My second son served at the altar last night. He was beaming. He was reverent. He was so happy. I am so proud of him. My oldest son served also. They were together, aiding Christ’s priest. I teared up many times. Two of my sons. I realized that by the time Markie is old enough to serve, Nicholas will be twenty two years old. I made him promise to serve then too, so all of my sons can serve together. I will be a blubbering mess when that day comes.
Category Archives: gratitude
I presented a short, reflective talk at our Mothers Retreat the first weekend of February. The theme of the day was “Organizing Our Homes, Organizing Our Hearts”. Judy Lubowicki from Clutter Free Organizing gave a very energetic and inspiring pep talk on clutter free home organization for the Organizing Our Homes aspect of the retreat. Her hand outs are worth their weight in gold! I presented the following for the Organizing Our Hearts aspect. We enjoyed mass, wonderful fellowship, food, and many laughs with others “in the trenches”. Following is the talk I gave, I edited here to better fit the medium.
Organizing Our Hearts by Sanctifying the Moment
Now that we have ideas for keeping our homes in order, let’s turn to organizing our hearts. Let’s face it, even with the best laid dinner plans, filing systems, curriculum, and laundry organizers – life as a homeschooling mother, often with many children, is unpredictable. The temporal demands of managing a household can sometimes become so pressing and necessary that we are tempted to push spiritual matters off to the back burner – if we can even find the back burner under the stack of dirty dishes!
We have in the sacraments a firm backbone of an organized spiritual life – namely Holy Communion and Confession. We also have in our rich Catholic faith, the rhythm of the liturgical year to guide our devotions and meditations. We have many sacramentals and heavenly intercessors to aid us on our journey toward holiness. Then we have what the late Bishop Fulton Sheen called The University of the Moment, or simply The Now. This, I believe, is the key to organizing our hearts.
Let me share with you the “perfect” spiritual day in my family. It would be begin with me – mom – rising early to pray a morning offering and study a scripture passage. I would sit with my coffee and listen to Our Lord whisper to me in the cozy silence of the morning. The children would begin to wake and we would all gather around the table for a gospel reflection and morning prayers with Dad. The children and I would dress and head to St. Josephs for daily mass. We would stop our studies at noon to greet Mother Mary in the Angelus. We would learn about the saint of the day and observe their feast day with tea and a craft to illustrate a virtue. We would observe the hour of Mercy with the chaplet at three o’clock. We would end our day with the Rosary, family litany, and night prayers. I would thoroughly examine my conscience before climbing into bed. I would fall asleep reading the biography of a great saint while the children would drift off with visions of Joyful Mysteries in their heads. Oh how holy we would be!
Then there is reality – beautiful reality! As mothers we often hit the ground running each morning. My morning offering may be nothing more than a glance at the crucifix on my way out of the bedroom door. The baby needs nursing, the toddlers want oatmeal. There are clothes to iron, diapers to change, dishes to wash. Husbands rush out the door for early meetings; adolescents grudgingly drag themselves out of bed just about the time Father would be reading the gospel at mass. Some days, when we do make it to mass, I often think I should probably make a stop the confessional beforehand to confess the behavior I stooped to in order to get us all there in the first place!
Now don’t get me wrong, we should always aim high when it comes to prayer time and devotions. My vision of a ‘perfect’ spiritual day does actually happen from time to time, and usually at least few of those items are accomplished every day. But even in that ‘perfect’ scenario, there is a lot of time left in the day. As terribly romantic as it may seem to be able to spend our days deep in prayer, it’s simply not in our job description as mothers. In a nutshell, our job description is to serve
We are each created in the image and likeness of God. Christ lives in the soul of each baptized person around us. As mothers, we have the privilege of intimately knowing many faces of God right in our own homes. We have the opportunity to see, reflected in the faces of each of our children, another unique image of our own Creator. Through the adolescent boy with fuzz beginning to grow above his lip, Christ asks, “Listen to Me” Through the toddler with peanut butter smeared in her hair, Christ asks, “Tenderly wash me” Through the baby with a gaping smile and milk dripping off his chin, Christ asks, “Hold me.” It is in this reality, this present moment that we are given the opportunity to truly grow in holiness.
But what do we do when the requests seem to us more like nagging demands, or they are fired at us one after the other, or even all at the same time? We can sigh in exasperation “Calgon take me away”, but that only works in commercials. (Ask me how I know!) We can fulfill each request with the slamming of doors we feel they deserve, or we can do the ever so tempting: shut it all out and retreat to a book, television, or computer. In doing any (or all!) of the above, we are giving up moment after moment of sanctification. We are ‘skipping classes’ in the University of the Moment.
