Beloved Children

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Bear with me. I’m about to brag about my kids. Proud mama alert! Go ahead. Look away and grumble, but there’s no putting this exuberant lioness back in her cage.

And I’m not embarrassed to admit that you will probably be quite underwhelmed by the source of all this maternal delight. It’s neither a virtuoso violin performance nor a  prize-winning science project. In fact, none of my kids even plays an instrument, (excluding kazoo) or cares a whole lot about making scientific breakthroughs. (Sadly, there’s no fighting genetics.) I am fully aware the rest of the world will consider the source of my pride as something banal and utterly unexceptional.

Nonetheless, it causes me to light up like a roman candle in a cloudless, dark country sky.

“Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.” 

—St. Therese of Lisieux

They are altar boys. They serve together. As brothers. With their matching Clark Kent glasses and home-hewn crew cuts. With reverence and poise, they serve with deferential bows and hands in prayer position. Oh, what a beautiful, pleasing sight to behold!

After I got past the initial worry that they might erupt in fisticuffs in front of the whole church, or drop something really important, I let out a long pent up breath. It was then I was overcome with pure joy at seeing my 9 and 11-year-old sons dutifully assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass… as brothers. My heart simply swelled as I stared at my dynamic duo. No other human being, except my husband, shared in the adoring gaze fixed in their direction. There was literal awe in my penetrating stare. When and HOW did this happen? It seemed only a blip ago these two were using the kneeler as an acrobatic launch pad.

And if I’m honest, there were some self-congratulations in the mix as well. My husband and I had a hand in making this happen. Our boys.

God shared in the moment too.

He has an even greater love for these two boys who we have been graced by His benevolence to care for. He is their perfect father who loves them without condition or barrier. I imagined how happy He was to witness this milestone. As I soaked up all that goodness, something downright revelatory dawned on me.

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God looks at me with those same adoring eyes. He treasures my little accomplishments and celebrates and marvels at my existence too.

Whoa… Mind. Blown.

I’m not sure why that thought hadn’t occurred to me before. But, I’m sad to say, it really hadn’t. I was apt to think of God considering me in a more critical light, pointing out all the ways I failed to measure up.

“You really stepped in it this time, daughter.”

“I know you can do a heck of a lot better than that!”

But that’s not a fair lens in which to properly see God. This Sunday’s Gospel reading for the Baptism of our Lord gave us a little glimpse into the fatherly pride God has for His Son.

and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

—Luke 3, 22

But doesn’t he have that same love for the rest of His children? Our priest’s homily detailed a story we could all relate to. He told us about the recent birth of his nephew. His whole family crowded into the hospital room and happily passed around the itty bitty new life, each of them beaming with irrepressible love for the baby. But the little boy’s dad—he was high-fiving everyone and smiling from ear to ear, beyond proud of his son. God views each of us in this same glowing light.

His outpouring of love for each of us allows us to be receptive to His mercy and grace. In seeing ourselves through His eyes, we become better equipped to be the person He created us to be. We are able to love those around us better. Authentic love is downright transformative.

It’s been several months now since my sons started altar serving together. I don’t get choked up anymore seeing them up there next to the priest. I guess I’ve grown a bit blasé. The novelty has pretty much warn off. Something tells me that our Heavenly Father is not as fickle. Once His gaze is happily fixed, there it remains. No matter how hard we may try to stubbornly run from it. We are His beloved children with whom He is well pleased.

“In Him, in Christ Jesus, we have been loved, beloved, desired. There is Someone who has engraved in us a primordial beauty, that no sin, no wrong choice will ever erase completely.” 

—Pope Francis

Lord, grant us your vision. Allow us to see the world through your eyes. That we might enter more deeply into the love of your Most Sacred Heart. Open our eyes to the beauty, truth, and goodness in others and in ourselves. That your vision will inspire us to transform our hearts and our wills to yours!

1st Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

2nd Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash

Boasts & Pot Roasts: New Year / Old Me!

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Is it only me, or is it getting harder and harder to focus?! Since the inauspicious purchase of my so-called smartphone, I’m beginning to feel dumber and dumberer. I used to read a whole lot more—not just those vacuous fashion/entertainment magazines that seem to secretly breed like rabbits in my dentist’s waiting room. I used to read actual books… regularly for Pete’s sake! My hope for the new year is not New Year/ New Me. Nope. My plan rather is New Year/ Old Me. I plan to put the devices down and pick up books, just like I did in the olden days of yore. Yee-haw! I’mana get me edu-ma-cated in 2019! (And in case my first born spelling/grammar drill sergeant should read this, the mistakes are intentional!)

As we all know, transitions take time. So, before diving too deeply into those heavily word-laden dusty old books, how about some other suggestions to whet your intellectual appetite? After all, the libraries of Rome were not built in a day. They had libraries, right? Oh boy. Note to self: sprinkle some Roman history into the reading list. Before I get to my recommended reading Boasts for you, I’ll share some leads that may act as a springboard towards more book-learnin’.

