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Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family

Author

Kimberly

I am a traditional Catholic homeschooling mother of 9 children, married for 34 years to the most patient and sainted man. As converts to Catholicism in 1991, our family has only recently discovered the beauty and full expression of our beliefs in the beautiful Tridentine Rite also commonly referred to as the Latin Mass. An avid knitter, I also enjoy gardening, reading and immersing myself in the everyday graces of my vocation.

It will be all right…

The sky, heavy and gray, wept softly and steadily…seemingly spilling its own sorrow as she poured out hers to the God of Heaven.

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It seemed all the rain that fell upon the earth that day was mirrored in her own heart and soul.   Disturbed by chaos and uncertainty in her life, she begged God for an answer, any answer that would dispel the clouds of doubt and fear.

Head pressed upon the window pane, shadowed rivulets traced in the tracks of her tears, she waited for His answer and was met with silence.

A tug upon the hem of her sweater…small hands reaching out to her and a little voice, lisping:  “why you cry, Grandma?  Don’t cry…it will be all right.”  Her heart touched by her tiny granddaughter’s encouragement, she lifted the little girl in her arms, turning back towards the rain-soaked vista beyond the glass.

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Rainbow.

Rainbow, rainbow, rainbow.  A glorious rainbow filling the sky and in her heart the God-whisper:  

“It will be all right.”

From that day on the rainbow would bring them both great joy, a sign of God’s whispered promise, a story shared by that Grandmother when the little girl wasn’t so very little and in the midst of her own storm.

November 6th, 2014

That little girl-now-woman sped quickly on the interstate, her heart filled with joy at the prospect of the arrival of her newest grandson, jubilant to celebrate this precious little life.

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A few clouds and the hint of rain…and then a rainbow.  Right there…a rainbow, reflected in the misty droplets covering the windshield.  The remembered promise…and then a skip of her heart.  Grandma.  Grandma hadn’t been well.  Her last visit left her with the painful realization that Grandma’s very tired body and well-prepared soul, were anxious to be done with this earth.

At that moment, she knew…today would be the day.  The day that she might have to leave the child-bed for the death-bed.  As she rejoiced with her daughter in the beauty of a newborn life and love, she left her dearest ones to hasten to another city, where she felt sure her grandmother would depart for an infinitely more beautiful City.

She arrived in the city at 3:00 p.m., the hour of Mercy.  She prayed…prayed that she would be there in time for the sake of her mama…hopeful that the two of them would together pray Grandma to the place of eternal rest and the end of earthly suffering.

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Moments later, running the halls and rushing breathless into her mother’s arms, they wept together, facing the inevitable loss of the woman so beloved by them both.  Mama was scared, the love for her mother had filled her life and she had served her so faithfully, with particular tenderness during those last years.  Letting go…letting go was hard.  Kneeling by her bedside, praying the Psalms, that once-little-girl watched her very own mama lean down close, looking into the blue eyes that were a mirror of her own, and she whispered…

”Mama…when you see Jesus…you RUN to HIM!” 

And she was gone.

Wiping the single tear on her soft cheek, that little girl who had once promised her grandmother that “it will be all right,” now kissed her forehead, closing those beautiful blue eyes that had looked so lovingly upon her for so long.  And it was all right…as right as it could ever be.

There have been quite a few storms in the year since her Grandma left.  But there have been rainbows, almost as often as the storms, and she can feel her Grandma’s presence each and every time she gazes upon the rainbow and often hears her dear voice saying, “don’t cry…it will be all right.”

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I love you, Grandma.  God rest your precious soul

Your Kimmie

See how they’ve grown…

Oh, be still my heart.  Where has the time gone?

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There were days, some long and hard, when it seemed that the worry, care and strife of raising these young ones, would never end.

Never once did I wish it away…yet…there were days that I longed for what seemed the simplicity of independence and ability.

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And now they are there.  Moving swiftly past me, growing and changing…leaving me in a state of shock and awe as I contemplate this part of the journey, so near its end.

