LuAnne | Winterpast Family
That day started out like almost like any other. A bit too early, a bit too cold. The middle of January is like that.
Socks and books and papers strewn all over and crumbs still needing to be swept up. Just life, really.
Life as I know it. It’s usually all good, really. I don’t usually have much trouble counting up blessings at the end of the day.
But that day the emotions of three teenagers seemed perilously close to the surface and the ordinary back-and-forth bickering turned into fighting and angry words bubbled up and burst out without warning.
And I asked the “why?” again and again to those three boys who are fast working their way to manhood.
“Why fight over this trivial thing?”
They don’t answer. They don’t seem to notice me. They don’t seem to notice anything but their anger and I don’t really understand and I ask again “why must you fight”, but it seems that I might as well ask the wind why it has to blow, because I don’t get any answers.
Boys-nearly-men have their own agendas. That I know nothing of.
Agendas that include one-ups-man-ship, or whatever it is that my dad and their dad calls it. To find their place in the world of men. I guess.
I still don’t understand.
I question myself. Question my mothering.
Of course I do. Because that’s what I do. Because I raised them and shouldn’t they know BY NOW not to throw mud at each other?
I quiet. Stop asking questions because obviously I don’t have the words. I whisper prayers instead. Silently. I beg Him for the words I need to say. I don’t hear them.
I do hear the slam of a door. Two. Three.
And I question – can even this day be a good day? Can I take this – this day that God gives me – and thank Him for it?
I should. I know I should. “In all circumstances give thanks” He says and I know He means the “all” part just as much as the “thanks” part.
I just don’t know how to do it.
I sweep crumbs and swallow words because I don’t really know what words to say. I whisper prayers inside for grace and peace and the words to say, but I don’t hear the words.
I do hear the stomping of feet.
And then the opening of a door. Two. Three.
I hear what sounds an awful lot like boys talking – not yelling.
I plunge hands into warm water brimming with bubbles and start to scrub the dried egg off of the breakfast plates. Try hard not to listen to what’s coming from upstairs. Try to brace myself for more slams.
I don’t hear them.
I hear feet running down stairs. Into the living room.
I scrub on.
And when I finish with cleaning the morning’s mess, picking up socks and books and papers, I wipe tears from the eyes as I hear apologies spoken from three sets of lips that are fast approaching manhood.
And I question myself. Question my mothering.
Of course I do. Because that’s what I do. Because I raised them and I should know by now that they know by now. Because everyone makes mistakes and how amazing that we can say we’re sorry and be forgiven and know that this is how love works.
I quiet. I stop asking God for the words to say to my children. Obviously He spoke directly to them.
I start speaking thanks instead.
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men.
The above quote is from the Apostle Paul, defending himself against the governor Felix. The above quote should describe each and every one of us. It’s really, really important. It is critical to our well being…yes, that important. We see why this way of life is so valuable in the next chapter. In Chapter 25, Paul is now appealing to to the Emperor Festus. Look at verse 7
And when he had come, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem stood about him bringing against him many serious charges which they could not prove.
So you have these swirling voices accusing Paul, of some serious things the Scripture says, yet they could not prove them.
I wrote a little note next that verse:
“Satan’s lies do the same things to us!”
How many times my dear sisters have the voices been churning in our minds–upsetting our stomachs, agitating our lives? I will answer that one for us all…too many times. There are not enough tally marks in the world to keep account and I’m pretty sure the average would be outrageous. Let’s go a little farther into chapter 25.
For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.
My little note in the margin…“A prisoner without charges, that’s me sometimes.”
Are you a prisoner without charges? A crazy yardbird of a woman being held hostage by the imaginary squawk of Satan? Yeah, me too sometimes. Held tight by invisible chains wrapped so tight I can’t breathe. Satan may get the ball rolling and then, as the country song says, it’s like a snowball headed for hell.
But let’s go back to where we started, keeping a clear conscience. How do we do that?
Go to confession.
