Notre Dame Burns, Unlikely to be an Accident

As Catholics, we enter Holy Week (after a long Lent of fasting, prayer and almsgiving) and approach the Triduum, the high point of our liturgical season . . . as Notre Dame, perhaps the most recognized Catholic Church in the world, is burned to the ground.

Notre Dame means Our Lady, referring to Mary, the Blessed Mother, OUR Mother, the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, my biggest intercessory prayer warrior in Heaven AND my biggest comfort on earth. . . and I would like to believe this fire was part of a renovation and an accident, but I am not naive. I know the Catholic Church is persecuted all around the world. I know Catholics are tortured and killed because of their faith daily. . . and just because mainstream media doesn’t want to cover it and would prefer to disproportionately attack the Church for her sins rather than acknowledge her suffering, does not mean only the latter exists . In fact, for months, Catholic Churches in France have been attacked and our most precious holy items have been desecrated and destroyed.

The Church (we are the Church) is being persecuted and if you are outside of Her and want to throw stones, mock Her, and act like Her suffering is invisible or (even worse) deserved, you are THERE crucifying the living body of Christ. Sometimes it causes me to wonder, wonder, wonder . . .

Thankfully, if this Holy Week (like the original Holy Week) teaches us anything, it is that we will rise again. And it’s that there’s no Easter Sunday (resurrection) without a Good Friday (crucifixion).

@ Paris Notre Dame Cathedral

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One Beautiful Dream

I breezed through the book One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulweiler and my goodness, I wish I had come upon Jen’s blog earlier during my vocation as a mother because she is so authentic and funny and makes me feel so much less alone in my struggles as a mother. So many of her stories feel so familiar to me because I’ve lived my own version of them (Green Bean Lady seemed to be a daily occurrence when shopping in the city.)

I think Jen is so intelligent and amazing so when I read the “Beer Bong Play Date” Chapter when she has “a stranger from the internet” (another Mom) over for a play date and apologizes for the state of her messy house, and she implied her house is messy because it is the end of pregnancy (rather than because it’s just not a priority), it struck a loud chord of familiarity.

Her writing style is so easy to read and yet subliminally thought-provoking. Reading this book has been a true gift of self care during this time of my life when my husband is deployed, and I’m single-parenting six kids while expecting a seventh and I just can’t seem to keep up with Jones’s (or keep my counters clutter-free for that matter). Through Jen’s stories, I have grown much better at letting go of my pride, asking for help and accepting help when I need it or can use it.

I have also reflected on my beautiful dream, my “blue flame,” and what makes me and other humans really happy. (Hint: it has to do with love). As Matthew Kelly always says/writes, “There’s a genius in Catholicism.” I’m really grateful my cultural tradition and my religious upbringing provided me with strong foundation in love, faith and family values.

I loved this entire book. It made me laugh so hard my pregnant body convulsed; it made me cry so hard I sniffled and needed a tissue for my runny nose and eyes; it gave me all the feels and helped me reflect on my life and my priorities without feeling like I was really reflecting . . . It was kind of like doing the work of self-examining through spiritual osmosis.

I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking happiness and inspiration (including but not limited to busy busy busy overwhelmed parents).

https://m.barnesandnoble.com/p/one-beautiful-dream-jennifer-fulwiler/1126606236/2679654619982?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Core+Catch-All,+Low_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP79700&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvMaO_oCh2wIVT57ACh1scwx7EAQYASABEgI86vD_BwE

https://www.amazon.com/One-Beautiful-Dream-Rollicking-Personal/

This Mother’s Day, let’s praise and encourage, not blame or shame, single mothers

I am not a single mother, but as a military wife, sometimes I get a little glimpse of what single-mothering is like, and it’s super hard. If we Catholics really want to call ourselves pro-life, we need to do *something* to help single mothers that have chosen to give life and are trying to parent in a culture that excludes them from community support. And by the way, the *something* we do must be helpful, reliable and consistent.

Parenting is isolating, exhausting, and thankless. We live in a culture that supports privileged, PLANNED parenthood, but when people are poor, uneducated, nonwhite, or are blessed with children out of wedlock (or get divorced), we submit messages of blame and shame instead of encouragement and praise. The messages we send through our words, body langauge, action, inaction, inclusion and exclusion matters. The choices we make drive the outcomes we experience. How we treat Moms has an immense impact on the children they parent. Plus, besides the collateral impact of honoring marginalized mothers because it is the right thing to do, when we respect mothers they are more likely to feel energized and nurture children that grow up to be successful, autonomous, caring adults. The future depends on how we treat each other today, so let’s treat each other with love and compassion.

On Good Friday being Good

As we walked out of Church on Holy Thursday, a concerned look came over my nine-year-old’s face and she looked at me, dark curls framing her face, blue eyes wrought with confusion. Carrying the baby with my left arm, I reached out and grabbed my four-year-old’s hand as he rapidly approached the Church parking lot with a bounce in his step and not a worry in his mind. My nine-year-old trodded along, lost in her thoughts. The pitter-patter of her footsteps drew closer and she suddenly blurted out, as if we had been engaged in an argument, “But Mom! I don’t understand. Why is tomorrow called *Good* Friday if that’s when Jesus was crucified?”

In the millisecond before I answered the depth of my mind responded with a response we say aloud during the Stations of the Cross, “(We adore you oh Christ and we praise you.) Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” And I explained to her as best I could our story, the story of salvation.

It is tough, even for our adult minds, to understand the redemptive value of suffering, to trust the light at the end of the tunnel when we are holding our breaths through the darkness.

My priest, Father Paul, reminded me recently that there is a reason there’s a cross hanging above our altar at Church, not an empty tomb. Because it is through the cross that we get to the empty tomb. Good Friday is good because without the holy cross, there is no Easter, no resurrection or redemption.

I have a really hard time embracing the poverty of injustice in my suffering. It’s really hard to carry my cross and see it as the way to the empty tomb, the resurrection.

As I write, the refrain of an old song I learned from my Protestant father comes to mind, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.”

Old Rugged Cross (originally by George Bennard)

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(This painting is my favorite art piece, possibly ever. It was a gift to me from my husband after years of searching for a “black crucifixion.” An anniversary gift. How romantic, right? It hangs in our dining room as a reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel, salvation for those that suffer pain and oppression. The artist is Tim Ashkar.)

As counterintuitive as it is, Good Friday is good, just like our suffering is good. It is through suffering and death that we experience eternal life, after all.

Share the Light

“Brothers and sisters,
You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
For light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
Rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
The things done by them in secret;
But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
For everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
Eph 5:8-14

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine worlds and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16

“No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick that they which come in may see light.
Luke 11:33

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it give the light unto all that are in the house.”
Matthew 5:14-15

“Every family is always a light, no matter how faint it might be, amid the darkness of this world.”
Pope Francis (Homily at vigil celebration of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, St. Peter’s Square, October 2, 2016)

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