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Six years.  That is all.  Six years until I’m the mom of nine adult children…nine children over the age of eighteen.  It leaves me breathless…for I am already breathless with the love that fills my heart for the last of my little brood.  These four.  These precious four who share all things…they spend all their time together and bring me a kind of joy I relish as never before.

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See how they’ve grown?  I can hardly bear it.  But I’m so proud of their goodness and love.  So proud to have them share my days…

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Five have moved up and on…adults with the world of possibilities before them.  These four…they are perched on the brink of that same world…and I just want to push the pause button.  I don’t want to miss a single minute…and would do it all over again, without hesitation.

There are days I miss their toothless grins…those grimy faces and Lego messes (well…maybe not the Lego messes!  I think we still have those 😉  But I so love who they are and I pray that I may continue to impart daily virtue and love, while I still have that privilege.

Blessings,

Kimberly

The pondering heart…

There’s that moment of vulnerability, when the words hit the page and you can’t take them back.

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When years have passed, when the “pondering heart” moves from silence to contemplation to revelation.

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Well, my friends.  It has has been quite an adventure that my not-so-little family has lived these nearly two years.  An unexpected Christmas Eve gift in the return of a daughter, long estranged and a victim of horrific domestic violence…then the valiant and heartrending 6 month battle fought by this family to bring her children here. The necessary protective silence, to keep these young women hidden and secure, while we continued to help them rebuild through much suffering.  Some wounds are so deep, so hidden, so painful…the process of overcoming 13 years of torment is no small thing…and the work of it?  Ongoing.

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But there have been many joys, as well.  Baptisms and Confessions.  First Holy Communions and Confirmations.  Death and birth in the same day.  Family reunions and birthday celebrations.  Holidays never before shared…the beauty of a Catholic culture that four little girls had never known existed, a life apart from what they had ever known.

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Our family is altered…and a little rocked at times by the transformation and cooperation necessary for thirteen people to share one home.  It is loud, messy, busy and distracting.  And the answer to years and years of prayers and sacrifice offered by every member of this family.  Years of prayers, answered in the most unexpected way, but at the perfect time.

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I’m working towards finding the words again.  Towards emptying my heart of all these treasures, pondered upon for so long.  I must…to make room for so many other things true, good, and beautiful.  Rejoice with us, this hard but answered prayer, would you?  Our God is a God of miracles and surprises and I’m living one I never thought I’d live to see.

Blessings,

Kimberly

A Love Letter To My Dad…

A repost from 2012, Dad…but the sentiments are as sincere as the first publication.  I love you so much and thank God for giving me the perfect Dad!

Dad.

It was the word that I wanted to use the most, when I was six years old. You see, my biological father wasn’t really a Dad…he’d never really been there for Mom or my brother and I. He wasn’t a bad person. He just wasn’t really a father. But Mom was amazing. She worked so hard, putting in long hours as a clerk in a department store, but she was never too tired to take us to the park, push us on the swings and answer endless questions. Yet, there was one question that I, as the oldest had, and that was “why don’t I have a dad like the other kids at school?” I remember telling a little girl on the playground that my dad was dead…it seemed the easiest explanation to give, when I couldn’t say “hey…over there by my Mom…that’s my Dad” and when I couldn’t really give a physical or mental description. So very young, and yet I knew that something…someone…was missing.

Mom persevered. She had one goal and that was to provide a father…a real father for her children and a loving, devoted husband for herself. She knew she could be a good wife and she was an excellent mother. She was and is still, so extraordinarily beautiful. She never, ever lacked for attention. But the first test for any potential suitor was his reaction to her children and his understanding that it was a “package deal.” There were a few failures…not many, because mom was so very selective, wanting only the very best and most decent person in her life and the lives of her children. And then along came this handsome, incredibly tall, red-haired man. Brilliant to the point of eccentricity…you wrote her the most eloquent, intellectual and odd letter requesting a date. It revealed so much about you and instantly conveyed a level of respect that she hadn’t experienced, despite her extreme selectivity.
She accepted and thus began the journey that would give mom, my brother and I, the family that we all longed for. She loved you because you loved us. She saw in you this amazing man who would be an amazing father and that made her love you even more. I remember the first time I saw you…you were so tall, I was awed in your presence and I wanted nothing more than to show you that I was the best and smartest little girl, ever. I brought you my report card…all A’s…and you smiled, and said in your deep, low voice “that’s very good…you are a very smart girl.” You’ve been telling me that, ever since, Dad…and I still work so hard to make you proud, because you’ve given me so much of who I am. You were always my cheerleader and encourager, a tough disciplinarian, but honest and fair as few people on this earth are. Your moral standards were so very high and yet neither my brother nor I felt that we would never measure up. We always knew what to expect from you. Faithful and consistent as a good father should be…that was and still is, you!

