Half Assed Saint

There are so many different kinds of Saints.

Look in any “Saints For Every Day” book and you will find married Saints, and celibate Saints; Saints who went out to preach the Gospel, and Saints who stayed beyond closed doors to pray in solitude; Saints who were kings and queens, and Saints who were the poorest of the poor.

You know what kind of Saint you won’t find though?

A saint who saw holiness as something they could pursue part-time.One does not become a saint by clocking in to say a Rosary here or do a Holy Hour there, and then clocking out.  There are no half assed Saints.

Each and every one of our thoughts, words and actions should be motivated by a genuine desire to be holy, a desire to be a Saint.

I want to be a lot of things. I want to be a good wife and mother. I want to do well in my job and whatever I’m called to in the future. I think about wanting all of these things every day, but how often to I think about how badly I want to be a Saint? Does that desire influence my attitude and my daily decisions? I’ll be honest, I haven’t thought about wanting to be a Saint for a long time…but I think I want that to change.

“You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.”
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Let’s be whole saints together.

 

Perfect Mother

The other day as I was busy with some thing or other, John, who is two, was in desperate need of a band aid (or as he calls them, “rubber bands”) for a boo boo. Being distracted and admittedly kind of grumpy, I reminded him that he didn’t need a band aid for a boo boo that wasn’t bleeding and continued with whatever I was working on. When I walked into our bedroom I saw John climbing over laundry baskets and books to reach something on the bookshelf. I immediately jumped into a stream of be-careful-don’t-climb-on-things! When I picked him up I saw a small plastic bottle of Lourdes water clutched in his little hands. “I need this for my boo boo,” John stated.

He got me. Sometimes I am impatient, or distracted, or grumpy. I’m not a perfect mother, not even close; but Mama Mary, she is. She’s always there to scoop us up and tell us it will be ok. She has band aids for all the boo boos, not just the ones that are openly bleeding. She listens, really listens, to everything we have to say.

I stopped thinking about whatever had been distracting me before. I twisted the tiny blue lid off the bottle and poured a drop or two of water on John’s boo boo. As I rubbed the water into his arm I tried not to feel inferior or guilty for not being perfect, but instead thanked my Perfect Mother for being perfect so I don’t have to be.

 

Holy Week, it’s here again

I walked into the Church last Saturday evening for the vigil Mass and I honestly almost turned right back around and walked out again. The sight of the red vestments, palms and covered statuary shocked me into the realization that yet another Lent had come to an end; that with the celebration of this Mass we would be entering it to Holy Week. I panicked. “I’m not ready!” I cried out inwardly, “Please, Lord, I’m really not ready.”

I wanted so badly to approach the Triduum, to approach the Cross, with a heart purified in the desert of Lent. I wanted to spend those 40 days in prayer and fasting and spiritual growth, I wanted to be different at the end of it.

Instead, I railed against the crosses I had been given to carry these past weeks. I let the desert harden me, and scorch me, and make me bitter, rather than purify me. I do feel different, but worse, not better; so far off from where I wanted to be.

I felt unworthy to join in the feast last night as the Church celebrated the founding of the priesthood and the gift of the Eucharist. I was ashamed to walk up the aisle to show reverence for the  Cross that was the means of my salvation when I have born my own crosses so poorly.

I managed to make it to Confession this evening– and I can feel my heart beginning to thaw. There’s still part of me that wishes I had had a more “successful” Lent…but then again, maybe this one act, showing up to receive Christ’s mercy and forgiveness in Reconciliation, even if it was “at the last minute,” has constituted a success? I feel more ready now to open my heart to the joy of Easter than I have in the past 40 days.

Jesus, I don’t have any great sacrifices to offer at the foot of your Cross; my heart has been so brittle and stony throughout this Lenten season, but I ask that you accept it anyway. Please bless my simple act of showing up, sometimes that alone can be so hard. Please hold me close to your pierced Heart, let the love and mercy that radiates from You warm my heart and make it malleable again. 

hearthand

“But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us— you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth…Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God.” Gregory of Nazianzus

All the holy ladies…

As my nine month old daughter, Catherine, crawled across the kitchen floor toward me just now I saw that she was grasping a small peg doll in her chubby little hand.

