Monday, August 24, 2009

A Woman's Role in the Church

The following is a guest blog post that I was asked to write for my husband's blog Salvation is an Adventure.

What is the role of women in the Catholic church? When Tim and I started discussing this question- and he suggested I share my thoughts on the topic- my first thought was that I was not qualified to offer my opinions. After all, I am not very active at church and do little to contribute to the ministries offered. There was a time, years ago when my older children were toddlers, that I spent as much time at church as I did at home. I was the facilitator for our young mother's faith sharing group, I was on the adult faith formation committee, I sat on the board for the women's organization, I helped out with the ministry team for our parish Bible study, I planned children's parties, and volunteered for extra projects as they came up. As the years passed and our family grew it got harder to be involved at church and my participation in the activities there dwindled.
As I thought more about what I believe a woman's role in the church is, I realized, that though I am no longer as "hand's on" in my ministry and I have no real theological training, I do have something to say on the subject and I am grateful to share my thoughts.
I believe women have an amazing array of things to offer to our church. My contributions in the past, as a lay person, were certainly worthwhile. My volunteer work and involvement in the ministries of our parish family were invaluable to the building up of our church community. The support I offered to my church, as well as the support I received while I was involved there, helped to nurture my faith and the faith of others. I grew in my own relationship with Christ through the service I offered to my parish. This is one important role of women in the church. Acting as lay people, supporting our churches and communities through volunteer work and support ministries is a wonderful way for women, who are naturally nurturing and caring, to take an active role in the church.
My role in the church is now in a very different place. Though I did initially think my inactivity at the parish level nullified my participation in this dialogue, I have since come to realize it does not. My role is different now, but no less valuable or meaningful. Over the years, God has called me to another way of building up His kingdom. This role takes place, not at the parish level, but in my home. I am no longer sitting on committees or planning parish events. Instead, I am, each and every day, nurturing the faith of my own family. I am the heart of our domestic church and that, I can see, is just as valuable a role in the Church as all my volunteer work in the past. As a wife and mother I am so blessed to be able to share my own beliefs and faith with my children and my husband. I have the opportunity to watch my children grow in their own relationship with God and to play a role in guiding them closer to Christ everyday. I have the chance to support my husband in his faith and to allow him an opportunity to contribute to our parish as youth minister. I am an example of Christ's love alive in my family everyday as I care for my children and my home. It seems these days, this role of women is either unappreciated, or worse, unnoticed; but the reality is, the world still needs women to serve God by serving their families. I see families breaking down and losing the focus they once had, and I am saddened by the consequences of it on the world as a whole. Seeing children led astray and families dragged down by sinfulness I wonder how much better our church would be served if more women were willing to forego the glamour and glory of serving others outside of their home for the drudgery and hard work of giving of themselves for the good of their families right at home.
The role of women in the church cannot be easily defined but wives and mothers must be willing to start at home. We cannot truly serve God unless we do it through our vocation as the hearts of our home. The bottom line, as I see it is, that both women and men must serve God in whatever capacity He asks of us. Sometimes we may be asked to get involved at church and sometimes we may be asked to serve Him right in our home but either way, our goal in life needs to be to glorify Him in all we do and to let His love shine through us each and everyday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Glamour of Motherhood