As I’ve grown older, I’ve often contemplated the miracle of how God built our little family. Understanding that God the Father handpicked St. Joseph to be Jesus’ father, helped me to understand how He did the very same thing for me! He picked the very best Dad, ever…and gave Mom the wisdom and virtue to discern the importance of honorable manliness, kindness, fidelity and all-around goodness.

I praise God for you, Dad…

I praise God for the love you give my Mom, which helped show me the kind of man I wanted in my life…my husband is so very like you. I praise God for the way you loved me and my brother, always encouraging us to be good and honest and decent…we certainly didn’t have to be and often weren’t, but you gave us an excellent example to look upon and to emulate. I praise God for your faith…the image of you kneeling to receive the Sacraments…kneeling to put tiny little crosses in the ground to recognize the victims of abortion…kneeling as a Knight and Soldier of Christ…kneeling in prayer. I praise God for the way you can weep over the death of a kitten…laugh at the corny antics of grandchildren…express anger for injustice and insincerity…and still give praise for the good, the true, the beautiful. I praise God for the way you’ve opened your home to Grandma, in these latter years of her life, understanding what a tremendous outpouring of generosity this requires.

I praise God that you’re my Dad.

Happy Father’s Day to us all…it’s yet another holiday that has significance that is shared in our family and I thank you for being my Dad.

O Christmas tree…

Yesterday, we made a trip to the Albert Family Tree Farm in Amanda, Ohio…a family favorite, ever since we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Raymond Albert (may God rest his precious soul!)

I am in no way opposed to a lovely artificial tree…last year, were it not for the hasty purchase of such a tree, we wouldn’t have had a Christmas tree at all…

No…the reason I prefer a real tree has more to do with the “how” than the “why…”

IMG_2697It’s all about the memories.

IMG_2707 IMG_2709The cold, the snow, the discussion on the merits of this tree vs. that tree.  The laughter.  The hot cocoa afterwards…

IMG_2714 IMG_2722 IMG_2728 IMG_2731 IMG_2736 IMG_2739 IMG_2742 IMG_2744 IMG_2750 IMG_2751 IMG_2752 IMG_2756 IMG_2761This year’s tree isn’t particularly perfect.  To quote my Meredith:  “all the trees out here are beautiful.  They’re all natural beauties.  Does it really have to be “perfect?”

IMG_2769No.  It doesn’t.  At least, not subject to our ideas of perfection!

IMG_2780 IMG_2791 IMG_2795In the end, relieved of the burden of finding the “perfect tree,” we decided on a tree at the end of the first row we’d looked at…

IMG_2802 IMG_2806 IMG_2810IMG_2813Today we’ll decorate that tree and it will no doubt be quite lovely.  But loveliest of all are the memories; we had the most fun we’ve ever had looking for a tree…without a doubt. And the hair-raising, tire spinning, nearly slamming into a grove of trees, nearly permanently stuck, ride back to the barn…earns this trip the title of MOST HILARIOUS!!

Blessings,

Unwrapping the Holy Season

There’s little doubt that the last two Christmas Seasons have been extremely difficult for our family…Meredith’s devastating accident on Christmas Day in 2011 and Roger’s heart attack and open heart surgery in 2012, rocked our world and shifted our perspective in so many ways.  This Christmas is no different…unemployment and a dear family member’s cancer diagnosis and impending surgery have, once again, brought us to the Crib, on our knees.  We are living Advent…the Season of Wait…and I can’t help but think back to a time when I understood so very little about this season.  Trapped in the glitter and noise, I almost missed it entirely.  I wrote this piece a few years ago, and it seems that I need the reminder, once again, that I might unwrap the true beauty of this Holy Season:

Once upon a time there was a young woman seeking, always seeking the meaning of life.