Last year for Easter a friend of mine organized a Saint peg doll exchange for a group of moms and the result was a beautiful collection of Saints that fit perfectly in a child’s hand and are now daily scattered on our family room carpet.

“Who do you have there? St. Teresa of Avila? Oh, she’s wonderful!”

I couldn’t help but smile. How gosh darn lucky am I to get to share incredible women like St. Teresa with my daughter? I have found such comfort and encouragement in the lives of the saints and I can only hope and pray that my children find the same. I am excited at the possibility of these holy women becoming role models and friends to my daughter as she grows and faces the joys and challenges that come with each stage of life.

Step aside, Beyonce and Hilary, my little girl’s got role models who have already achieved the ultimate prize: Heaven.

PicsArt_01-31-11.37.45

 

Love Does Not Calculate

I hate math.

I’ve hated math for as long as I can remember.

I avoid math at all costs, unless I have to manage a budget, measure ingredients to bake something chocolate, or calculate the new price of that fantastic top that’s 60% off.

Calculating numbers is not my forte; calculating in relationships (unfortunately) comes much easier to me.

I often find myself composing word problems like this:

“If husband gets 2 guys’ nights this month and wife hasn’t had an uninterrupted shower in 5 days, how many girls’ nights out should she get?”

“If wife cooks dinner every night for a week, how many loads of laundry must husband do?”

“If husband has to work late 3 nights this week, approximately how crabby can wife be (divided by 2 children and multiplied by the number of messes the two year old makes in the span of an hour)?”

“If baby has 4 diaper blow outs and 2 projectile spit ups before dad gets home from work how long can mom hide in the bathroom once he arrives?”

It is so easy to see relationships, especially those with the people we live with, as an attempt to keep the scales balanced. Even though I’ve been told time and time again (thanks, Mom) that life isn’t fair, I still seem to be surprised and disgruntled when it’s not.

Life, and especially love, just can’t be made to fit the scales.

Some weeks I will struggle, I will be tired and unmotivated and Hank will pick up the slack, doing laundry and washing dishes and playing with the kids.

Other weeks he will be busy with work or overwhelmed by deadlines and it’s my turn to cook dinner, change that millionth dirty diaper and make sure bedtime happens.

These situations won’t ever be equal. We can’t keep score or tally up how much we’ve done and tag out when we feel we have given enough or put in our “fair share.”

St. John Paul the Great is quoted having said,

“Do not forget that true love sets no conditions; it does not calculate or complain, but simply loves.”

Love posted on a scoreboard isn’t really love.

Love is simple not complicated, like my ridiculous word problems.

Love is 1+1= 2

“Two are better than one,

   because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

   one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

   and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

   But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,

   two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”   

Eccl. 4:9-12

St. John Paul the Great, please pray for us as we strive to unlearn the habit of calculating in relationships and learn to simply give. We ask for the grace to offer up all of our struggles in giving love freely and for the ability to see that love offered alongside Christ’s immeasurable love is multiplied in ways we can’t even imagine. Amen.

Motherhood: Full of Grace?

“This is SO not graceful right now!” I thought to myself as I leaned half-way into the back seat of my sedan attempting to put my 1 year old in his car-seat with one hand while simultaneously pulling my shirt down and my pants up with the other.

I have found myself thinking similar things as I walk waddle, up and down dormitory halls doing nightly rounds, or squat to clean up the ever present goldfish crackers from under the kitchen table, or chase my son around for 10 minutes simply trying to get him dressed.

Motherhood is not graceful.

Motherhood is messy and sticky (very, very sticky), it’s exhausting and it’s awkward and sometimes even embarrassing (that moment when your son decides to stick his hand down your shirt in church…yup, embarrassing).

As badly as I want to reflect the images I see of Mary living out her call of motherhood I can’t help but get stuck on how perfect she seems and how utterly imperfect I am.

mary laundry

Yeah, this does not depict my daily life as a mother at all..oh except for the naked child, that’s pretty accurate.

