Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Let's Get More Ashes!

Since our little girls have been sick, the past two weekends I have gone to Mass without them.  I have come to the discovery that when they are not there, I actually am able to focus and pay attention, but I missed them so much, that in itself was almost a distraction.

Being distracted during Mass is something that I constantly struggle with these days.  I suppose with two little children, this isn't all that surprising.  I used to worry more about the older daughter being a distraction to others, but she has been much better and she always sits with her memere, so I'm off the hook on that score.  (Ok, so maybe she isn't better and I just don't realize it since someone else is always watching her in church.  My mom will have to weigh in on that one. She does periodically come to my end of the pew and peer at her sister or lean up against me, but it isn't very often!)  Our six month old usually needs me to walk her around in the back of the church to keep her somewhat quiet.  I try to avoid the "cry room" as much as possible, mostly because it is very crowded during 10:30 Mass, but in part because the kids in there are doing whatever they want with very little supervision.  Maybe those parents are able to focus more on the Mass than I am and that is their main concern rather than whether or not their children are paying attention. 

For some reason, this has me thinking about the sacrament of Baptism along with weekly attendance at Mass.  Now, I know that there are some people who will bring their infants to Church for their baptism and then not be back until their first communion.  Quite frankly, I don't get the point.  Baptism is not just claiming the child for Christ or a merely to ensure that if, God forbid, something happens the child will go straight to heaven.  By having your child baptised you are initiating them into the Catholic Church, standing before God saying that you believe the Catholic faith and will be passing that faith on to your children.  If you are not going to Church regularly, do you really understand your faith?  And if you are not going to Church, why is it important to you to have them baptised into the faith?  I just don't get it.

I have friends who have said that a child doesn't get anything out of going to Mass, but I have to differ.  My two year old daughter seems to enjoy Mass every week, even if there are times where she seems to try to do everything possible to get out of the pew!  She pays attention when the procession goes up to the altar, she dances around to the songs, puts the envelope in the basket.  Just this Lent, my two year old on Ash Wednesday left Church telling me, "That was a good one, let's get more ashes! That was a very, very good one at church!  I talked to Gary!"  It occurred to me that she is getting something out of Mass, yes, even at the age of two.

our six month old on Ash Wed.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not Often Enough

Since my two daughters have been sick, one with bronchitis and one with bronchiolitis, we've been watching, Fox and the Hound far too much.  But in doing so, I've realized where my two year old daughter picked up the phrase "Friends forever!"  A few weeks back she would come up to me, say "friends forever" and give me a big hug.  I wondered where she picked it up, but I guess now I KNOW we watch FAR too much TV.  Not that I needed any reminder really.

I have to say that I love it when I come home from my part time job outside of the home and my two year old comes into the kitchen saying, "MAMA!  It's you!  I Love you soooo much!"  For some reason it struck me, just the other day, that is the kind of childlike love and affection we should have for God. 

Oddly enough, my relationship with God and my prayer life improved shortly after I met my husband, became even better after we were married and then improved even more after having children.  If you asked me about prayer before I was married, I would probably say that it was an occasional occurrence.  Don't get me wrong, there are days that it still is like that and I struggle to remember from time to time.  But how can I forget to tell God how much I love him?  He has blessed me in so many ways, it seems as though remembering to pray should not be so difficult.  I definitely make an effort to learn more about my Catholic faith and the "whys" behind the Church's teachings, but for some reason personal prayer is something I struggle with, even if it has vastly improved in recent years.

For me, I have my list of family members and friends where I pray for their special intentions and I read from scripture at night for the next day followed by "The Word Among Us" reflection for the day.  I do mealtime and bedtime prayers with my two year old.  I love hearing her say "Father, Son, Holy Spirit, AMEN!  Bless Lord These Gifts Bout Receive Bounty Christ Lord AMEN!  Father Son, Holy Spirit AMEN!"  She used to actually do the sign of the cross, but now it's just touching her head followed by the prayer.  She also will go through "Now I lay me down to sleep" with my prompting certain words and she finishes the rest of the phrase. 

Somehow, I know that this is not enough.  I should be waking up thinking of Him, making morning prayer a priority but I tend to rush right into my day, or hit the snooze button one too many times.  Maybe if I can at least get in a morning, "God I love you!  Thank you for all the blessings you have given me!"  Sometimes while I am nursing my six month old during her first feeding of the day, I do stop to pray to God, but I can become easily distracted.  And occasionally throughout the day, I do find myself thinking about God and saying a quick little "Hey!"  These small moments where I occasionally "remember" to include God in my day just doesn't seem like enough.  Prayer should be simple really, it's all about spending time.  Think about it. How did you get to know your family members, your best friend, your spouse?  Spending time, right?  So, why is spending time with God something that doesn't come all that easy?  Maybe it's because we can't actually see Him.  Maybe all the priorities in our life are getting in our way.  God deserves way better than that!  I know I can and should do more.

It seems as though I tend to put too much thought into structured type prayer but not enought thought OF taking time for prayer.  My attitude towards God should be the same as my young children feel for me.  "I love you, God, SOOOO much!"  How often do I say this to Him?  How often do I even FEEL this childlike love and affection for God or think of it in this way?  Not often enough.  Definitely something I need to work on.  I want to feel that "friends forever" feeling with God.  Sadly, I'm not sure I'm there yet. There is still more to do.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mourning Memere

So, I haven't written this past week, mostly because of the passing of my memere.  She was to move into a new apartment on Friday, March 4th, which she did.   Unfortunately, she was only there for about 6 hours.  My Aunt Elaine, memere's daughter, spent the night with her that first night to ease the transition.  Luckily, she was there and noticed something was not right.