Go to confession.
And then…go to confession.
Not a scrupulous, frantic dash to knock people out of the way in the confession line because you are the worst of the worst. That’s not God either. Do not be fooled into thinking of yourself as a vile sinner unworthy of God’s merciful love. Those thoughts come straight from hell meant to keep you out of the confessional and far away from a merciful and loving God. No, I mean keep a regular date with Christ in the confessional. Write it on your calendar, and go.
You may be sweating bullets on the drive and feel a bit jittery in the line, but when you come out of that sacrament, come on…you know you love it! You just encountered Christ and He placed you in His merciful heart, the one that was split open wide to prove His death, for you, was complete. He placed you in there and He showered you and filled you up with His immense, unconditional, always merciful and waiting for you…love.
Do not let Satan try to convince you of something you are not. Stand firm in who you are…
I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).
I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).
I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).
And tell the devil he’s full of baloney.
Good Morning Ladies! God has granted me the wonderful privilege of re-reading The Story of a Soul, the Autobiography of St Therese of Lisieux. I thought I would just skim through it, picking out passages I had highlighted years ago when I first read the book; only to find out years ago when I first read the book I did not highlight or take any notes. Blessed be God because now instead of skimming through, I am re-reading along with you all!
Sixteen years ago I went to our parish priest for spiritual direction, my very first. He inquired about my patron saint. Now, being a convert, as a child, in the 80′s…yeah, no patron saint for me. As a matter of fact, when we were confirmed, we didn’t even choose a saints name! But that is all beside the point…
Father recommended I read Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux and take St Therese as my patroness. He showed me a picture of St Therese’s cell and remarked, “That is the ‘Little Way.’” Just recalling that conversation right now, sitting in my dinning room with crumbs on the table, toys on the floor, and abandoned cups cluttering the table…I am not living the ‘Little Way.’
I understood that if all the
lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide
beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely
hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living
garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be
compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser
ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets
flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His
Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more
gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.
–St Therese the Little Flower
Speaking of the ‘Little Way’…I love how St Therese makes so many references to flowers. I can see flowers. I can touch flowers, smell flowers and even grow flowers. These are something I can physically know. So from the very beginning of her writing, she makes it–the spiritual life–accessible. I think most of us can easily shake our head as we read the above quote because we are visually picturing her writing. What a gift she gave to us; to be able to see her words. I can see the roses or daisies and violets and fields of flowers and know exactly what St Therese is talking about.
If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell
us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any
of its gifts.
–St Therese the Little Flower
My sisters, that is our aim. That sums up our theme for this month of January…to tell all that God has done for us without hiding any of our gifts…because they all belong to Him.
?How do we proclaim the goodness of God without sounding like we are bragging?
?Does that make you uncomfortable to praise God openly for blessing you abundantly in the presence of one who appears to be still waiting for that answered prayer?
Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Pop in the comments below and let me know if you’re reading along. Also, who would like to lead the discussion next week? Email me using the icon over there to the right and let me know.
Last week, an ordinary mother not unlike you, in fact perhaps very much like you, went with one of her older children to Confession.
And when I say ‘one of her older children’ I actually mean ‘young adult’ because although the aforementioned person will always be his mother’s ‘little boy’, he is in his early twenties, lives many miles away and was only home on vacation, so he of course isn’t a child any more. And when I say ‘went with’ what I really mean is ‘took’ because while this offspring of hers practices the faith of his childhood, he may quite possibly not have chosen to go to the sacrament that day, had the mother not said she was going and suggested that he tag along and that then they could stop for coffee afterwards. She is unsure about whether he needed this nudge or not but she is his mother and loves him fiercely and has a long history of risking nagging for the sake of the greater good. So she nudged.
This young adult, of course, is quite capable of managing his personal spiritual life, yet this mother still worries whether she is doing enough to support and encourage. You see she made a promise when the son was a newborn infant- a promise to help him grow in faith in every way she knows how, with all her strength until the day she dies. And she is not dead.
