Our [Imperfect] Family Rosary

“Continue to pray the Rosary every day.”
(Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia)

I don’t think there’s any practicing Catholic out there who would deny the importance of daily recitation of the rosary.  The saints, the Popes, and even the Blessed Mother herself invites us to pray it on a regular basis, promising great spiritual wealth and growth as a result of it.  And, I have no doubt at all that that is true.

childs+hands+holding+rosaryBut, for the vast majority of us, praying the Rosary daily is actually rather challenging.  Or, maybe that’s just me.  I am not sure if it’s that I lack focus or the ability to sit still that long, but when I am attempting to pray it alone (which, let me tell you, happens about 0.1% of the time of my life) or when I am driving (which is more realistic), I easily get distracted.  I do much better when I pray it aloud with other people.

But, the only people I am with on a regular daily basis are these tiny human beings that I call my children.   Which, hey, is GREAT!  Because, praying the FAMILY rosary is possibly an even more beneficial and spiritually efficacious type of prayer than praying it alone.

Maybe efficacious isn’t the right word.  Perhaps saying it’s a source of “great sanctification” is more appropriate.  Especially when your prayer partners are 5, 3, and 20 months old.

Read More

God Provides. Yes, He Actually Does.

I am 23+ weeks into my pregnancy with our happy surprise Baby #3 (a little girl).  When I say she is a “surprise”, I mean just that.  We are people who use NFP regularly and though we are pro-life and thus always ready to accept a new little life as God sees fit to give it, we weren’t purposefully trying to get pregnant with this little one (as we were with our other two).  So, when,  that 2nd little line showed up on a pregnancy test last fall, surprised is the best word to describe my reaction.530862_661837282070_1511837382_n

When it took 14 months to get pregnant with my first child, I learned quickly that God alone is the author of Life and only HE knows when it is best for a person or family to have a baby.  Sometimes our will and His will line up (we were trying for a 2nd child and God deemed it to be the right time and we got pregnant quickly).  Other times, it’s challenging to understand why God is or isn’t allowing a pregnancy to happen.

I have never once take for granted the gift of this new little life within me when I know so many people who would give anything to get pregnant and I am so thrilled to be having another little girl.  But, from my limited perspective, I wouldn’t have chosen right now to be pregnant again!  Read More

Remembering 9/11: Sharing & Praying with My Children

No adult can forget where they were or the emotional turmoil of September 11, 2001. Even if the frequency of our prayers or the urgency of our commitment to peace has wavered over the past 12 years, each September 11, we remember, we pray for our country, those who were lost, and those who mourn, and we recommit to working for peace in our homes, our families, and our world.

I sometimes find it hard to believe that while the emotions and images of that day are seared into my memory, my children will only read about it in textbooks and hear the stories second, third, and fourth hand. For them, September 11, 2001 will be like the Pearl Harbor bombing or the WWII concentration camps were for my generation – something understood intellectually, but not experienced emotionally.

74038-64574

There’s a part of me that is okay with that. I don’t necessarily want my children to experience the frightening emotions of that day and the weeks the followed. I don’t necessarily want my children to know the shock of watching the attack on our country happening live on TV or sorrow of watching people fall from building sides and hearing the death toll continue to rise. I don’t necessarily want my children to feel the bitter emptiness of the New York skyline. There’s a part of me that wants to protect them from all of that.

However, if I engage only in an emotionless dissection of the September 11 event, my children will also never know the hope and unity that, if only for a short while, overshadowed the fear, sorrow, and brokenness of those days. I do want them to know the feelings of comfort we got from gathering as communities to pray together. I do want them to experience the unity of “one nation under God” that we were at that time. I do want them to know that divisiveness and partisanship have not always been the name of the game in Washington. I do want them to feel the peace and hope that came from the stories of ordinary people demonstrating extraordinary heroism and compassion.

So, I will remember 9/11 with my children – not with clinical facts, but with all of the emotion those memories raise in me. I will be honest with them about what it was like to witness evil that day, and I will delight in sharing with them the many, many ways we saw good overcome evil, light overcome darkness, and hope overcome fear.

9-11-cross-prayer

My grandfather was a POW who recorded interviews and about his horrific experiences in the German camps in WWII, and he presented me the model of how I plan to remember these events with my children. He never forgot the evil of that time in his life, but each time he shared a dark or frightening story, he followed it up with a story about goodness, about the human capacity for compassion and generosity, about the power of prayer, and about how he managed to find moments of true joy in the midst of tortuous pain and overwhelming fear.