For a long time, she thought she would find it in the bottom of a shopping bag. Or in a fancy restaurant. Or a beautifully decorated home.

She had married a wonderful man and had three beautiful daughters…still, she felt empty, and constantly sought to fill that void with something outside herself. It never worked.

The coming Christmas Season only seemed to heighten this feeling, and so she worked feverishly, from the beginning of November, to fill the family home with the smells, sights and sounds of Christmas.

The artificial tree was assembled on November 1st and by the 5th was completely decorated. Each room was filled with images of Santa Claus and angels, jingle bells and reindeer…the entire home had become a reflection of the secularist view of the “holiday” season. There was a Nativity…in the corner of the living room on a small table and for the most part it was neglected. The Advent Wreath was placed on the dining room table, its candles only rarely lit, and by the time she realized that Advent had passed, she would notice that two of the candles had never even been lit. She just didn’t understand the necessity. There was so much to do to get ready for Christmas! Cookies to bake, shopping and wrapping. No time to pray, just time to work. Work, work, work. She sadly noticed that the Christmas tree and all the decorations had already gathered a layer of dust…things were beginning to look a bit worn, a bit shabby. It took all her energy to hold everything together for 60 days of festivity. The excitement had long ago vanished for her, but the show had to go on…

Christmas Day and the frenzy began. Midnight Mass had been skipped because the wrapping and baking wasn’t quite finished. She awoke the following morning, up hours before her girls to set up the video camera and placed herself, like the consummate actress she had become, in the appropriate location to experience her children’s joy. There was a flurry of excitement as mountains of gifts were unwrapped, pictures snapped, videos recorded…Mom and Dad both privately calculated with growing dismay just how much this “joy” would cost in the coming year.

By the New Year, the tree was down. The decorations were packed away and many of the toys and baubles had already lost their newness. The house, once again returned to the ordinary, seemed to reflect her heart. It was neat. It was tidy. Everything was where it should be…and yet something…something was horribly wrong.

SOMEONE, not SOMETHING, was missing…

She felt like a princess, kept prisoner in a very beautiful castle. Although she was surrounded by everything she loved and had everything she wanted, she one day realized that the castle was really a dungeon of her own making.

One day, the Prince of Peace came and kissed the poor, sleeping princess and awoke her from her slumber. He showed her a Manger. A Star. A Woman. He told her about a Promise and showed her the ultimate gift…the Wounds of Love’s making.

Her heart aflame, she disposed of her worldly approach to the Season of Wait. Her husband and children began to notice a subtle change. The prized Santa collection no longer dominated the mantel piece…the Nativity, empty and waiting for its special Guests, took center stage. The artificial tree was discarded in favor of a live tree, which would not be set up until just a very few days before the beginning…the BEGINNING of the Christmas Season, which is the Day, itself. The Advent Wreath was placed on the center of the coffee table, and after prayers, candle lighting and singing, it would be placed in a prominent window for the world passing by to see the Light…

She learned the O Antiphons and passed them onto her children. She and her husband filled shoes on the Feast of St. Nicholas. She baked Lussekatter and made a candle wreath for her little daughters on the Feast of St. Lucia. She, in an embrace of her family’s poverty, welcomed more and more children as precious gifts from God, and recognized the faces around the tree as more beautiful than any gift beneath it. The family eschewed a credit purchased Christmas, for a smaller, happier and paid for celebration. The family attended Mass on every possible day throughout the years, but most especially during the Season of Advent. And on Christmas Eve, in the hush and quiet of that Holy Night, the entire family journeyed to the Church, to hear the Sacred Liturgy and the Good News and…

“…good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
– Luke 2:10-12

The void had been filled. The emptiness replaced with fullness, with the peace that surpasses all understanding. She understands now, in a way that she could never understand before.

