source and summit

I was twenty-two at my wedding, barely twenty-three at the birth of my first child, twenty-four when I ran for public office . . . I earned my bachelor’s degree while my husband worked multiple jobs and I mothered two children and worked as a political consultant. Those were days in which every hour was a waking hour and sleep felt like a distant memory. I attended my first year of law school full time with four daughters at home and a husband deployed overseas. I completed law school while mothering five children, pregnant with the sixth child, supporting my husband’s two careers through crockpot meals at home. For over a decade, I have been deeply engaged in political activity and invested in serving my neighbors through volunteer work on boards and commissions.

I am now thirty-six, jobless, not in school, and absolutely exhausted. I’m home taking care of the baby, driving the kids to and from school, to and from basketball practice, dance practice, more dance practice, even more dance practice, music lessons, volleyball, the doctor, dentist and orthodontist too. We rush to Mass on the weekend and rush home to get to the next activity. During the school days, while the kids are at school, I clean the house . . . but there’s always more to do. And the cleaning never ends. I make a homemade dinner daily and justify the processed food I send in my kids’ lunchboxes. I put the baby in her jumper and hope she will entertain herself while I sweep the floor, do the dishes, clean the one toilet that all seven of us use daily. I try to offer it up, because it can be easy to be self-centered.

Through the lens of American culture, I am judged by so-called feminists for not having a career outside of the home, and yet, I am doing the hardest and the most femenistic job I have ever done. Because there is nothing more femininistic than bearing human life and caring for that life, educating and leading the next generation of humans. As I am caring for my husband, home and family, and yet, I feel exhausted. Frequently, I even feel defeated. But it is not the cleaning or cooking or caring that is exhausting. That part might actually be empowering. What is exhausting is socializing children into a culture that rewards superior athleticism, academia, musical talent, coordination. We no longer have a culture that allows kids to be kids, games to be pure fun, but the pressure is on to be good at every activity they do. And much like we have a culture that defines adults by their paid careers, we have a culture that defines children by their special talents, not by their senses of wonder and play, not by their unscathed spirituality.

Being so busy as a family is completely draining . . . Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Perhaps that is why I feel most at peace at Mass or at my Eucharistic Adoration Hours. My children ask to go to adoration with me. My oldest begs me to wake her up for my 2 a.m. Eucharistic Adoration hour.

Vatican II called the Holy Eucharist the “source and the summit of Christian life” (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). A source is defined on dictionary.com as “anything or place from which something comes, arises, or is obtained; origin.” A summit, on the other hand, is the high point of a hill or a mountain, but it is also a meeting between heads of government. The Holy Eucharist, therefore, is the origin and the high point–the source and the summit–of our spiritual lives. It is through the Holy Eucharist that we encounter God and are nourished by Him.

The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving” and we praise God because we need it to be ordered within ourselves. We need the spiritual nourishment. Literally. After receiving God in the Eucharist, we are commanded to go forth in peace to share God’s love, a love which has to be so powerful that through our love is inspiring enough to establish such wonder, curiosity and inspiration that we are able to make God known and loved. We are the temples of the living God and when people watch us, if we are truly good Christians, they are able to encounter God through us, just as we are able to encounter Him through them.

And so I hope to shift to a simpler life that allows my family to make Sunday a holiday, as the Holy Father has encouraged us to do, and to encounter God in our interactions with others. This blog is part of my effort to hold myself accountable.

My end-of-the-busy-season prayer is this:

Dear God,
Help us to put you first in all things,
Teach us Your will and nourish us with your loving grace.
Have mercy on us and give us the grace we need to forgive those that hurt us and to love them.
Do not tempt us with worldly ways, but provide us with the means to live simple lives that honor You above all else. . . our Source and our Summit . . .
Amen

P.S. This was originally published on my other blog which is now hidden. I’m republishing it here.

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