Tonight and each year on this date, I’ll spend time remembering and sharing with my children the story of how we witnessed the Paschal Mystery of suffering and death leading to resurrection – of many tiny individual acts of good triumphing over a few big acts of evil. And then we’ll pray together – for those who were lost, for those who mourn, for those who still suffer from acts of terrorism, for our country, and for peace in our world.

Father,

We pray for all of the people who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. Comfort them and continue to guide them in your hope. Help us to honor the lives of those who died, through our thoughts and our actions, and grant them the happiness and joy of heaven with You. Fill us with love and forgiveness, and help us to live peacefully with each other.

As we see pictures and hear memories of the suffering and confusion of September 11, help us to remember all the good that you have put in Your world. Help us, most of all, to share Your love and promises with those we meet that are suffering and confused.

Amen.

adapted from
Peaceful Remembrance of September 11, 2001
Forty Days of Prayer for Children

(download PDF)

Do you talk about the events of 9/11 with your children?  Why or why not?  If so, how do you remember that day with them?

September11Children

Case of the Mondays

Beating the crap out of the fax machine (or maybe phone) sometimes feels like the right option...

Some days just get you.

Today is one of those days for me.  As I type, I can hear my son, who has been laid down for a nap (due to his non-stop fussiness this ENTIRE.FREAKIN’.DAY), throwing various items out of his crib and across the room.  And, I continue to type.

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing.  E-mails haven’t stopped coming in.  The list of things I need to get done this week keeps growing.  The stress of upcoming life-changes seems to be sitting directly on top of my eyebrows.  Deadlines are bearing down on me.  And, I can’t get the doggone blog homepage to look right. Read More

Yeah, but…

When I was in high school, my parents used to refer to me as “the yeah buts girl.”  My husband will tell you that if you that I am a master of excuses (I prefer to call them “reasons”) and always seem to manage to get out of doing things I don’t want to do.  My friends will tell you that I my favorite word is “actually” as in:

No matter how you pronounce it - it's sweet creamy chocolatey heaven in a jar!

Friend:  Have you ever experienced the hazelnut and chocolate deliciousness that is Nutella?

Me:  Actually, it’s pronounced New-tella.

I like to argue and debate.  I enjoy the challenge of using reason and logic to manipulate my way out of tasks I don’t enjoy or into projects that pique my interest.

I haven’t decided yet if it is fortunate or unfortunate that my son has inherited my affinity for debate.  He’s only 7, but is quickly honing is manipulation skills. Here’s a taste of a typical scenario:

Vinny, I need you to go clean up the toy room.

Awww…Mom, do I have to clean it up all by myself?  I wasn’t the only one to make the mess.  It would be fairer if you had Elizabeth come help me since most of it is her mess.

No, Elizabeth is doing something else for me right now, I want you to go clean up the toy room.

How about if I just clean up half of the mess and then when she’s done she can clean up the other half?

Vinny, I just want you to go down and start cleaning.  Don’t worry about what your sister is doing, just get it done.

Can I clean for just 15 minutes?

No, you’ll clean until it’s done.

But what about Elizabeth?  What about her toys?

Vinny (said in the “mom tone” that warns, “I’m starting to lose my patience”).  Go. Down. And. Clean. Up. The. Toy. Room.

Can I get a drink first?

(By this point, I’m almost ready to yell.) No. Now!

When he first started working in his debate skills, I’d let it slide.  After all, given my track record I thought it would only be fair to give him his chance to try to change my mind.  It quickly got to the point, though, that I would dread hearing the phrase “how about…” come out of his mouth every time I asked him to do something.  My husband and I agreed to change tactics and now, whenever we hear him gearing up for an argument we gently remind him that he needs to be obedient. Now the scenario sounds more like this: Read More

Slow Down, You’re Moving Too Fast!

In the past couple of weeks, my 14 month old finally got off his lazy crawling knees and began walking around. Feel free to scoff at us and pat yourself on the back about how advanced your child was to be walking before he/she was 1.  I’m not jealous.  Because, as anyone who has children will tell you, once they start walking, everything changes.

The first big change, of course, is that my son doesn’t like riding in a cart, being held, or being relegated to a seat or stroller nearly as much.  He wants to have those two little feet on the ground so he can practice walking.  Even at home, though he still plays with his toys, he’s been more interested in carrying them as he does laps around the kitchen and living room.

Even these guys move faster than my son...

I know there will come a time when I don’t think the walking, nay running away, isn’t cute anymore.  But, for now, I love watching my little  “drunken sailor”.  You know, the wide legged, arms up for balance, wobbling around walk. It’s just the cutest thing.

But, the best thing about my son learning to walk?  He has slowed me down.

