Holy Homerun

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Recently, a friend candidly shared with me her worries about the amount of faith her son was getting in our Catholic school. It concerned her that every single subject was neatly tied to Catholicism. She expressed frustration that it all funnels back to the faith.

“Religion in Phys. Ed.?! I mean, are they just peddling the Catholic kool-aid?”

This was my chance. Very rarely in life do you get lobbed the absolute perfect pitch, just standing at the ready, anticipating the moment you are about to connect with the sweet spot. While I didn’t share this mom’s concern AT ALL,  I understood it completely. More than understood it, I had lived it. Growing up, I picked up on the mistaken and misguided message that our Catholic faith was something that we trotted out for religion class and at Sunday mass, but once you entered the parking lot, AKA real life, all bets were off. You hopefully lived life as a decent human being—read: good enough, but not aiming all too high, making sure not to murder or maim, intentionally anyway. Under this pervasive philosophy of Catholic-lite Christianity, the faith never truly informs the ins and outs of day-to-day-life. People whose lives were always guided by faith, we called priests, nuns or just plain cuh-razy.

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Put On Your Big Girl Pants!

brooke-lark-194253-unsplashPhoto by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

“Mom? Does this match?”

“You can NOT do white socks with black dress shoes.”

“Harumph.”

“Mommmmy! I can’t find my hairbrush!”

“Can we PLEEEZ get doughnuts after church?! Pleeeeeeeease? It’s been weeks!”

“We had them last Sunday.”

“Yeah, but they obviously weren’t that good… because I don’t even remember them. Pleeease?!”

“It’s 8:17! We need to be in the car 5 minutes ago…”

“Did you brush your teeth?! Get in there and brush your teeth!”

“Why are you crying?!”

“He kicked my purse. It’s ruined!”

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

“GET IN THE CAR!

In the mad scramble before leaving for 8:45 mass, I grabbed a pair of black dress pants to put on. When I went into the closet I had thought, “It’s Mother’s Day. I should wear something festive. Perhaps a dress…” Instead, I grabbed a nice, but a very plain pair of old black pants. You might say they picked me since they’re certainly not what I had in mind as “festive,” but I didn’t have time to dawdle so I just went with it. Before kids, I used to spend gobs of time painstakingly considering each color coordinated, name brand garment before I went anywhere. Now I grab and dash! 5 minutes and I’m ready to meet the Queen. Take that Meghan Markle! Can I get an AMEN from all you lovely moms out there?

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Fantasy Mom

Today is the 25th anniversary of my mother’s sudden death, a singular event that undoubtedly forever changed me. While the sting has lessened over time, I still struggle with the profound loss almost on a daily basis. It informs my thoughts and dreams, which may explain why I wrote this essay.

gabriel-sanchez-265726-unsplash (1)(Photo by Gabriel Sanchez on Unsplash)

Don’t tell anyone, but for quite a long time I’ve had a Fantasy Mom. Just as four-year-olds will gleefully gush about their imaginary friends, I’d like to brag about my Fantasy Mom. She’s the most loyal, loving, funny, kind and of course, wise mother who ever did NOT exist. Fantasy Mom is an intricate combination of my real mom, and every warm,  maternal character I’ve admired over the years.

Fantasy Mom firstly derives from the foremost matriarch, the very real Blessed Mother who quietly, yet staunchly remained at her son’s side during His greatest suffering. Despite doubtless unimaginable dread and fear, she never wavered. I’m confident she journeys alongside me too, especially as I navigate life’s more dodgy roller coasters. Her presence offers such peace and calm. She’s certainly my gold standard for all mothers. So how do you improve on sinless perfection? I mentioned this was a fantasy, right? 

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Boasts & Pot Roasts

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Remember when you were an insecure teenager/ young adult and a new song came out that no one else had heard of? You made sure everyone was keenly aware that you were in-the-know about that super cool, very underground tune, while everyone else was tragically and pathetically in-the-dark. Your cool factor would go up a few points that day as you revealed this well-kept secret that was on the verge of going mainstream but definitely hadn’t yet. All of you shaking your head and thinking, “Nope, not me,” you must have been in that elite group that was simply too cool to care. Wipe that smug smile off your face! The rest of us sorry souls, who were squarely in the not-so-popular plebeian crowd, we cared A LOT. Despite my braces and acne, I wanted to share with the world the things that I thought were going to GO BIG. And I most certainly wanted credit for those prescient recommendations.

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Stalked By A Saint

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I noticed her eyes immediately. They seemed to be following me. I was in a meeting, explaining something when mid-sentence—Zap! Poof… everything I was saying magically evaporated.

Awkward silence. “I’m sorry. I just had a senior moment,” I heard myself saying to excuse my inexplicable, abrupt absent-mindedness. She responded with mild laughter, but I just swallowed and tried to reorient myself.

The Parish staffer with whom I was meeting had a smattering of photos on her wall, some I recognized as famous 20th-century saints, others not at all. But there was one black and white headshot of a young woman that seemed to be imploring me to look back. As I gained my composure, I found myself continually drawn to those familiar, heavily-lidded eyes. Each time we experienced a lull in the conversation, my gaze landed on that photo. While I had undoubtedly never seen the young woman before this moment, I was strangely convinced I knew her.

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Weeping on Easter

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Photo by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Without fail, the tears start welling up at almost the exact same time. It’s always Easter Mass. I could set my watch to it, but I’d never dare because the annoying alarm would draw even more attention at a time I’d prefer to simply disappear. Like it or not, there’s no stemming the tide of my mounting emotions. I bow my head and clench my eyes shut hoping no one around me notices. Usually, I get by without drawing too much attention to my red nose and watery eyes. But occasionally my reaction is so intense, a series of muffled involuntary sniffles gives me away. The kids or my husband will look at me with startled questioning eyes. My children especially probe my face with their intense, troubled looks. To lessen their worry, I flash a huge toothy smile and roll my eyes to let them know I’m fine—not only fine, I’m overcome with sheer joy. These are tears of complete happiness.

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Punch Him. Kick Him. Crucify Him!

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Every year with the arrival of Holy Week, I endeavor to place myself in the unfolding drama of our Lord’s incomprehensible and arduous path to Calvary. It is an extremely fruitful and therefore established devotion of prayer in preparation for the Holiest day of the year. And no doubt, the Church in Her wisdom understands our need to unite in Christ’s suffering especially at this solemn time leading up to Jesus’ resurrection. So, during Lent we pray the stations of the cross, we meditate on the most sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, and during the Holy Mass on Palm Sunday, we even play a role in the gospel’s Passion, interjecting vitriolic phrases like, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him!” Were more cringe-worthy words ever uttered? As a child, I remember only whispering those lines because they were just too ugly to say with gusto. As much as I hate reciting them to this day, I now understand the importance of trying to be present with Christ and feel the onus of my own sinfulness. Like it or not, we actually play a part of that fateful scene 2000 years ago. Continue reading “Punch Him. Kick Him. Crucify Him!”