I find it so strange how God has a hand in things.  If memere had moved on Thursday, or Saturday for that matter, we would not have had the chance to have the great week that we had with her until she passed away on March 12th at the age of 85.  I'm very sad to say that I didn't visit her as often as I would like.  Maybe had I spent more time with her it wouldn't seem to be so great that we had that last week because I would now be missing my regular visits with her.  But life gets in our way sometimes and we don't always make time out of our busy schedules for visiting with the people who mean so much to us.  No excuses for that and it really upsets me that I only visited her at her house two times in the past year and a half.  I did see her at family gatherings and parties, but that's not the same thing.  You never get to have a good conversation with someone at your 1 year old's birthday party!

At any rate, when I say we had a great week with her, that probably sounds selfish.  In recent years, she had become very confused, repeating herself often, and losing track of conversations pretty easily.  She would repeat a line of conversation that she had started just a few minutes earlier.  Any time we got into this circular conversation during a visit, I would smile and nod, acting as though I had never heard the story.  That last week we had with her, she seemed so "with it."  She wasn't repeating herself, rather, she was cracking jokes and making funny comments at almost every turn.  My Uncle Don walked into her room, she looked at him and said, "you look good, you have a nice shape" which sent us all into a fit of laughter.  She was remembering our names, birthdays and bits and pieces of the details of our lives that we didn't know she remembered.  It was like the memere I had known from YEARS ago was back.

I think that's what made it all seem so impossible that she wasn't doing well.  We saw such a spark in her, such a desire to live a long life.  But if you looked at her monitor during the visit, you could tell things weren't right.  She'd go from a normal heart rate in the low 100s and shoot up to 177.  They used medication to bring her heart rate down to have her blood pressure drop, then have to use medication to bring her blood pressure back up, starting the cycle over again.  I saw the monitor register AFIB a few times, which I knew wasn't good.  I do know that she was pleased with her care, as well as her doctors and nurses.  I did know that she was granted the sacrament the Anointing of the Sick and I am glad that she was able to see a priest before she passed.

I joke with my husband how our parish priest has made wakes and funerals a bit more difficult than they used to be.  However, I think that the point this priest has made is an important one.  He often says that he has a hard time during the eulogy when a loved one says that they know the person who passed is in heaven smiling down on them.  Unfortunately, we do not know that and cannot judge as God would judge a person's life.  Our parish priest points out that if we say this, we may pray asking the person who has passed to intercede to God on our behalf and maybe talk TO them, but not pray FOR them.  We need to remember to pray for those who have gone to eternal rest, not just talk to them.  We can only guess where they are on their journey in the afterlife, but we can be sure to pray for their souls, that God will take them into His kingdom.

The song that always gets me choked up continues to ring in my ears, "May the choir of angels come to greet you, may they bring you to paradise.  May the Lord enfold you in His mercy, may He bring you eternal life."  I am still mourning my memere and will talk to her from time to time, but I will be sure to continue to pray FOR my memere.  Love you so much and I will miss you!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Catholic Revert

This account was created well over a year ago with the best of intentions, but I guess I created it without a real thought for what I would be writing about. I have determined that there is no time like the present, especially now that it is lent, and regardless of not being sure what topics will be the focus of this blog, I am going to get started. Mostly this blog will be about my faith, religion, and relationship with God, usually as it pertains to our small family. Sometimes it will just be funny stories, possible emotional ramblings or a topic that has gotten stuck in my head that I think needs to be flushed out.

Having been a revert to the Catholic faith just over 6 years ago, my beliefs and relationship with God have become much stronger than my early years when it was a "blind" faith. A revert, for those of you who don't recognize the term, is someone who has been away from their religious practice for a while and has decided to return to take a closer look at what they left behind. I truly believe, that if you leave your heart and mind open, God does some amazing things.

I came back to my hometown parish after being away for about 11 years or so. I had no major issues with the Catholic Church - I just happened to go to college and it was easy not to go to Mass. Oddly enough, I went to a Catholic College, but it was one that, at best, I now consider "Barely Catholic." Sure, there were opportunities to go to Mass every weekend - even on Sunday nights. The usual excuses were made... "but I had to eat supper, I hadn't finished the assignment for class," etc., etc. Then as a college student, I got into things that college kids do and, well, let's just say I felt like a hypocrite. A few times after graduating college I would try to return to Church. I went to Reconciliation a few times, hoping it would give me renewed strength. Unfortunately, my returning to Mass would never last for very long. I would end up back in the same patterns, doing the same things, feeling like a hypocrite all over again.

The Coming Home to Catholicism Program was what did it. Finally, some people who were humble enough to share their stories about why they left and why they came back. I attended the seven week session six years ago this winter with the man who I am lucky to call my husband. What a blessing it has been!

Recently our pastor has recommended a book called Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly.  I have yet to see the book, but for anyone out there thinking about returning to your Catholic "roots", this may be a good place to start.  All I can say is that my openness to all the richness that the Church teaches has showered me with so many blessings. I am proud to say that I am now on the Coming Home team at my parish and tonight is week three of the program. The people who come through the doors are so courageous. This Lent I am praying that they will keep their hearts and minds open to all that the Church has to offer them and that they find a way to reconnect to their Lord and Savior, who has been waiting for them to come home.