On that day she made that promise, she also begged God to watch over and protect this child morally, physically, emotionally, all the days of his life, and told God she will do whatever it takes – forever- to cooperate for this intention and help accomplish this. When she invited this son to Confession despite the fact that she had gone less than a week before, she was delighted that he had accepted.
Now, the mother and son are standing in line for Confession together:
The wait is long and the line is slow and the mother is secretly worried that her son will want to leave because the wait is long and the line is slow and he is quick-thinking, quick-deciding and not unlike her, somewhat impatient. In fact, after awhile, the mother herself wants to leave because the wait is long and the line is slow.
But she doesn’t.
As the mother stands there waiting with her son (her own impatience growing, now she has something more to confess), she catches a glimpse of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, there on the altar, also waiting…for her. And suddenly, unexpectedly, something hits her like a roaring train on the tracks of an unsuspecting small town:
He is here.
She remembers and realizes the reality of Who is there and why He is there and the significance of Him- the Son- being there …while he – her son- is there, with her.
And she recognizes the opportunity present, and has a sudden urge of inspiration to re-dedicate this child to God and renew the plea for His protection of him.
Spontaneously, she whispers in a wave of emotion:
Here he is, Lord. I brought him to You today. Pierce his heart and soul with Your Love. Give him Your grace and courage and peace and strength. Keep him close to You and help him now and always…whatever it takes from me…whatever it takes….
This mother prays these ending words whatever it takes not because she thinks that God is a punishing God who only bestows gifts only for a trade-off of pain but she prays these words because she knows He is a loving God who allows His creatures the privilege of participation, and she knows the the beauty and restorative power of redemptive suffering that occurs when one, even if just a mother, unites her suffering to His. She does not know what her son needs but she knows whatever it is, God will provide it and she offers her life –spiritual and physical- again for him.
Because God is a loving and merciful Father, the mother who helps bring forth the physical life through birth to her children- is granted too the opportunity, indeed daily is granted the opportunity, to also bring them in part, in a very small way, to the threshold of God and eternal life, mysteriously, through her cooperation and merits. She and her life can become vessels of grace again and again.
Clearly, quietly and firmly in this mother’s heart she hears an answer to her spur-of-the-moment prayer: YES.
Yes! It is distinct and profound and quiet, very still. And she feels the warmth and presence and sweetness from the altar, the dwelling place of Him and she feels her heart will burst in the significance and renewal of this moment.
Then a door closes and the mother looks up. Her son has entered the confessional. Moments later she does too.
In the days that follow, the mother contracts the flu, just as the abovementioned young adult child is about to depart on a plane back to his place of residence and work thousands of miles away. She does not hug him goodbye nor stand and look face-to-face into his eyes before he leaves, as she normally does, for fear of exposing him to her illness and fever. Instead, she stands in the door of the room, 15 feet away, as he turns with his duffle bag and she ‘air hugs’ him. He air-hugs her back. She will probably not see him for months, but she remembers that even little sacrifices like foregone hugs can contribute to the good of those she loves when she unites these actions with Christ.
The days that follow her son’s departure are full of daily mundane challenges- and the now familiar thought of noble redemptive suffering punctuates itself in another inconvenience, when this mother discovers her email has been hacked. Hundreds of people have received messages about discounted Rolex watches from her account. And because this mother didn’t catch this hacking for several days (she has been sick and offline you know) her Twitter account has also been compromised, and shut down. But she deals with these problems, as well as mountains of laundry that have amassed in her illness, patiently and carefully, not because it is in her nature, but because there is a higher reason and an intention for which to pray, and she knows that work and suffering can be prayer. There is an acceptance because there is a purpose.
When the jury selection order appears in her mailbox, on the heels of this trying week right when she is scheduled to resume homeschool with her youngest three children, and when she calls the bailiff to ask for a deferral until summer so she can meet her state’s 180 day education requirement, and when the bailiff is cold and indifferent to her plight and is in fact rude when she finds out the mother homeschools, and denies her request, the mother does not succumb to frustration in the least. Because of an encounter earlier that week, in fact, she smiles.