What exactly is “The University of the Moment”? While contemplating this phrase, I thought of how much sense it makes to us as mothers concerned with our children’s education. The University of the Moment is the unique curriculum tailored to each individual by God’s perfect Love. As mothers, we pray, research, discuss, and sometimes even agonize over education choices for our children. We take each child and examine their strengths, weaknesses, learning abilities, temperaments, and interests. We may decide to homeschool from a boxed curriculum, we may choose a parochial school, public school, or an eclectic homeschool. (, or Montessori, boarding school, classical curriculum, the choices alone are enough to exhaust us!) And there is no doubt that whatever choice we make, it is done out of our love for that child. -An imperfect love. As much time as we may spend with our children, as intimately as we may known them, our love for them is imperfect. Only God Loves with a Perfect Love. In His perfect Love, he tailors a unique curriculum to each and every one of us and that curriculum is the present moment – the Now. This curriculum is laid out before us only moment by moment, in each trial, setback, and obstacle we face. This is what Bishop Sheen said about our ‘unique curriculum’ designed by God:
”Every moment brings us more treasures than we can gather. The great value of the Now, spiritually viewed, is that it carries a message God has directed personally to us. Books, sermons, and broadcasts on a religious theme have the appearance of being circular letters, meant for everyone. Sometimes, when such general appeals do appear to have a personal application, the soul gets angry and writes vicious letters to allay its uneasy conscience. Excuses can always be found for ignoring the divine law. But though moral and spiritual appeals carry God’s identical message message to all who listen, this is not true of the Now-moment; no one else but I am in exactly these circumstances; no one else has to carry the same burden, whether it be sickness, the death of a loved one , or some other adversity. Nothing is more individually tailored to our spiritual needs than the Now-moment; for that reason it is an occasion of knowledge that can come to no one else. This moment is my school, my textbook, my lesson.”
When it comes to managing a household and raising children, discerning the “Now” takes some serious on the spot prioritizing. What exactly is my ‘NOW” when many things are being asked of me at once? The nitty-gritty of this is, of course, up to each of us to individually discern. I personally look to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a guideline. Just the other day when my oldest son was studying his catechism, he remarked to me how many of these works of mercy I accomplish each and every day! A few of these are obvious such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and admonishing the sinner. As I was reading through these again while preparing for this talk, instructing the ignorant really jumped out at me. Now, before you think I am calling my children ignorant, bear with me, this can be applied in a very practical way while discerning exactly how to meet everyones needs justly and with charity. An example of this may be when your four year old is just begging you to color with him and you are nursing the baby. Dinner still needs to be made, and then it will be bath time, prayer time, and bed time. It is quite obvious to you that coloring is simply not a possibility, it would be very easy and tempting to say No, and don’t ask me again! Instead you could look at this “Now” moment, as an opportunity to practice a spiritual work of mercy. You could say something along the lines of “Sam, I would really like to color with you, but Markie needs to nurse right now, then Daddy will be home and we will all be hungry for dinner, so we need to make dinner, maybe we can color tomorrow.” In this case, the four year old was ignorant to the needs of the rest of the family, and you instructed him. Both of you have learned a lesson from the University of the Moment! Of course this is a very simplified example and we will often be faced with many bigger, constant, and not so clear demands. But if we practice these things in small matters, they will come easy and natural in big matters. Like Our Lord said in Luke (Lk 16:10) “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.
We have to keep in mind that sanctifying the moment goes beyond the practical. It is a lot more than just plopping oatmeal into bowls, wiping bottoms, and teaching multiplication tables. We need to be truly present in the moment. When we serve Christ by serving our family members, do they, in turn see Christ in us? Do they see someone who is welcoming the opportunity to serve them, with warmth, love, and a genuine interest for their well-being?
It never ceases to amaze me, when I am kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, in a chapel full of people that God is there, present to me. He is concerned with nothing more than what is best for me, and at the same time, He is concerned with nothing more than what is best for the person beside me – all at the same time! This is only possible because God is outside of time and we live very much under time constraints, but there is still a lesson for us in this. We can imitate Him by being fully present to our individual children in even the most fleeting moments throughout the day. We need to learn to truly stop what we are doing, turn off the background noise in our heads, and focus on the person we are serving. This elevates our service from obligation to Love. It is certainly not our first inclination, and in reality is it not possible 100% of the time. (There is that pesky little “T” word again!) It is tempting though, to go on auto-pilot for the sake of efficiency. But when it comes to relationships, we should be aiming much higher than mere efficiency, the goal should be sanctity! And sanctity is possible, moment by moment…
I would like to wrap this up with the following beautiful thoughts from my dear friend Holly at Seeking Faithfulness:
What will they see?