The Season is a gift to be unwrapped, slowly and patiently, savoring the Ultimate Gift that will be found…

…in the stillness and hush…

…of a humble manger, in the arms of a Mother, under the embrace of a Father…

…in the Gift of a Son…

Blessings,

Bearing light…

December 13, 2012…the first time, in many years, there were no warm rolls, no white-robed girls with candle wreaths singing their way up the darkened stairs, candles clasped in hands eager to serve…

IMG_2659 IMG_2661Instead, the children waited, prayerfully, fearfully and expectantly for news of Daddy…news that his heart was fixed and that he was on the road to recovery.  It was a sad time…filled with uncertainty.  Yet the pillar of faith held us, and after a rough year, we still stand, joyfully awaiting the Light…

IMG_2666This year our girls, with a whole new kind of appreciation for this lovely feast day, once again donned the traditional garb and sang their way through the dark, bearing light and love as they served the family…

IMG_2667IMG_2676I love being Catholic.  I love the gift of this holy Faith that nourishes us and fills us with the Light of Christ, with His holy Word and the traditions that reinforce the power of the Communion of the Saints.

IMG_2681My little ones have literally grown-up with these traditions and the Feast of St. Lucia is particularly dear to us.  From the time they were old enough to hold a candle aloft, they’ve awakened at dawn on St. Lucia’s Day, and dressed as the virgin-martyr, they’ve sang and served…

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IMG_2663May the Light and Love of Christ illuminate your life…may you know the peace that comes from embracing that Light!

Blessings,

Nativity Advent-ure…2013

Well, dear friends…where do I begin?  It’s been many months since I’ve visited this little space and many more life events that have crowded out the little bits of free time that exist amidst the work, suffering and joy (yes, joy!).

We have been through it all…a child dealing with health issues, a frightening fire that destroyed our garage…a spouse restructured out of what had always seemed a secure career…another child reeling in the midst of all the uncertainty…a family member facing a serious health crisis and now…Advent.

Advent.  The season of wait.  Last year, our “wait” centered on Roger’s recovery from a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery.  Yet in the midst of a dark time, Love’s pure light transformed sorrow to joy…fear to hope.  Surrounded by friends and family…bolstered by our holy faith, we found much to celebrate.

This year is no different.  Unemployment is a new kind of heartache, yet our good God often uses these “severe mercies” to bring about new and better things in the lives of those who love and serve Him.  We are in the middle of a brand new adventure, a little scary, to be sure, but with God all things are possible.  Without Him…nothing is possible.

Abigail reminded me this morning that we forgot to begin our “Nativity Advent-ure” this year.  We usually begin on the first day of Advent, but somehow I just completely forgot it.  And we need it!  We need to grow in virtue during the Season of Wait, particularly during such trying times.

If you’re not familiar with our little tradition, here is an excerpt from a post from years past…and this year’s “pick:”

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For many, many years now our family has engaged in a lovely tradition. I don’t think it’s an original concept, and I’m not really sure just where we picked it up. We call it our Holy Advent-ure…

BTW…a couple years ago, a holy priest revealed to another Catholic blogger friend that this tradition has very old roots in the monasteries of Europe. We were delighted to discover this…it certainly adds depth to the tradition! For those of you who’ve been readers for many years, you know how this works…for those of you with questions, here’s what we do:

Every year, for the past several years, our family has endeavored to emulate the virtues displayed by the various “characters” of the Nativity of our Lord. Slips of paper containing the names and virtues of each are folded and placed in a hat.

This year’s selections were hardly a surprise.  We have all acknowledged and affirmed that the slips chosen reflect the areas we are each being called to embrace.  No one was at all surprised that Roger, my poor suffering guy, chose the slip bearing the image of the Blessed Mother…he always seems to receive his sufferings on Marian feast days…this year is no different.

Here are the slips as they were drawn:

The Christmas Star: Joseph.  Time for this big guy to step up to the plate and SHINE!

Virtues: Provide a steady light to guide the weary pilgrims. A source of guidance and illumination.

The Angel: Zachary.  Remember what happened to the proud angels, my son…joyful service is the key!

Virtues: Proclaims the “tidings of great joy”. A source of inspiration. Obedient to the will of God.