Sure Mary was conceived without sin, but did that mean she was a perfect mother? Did she have to figure out being a mom like I do? Maybe nursing a newborn didn’t come naturally for her either. Maybe baby Jesus leaked all up the back of his swaddling clothes when she failed to change him soon enough because she was sleep deprived from countless nighttime feedings.

What did it mean for Mary’s motherhood that she was “full of grace,” as the angel declared at the Annunciation? I think it meant that she had the grace to continually affirm her “fiat,” her “yes” to the call of motherhood, day in and day out, even when things got messy. As mothers, the moment we opened ourselves up to bearing new life we proclaimed our own “yes” to motherhood, and God wants us to ask for the grace to live that “yes” every day, in every situation.

As I waddle down the hall holding my basketball sized belly- “yes.”

As I snuggle my sleepy son- “yes.”

As I squat to clean up crumbs- “yes.”

As I lay still feeling my baby girl kick and flip- “yes.”

As I chase my half dressed son around the apartment- “yes.”

To every precious, sticky, whiny, exhausting, giggly, trying, amazing moment of motherhood I want to have the grace to unreservedly say “yes.”

Heavenly Father, I ask that you give me what I need to live out my call to motherhood in a way that is truly graceful. Give me the strength to overcome the difficult moments with patience and the prudence to treasure every moment in love.

Mama Mary, mother of us all, pray for us!

International Women’s Day and the Woman at the Well

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed on Sunday I slowly pieced together that March 8th had been declared International Women’s Day. To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Should we not celebrate the gifts each woman has to offer the world every single day? We should. We should recognize, appreciate and celebrate these gifts every time we encounter them. However, the sad truth is that too often these gifts, and the women who possess them, are overlooked or taken for granted. So as much as I wish having an official Women’s Day were unnecessary, this is simply not the case at this point in time.

I was really excited to hear the Gospel reading in Mass on Sunday night, and couldn’t help but think about how fitting it was that that particular reading should fall on International Women’s Day. The story of the woman at the well has always been close to my heart. Every time I hear this Gospel reading I can’t help but be struck by the humanity that it captures. Christ uses the very natural, human thirst for water to show the Samaritan woman what it means to thirst spiritually. She has clearly experienced this thirst in her own life, she looked to quench this thirst with each of the many relationships she engaged in; but Jesus shows her that only one relationship is capable of quenching her thirst- a relationship with Him.

woman at well

The priest who celebrated the Mass I attended connected this Gospel with St. John Paul II’s Letter to Women, and I couldn’t have been more excited! If it weren’t for the Samaritan woman’s own feminine genius this Gospel could have been very different. I love the way her personality, gifts, and overall “womanness” are highlighted. Two specific aspects of her feminine genius stand out to me: first, her receptivity to the Truth, and second, her immediate desire to possess the Truth and share it with others.

The Samaritan woman’s receptivity does not preclude any questioning of Jesus; in fact, she questions His motives, the meaning of His words, and the very fact that He is speaking to her. However, once He reveals that He is the Messiah, she immediately believes Him and proves her belief by begging Him to give her the Living Water He spoke of. This highlights her receptivity and her desire to possess the Truth. Once the disciples return to the well, the woman rushes back into the town to share the Truth she has discovered with everyone she meets. She shares with them how Jesus knew everything about her and they first come to believe through her witness and then experience the Truth for themselves.

I think it’s interesting that we hear so many Gospel stories where Jesus reveals the Truth to someone but forbids them from telling others (although they usually do anyway) but in this Gospel He doesn’t command the woman to keep it to herself. I like to think that Jesus knew all too well our feminine desire to share our joy and our experiences with others. I know I often don’t feel like I have fully experienced something until I get the opportunity to share the experience with someone else. Jesus allowed the Samaritan woman to use this aspect of her feminine genius as well to spread the good news.

As we continue with our week, let’s keep in mind the importance of recognizing the feminine genius of each woman we encounter, even if it isn’t International Women’s Day, and look to Samaritan woman as an example of how we can use the gift of our own feminine genius to share the Truth with others.