Infant of mine,
What will you see,
As I wash your skin and change your clothes?
Eyes that are focused on the next task or eyes filled with the wonder of you?
Toddler of mine,
What will you see,
As my head bends over yours and we brush your teeth?
Will you see a mouth turned down, a brow furrowed with thought,
Or a quick smile, just for you?
Little boys of mine,
What will you hear?
Words that seep with tiredness and frustration,
Or encouragement that you really can be the good boys
You want to be?
Daughters of mine,
What will you learn?
That mothering is a chore, a burden, a list,
Or a fulfilling, joyful job, worthy of your life’s attention?
Strapping sons of mine,
What will you observe?
A woman eager to control, to keep you under her thumb,
Or a mentor eager to disciple by example, a helping hand?
Husband of mine,
What will you find?
A spirit that is hard to please, a distant soul,
Or warm arms to welcome you as you walk in the door?
It is humbling, frightening of sorts, to realize that I create the majority of the memories that my family will carry with them regarding home. How have I framed that memory for each individual? Will their childhood have been filled with one of love and warmth, or of mommy simply “doing her job?” Will their adolescent years be full of good times, or will they be years of bad recollections? Will they grow up to desire a family for themselves, or will they believe that the cost of a child is much too high in terms of time, work, and finances? And my husband, if I were to be called home tomorrow, what would his memories of me be?
Have I, through the help of the Holy Spirit, given my best for these I love?
Isn’t it good to know that we do not walk this path alone?
His mercies are new every morning!
I often fail to recognize just how well I am taken care of. I get so very wrapped up in how much I take care of others. (Read: whine, complain, and exaggerate.) Even when I do stop and think of how well I am taken care of I do not often give due appreciation. I take so much for granted in my cushie life. I know all care comes from God, who works through the events, circumstances, and people in my life.
Oftentimes God’s care is obvious even in the little things. Just this afternoon I needed to make a run to the market for juice. I have several children with colds and croup that call for plenty of fluids. I was torn between needing to be home with kids that need me, or running out for juice for kids who need fluids! I wanted nothing more than to hunker down with my kids and read some books and rock the virus away. With all the holiday hub-bub and recent snowfall, traffic was awful. The parking lot of the store was crammed and inside was no different. I offered up a quick prayer for patience, bundled myself up and walked in with my cart. To my suprise (why am I still surprised when my prayers are answered???) in the front of the store sat a cart of juice, all marked $.50-$.75 off. I loaded up and was out of the store and back home in no time. A few of the kids didn’t even realize I had left yet! On the surface these kinds of instances and events may seem like coincidences, sheer ‘luck’ or no big deal. As a child of God I need to stop and recognize them as my Fathers tender care.
There are the people in my life that love and care for me, motivated by their love for Christ. My husband is the most evident. His love for Our Lord flows from him so generously in his constant, steadfast, even gentle, care of me and the children. He knows and fulfills our physical needs by braving the world each day to meet the strapping financial demands of our large and growing family. I’ve never heard him say, ”I don’t want to go to work.” I have seen him climb out of bed each morning and repeat the same ‘ole each day. Usually with that dashing smile on his face that attracted me to him when we were young. I’ve watched him hold a hefty toddler in each arm for the duration of a high mass without batting an eye, so I can simply hold the baby and pray along the mass. I’ve watched him cheerfully do things that I know are way out of his comfort zone just to be a good example to our children.
Without going into the full saga, we’ve been having issues with the gas company lately. It is December in Ohio and our gas was turned off for twenty four hours to repair a service line. My husband spent the entire day dealing with service crews, public utilities commissions, and operators, making sure everything was being done to get our heat back on in a timely manner. He went out and bought an electric heater for us to get cozied up in at least one room of our house. He spent the whole day working to make us warm again. I could not help but being reminded of St. Joseph tirelessly going from door to door looking for a warm place for his family. Just as God provided Our Mother with a husband to care for her and His Son, He has provided me with a husband that tenderly cares for me and our children.
Then there are the many friends that God has blessed me with. There are the ones dear to me that I share tea with regularly, the ones that rejoice with me when I share the news of another precious baby on the way and bring our family dinner when the baby is born. There are the blessed friends, far away. Ones that I have never met face to face, yet these dear women offer prayers for me whenever requested and graciously share unexpected gifts that make the yoke lighter and the burden easier.
I am worthy of this care insofar as I am made in His image. I am His and He cares for me. Through no merits of my own do I deserve anything. I resolve to recognize and appreciate each act of kindness, generosity, and charity for what it is, an overflow of God’s love for all of His creation.
