One of the cancellations this spring was our annual RCIA Retreat. It is a day of prayer and reflection filled with anticipation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that await the Candidates and Catechumens at the Easter Vigil. Practical advice on how to live life as a new Catholic is also a focal point of the retreat but now that wisdom must be passed on virtually rather than personally. In conversation with one of our RCIA Candidates, a mother of two boys in elementary school, she presented me with these questions:
In all our learning and our faith journey this far, I am in search of guides on how to balance it all. What does it look like to thread our faith through each facet of our lives? What does it look like to parent catholic and to work as a catholic and to not allow ourselves to put other things in front of God? I guess we all will search for that balance for a long time.
There are so many mothers that I admire here at St. Margaret, so I reached out to a few of them with these questions so that our candidate could hear from someone other than myself. My intent was to just forward their email replies and be done. What came back were words of beauty and strength of character and ordinary lives threaded with the gift of faith and forgiveness and perseverance. My heart was moved, and I knew they needed to be shared. Thanks be to God each Mom agreed and as we approach Mother’s Day, we will share these with you.
Being a mom is a balancing act and one that calls us to wear many hats...caregiver, chef, coach, housekeeper, referee, and taxi driver and the list goes on and on. As a Catholic, we have an additional role to fill as a mother and wife. It is a role that calls us to teach our children the faith and model it in every aspect of our life! There isn't a handbook to parenting but fortunately for us, we have a beautiful faith to lean on which is rich in prayer, tradition, and sacraments.
Just as a chef flavors the food in the kitchen with salt, pepper, and spices, our prayer life flavors our faith and increases our bond with Christ, the Blessed Mother, and the communion of saints. The easiest way to look at all facets of life is through the Catholic lens and after some time it just becomes a way of life. It flavors all parts of our day and is sprinkled throughout from sunrise to sunset. Prayers can be offered at all meals, before bed, at 3pm for the Divine Mercy Chaplet or even when an ambulance goes by. It just is part of the daily routine. Whether the prayer is spontaneous or rote, it is all important to our Lord and always heard.
Just as a newborn can not crawl and a parent carries their precious little one everywhere until they are able to, so we should think of our prayer life. As we mature physically and learn to do more so should we grow and mature in our faith. Purposely growing in our faith calls us to commit to a relationship with Christ and His Church but what does this look like? For each family, it will be slightly different and the beauty of the faith is that we have many options to choose from as we explore ways to grow as a Catholic family. Just as the infant learns to crawl and then walk, God never asks more of us than what we can give and we should not compare ourselves against what other families might do. Pick one thing and building upon that slowly is a good way to begin while adding different things as different children enter different stages.
It is important to emphasize that certain prayers might "feel" boring to us. If a certain type of prayer or book feels better and you get something out of it continue using that as your means to deepen your prayer life. There are many great Catholic children's books that we have purchased over the years for the kids and suggest building a Catholic library little by little. I absolutely recommend The Weight of the Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso which beautifully illustrates the significance of receiving the Eucharist in a story that both children and adults can relate to and will love. Dinner conversation is also an excellent time to talk about our faith, prayers, and experiences we have as we grow in our Catholic faith. This is a great time to keep things age appropriate and allow for natural growth as the children grow. Allowing for questions and answers is always welcome at any age and stage and a healthy discussion can benefit all members.
One of the most important suggestions to consider is praying as a couple at night. This is time dedicated to prayer as adults, as husband and wife. Typically, this prayer comes right before we turn off the lights with no particular prayer recited. As a couple, this is an intimate time to voice to God and your spouse your deepest prayer intentions. While structured prayer is a great way to begin, listening to each other voice spontaneous prayer adds a level of intimacy to the spousal relationship! It has truly strengthened our marriage to hear each other voice aloud our petitions and concerns as well as our gratitude for the gifts we have received. Religious reading also provides a way to grow spiritually and continue learning about our faith. We are reading Fulton J. Sheen's Life of Christ. We read just a couple of pages each night. It isn't overly theological and is thought provoking and very enjoyable. I believe that someone new to the faith could handle it. I am truly convinced that our night prayer has brought us closer together as a couple and as parents and allowed us to share another aspect of the intimate relationship God calls us to as spouses. And trust me, it will feel a bit awkward at first but that will quickly subside!
We aren't perfect and being a parent is hard especially being a Catholic mom. It seems that while the children wiggle during bedtime prayers and my mind wanders to the grocery list or household chores, their external manifestations of energy are a physical reminder of what is going on in my head and how much as a parent I need to focus on my prayers. Acknowledge the distraction and return to prayer. As a parent, I fall down as much as I move forward as a mom. But, when I do I know that I have the ability to ask for forgiveness in the sacrament of confession and of the person I may have offended. Surrounding myself and my family with a vibrant prayer life allows me to build the Domestic Church in our home and raise saints for the kingdom of God. It isn't easy work but the reward is eternal and the Church provides us with a treasure of avenues in which to do this. What a blessing it is to be a Catholic parent and to be surrounded by a loving parish community at St. Margaret of York!
Guest Post Written By: Erin Flege
Part 2 will be posted April 29, 2020