Thursday, March 28, 2013

A disasterous attempt at holiness

          I haven’t meant to take a break from blogging for Holy Week.  I have tried to write but the words just would not come.  That, coupled with the busy schedule we have had with lots of company visiting from out of town, and my blog has been quiet for nearly a week.  

          But, now here we are approaching the most holy time of year, the Easter Triduum, and I cannot help but take a few minutes to reflect on it all.  I am certainly no theologian so my reflections are probably not very deep but here they are anyway--

Last year, I tried to commemorate Holy Thursday with a Seder supper for the first time.  I carefully studied the traditional list of foods and made some substitutions so my children would be more willing to eat everything.  I made the food, all the while envisioning a dinner with deep meaning that would make lifelong memories and maybe become a new tradition.  I printed out the appropriate prayers and set the table with great anticipation.  It all looked lovely and would have had deep meaning, if not for the upturned noses and bad attitudes displayed by my children.  They were not in the mood for anything new and were out of sorts that evening.  I had little patience for their lack of enthusiasm.  In the end, only a few of the kids were allowed to chose to stick around to participate.  I am pretty sure they got next to nothing out of the experience since it had been preceded by an argument and a lecture.  Definitely not one of my best parenting moments. 

Our sad attempt at a Seder supper
But I think in many ways, it illustrates what Jesus’ passion was like for those present.  His apostles and many disciples had spent years following Him and preparing for the moment it would be revealed to all that He was the Messiah.   They had great expectation for the glory they would experience as Christ’s closest followers and even had conversations about which of them would be viewed as the greatest.  They didn’t want to even hear of Christ’s coming suffering or of the persecution He would experience.   

Though the clues were all there and Jesus did all He could to let them know the reality of His mission, they were slightly clueless as the First Triduum approached.  They didn’t stay awake to support Him in His hour of agony.  Instead they slept soundly, stuck in their own limited perspectives and their own distorted expectations.   When He was arrested and taken to His death, they ran away despite promises to the contrary.  In the end, only a few of them stuck around to be near Christ in His passion.  They missed the chance to experience up close the beauty of His self-sacrifice on the cross.  They missed the chance to be right there next to Jesus as He truly fulfilled His mission to save us all from something so much bigger than the persecution of the Romans.  The gates of Heaven were opened but where were our early Church fathers at that moment?  Hiding in plain sight just a part of the crowd or maybe cowering in fear where no one would find them?  Definitely not one of their best apostolic moments.

Like the apostles, I have spent my life trying to learn what it really means to be holy and trying to really put God at the center of my life.  But, still I find myself, way too often, caught up in my own expectations and putting all my energy into fulfilling my own agenda.  It is the struggle of humanity to put ourselves aside so that Jesus can dwell within us and work through us.  It is not easy to decrease so that He can increase.

St. Peter and his friends knew that struggle.  They experienced Jesus’ passion as sinners on the sidelines- just like me.  They needed, and benefitted from, Jesus’ sacrifice because they were weak and small and imperfect- just like me.  Jesus knew their weaknesses.  He knew they would fail Him and abandon Him.  He never stopped loving them though.

This Holy Week, I pray I will be as grateful for Christ’s undying love as the apostles were.  And I pray I will be as committed to trying to live out Jesus' love and mercy as the apostles were too- even in my weaknesses and imperfections.

I pray you have a Happy and Holy Triduum! 

P.S.-- This year, in place of a Seder supper, we are trying another new tradition- a Holy Thursday tea, the idea for which I found here at Shower of Roses.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My kids are W-A-Y behind....

            I write a lot about how my children are growing up so fast.  How the years fly by and I want so much to slow things down a little and keep my children young as long as possible.  So it is not surprising that I have been thinking about growing children and the pace of maturing and the world we live in.  

            My children’s childhoods DO feel as though they are passing by at an alarming rate and I DO wish it could all be slowed to a pace more akin to a snail’s than a cheetah’s, but in comparison to the world we live in…my children are actually w-a-y behind their peers.  We live in a world where it is encouraged for children to grow up REALLY, REALLY FAST.  Seven year olds with cell phones?  Toddlers dressed like mini-adults?  First graders with boyfriends or girlfriends?  Ten year olds watching shows for/about teenagers?  And where did the whole concept of the “tween” years come from?!?!?!?!?  A nine or ten year old is NOT a teenager and is not ready for teenage things.

I am always sad when I see little girls dressed in tight fitting shirts with short shorts, or young children with their faces in their electronic devices at the park, or television shows and video games that glorify teenage angst and disrespect and violence marketed to kids (or marketed to anyone else for that matter).  

My children are innocent, ignorant, and youthful compared to most kids their ages.  They have no cell phones or laptops or I-pads (not even my 14 ½ year old).  They are not permitted to watch television or play most video games.  Those that they do play are very closely monitored and supervised.  My children dress like children, they play with play-doh together and read picture books together (well not so much the 14 year old and 11 year old anymore...), but they do all still ask for permission to do things like play outside in the front yard, make a phone call (on the home phone) to a friend, watch a movie from our collection of parent-approved DVD’s, even get a snack in the afternoon, etc….  And even though my kids have healthy restrictions in life and must respect the rules Tim and I have laid down for them- they are not unhappy.  They are not angry or frustrated.  They don't feel like they are missing out.  They are too busy enjoying their childhoods to worry about what they might be missing.

