contemplative environment where professed religious deal directly with their own limitations under the eyes of God, and don't have to see vulgar billboards, or stand in the shopping line next to the candy bars on half-price, decide what to let their kids watch or who they should associate with .... etc.

What is our state? According to the Catechism, a family is a "domestic church". In a monastery or a parish church, the architecture and "rule" already reflects the presence of God and is a witness to Christian culture. In a home, we have the freedom and task of making it that way ourselves to the best of our ability. My husband and I don't happen to be one of those couples who believe in keeping kids completely away from all worldly things. People may legitimately have different emphases. But certainly we don't want the family home to become a "domestic world" indistinguishable from the real one. Again, I think pondering CM's "atmosphere, discipline, life" can be helpful.

Another thing -- maintaining one's state means a certain degree of provision that isn't so necessary for a religious order or priest. We are right to be concerned that our children don't grow up destitute and ignorant if we can rightly avoid it. This is simple justice. Certainly it's possible to worry way too much about security and worldly success but it's also possible to be neglectful and careless and we don't want to go there. Father Dubay said that while Thomas More at mostly plain fare, dressed very simply when he could and rose at 2 am to study and write letters, he also spared no expense to make sure his children got a fine education (even his daughters, an exception at the time) and he kept books around the house and imported exotic animals presumably for their educational benefit.

We want our lives to be the sort we would want our children to pass on when they are grown themselves.

Third is Secular Signs

The example he uses is that many people are overweight or drink too much to the detriment of physical health. That is about all the information he gives about "secular signs" that I found. But I think that this could relate to the old principle that "grace builds upon nature". Charlotte Mason discusses in some detail in Home Education the sad fact that sometimes, secular people live better lives than religious people. Natural laws of hygiene, health, civic virtue etc are "written upon our hearts" and some unbelievers practice them faithfully while some believers don't. Charlotte Mason calls this a kind of presumption, relying on God to rescue you from your sluggishness. Ouch, mea culpa. Another extreme is to be extraordinarily harsh and severe in a way that trespasses against the child's psychology. I'm not temperamentally as inclined to this but certainly everyone knows many people lost to their faith because their parents confused Christian discipline with punitive control.

Well, I'm going to leave it here and pick up the next three in my next and last post on marital frugality. Though I see I've gotten away from frugality here a bit at the end -- not precisely though, because Father Dubay does call health a necessity and I'm sure that has to include psychological and emotional health.

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