Less than a week ago God blessed me with my fifth child. She is absolutely beautiful and perfectly healthy. After months and months of my worrying and fretting, our baby is finally here, safe and sound, and I am extremely grateful. The last week has been so eventful and so incredibly overwhelming. I can hardly grasp the enormity of the changes I have experienced in this short amount of time. A week ago I sat here with my big round belly, feeling baby kick inside, and wondering what she would look like. Now, my belly is a little less round, a lot less cute, and no one is wiggling or squirming inside it. A week ago I was nervously anticipating baby's birth and wondering how the labor and delivery would go. Now, my body is recovering from the experience and the baby is sleeping soundly in her little bouncy set next to me.
Yesterday, as I attempted to process all I have been through, I shared with Tim how the physical changes alone are enough to overwhelm me. As I spoke of my astonishment, I sat on the couch with ice packs strategically placed to ease some of my discomfort, feeling sore in places I would rather not mention and on the verge of tears for the hundredth time in just days. I reflected on the changes and lack of dignity Tim had witnessed as he watched our child be born and the aftermath of it. Tim was there for the needle sticks as I got my i.v., had blood taken, and received my greatly desired epidural. He got to observe my water being broken, the doctor's exams as they checked baby's progress, and, of course, the actual birth itself as our family grew to 7. Ironically the whole event, which was so natural, felt anything but at times. Tim has watched me, over the past six days, burst into tears, hobble around like an old lady, and complain of tenderness and exhaustion. "I bet you are glad you're a guy, huh?" I asked him. He, very quickly and very readily, agreed! For a second, I was jealous that he could welcome our daughter without all the pain, discomfort, and lack of dignity I had had to endure.
It was truly only a second though, before I realized how lucky I am to be able to experience the gift of motherhood. I am, surprisingly, grateful for the physical changes, because they are a part of the whole experience. I would not change the events of the last week one bit, even if given the opportunity to bring forth life without the pain or emotional upheaval. I am a mother and I am amazed that God has seen me through all that it takes to become a mother. I prayed for weeks and weeks before baby came, that her birth would be a beautiful event, free of complications, and that God would be present for the moment of her arrival. I pictured a quick labor and nearly effortless delivery. Though it did not go according to my plan, and included as much frustration and pain as joy and happiness, I really would not change it. It was a beautiful event and it resulted in the greatest gift ever- a healthy, happy baby to love.
Motherhood is humbling from the moment it begins but I am learning to see and appreciate that humility brings us closer to God. Humility has helped to strengthen my marriage and though it seemed somewhat undignified to give birth in front of the audience of my husband I would not have wanted him to miss the birth of our child. Funny how the most physically unflattering thing I have ever done is at the same time absolutely the most beautiful thing I have ever done. I truly can see that God did allow me to assist Him in the miracle of our daughter and when I look at it that way, there is nothing so exalting in the world.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Whispers in the dark

It is after 9:30 pm. My children's bedtimes have come and gone. We went through our nightly routines of baths, clean up, family prayer, and brushing teeth. Everyone has been kissed, hugged, and tucked. This should be the time of day when Tim and I can have a little quiet time to ourselves. Yet, despite our consistent bedtime routine and our reminder that bedtime means, "we go to sleep!", we still hear little voices and little giggles from down the hall. I suppose this is one of those unavoidable consequences of having a big family.
You see, our children all share rooms. We literally have, on one side of the hall the boys room, with one set of bunk beds, and directly across from it on the other side of the hall, the girl's room, with another set of bunk beds. We have discovered over the years, that no matter what goes on during the day, whether our children spend their waking hours bickering with each other and annoyed at every tiny thing or playing nicely and getting along well, at bedtime everyone becomes best friends! As soon as the lights go out and the covers are pulled up the giggling seems to begin. The children will sit up and whisper and chit chat and play for hours if we let it go that on that long. It is not unusual for all the children to beg us, as bedtime approaches, to allow them all to sleep together in one or the other of the bedrooms. A family slumber party is the greatest treat! When this is not granted them, and it usually isn't because like all great slumber parties there is very little slumbering going on, we often find the girls laying on the floor of their room by the open doorway and the boys, likewise, at their doorway whispering across the hall and goofing off together when they should all be sleeping soundly in their beds. There are just as many nights when from their beds, which consequently face the doorways and therefore each other, they talk and goof off despite about 40 feet of space between them.
I would never tell my children this, but often this is my favorite part of the day. Now, the fact that I enjoy the children's bedtime would come as no surprise to them. They can tell that by the time the sun goes down and the prayers have been offered I am ready to bid them all good night and have some time with Tim. They know I am often out of patience by bedtime and anxious to tuck them all safely and snugly in their beds for the night. What they might never suspect is that, it is not so much bedtime that makes me love this twilight time so much, but the fact that my house is filled with their quiet but joyful laughter and little voices wafting down the hall. I love that they enjoy the time with each other and have that special bond with their siblings. I love that at night they share their secrets, their silly games, and their ideas and fears with each other. This time, I believe, will cement the sibling relationships I try so hard to encourage during the day. I have faith that though they should be sleeping they are doing something just as, if not infinitely more, worthwhile instead. They are strengthening our family by taking the time to be together without distractions or expectations. Thankfully, sleep is not even compromised because, as home schoolers, they can sleep in the next morning and not have to get up early to rush off anywhere.
After bedtime, when I have the perspective and peace of not being surrounded by commotion and chaos, I can most appreciate my children's silliness, delight, and enthusiasm for life and for each other. Instead of being overwhelmed by the activity and noise of their play, I can stand back, and from a distance, observe the simple moments of life that bring such incredible joy to them, and revel in the joy it also brings to me. So, while I would love to have a bit of quiet in my life, right now I am going to go and enjoy the beautiful sound of my children's banter- the quiet will come soon enough when they've all grown and moved on....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Family Ties- unbroken