Contrary to the Southern stereotype, I actually have never been very good at “moseying about”.  Yes, life moves slower in the South and compared to my Northern friends and relatives, I don’t move fast.  But, walking with a 14 month old is even slower than moseying – it’s a snail’s pace.

It’s tough for this fast walker to slow down.  But, I have to say, I’m really enjoying it.  I’m enjoying taking in the world in a different way.  I like noticing things that I wouldn’t have noticed before.  I love seeing what my son is discovering about the world as he touches, smells, licks (yes, licks), and looks at new and exciting things that he couldn’t see when he was crawling on his belly.

How quickly we tend to rush through life!  Half of the time, we don’t even notice other cars on the road when we’re driving our regular routes because it’s become practically robotic movements for us.  How can we notice the blooming trees or beauty of people when we don’t even really see the road?  How can we be polite and generous to others around us in stores and restaurants or at work when we can’t be bothered to notice them?

Not my child, but he does the same thing - taste the flowers.

People are right – every stage of your child’s life is interesting and exciting.  But, contrary to everyone’s opinions, I like this walking stage.  It’s a big change for the little guy that’s giving him a new lease on life.  And, it’s a welcome change for me, as he teaches me to slow down and smell (and, sometimes even lick!) the roses.

Cry Room Evangelists

There’s a space in every church, hidden away in corners and behind pews.  It’s the place where tiny little Catholics get taken because they are too noisy or distracting.  It’s a room of pure chaos, noise, snacks, and understanding looks.  You may know it as The Cry Room, The Quieting Room, The Parents & Toddlers Room…

But, I know it as “My Own Personal Hell.”

That's probably not how the babies feel...but, you never know!

I seriously hate the cry room with a burning passion.  During this first year of my son’s life, my husband and I have had an ongoing discussion about what to do with our son during Mass.  Because of my position as youth minister, we sit in the very front row of the church with the teens, directly in front of Father and the rest of the congregation.  Not exactly a convenient location for “easy escapes” with an overly active child.

Initially, having him at Mass was no problem – he mostly slept.  Then, he began getting mobile…and noisy.  Trips to the back of the church or the cry room became more frequent.  Now, at 14 months, one of us has to sit in the cry room with him because he can’t even make it through the processional hymn without trying to dive from our arms onto the floor. Read More

Size Doesn’t Matter

I come from what some might consider a “big” family, being one of five children.  My Catholic family came in the standard way – one mom, one dad.  My husband’s family, however, arrived at their 15 kids (yes, you read that correctly) in a different way – one mom, two dads.

Now, before you freak out that that is an “unorthodox” way of having a big Catholic family, you need to know the circumstances.  Josh’s mom and dad got married and had 6 kids.  His dad died tragically at a young age, leaving his mother widowed with small children.  Several years later, she remarried a good man with two children who had just come out of a difficult marriage.  They had 7 more children together.  If you are keeping up, that means my husband has 5 full siblings, 2 step siblings, and 7 half siblings.

Read More

Taking My Kids to Mass: An Email Response

My Two Daughters

My Girls at Easter. It was kinda cold.

Last week I wrote about taking my kids to Mass, about being the monkey bars for my two year old to climb on for about 46 minutes of the hour. I was a little worried that I was going to offend some parents who either have absolutely no problem with their children at Mass (you know, “that family”), or that I was going to offend the people who have it even rougher, (the other “that family”). We sat next to the other family at Christmas this year. Despite chocolate chip cookies (my kids were wondering where their cookies were), countless books, and the kind of toys that are perfect for pounding on a wooden pew, these kids were a wreck and had a tough Mass. I felt for the parents and spent a good portion of my post communion time praying for them.

In fact, I did get one email with some pretty strongly worded suggestions – from my wife. Read More

Trying to Choose the Best Parish

I have a problem:  I don’t know where my family and I should be attending Mass.

When I was first hired as the youth minister for two different parishes, both pastors were new, so we didn’t have any idea which one would be the best fit.  We decided to join the one that was closest to our house.  Now, we’re 3 years in and the two parishes and pastors have developed very unique personalities and charisms, and I just can’t figure out which one is the best fit for our family.

Part of the struggle lies in the difference in faith development between me and my husband.  My husband only recently became Catholic and has had some pretty disillusioning experiences of Church life (Someone remind me how I could have ever thought parish council would be a good idea for a new Catholic?) and he mostly goes to Mass because he knows how important it is to me.  I, on the other hand, am a cradle, Catholic-school going, Church worker with a Master’s degree in Pastoral Studies who tries to get to daily Mass at least once a week.

The problem is that the two parishes meet two very different needs for our family.

Read More