Blessed Virgin: Dad (we all acknowledge that the one who chooses the “Mary slip” has a tough job ahead! God bless my good man…”

Virtues: Meek, humble, modest and pure. Full and complete obedience to God. Holiness.

St. Joseph: Maximilian (my good young man has been working so hard lately…humility and obedience are next!)

Virtues: Humility, leadership and humble trust in God. Chastity and patience

The Shepherd: Abigail (Be kind to that “lamb,” my girl…)

Virtues: Leadership. Listens to God. Kindness to the “lambs.” Goodness.

The Lamb: Rylee (Let yourself be led, little girl!  Trust those older than you!)

Virtues: Docility, innocence, obedience and trust.

The Ox: Mom (Yes.  I must stay the course…)

Virtues: Hardwork and diligence. Patience and sacrifice.

The Donkey: Michael (Your first time, my son…time to grow in patience and docility!)

Virtues: Humility and docility. Patiently bears all burdens.

We’re on our way, journeying towards Bethlehem…we hope to meet you there!

A Catholic parent…

…and I need this reminder today, and every day. I’ve been finding it difficult to write and when that happens, I repost. There’ve been a lot of hard days lately, and those hard days never lead me to be gentle with myself. Instead, I cower, finger pointed squarely at my own chest, recriminating myself lest I forget all my shortcomings and failings. But it is not I who convicts me of these foibles, but the one who seeks to discourage and damage the soul who wishes nothing more than to live for God, in His light and peace. So, I must take my own advice…reminding myself of the essentials of this Catholic parenting journey…praying for grace and strength in the midst of daily challenges, arming myself with the consolation that it is not I, but God, who saves, strengthens and prepares the ones He loves for the work ahead:

The Holy Family...the model of perfection
The Holy Family…the model of perfection

Catholic parenting…how on earth does one do it, let alone define it?

In a perfect world one might say it’s “the loving and successful completion of child-rearing and instruction, put forth by two parents, to perfect a child in the areas of faith and morals as defined by the Catechism and Sacred Traditions of the Catholic Church.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, and at last check, there are no perfect parents or children residing upon it. Flawed humanity, with all its sins and vices, is raising the next generation, and that includes the next Catholic generation. Yet, in this country and others, amidst great challenges and persecutions, many Catholic parents are striving to impart a sense of the sacred, awake to the great beauty, majesty and richness of our Holy Faith and its spiritual and cultural significance.

Tertullian once said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” thus giving rise to the notion that the Faith flourishes under seemingly impossible conditions. Today’s parents might be tempted to challenge that assertion, firm in the conviction that this crazy world and the people who live in it, put every possible obstacle in the way of the solemn charge to raise a holy people for the Kingdom of Heaven. It would seem that knowledge and desire, quite simply, aren’t enough.

Fear not! This task is not as formidable as it seems, for at the heart of it, is this promise from Sacred Scripture:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

“…And even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The key word here is, of course, “old.” And old can seem so very far away at the beginning of this Catholic parenting journey. The “way” is often obscured by the noise and distractions of this mad world, which pushes and shoves its way into home and heart. How does one do this? Is it even possible?

Perhaps you’re looking at that sweet baby, nestled in your arms, wondering how you will ever show him the “way he should go,” particularly when the “way” seems so treacherous and fraught with every danger. Would it comfort you to Pablo Picasso Spanish, worked in France, 1881–1973 Mother anknow that parents have been doing this since time out of mind? That our own dear Savior, as an infant, had to flee the murderous wrath of a king and that His Mother and Father faced poverty, persecution and uncertainty with courage and resolve?

Perhaps you’re surrounded by the needs of many little ones, overwhelmed with exhaustion as the work of parenting seems to stretch onward to infinity. Would it benefit you to remember that the most beautiful images of our Blessed Mother show Him in her arms, pressed closed to her breast, a reminder that this busy time is yet a time of sweet joys, too?

Perhaps you’re reflecting upon the rebellious teenager asleep upstairs; the one who stayed up far too late playing video games and who is alternately sullen and good-humored, depending upon his mood and yours. Would it comfort you to imagine that our dear Lady understands? That her precious Son was often misunderstood and even in the eyes of His parents at least once engaged in behavior they found perplexing, as He was “about His Father’s business?”