This mother, this ordinary mother not unlike you, in fact perhaps very much like you, thinks about the new month of January, full of promise and opportunity and new beginnings. She thinks about the sacrament of Confession and its opportunity and new beginning as well. She thinks of Him, and him, and her. And how they are all intertwined in love and sacrifice. She thinks of how acceptance can be a gift.
And this mother ponders the turn of events in the previous week, amazed at the God who allows not just her but all mothers the opportunity to be living gifts to their families. They–we are not just gifts in physical ways such as doing the laundry and preparing meals and kissing boo boos of young children. No, they–we can be gifts in large and significant ways, united-in-redemptive suffering ways, in leading-our-children-to-Christ ways.
We can be gifts to our families in eternal ways by dedicating, praying, leading, suffering, accepting, and uniting in Christ what we do. The profound can indeed be quiet. The significant can be simple. And we need to remind one another of this, as ordinary mothers. The consequences of what we do can be everlasting.
Colleen | Blessed Are the Feet
Last week, I shared that that the month of October is the month the Church dedicates to the Most Holy Rosary and also to remember the missions around the world and the missionaries who serve them.
And I also began sharing about the missions rosary. In this rosary, each decade is prayed for one area of the world, the needs of its people, and the Church’s missionary outreaches in that area. One decade is recited for each of the following areas: Africa, Oceania, Europe, the Americas and Asia. This week, we will continue praying that rosary, adding the meditations for the next two decades.
We will also continue to pray for the missionary intention for the month, chosen by Pope Benedict XVI–World Mission Day: That the celebration of World Mission Day may result in a renewed commitment to evangelization.
We began with Africa last week and this week move on to the Americas and Europe.
Lord, bless your children living on the Americas, in every North, Central and South America and in the Caribbean islands – in the suburbs and the inner cities, in the high mountains and on sun-kissed shores, in warm family homes, in cold lonely mansions and in garbage heaps and orphanages, in the rain forests and jungles and in the streets of the cities. Show us, Lord, how to live in such a way that those who have much are always a blessing to those who have little. Bring an end to the blind consumerism and progression that oppresses and enslaves our brothers and sisters. Open our ears to Your Word, Father and our eyes to one another, help us to see how you would have us live as your children, one family. Heal the hearts of orphans, widows and refugees and find them a place to call home. Accompany always, Lord, those living in poverty – those who lack not only food and resources, but love, hope, faith and fellowship. Protect those who live in violence, fear, neglect and slavery, Sweet Savior. Lord, move my heart for the brothers and sisters who share my home. Help me to pray fervently that they will all come to call you Savior and be baptized into the hope of eternal joy, and that those who already know you will rise up to serve you will zeal. Send missionaries to the poor and the broken and those losing faith, Father, missionaries who meet them where they find them and love them, walk with them until they are home with you. And, Lord, open their ears to your calling, and raise up an army of missionaries who will bring the Good News to their next door neighbors and to the ends of the earth. May You be glorified in the Americas now and forever. Amen.
• First Hail Mary: For the nations of North America
• Second Hail Mary: For the nations of Central America
• Third Hail Mary: For the nations of South America
• Fourth Hail Mary: For the Caribbean islands
• Sixth Hail Mary: For slaves and trafficking victims, orphans and widows, the homeless and the hopeless in the Americas
• Seventh Hail Mary: For those who have dedicated themselves to a life of service to Christ in the Americas and for many missionaries to go out from the Americas to serve and bring the Good News
• Eighth Hail Mary: For the rich in the Americas who live in selfishness and blindness, for the rich who do not realize their wealth, for the rich who live in hopelessness, despair, addiction and pain
• Ninth Hail Mary: For protection for the Americas from natural disasters, especially the most vulnerable of her peoples
• Tenth Hail Mary: For the conversion of hearts and the constant revitalization of the Catholic faith in the Americas
• After the Glory Be: St. Francis Xavier, patron of missions, pray for us.
