One of the challenges we face in modern society is preserving the meaning of holidays for our children. This is true of Christmas and Easter, but even the National Holidays like President’s Day, Labor Day, and Memorial Day have lost their soul for many Americans. These have become bonus vacation days, rather than a day to reflect, pray and remember. In addition to parades and picnics, it is up to us to impart to our children the import of the sacrifice so many brave men and women have made in the name of freedom and justice.
As Catholics, we also remember that those who have passed continue in a relationship with us in the Communion of Saints. One day last week, I took a walk with my Augustyne. At 5-years-old, he assured me that he would keep up and not compromise my exercise, which isn’t hard since he is in much better shape than I! I took him my usual route, through one of our town’s older cemeteries. Once he learned how to spot the grave of a veteran, he pointed out every flag on the grounds, searching for soldiers and hoping that they died peacefully at home long after the war was over. When we turned back to our street, he said, “I didn’t know that
When my oldest was a wee thing, I got involved in our parish youth ministry. This was at least partly motivated by the selfish interest of finding local babysitters. Training us was the Director of Lay Ministry, Dave O’Brien. This is one of the reasons that my short stint on the Youth Ministry Team was so significant in my faith life. Dave was one of those people who decided long ago that God mattered most and he jumped into this point of view with both feet. He strives to live his faith radically, choosing extreme simplicity for himself so he can share more with others. His sparse closet could inspire a new reality show on TLC: Extreme Simplicity
As I sat in Mass, exhausted, just happy that I got there on time I realized that three candles were lit. Yes, the pink one, too. This rosy candle is supposed to tell us “Rejoice! Gaudete! Our Savior is almost here!” Instead, what I heard was, “Oh no! It’s almost Christmas and I still have so much to do!”
I battled my distraction with concerns over the traditions and social obligations as I tried to focus on the Advent readings. “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”
Geesh! I am nowhere near the desert. I am so worried about how behind I am. My head is at the grocery store, the toy store, work. No wonder my soul fails to hear this call. No wonder my soul fails to hear the rose-colored candle beckoning me to rejoice.
As we planned my 8-year-old’s birthday party (4 months late, but that’s another blog), he made a specific request for Kool-Aid. I cringed. Kool-Aid. I don’t like the way it tastes. I don’t want my kids to like the way it tastes. More importantly, it really isn’t good for you! I left it at a maybe.
Why Kool-Aid? I’ve never served Kool-Aid. The kids have occasionally tasted it at friends’ houses. The real motive was revealed the next day.
“That’s what I want!” he exclaimed as I saw happy kids run up to a beautiful mom on the TV screen.
She held a tray of large, clean, red-filled glasses (Yes, made of glass). I thought it unlikely that this slim mom would actually serve flavored sugar-water to her kids, but the commercial worked and my son wanted Kool-Aid.
In these hard financial times, one of the greatest sacrifices we made turned out to be the greatest blessing. I was very upset to find myself pregnant and unable to see my usual, pro-life obstetrician because of our insurance changes. The new, low-budget insurance continually pointed me to a pro-choice clinic that put me in line to talk to a nurse so I could talk to a doctor weeks later. Already almost 3 months pregnant, my regular doctor began running tests and found that I had some serious complications and needed to get prenatal care ASAP. The clinic’s biggest concern was that I was missing my window for “genetic counseling”, which translates to being able to get an abortion. The distress of feeling like I could not take care of my unborn child, could not get the medical care I needed, could not find a pro-life option, was overwhelming.
When I was little, my mother always told me how old she was. She never said, “It’s not polite to ask.” or “29 forever” or any other evasive answer. As I got older and heard other women refuse to reveal their age, I asked my mom why she was so practical about this hot-button topic.
“Why should I care about that?” she’d reply, “What’s wrong with growing older?” I thank God for this example. My mother tries to look nice. She dyes her hair and cares for her skin. But trying to look a little younger and healthy is not the same as refusing to acknowledge your advancing years to others. There is an honesty and self-acceptance that makes this a beautiful thing. The world may be obsessed with youth, but we don’t have to follow. We must take joy in the journey, all of it. Not fight it.
My life is not simple right now. Pregnant at almost 39 means complications that I’ve never experienced before. Our homeschoolers are going to have to work through the summer to complete this year’s work. Making Music Praying Twice is growing, which is wonderful, but means regular travel and speaking in addition to my usual jobs of teaching, writing and keeping on top of the websites. Of course, life continues to include dance classes, Little League, Tae Kwon Do, choir practice, forensics, physical therapy, etc., etc..
I just had a wonderful gift of delivering an information session with no voice. My strep throat/sinus infection is no longer contagious thanks to antibiotics, but my voice couldn’t handle the strain that the music teacher/mother-of-4 lifestyle have put on it. It is on strike.
And so, I had to stay quiet. Not so easy for me. I whispered a few stories and explanations as we discussed our Making Music Praying Twice parish program with music ministers and religious education directors. Mostly, though, I listened. I had to listen more than I spoke and this was a wonderful thing.