A friend of mine recently told me about a fight he had had with a family member. Tempers flared, angry words were exchanged and the relationship was definitely damaged, though hopefully not beyond repair. As my friend and I discussed the unfortunate events surrounding the argument, it came up that prior to the fight the relationship was not very solid anyway. In fact, though they are siblings, my friend told me there was never much of a relationship between them at all.
I was very saddened by the whole situation, and as much by the lack of relationship prior to the fight, as after it. I was saddened , not only for my friend, but for his family, and for all families who experience similar situations. The more I thought about it, the more I thought, is it any wonder that families are not stronger and more connected these days? After all, this world we live in, with so little face-to-face communication, has left us all feeling a little disconnected, hasn't it? Studies have been done to show that although we have practically unlimited resources for communication, and the time and opportunity to reach anyone, anytime, relationships are suffering from the technological advances that claim to connect us better. People try so desperately to connect with others and yet suffer from loneliness and isolation. Families, which used to be the center of people's lives, are now scattered and distant even when they live in the same house!
This is not a brand new problem, as my friend's situation illustrated. Families have been breaking down for years and years. I grew up in what I considered to be a relatively close family. We had dinner together fairly often. We took family vacations. We went to Mass weekly (at least until my siblings and I became teenagers and my mom decided it wasn't worth the effort to fight with us about it). Sometimes my siblings and I would even choose to hang out together...sometimes. But in our day to day life we were all going in different directions. We all had our own friends, our own after school activities, our own interests. We led very separate lives. Though many years have passed since we all lived in the same house, things are pretty much the same. We talk occasionally. We get together when we can. But our lives, and our values, are very different and very separate. This, too, makes me sad. I would love to be closer to my family of origin. Though, in many ways I still consider us a close family, I wish I had stronger connections with my siblings.
I hope and pray my children never have similar regrets. Tim and I try very hard to raise our own children with strong family ties and strong family values. We do this, first and foremost, by trying to keep God at the center of our family. The children and I pray together to start our school day. We all pray as a family before dinner, and then again after dinner when we offer up our family rosary. We pray together before bed each evening. Furthermore, we attempt to spend time together as much as we can. We make sure none of us is too over scheduled. We share dinners together every night. We always go to Mass together, no matter what! And, thankfully, we have the blessing of home schooling. Our children are with their siblings everyday. They play together, they learn together, they work together. In fact, they spend practically every waking moment together- and actually because they share rooms, they spend their sleeping moments together too! They are truly each other's best friends. I pray the connections they have now will endure throughout their lives. I pray they will always turn to each other for friendship, love, and support.
Though I know we are not doing everything perfectly, I feel confident that, with God at the center, our family will remain strong and connected. I am reassured every night during our family prayers, when we hear the children say, "Thank you God that we got to play with each other today." What could be better than that?


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