PAWLEYS ISLAND — Mary Ronan believes that putting God at the center of any relationship can help it to succeed, even in the midst of a secular culture that she says is a constant danger to marital and family ties.
That was the message of a four-day workshop the Conn
ecticut-based author and speaker held at Precious Blood of Christ Church Sept. 8-11.
Ronan is the author of “Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World,” a book that offers tips for parents on how to keep God at the center of their children’s lives and prevent some of the destructive forces of secular culture from eroding their values.
She is a registered nurse with a focus on reproductive health who has been traveling around the country for the past several years talking to teenagers and parents about how to hold onto solid Christian values in today’s world.
She said that while most of the audiences she speaks to are Roman Catholic, she also is frequently asked to speak to other denominations and at non-denominational gatherings.
“There is a real hunger in young parents I see these days, a real hunger for guidance and for having the Lord in their lives,” she said. “I also see that hunger in young people …I tell them it matters in your life to have God in your family relationships.”
Ronan said the key message she offers to parents and to grandparents can be summed up with “the four Ls: Lord, limits, love, laughter.”
She says it’s crucial for everyone to remember to put their relationship with God first in their lives, above all other relationships.
“Our relationship with Christ is the only thing we take with us into eternity,” Ronan told a group of grandparents who gathered at the church on Sept. 9. “What happens to our earthly life if we invite God in? Do we get heaven in our lives? I think we do. He can decrease our anxieties. He is the center of our ability to hope.”
Ronan stressed the importance of adults placing limits on their children’s lives in the form of loving discipline. She also talked to grandparents about the crucial role they can play in the developing spiritual lives of their grandchildren.
“Grandparents can have a profound effect on their grandchildren’s faith,” she said. She said grandparents are especially important if a child’s parents aren’t living a Christian life or have fallen away from the Church.
She also believes that family relationships can be improved if everyone is encouraged to put less importance on material things, and more on the spiritual.
“The important thing is not to have your desires and your wishes drive all your decisions,” she said. “When things are all about ourselves, that’s when we’re unhappy. Decrease the demand for material things. We need more love, and less stuff, less of things that are temporary. Kids who get too much won’t know how to live with the responsibilities of adulthood.”
Ronan said the increasing busy-ness of today’s lifestyles can be harmful for families, and encouraged parents and grandparents to make time to genuinely talk and listen to young people.
“Being busy is a weapon of Satan for families because all this busyness gets in the way of talking,” she said.
The weekend also featured closed discussion sessions with young people in the church’s confirmation class and with members of the youth group.
“The first thing I tell young people is to stay sober in their interactions and not to become sexually active,” Ronan said. “That message really works when they are also connected to their faith.”
She urged the adults to keep young people in today’s world constantly in their prayers because of the constant challenges from the secular world, and offered suggestions on how to help counteract some of the messages of popular culture.
For instance, she suggested, grandparents could present gift certificates to stores that offer tasteful and modest clothing to girls at Christmas time, instead of certain retailers that sell inappropriate clothes.
She encouraged everyone to incorporate the acronym JOY into the way they look at how they relate to the world: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.
Mary Ronan can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about her upcoming appearances, call (203) 775-7151. She has a website under construction that should be completed in the next few months.