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Danielle Bean

Danielle Bean
Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Though she once struggled to separate her life and her work, the two …
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Rachel Balducci

Rachel Balducci
Rachel Balducci is married to Paul and they are the parents of five lively boys and one precious baby girl. She is the author of How Do You Tuck In A Superhero?, and is a newspaper columnist for the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia. For the past four years, she has …
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Lisa Hendey

Lisa Hendey
Lisa Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa is also enjoys speaking around the country, is employed as webmaster for her parish web sites and spends time on various …
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Arwen Mosher

Arwen Mosher
Arwen Mosher lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband Bryan and their 4-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, and twin boys born May 2011. She has a bachelor's degree in theology. She dreads laundry, craves sleep, loves to read novels and do logic puzzles, and can't live without tea. Her personal blog site …
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Rebecca Teti

Rebecca Teti
Rebecca Teti is married to Dennis and has four children (3 boys, 1 girl) who -- like yours no doubt -- are pious and kind, gorgeous, and can spin flax into gold. A Washington, DC, native, she converted to Catholicism while an undergrad at the U. Dallas, where she double-majored in …
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Robyn Lee

Robyn Lee
Robyn Lee is a 30-something, single lady, living in Connecticut in a small bungalow-style kit house built by her great uncle in the 1950s. She also conveniently lives next door to her sister, brother-in-law and six kids ... and two doors down are her parents. She received her undergraduate degree from …
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DariaSockey

DariaSockey
Daria Sockey is a freelance writer and veteran of the large family/homeschooling scene. She recently returned home from a three-year experiment in full time outside employment. (Hallelujah!) Daria authored several of the original Faith&Life; Catechetical Series student texts (Ignatius Press), and is currently a Senior Writer for Faith&Family; magazine. A latecomer …
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Kate Lloyd

Kate Lloyd
Kate Lloyd is a rising senior, and a political science major at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire. While not in school, she lives in Whitehall PA, with her mom, dad, five sisters and little brother. She needs someone to write a piece about how it's possible to …
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Lynn Wehner

Lynn Wehner
As a wife and mother, writer and speaker, Lynn Wehner challenges others to see the blessings that flow when we struggle to say "Yes" to God’s call. Control freak extraordinaire, she is adept at informing God of her brilliant plans and then wondering why the heck they never turn out that …
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Sippy Cups for Christ

A Mother's Works of Mercy
Shutterstock

The week of my 18th birthday, I squashed everything I owned into two suitcases and left our Connecticut home—and two breathlessly anxious parents—to volunteer at a Catholic shelter for homeless and battered women in Houston. Intoxicated with that adolescent cocktail of idealism and invincibility, I lived and worked at the shelter five years.

They were glorious and heartbreaking. We volunteers had a mantra we’d repeat to one another when the going got rough: “Matthew 25!  Remember Matthew 25.”

Matthew 25 refers to that passage in the Gospel where Jesus describes the Last Judgment, how He will separate out “like sheep from goats” those who have faithfully served Him. “Come, blessed of my Father,” He tells the saved, “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and imprisoned and you visited me.”  He then turns and condemns the others for failing to do those same things.

There’s an exhilarating relevance to Matthew 25 when you’re a perky, inner-city volunteer helping needy families find food, clothing, medical care and restraining orders.  But nine years later, now a stay-at-home mother, I found the same passage put me on edge. Those words which had once guided and encouraged me now provoked only a restless sense of guilt: they resembled my daily activities not one jot.

Safe in our comfortable home, flanked by my rosy-cheeked, privileged children, I sometimes felt like a sellout. What had happened to my ideals? What if I were still meant to be serving the poor downtown, not feathering my own little nest in suburbia? Compared to the raw adventure, the bracing faith-in-action of my youth, family life and its workaday routine appeared petty and confining. Diapers and naps and playgroups and teddies—Matthew 25 doesn’t work in this context, I thought. If that’s how God is going to judge the world, moms like me are in a boatload of trouble.

I hadn’t been reading very carefully.

