Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Fear not, Christ is Risen

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the April 12, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell As the Easter halleluiahs ring in my ears, I marvel at this miracle of the Risen Christ. This victory over death is real, though difficult to see against the backdrop of suffering in our world. I long to live consciously, aware each moment of God’s saving love.

The biggest obstacle is fear. The phrase “Fear not” or its equivalent appears 366 times in the Bible. But fear is insidious. It creeps in where we are most vulnerable. For parents, good reason for fear appears everywhere.

The violence, prevalence of teen sex, drug and alcohol abuse, the level of rampant consumerism in our culture, lying, cheating, suicide – I could go on, but you know it as well as I do. It all scares me.

When frightened, whether we’re parents, communities, or nations, our first reaction is to grasp for control. We marshal our resources and become single-minded in holding on to and protecting what we fear we might lose.

If we do not pause to recognize this fear, and that it motivates us, we may become rigid, unable to listen and unable to learn. When it’s our teenagers we’re circling the wagons around, we may indeed lose them if we’re not willing to set our fear aside and do the hard work of understanding them and their world.

One parent confides that when he caught his teenager misusing the internet, his first reaction was to ban internet use completely. Then he realized that would be the easy way out. It takes almost no time or energy to put a password on the internet connection. Cultivating a relationship of mutual trust and respect requires a much larger investment. To help a teenager learn to discern his motivations and develop an inner moral compass, a parent must not be afraid to hold his own deepest beliefs and values up to scrutiny.

Family therapist and author Ron Taffel consults with parents, religious communities and community organizations throughout the country. His book written with Melinda Blau, called Second Family, describes the phenomenon of teens building relationships with friends that rival and sometimes displace those with their actual family. This “second family” includes the combined forces of pop culture and peers. The news: generational warfare and rebellion are out. This generation of kids seeks physical and emotional comfort.

Taffel says peer pressure, as we usually think of it, is dead. Comfort is what kids crave, because parents and teachers don’t see them clearly. Teens worship celebrity, because it promises becoming instantly “known.”

Busy parents spend little time talking with teens about their reactions to what’s happening to and around them. Yet teens talk about it endlessly with each other. They place a high value on supporting and accepting one another, being trustworthy, and keeping their word.

Taffel suggests parents take a genuine interest in their adolescent’s life. Get to know your child through the friends they are involved most deeply with. Invite them into your home and embrace the parts of your child’s life that give him/her pleasure.

Taffel advises parents to remain in touch with their children by extending “the empathic envelope,” or balancing empathy and expectation. He encourages parents to “listen without judging” and to square clear standards and consequences with compassion.

The complex world our adolescents face today does not settle easily into the blacks and whites painted when fear takes over. Maybe the world never has. I’m reminded in this Easter season, it was fear by the scribes and Pharisees that sent Jesus to the cross. When the Risen Christ encountered his disciples, among his first words were “Do not be afraid.”

We would not be human if we were never afraid and if we did not want our children to be safe. Yet the same power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to give us the courage to acknowledge our fears and move beyond them.

© 2007, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at

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