We had to wait a little longer than we normally do, but now Mark Benedict is a new soul in Christ! Deo Gratias!
Preparing for the day:
Daddy wanted in the picture too! (Gramma is praying at the altar rail.)
My memory card maxed out but I think his godmother got some good pictures also. We had a wonderful day and Mark smells lovely!!!
Mark was born on the feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa . Her icon hung on the wall right over where he was born.
(Here is Tony holding him minutes after he was born, you can see Our Lady over his shoulder, the tub where he was born in just in front of Tony!)
I have had a bit of a devotion to Her for a few years now. Tony and the children bought me the icon for Mothers Day earlier this year. We used to live in the inner city, just 2 blocks from St. Adalbert’s church where the children and I walked to daily mass and each Wednesday night we prayed the novena to Our Lady of Czestochowa. (I think we only had 3 children at the time!) We became very close to the wonderful Polish priest there, Fr. Marek. He is the most kind, gentle, and genuine priest you could ever meet.
Well, we moved out of the neighborhood because of too much drug/gang activity. (this was originally a Polish neighborhood, with 2 Catholic churches within 5 blocks of one another to accomodate the Polish Catholic population. It is now your typical inner city. So sad.)
But we continued our friendship with Fr. Marek and our Wednesday devotions.
We decided to call the baby “Mark” instead of “Benedict” because, well, the kids were calling him “Benny” and I REALLY didn’t like that with our last name! So Tony mentioned “Mark” and said something in passing about how much Fr. Marek would like that. We wanted to keep “Benedict” in there along with his twin in heaven that we call “Scholastica Grace”.
So fast forward to last night, we decided to go to St. Adalberts for mass and novena to Our Lady of Czestochowa, and introduce Mark to Fr. Marek, his namesake! I was walking in the back with two babies before mass began. Fr. Marek came out of the confessional and saw Tony and the kids in the front pew. (Yes, we are crazy like that!) So he went over and asked him how we were doing and if I had had the baby yet. Tony said “Yes, Mark was born on August 26th!” Fr.’s eyes grew real big and he got a HUGE grin on his face and said “On the Feast of Our Lady!!!!” He was SO thrilled!! He gave me a little wave and asked Nicholas to serve mass.
We were so suprised when just before the final blessing, he invited our entire family to the foot of the altar where he bestowed on me a mothers blessing, and a family blessing on all of us, and asked the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa throughout Mark’s life! It was so beautiful and I was so teary-eyed! Tony and I were both very suprised and touched.
The Wednesday mass there is very poorly attended, Tony and I were the youngest adults there by at least 30 years! LOL! But everyone congratulated us and traced the cross on little Mark’s head after mass! It was such a glorious and special evening for us! Thank you Our Lady, for your motherly care and intercession.
Well, actually, I probably will not birth here. It will more likely be the livingroom floor where five of our children have already been born. I plan on using the birth pool and it is to large to set up in the bedroom. But I have been working diligently on preparing our bedroom, or ‘nest’ as I call it, for the baby’s arrival. This is where the two of us will spend our first week together. We will use this time to get to know one another, to read each others cues and to establish that blissful nursing relationship. I am very blessed to have so many around me that will tend to all of our needs during this time. I plan to walk no further than the bathroom down the hall. Here is a tour of our nest!
This is the view from the door. The cradle is a safe place for baby to lay when I do have to make that trip down the hall!
A cozy place to rock with Our Lady of Pepetual Help watching over us.
A place to rest our heads
Our dresser filled with mama’s pajamas and tiny baby clothes! Dh and I made the belly cast over the weekend. The girls and I decorated it with a Mary Cassatt print, a poem titled “Treasure” and hand painted flowers. I have a beautiful St. Benedict medal to apply to it also. A statue and print of Our Lady of La Leche watch over us from this wall.
This area is prepared with freshly washed baby diapers, rosaries on the wall. (But who needs a rosary when there are perfect little baby toes to count Hail Mary’s on!!) We also have some herbal tinctures ready for various post partum issues, and a bottle of “Happy Mama” spray to lift our mood a bit.
That’s the tour of our “Birthing Suite”, awaiting the arrival of our “Guest of Honor”!
The time is drawing nearer -
Soon we will be blessed -
With another one of these -
Thank Heaven for Little Boys!
Thanks MissyC, for a wonderful refreshing snack this afternoon!
Our 20 week ultrasound showed everything is well with baby and mama. The twin has completely ‘vanished‘ and the hematoma healed. All of his parts and pieces are in their proper spot and accounted for. We did find out that he is a boy, he made it quite obvious to me many times during the course of the ultrasound. I asked the tech not to tell me, and she didn’t have to!