What’s striking in Matthew 25 is the sheer incredulity of the just and the damned alike at Christ’s judgment: both groups are stunned to discover their love for God has been measured very simply: by how they treated those around them while on earth. No one seems able to grasp that all the little things they did to and for others were actually done to Christ Himself. “But when did we see you, Lord?” both groups protest, and their mutual astonishment is by turns wonderful and terrifying.

One morning at Mass last year, I experienced that incredulity myself. The Gospel reading was Matthew 25, and as the familiar passage rang out, I had a revelation so abrupt, complete and unbidden it felt like a vision.

“I was hungry, and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink,” read the lector, and I saw, not my usual image of a soup kitchen, but the breakfast I had cooked that morning for our hungry clan, my toddler’s waving sippy cup,  the baby sweetly nursing.

“I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,” the reading continued, and instead of the homeless shelter, I recalled my pregnancies, when I’d struggled to embrace the arrival of a new and unknown little person.

“I was naked, and you clothed me” (God seemed to be whispering right in my ear now) and I saw my children piling wet and giggling out of the bath, snatching up clean pajamas from a stack of freshly folded laundry. 

“I was sick and imprisoned”—my son, grumpy and bedridden with the flu—“and you came to me”—all those trips upstairs with soup and stories and juice ...

I was about to roll my eyes (sippy cups and pj’s for Christ? Really?) but I found they had filled instead.

“As surely as you did it to the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.”

That’s how the reading ends, and as I heard the words, I grasped for just one ravishing moment the sheer scandal of the Incarnation, so wondrous and devastating in its particularity. The mystery we have just celebrated at Christmas means not one thing we do on earth will ever have the same meaning again. God walks among us, and whether the hand stretched out in need belongs to a starving beggar or a member of our own dear family, we make our response to Emmanuel Himself.

As Dorothy Day once wrote, “it is no good to say we were born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ.” He is here, now, and as in Matthew 25, He seeks to purify our human notions, even our most cherished ideals, about what it means to love God.  Every moment, every action, can be given to Him, for all are freighted with stupendous significance: a chance to serve Him in the flesh.

For moms like me, that’s the Good News indeed.

—Marion Fernandez-Cueto writes from Houston, TX.  She was baptized into the Catholic Church in 2000.


Comments

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This is powerfully beautiful.  Thank you so much for sharing.  I once heard the story of a mother who, when abruptly pulled away from one of her tasks by her children’s voices, would answer to them, “I’m coming, Jesus!” 

Your reflection puts sippy cups and diapering naked bottoms into perspective.  I really loved this.  Thank you.

 

Thank you so much for sharing this. I have tears in my eyes.  What a wonderful blessing and encouragement from Jesus.

He showed me once that when we suffer in pregnancy and birth, He considers it as suffering for HIM.  Because you are suffering as a result of obeying Him.  Isn’t that amazing?  He is so kind and wonderful to us.  I am past those years now but it blessed my socks off when He told me that.  All of my pregnancies were difficult and the births were not easy.

God bless you and thank you again.

 

Thank you for his beautiful post. Maybe someday the Church will see it his way, too abd finally canonize a lowly mommy.

 

Oh, please please read about the lives of blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin (St.Therese’s mother who is not canonized yet), as well, St. Bridget of Sweden and at least please read about St. Gianna (amazing story about an amazing mommy).  John Paul II especially recognized us mommies as saints!

 

Oh and many more too!!!  But Zelie Martin definately has a special place in my heart and our daughter is named after her.  And as a confirmation name I chose St. Anna Marie Taigi - wife and mother.  She is a great saint for mothers to look to, especially if you have a ‘difficult’ husband. 

And there are many splendid documents written by JPII on the wonders of wives and mothers.  The church has not forgotten us or does not see us as ‘lowly’.  Actually, if you ever need a boost on the importance of your vocation as wife and mother, the Catholic church has much to offer to support and validify just how important and special you are!!  wink  peace!!

 

Thank you for the encouragement. