Raising children is not a default chore for women who were not successful in the world of business, power, and wealth. However, the trend in the last few decades has been to delegate childcare to women who are often treated like second-class citizens. Society seems to dismiss and even ridicule women’s most sacred, natural role as nurturing mothers.
I fully realize most mothers have no choice but to work in our present economy. My contention is with prevailing attitudes about children, mothers and child care. From preschool, we are groomed to get ahead, surpass our peers by getting into the best universities and snatch prized careers. But success alone will not make us happy. Just take a look at the generations who have gone before us. The all-too-common mid-life crisis is a testament to the failure of a life focused on career advancement to the exclusion of family. Many women bemoan the fact they did not have time to nurture their children like they would have liked to. Family life often crumbles to ashes, sacrificed on the altar of success.
In this milieu, Catholic women continue to grapple with how to live faithful to the teachings of the Church while remaining true to themselves as members of modern society. Sadly, young mothers are dealing with the same issues I did thirty-eight years ago. The problem is a pro-life stance seems to clash with concepts of feminism.
Is joy at the heart of your life in Christ? Many Catholics feel beleaguered as they struggle to stand up for the truth in an increasingly hostile environment. Of course, it is easy to become so busy addressing serious moral and religious issues that our spirituality is relegated to Sunday Mass and a few Hail Marys rattled off on the run. However, if we are determined to be effective agents of change in society, we must make time to learn how to live in, with, and through Christ. Only when we are filled with the power of Holy Spirit, we will witness effectively with joy, with a dance in our step.
Man cannot transform himself into a holy being. As my Irish grandmother would say,“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”In other words, only Christ can transform us into His image and draw us into the heart of His Father.
Atendance at Mass, regular confession, spiritual exercises, fasting, and prayer are wonderful vehicles of grace but if we think pious activities will sanctify us, we will only appear to be holy on the outside like the Pharisees:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.(Matthew 23:27)
A song by Garth Brooks, “Standing Outside the Fire”, always brings me to tears because it triggers my own yearning for the fire of God hidden deep in my soul. It is easy to lose touch with this longing, focusing on the business of each day as I function efficiently, approved of by society. On the other hand, whenever someone surrenders to the power of the fire, the ensuing process of transformation usually looks messy.
The question we had struggled with for years was, “How could we remain faithful to Church teaching when Natural Family Planning did not seem to work for us?” Intuitively, I already knew a call to trust in God could not just be an intellectual assent but included entrusting my fertility to God. Catholic teaching stated couples should space their children with abstinence but we slowly discovered I was one of those rare people who could conceive long before ovulation.
I was stunned when I first discovered this quote by St. Ignatius because I associated the soldier-saint, who founded the intellectual Jesuit order, with the serious, arduous Spiritual Exercises. I could hardly imagine St. Iggy spouting a phrase which appears at first glance to be flippant. Yet, this quote illustrates that Ignatius grasped a deep, spiritual truth which many Catholics do not understand: joy is a gift from God. The average Catholic does not associate joy with holiness, but believes holiness is synonymous with Christ-like suffering. However, the truth is even redemptive suffering is not miserable when we are suffused with the love of God and filled with His Spirit. Joy is at the core of our spirit when we live in, with, and through Christ. This holy joy is the source of a Christian’s strength.
As all couples know, marriage is hard. However, our marital struggles become easier when we realize our growing pains are simply part of the normal process all couples must go through as they move from infatuation to a deep, mature, sacramental love. Mercy in marriage is the only way to not only survive marriage but to thrive as a couple and become unified and one in Christ. Listening to another Catholic couple explain this process from a faith perspective, as well as share their own struggle, encourages other couples.
The words from Isaiah 58:1-9 are like brilliant beams of light, cutting through any false notions we might have about this season of repentance that we call Lent. Often we tend to think of Lent as a time to share in the suffering of Christ yet when we do so, we become morose and end up centering more on our own wonderful sacrificial devotions than on God.
In these first days of Lent, the Church shows us exactly how God wants us to pray, fast, serve His people and worship Him.
I really do not think my heart is in things. Since I was a little girl, I have felt content with what I have materially. Even now, when my adult kids ask me what I want for Christmas, I pause for a moment, with a blank mind. I have to search to come up with a list.
Rather a strange state to be in because this is not the result of spiritual striving, fasting or prayer, it is just how I am. Living with little people has only strengthened an innate tendency to enjoy the little things, to be grateful to be alive and in communion with the Spirit. In addition, as a large family with barely enough cash but many blessings, we have experienced many incidents of God’s providence.
Throughout history, and even now in agricultural, third-world cultures, extended families are the norm. Secondary attachments in such families enrich the lives of children. As the African proverb reminds first-world countries, “It takes a community to raise a child.”
Unfortunately, secular society seems to believe that nuclear families should raise their children independently, even when both parents work full-time and have afterschool activities to manage. Conditioned in this way, families in need of help may hesitate to ask for it from anyone. But grandparents have a wonderful way of establishing consistency in the lives of their grandchildren. They provide a sense of security, particularly for children whose parents are separated, live in poverty, have mental health issues, or struggle with addictions. Although articles on attachment parenting seem to address ideal families, I have witnessed families striving to maintain an image of perfection, eventually falling apart behind closed doors under the pressures of modern-day stress. It was grandparents who saw behind the masks. continue reading
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