I don’t want my kids to grow up too fast.  And it is not because I selfishly love that sweet baby stage when my little ones light up at the mere sight of me and still believe I am right about everything and still trust in me completely (though, of course, I do love that stage).  It is not because the thought of my babies growing up and leaving my home and going off into the big, bad world all on their own both terrifies and pains me to the point of tears (though if I think about it all too much, it does).  It is not because I still remember that moment when I first looked into each of their newborn eyes and vowed I would cherish every moment with them, while the reality is I am often too busy and distracted to cherish every moment and to remember to be grateful for every day.   I don’t want to someday look back and realize I’ve missed my chance to be the perfect mother because my children are all grown and now it is too late.  But that is not why I want my children to grow up slowly.

No, I want my children to be allowed a nice long childhood because it is such a fleeting time.  Adulthood lasts a long time (God willing) and once their innocence is gone our children can never have it back.  I want to allow my kids to enjoy the gift that their childhood is.  I want them to be able to play and live and grow (at their own pace) without the pressure of dealing with adult issues and grown-up concepts before they are ready.  

What's more-- I want my children to believe in a world where families are still important and adults are respectable and responsible.  I want them to live in a world where the Bible means something and Our Church provides our moral compass, where things like respect and obedience and humility and all virtues are seen as good and important.  As long as they are young, as long as they live under my roof, as long as they are not always striving to be more mature than they really are- I can allow my children the opportunity to enjoy these gifts.

Someday they will know about all the evils of this world that, right now, I want to shield them from forever.  Someday, I'm sure, they will be attached to smart phones and aware of worldly attitudes and twisted belief systems based on relativism and selfishness.  

I know I cannot shelter my children forever.  I know it would be wrong to even try, but I pray they will be allowed the opportunity to grow up and mature s-l-o-w-l-y, in their own time, not in our culture’s timetable of life at warp speed ready to push ahead and skip the simple innocent days of youth.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Life and Death, joy and sorrow

            On Friday, my children and I went to a funeral.  Our very dear friends recently lost their baby at 19 weeks gestation.  It was a devastating loss.  Before going in for a routine ultrasound there was no indication that there was anything wrong or that the pregnancy was not progressing normally.  But the ultrasound revealed that the baby had stopped developing some weeks before and that there was no heartbeat.   

            Our friends were blessed to be given the privilege of having a funeral for their baby and having him laid to rest in the special section of the Catholic cemetery reserved for infants.  The funeral was, of course, a very sad affair in many ways.  But, it was also sort of amazing……   

That tiny little baby was so very loved and treasured - not only by his parents, his 5 older siblings, and his grandparents who were all a part of the Mass- but also by many, many friends and by Our Church as a whole.   The homily was all about how even a life that ends in the womb is a life that is valued and blessed by God.  How that precious little one did live his life, short though it was, to the fullest and his life had immeasurable meaning and importance.  The baby’s father stood up and shared how deeply he was touched by his late son’s short life and how it changed him and inspired him to be a better husband and father. 

Though, I hate that my friends are suffering such a great loss, I loved that the Mass was such a beautifully moving expression of the sanctity of their baby’s life.  It reminded me anew how blessed we are to be part of a Church that understands and celebrates the sanctity of ALL life.  

And speaking of celebrating life…..

On Sunday, my entire family got together to celebrate my grandmother’s 91st  birthday.  My beloved grandma got to be in a St. Patrick’s Day parade where she was wished happy birthday over and over by the crowd of parade goers.  We had a party for her afterwards with food and family and gifts and fun.  

My weekend was an experience of extremes, I guess.  Life and death.  Joy and sadness.  A life ended so soon after it began and a life that has spanned more than 9 decades.  But, in a strange way- both the funeral Mass and the birthday party were similar.  They were both celebrations of lives that have meaning and value.  They were both tributes to people who are greatly loved and cherished.  And they both were all about how sacred and precious each and every life really is.      

 photo credit: <a href="">Gulfu</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Papal Election from a Young Catholic's Perspective

Today- for the first time ever- I am hosting a guest blogger here!  The following is my 11 year old son's journal for today.  He wrote so honestly about our special day yesterday that I thought he said it all better than I could.  

So-- here are some thoughts on the Papal election for the perspective of a very young Catholic--

 This week, we found ourselves in front of the computer for lengthy amounts of time.  We were “smoke watching.”  We watched EWTN and the Vatican T.V. for news of a new pope.

            Since the Cardinals in conclave who were voting couldn’t come out until we had a new pope, they used smoke signals to tell us if a new pope had been elected.  

            Well, on the afternoon of March the 13th, 2013, after waiting for an hour and a half, doing nothing but watching birds who landed on the chimney, we finally got white smoke.  And there was a lot of it!  It billowed out like crazy for like five minutes!  (Fortunately, the birds had left the chimney at this point.)  

            And, then, after waiting another hour, our new pope came out!  He chose the name Pope Francis, gave a blessing, and went back inside.  I will never forget the day I did nothing but watch birds for an hour and a half because that was the day our new pope was elected!


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