Elizabeth Foss::In the Heart of My Home
Posted May 24, 2010…From February 1998
In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes, “It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. And yet, once it is done, I find there is quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”
She’s right. It is a difficult lesson. I have adopted a style of mothering that leaves little room for solitude. For 10 years now, I have had a child with me almost constantly. I don’t even share the collective sigh of relief that echoes in the neighborhood when the school bus lumbers off in the morning. My children are home, looking at me expectantly, ready for a day of home education.
This is a carefully chosen lifestyle, one which I embrace wholeheartedly and love dearly. Still, I have days when I crave solitude. I yearn for time to think uninterrupted thoughts or not thoughts at all. Usually, if I am alone or if I am at home with sleeping children, I am sitting in front of the computer, frantically trying to meet a deadline.
There is a time, however, when the very clinginess of my children gives birth to time alone. When my fourth child was born, my mother gave us a king sized bed. While this is certainly not on ordinary baby gift, she knew that she was giving my husband and me the precious gift of sleep. She knew that ours is very much “the family bed.”
The nursing baby is often allowed to nod off between us because I have nodded off before her. The three-year-old who insisted on his own bed until his second birthday, now insists he can’t sleep can’t sleep alone. We start him off in his room; he usually migrates to ours. And the five-year-old still hasn’t slept through the night. (Please don’t send me suggestions for solving my child’s sleep problems. I’ve been there and don’t care to do that.)
When our bed reaches capacity, at five bodies, I crawl out. I go to my son’s room where the blinds block the light totally and the bed is made with inviting flannel sheets and a flannel-covered down comforter. It is a twin bed and the first time I escaped to its safe harbor, I felt like I was back in college. It was so quiet. I was so alone. I made a personal rule not to think of anything in that bed that I wouldn’t have thought of in college.
I don’t think about kids, or teaching, or homemaking. I don’t compose columns in my head to be written at dawn before children arise. I don’t think of my husband in anything but the romantic, dewy-eyed, “engaged” frame of reference.
Since I don’t have any exams, term papers, projects, or extra-curricular activities to think about, I usually just fall asleep. But for the few moments between leaving the crowded bed of grown-up responsibility and falling asleep in the solitary bed of a carefree youth, I am completely relaxed and very open to creative ideas. It is enough to make me wonder if I shouldn’t pursue solitude occasionally when I am fully awake.
by Emily DeArdo::Catholic Poster Girl
There are very few things that will get me up at six a.m. A flight to Disney World is one. Christmas morning is the other.
I’ve celebrated 30 Christmases, and still, I am up every Christmas morning at six o’clock, bursting to go downstairs, open presents, and tuck in to the cinnamon rolls and sausage breakfast we only have once a year.
Every year, my family asks me if it’s possible for us to sleep in until say, eight. I deny this.
Now, you might think that this is a greedy thing on my part, and that I want to get to the presents as quick as possible. You may be right, although that’s not my primary reason anymore. I know Santa doesn’t exist, and I know almost everything I get, because my mom can’t keep a secret (and I am also an excellent peeker). I generally don’t like surprises, so if there are any under the tree, I’m wary of them.
But I love Christmas, “the whole Christmas season,” as Dr. Seuss said. I love trimming the tree, singing Christmas carols, Christmas parties, Advent wreaths, the gorgeous creche at my church, snow (this is the only time of the year I like snow), wrapping paper, Christmas candles- you name it, I love it.
I think this is because of the wonder. Part of me, like Peter Pan, has not grown up, and I still view Christmas as the most magical time of the year. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized the theological dimensions, of course, as well as the maxim that it’s better to give than to receive. I like giving gifts now as much as I like getting them. Christmas is really the only acceptable time adults can be like children (in the best sense) in our society. Wonder is socially allowable.
