Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hail Mary...

Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed are thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death.

As best as I remember it, it was a dark December night. My little one month old girl was up - time to nurse again - and as I sat in the rocking chair I had the sudden realization:

God was once this small.

And Mary had held Him. Nursed Him. Rocked Him to sleep.

My God! My God... I saw then, truly, how much He had humbled Himself to take on human flesh. My own girl was born 7 pounds, 11 ounces... was Jesus born bigger? Or smaller? Did the Creator of the World sleep better in it than my little one? Or did He cry for the Heavenly Home He was no longer in? How did Mary care for our Savior?

Oh, Mary... you didn't even know what was in store for you. But you said "Yes" to God.

I can only imagine God chose her because she was growing in virtue and grace - and that as she responded to each new chapter in the life of her Son, she continued to grow in grace. And I know she faced a lot of hardships! But she started off just like me... with a little baby who needed so much.

Oh Mary, pray for me. I need the grace you have. Being a mother is so. hard.

And then I said something in my heart that, prior to that moment, I had only ever recited in my Catholic education class:

Hail Mary, full of grace...

It was the second revelation that night: Mary understands... she understands me.  What a gift! You see, up until then I had only given mental assent to the verse that said that Jesus understands us in all our weakness. (Heb 4:15)  But it was all mental. When I was agonizing over how I had been rejected by a high school crush, I had to remind myself that even though Jesus may not have been rejected by a love interest, he was rejected by many more  Intellectually I understood that the root feeling I had was the same as Jesus' - but because our circumstances weren't the same, this thought process never brought me comfort.  (Plus, one could even argue that he was rejected by all his love interests because He loved the whole world! So there. I'll see your rejection and raise you by 7 billion).

But that night, through Mary, I finally felt the comfort of being understood. I didn't have to do any theological jumping through hoops to figure out how to match my experience with Jesus' - He gave me Mary. She was a first time mother - I was a first time mother. I know she got it. I felt such peace.

And now, when my little girl lashes out against her brother...
... when my little boy cries and cries while being rocked to sleep
... when I am so weary I want to cry in a heap on the floor, but still need to make dinner

I say that Hail Mary again and I am still comforted.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow...!

Monday, May 4, 2015

I'm Not Going To Say That Anymore

Tonight as I was nursing the wee one in preparation for bed, I smiled and relaxed into my pillow seat and thought “Today has been a good day.”

And then I thought, “That really doesn’t mean anything, does it?”

Because what I meant by it was that, unlike the previous days of the last week, the wee one slept well between his feedings at night and he was happy and easy through the day. He was making the best sounds all day long and his sister noticed, “Baby Brother is making noises!!”  And this same toddler, despite being christened a “Spitfire” at mass on Sunday, was actually fun to be around. Plus, to see her face when the wee one smiled at her today… priceless. True love, right there.

They call me "Spitfire"
And while all of these things are true and good, to describe my day as “good” just renders them meaningless - drab and gray. If I really had to be limited to just one word, it would mean more to say that my day was “easy”.  But it would be better yet to say it was “full of sweet moments” or even just “family life at its best”.

It got me thinking that maybe even saying my day was “bad” does the same thing. That is, it puts the day into the circular bin of meaninglessness. “Hard”, “tiring” or “bone-crushingly monotonous” communicates much more and gives meaning to the events of the day, while saying it was “bad” robs it of any significance. The only thing I want to do with a “bad” day is forget it. And that would be a waste of the day that was given to me, a day “that the Lord has made”.

So I think I’m going to stop using those words. I want my days to have meaning and I don’t want to forget them.  Plus, I know there are times when what I think is “bad”, God is actually using for my Good; so really, what do I truly know about good and bad?  I’ll leave the assigning of those labels to the One who really knows.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

St Catherine of Siena (alternately titled, “Well, That Caught Me Off Guard”)

Liturgical Living Lesson #2: There’s always next year… (should our Lord tarry).

After celebrating St George’s day, I figured we were done with feast days til May. It sounded easy enough - just one feast day for what was left of April and then we would start in earnest in the next month.  But as I was researching what feast days happen in May, I saw that right at the end of April there was a day commemorating one of the doctors of the Catholic Church: St Catherine of Siena.

This was noteworthy, as there are only four women who have made the list of Doctors of the Church, and she is one of them. (In case you were wondering, the other three are: St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Teresa of Avila). So while I wasn’t planning on celebrating any more feast days, I just felt like this needed to be marked somehow.

Well, I hope St Catherine will forgive me, because I feel I did a really lame “marking” of her day. First off, I had a hard time coming up with an age appropriate way of introducing her to my toddler. But I think that is because St Catherine has quite the interesting story! The last of 23 children (or 24 or 25 depending on the website you reference!) she started having visions of God and angels when she was a child. That is unique! But how do you explain that to a toddler who is still in the very "concrete" phase of thinking?  Then when Catherine became of marriageable age, she declared her fidelity to God alone, and to prove it to her parents she cut off her beautiful hair.  When I looked up “coloring pages” for St Catherine, it was this scene of her cutting her hair that the pictures depicted.  Which is great! It certainly was an event in her life that really defined her and her purpose  - and yet, this was definitely a point that I wasn’t going to share with my girl, lest she get any ideas of her own! We’ll save this for later, I think...

St Catherine’s later life was marked by her faith in God and allegiance to the Church, as evidenced by her letters and her involvement in bringing the Pope back to Rome (from Avignon). She is also said to have received the Stigmata for her devotion and work (yet another subject that I don’t think would make for a good “coloring page” for the 2 year old).  All of these are good points and worthy of a little discussion, don’t you think?  But what did I go for?  Well…

This is St Catherine of Siena.

Siena is in Italy.

Italy is the home of spaghetti...

So let’s eat spaghetti!

Yup. That was the extent of it. (Oddly enough, I had actually planned on having spaghetti bolognese on the 29th, before I had even learned that it was St Catherine’s day. Coincidence? Maybe...)

So, my apologies St Catherine. With your help, I’ll do better next year.