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Feasting, Fasting & Perfection

What’s your take on fasting? If you’re a well-adjusted God-fearing, healthy individual, it’s always a good thing, right? Recently, God the Father surprised me by His answer.

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Why am I even thinking about fasting now?! According to the liturgical calendar, we are squarely in a season of feasting. Woohoo! Lemme at the goodies! Yesterday we marked the joyful feast of the Epiphany. Our family joined another family at a doughnut shop after Mass. And what says feasting better than greasy fried cakes covered with icing and sprinkles? Nothing in my book. While I did manage to refrain from partaking in the sugary treats this time, the truth is, ever since Christmas Eve I have taken to the feasting principle like a portly duck to buoyant waters. Who doesn’t enjoy all the great foods that accompany our jubilant holy days during the Christmas season? I single-handedly made enough pizzelles to supply the Italian World Cup soccer team for a good year. Santo Cielo!

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Crying as We Rejoice: The Bereaved at Christmas

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I secretly cried after Mass yesterday. My kids told me that one of the new altar boys that they served with had his grandparents in town for Christmas. The enthusiastic Nanna and Papa were so gleefully proud, they couldn’t refrain from snapping photos to memorialize their beloved grandson’s biggest moments. Clearly, their hearts swelled with pride for their daughter’s treasured offspring.

On the drive home, I told my boys that if Grandma Maureen and Grandpa Jerry were living, they would have taken loads of pictures too. How proud they would be. How proud they are. “Maybe they’re taking photos from heaven…” I mused. Then the quiet tears.

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Into the Deep of Advent

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We are in the home stretch of Advent. Christmas is so close we can all nearly taste it. But resist!

I took part in a cookie swap earlier this week and all those mouth-watering varieties are calling my name. Ok, I’ve sampled a few. But I’m done. I’m holding out for the big event. They will taste all the sweeter on Christmas Eve. The waiting makes the celebration that much more dramatic, reverent and thrilling. It’s almost party time, folks—one of the biggest feast days of our Church. If you’ve ever wondered why we collectively bow our heads during the recitation of the Nicene Creed, it’s because we are recognizing our belief in the most fundamental mystery of Christianity: That in Jesus Christ, God actually became man, born of a woman by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Incarnation, the most sacred moment in all of human history. That is why we require some serious prep time.

There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes, as I am doing in this article. It is the very essence of a festival that it breaks upon one brilliantly and abruptly, that at one moment the great day is not and the next moment the great day is. -GK Chesterton

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A Mother For All

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When I was a wee lass, my grandma came to stay with our family for what seemed to me to be an extended period of time. It may have been in reality only a week or two, but to my fuzzy childhood memory, it was longer than usual. And yet, it felt excruciatingly too short.

When she stayed with us, it meant there was a smiling, warm face to greet me after an arduous half-day of kindergarten. My loving parents were hard-working Catholic school teachers trying to carve out a meager living, so they dealt with childcare by entrusting us kids with the heavy responsibility. My brothers were tasked with unlocking the door and not burning down the house until my parents returned a couple hours later. But as the youngest, they wisely thought it best I should spend my after-school time with adult supervision. It was arranged for me to stay with a neighbor mom who had a daughter my age. While we lived only two doors down from each other and attended the same school, our families were very different. My “little” playmate was at least twice my size and a physical and emotional brute. Today she’d probably be characterized by that popular buzzword, “bully,” but I didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate it back then. To add insult to injury, this mean girl’s mom was pretty mentally checked out and had a knack for turning a blind eye to her daughter’s mean-spirited mischief. She even mocked me when I complained. So I learned to quietly suffer through those seemingly interminable four hours, day after day.

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Advent Life Hacks to Help Your Family Grow in Holiness

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It turns out, for most of my life I’ve had Advent all wrong. Caught up in the whirring consumer machine, I often couldn’t wait to kick start the celebration of Christmas. I’d barely make it to the end of the Thanksgiving meal and I was breaking out the decorations, singing the songs and scrounging at the stores. December 1st signaled the beginning of that most magical time of the year known as Christmas, right? Actually…

(Insert record scratch here.)

Advent is not party time. It’s prep time. What helped me to better understand and explain to my kids was this analogy: Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas. You wouldn’t plan to party it up during Holy Week. (Those of you thinking, why not?… allow me to direct you to some great agnostic sites.) The minute Lent begins, we don’t start celebrating Christ’s glorious resurrection. We work on our spiritual lives. We train in order to get our souls in shape. Then on Easter, it’s the big reveal, the greatly anticipated end to all that work. He is risen! OFFICIAL party time. Now pass the doughnuts!

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