As we get older, it’s easier to get jaded, to see the world as a big collection of things on our to-do list. We lose sight of the wonder of a rain drop, the sky at sunset, imperfect flowers, a softness of a baby’s skin. We start to take it for granted. We’ve seen it all before. Even Ecclesiastes tells us “there is nothing new under the sun.”
But that doesn’t mean we should lose the wonder. In his encyclical Fides et Ratio / On the Relationship between Faith and Reason, Blessed John Paul II writes about wonder:
The fundamental element of knowledge springs from the wonder awakened in them by the contemplation of creation: human beings are astonished to discover themselves as part of the world, in a relationship between others like them, all sharing a common destiny…without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening route and little by little would become incapable of a life which is genuinely personal.” (John Paul II, Fides et Ratio , 4)
Without wonder, we lose our curiosity, our awe, our appreciation of what we have, what we are, and where we are. We will never understand everything: as Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
And even if we know–does that kill the wonder? We know how a plant grows. We know how a baby is made, or why it rains. But that shouldn’t still the wonder-instinct in us to appreciate it and revel in the beauty God gives us.
And tied to noticing the wonder is giving thanks for it. God gives us tiny gifts everyday, and how often do we really see them? Unless we take the time to notice and train ourselves to do it, we can miss so much.
This life is all we have. We should notice every wonderful thing about it. In Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, Emily, the protagonist, asks the Stage Manager at the end of play, “Do human beings ever realize life while they live is…every, every minute?” The Stage Manager replies, “The saints and poets, maybe. They do some.”
Let’s be saints and poets. Let’s see the wonder.
(Thanks to Sarah McLachlan’s song, Bring On The Wonder, for the title)
That is how things ended up the other day.
That day had begun with what we were told would be a short informational briefing followed by our British drivers license test. “Short” turned out to be several hours of presentations and a mandatory walk through an info fair where we got stalled in the procession by the WIC table. The woman manning it offered pens and other promotional items. Then she paused with her brochure in hand, and shook her head and said, almost to herself, “Well, of course you wouldn’t have children under five though.” Having begun my mothering very early I grew accustomed to being considered too young. This? This is new. I was caught up short and clearly surprised her by affirming that yes indeed I did still have small children at home. She stammered a bit and we returned to do the written test, the wind out of my sails some.
We hadn’t really studied for the test and I half hoped I wouldn’t pass and then would have an excuse not to attempt driving in this new place on top of the other things I had to do. I got a 96. No dodging to be done. Nor was there any dodging the dozens of boxes waiting for us at home, nor the calls to utility companies that had to be made, nor the preparations that had to be done for the kids arriving in country for vacation and the ones leaving the country for camp. The day just went on and on.
Late that night I made latte’s with my newly acquired French press, used mainly to froth milk into big heaping mounds for goodness at the end of days like that. I brought Allen’s to the desk and grabbed my camera….which was still plugged in…to the keyboard. That one move propelled the keyboard into the mug spilling steaming latte onto his legs…and the keyboard… and the carpet. There was a brief, but impressive, howl of pain followed by quiet and a change of clothes. Then together we cleaned up the mess.(He was unscathed btw but the keyboard was fatally wounded)
Upside is we laughed about it. We talked about keeping carpet cleaner on hand. We moved on. I think our 25 year old selves might not have. I realized in that moment that although I clearly no longer pass as young mother, the truth is I don’t want to be 25 anymore. Or even 35. Time has softened things around the edges.
I truly don’t love wrinkles or gray hair but I am coming to appreciate the perspective that came with them. There was no short cut to that. It has taken quite a bit of spilled coffee and doing of things we didn’t want to do to file down those raw emotions of youth. A great lot of humbling mistakes and disappointment. A whole bunch of life. But then, at the end of one crummy day, you realize those emotions don’t define you anymore, nor dictate where an evening goes.
And you figure out that it was a good trade after all.