Perhaps you’re worried about your adult child, the one that quit attending Mass some time ago…the one whose life seems a scandal and a trial in the eyes of the world. You wonder how you managed to give so very little of your faith to this wayward one and lament that you’ve failed in your duties as a Catholic parent. Would it help to reflect upon the twelve Apostles, who ate, slept and worked in the presence of the Messiah and yet, following the Crucifixion, engaged in behavior that was anything but faithful? Frightened by the sights, sounds and emotions of their salvation being accomplished, they fled in fear…

Perhaps you feel you never really imparted the “way” at all; that your own faith has been such an ongoing work that you believe you’ve missed your only opportunity to give this gift only recently opened or perhaps simply re-examined. Would it avail you to remember that God rewards the laborer, not so much for the time worked as for the intention behind the effort?

It can seem such daunting work, this Catholic parenting “thing,” and I’ve walked every single one of the paths described above. I am mother of nine children with more than 30 years in the field; I’ve paced the floor with the wee ones, overawed by the beauty of new life and the sweet burden of nurturing it. I’ve been through the exhaustion of those early days when children come much faster than the income to feed and provide for them all. I’ve lamented the distant teenager, walking the delicate balance between strength and compassion, failing at times to provide either. I’ve wept in sorrow for the adult child whom, though home educated, catechized and confirmed, still struggles with issues of faith. And I’ve begged God’s forgiveness for the first decade of my parenting years…years of pseudo-faith; years when being a “good person” seemed enough to identify myself as a Christian mother.

There have been so many starts and stops along the way, as I embrace my role as a Catholic parent. I’ve learned the best judges of hypocrisy are one’s children – they know, as no others, whether mom truly lives and believes what she teaches. I’ve had to humbly submit to the scrutiny of a growing band of Inquisitors, living with the daily realization that it is whom and not what is in the home that truly makes it a domestic Church.

As a Catholic parent, I’ve learned I simply must impart more than just a “view from the pew” version of my faith. When I live my faith out loud, in my everyday choices, and embrace a view of life that is not only faithful, but faith-filled, I demonstrate so much more than my words will ever convey. Faith becomes real and virtue is magnified, because the hard choices are the ones in opposition to those that often seem the least demanding.

The hardest choice that I’ve ever made as a parent is to embrace the imperfections of my children and myself; to live with the realization that from all eternity God has chosen me to mother these particular children. I have to continually acknowledge my weakness so that He can be strong. I made a solemn vow, long ago, admitting my imperfection and inadequacies, but I promised that if He would just continue to point out the flaws within my children and me, I would faithfully work on those areas. I asked Him to remove my parental blind spot and to expose the spiritual, moral and physical dangers that I might overlook. I vowed that I would never shrink from my duties to address those areas, despite my fear, sorrow or embarrassment. He has always answered that prayer, and though I’ve not always been as faithful as I’d like to be, I’ve truly tried to hold up my end of the deal, persevering in the midst of sin and suffering, sure that each challenge and crisis has already been envisioned by He, who knows my strengths and weaknesses. He continues to prove Himself as faithful, as the perfect parent ever watchful over His child, always mindful of the end and the means.

It’s so easy to allow oneself to become weighed down with the awesome task of guarding the body and soul of one’s children. There is so much anxiety, when I contemplate the transitory and passing, I often miss the glorious moments and memories in the here and now. As I contemplate my 30 year journey as a Catholic parent, I don’t find myself wishing I had washed more dishes or folded more laundry; I lament the times I didn’t stop in the midst of the mundane to observe and participate in the wonder and beauty of life unfolding around me. I regret that brief period when I so narrowly defined my role that I nearly became a spectator, lost in the myriad activities and ideas that seem to reinforce what the world perceives to be “good enough” parenting.

“Good enough” parenting never really is. Catholic parenting, on the other hand, always strives to be. We may fall short a thousand times, but with the grace of Faith and the gift of the Sacraments, the remedy to all our failings is as close as one’s parish Church and as simple as the prayers uttered in faith and trust.

Blessings,

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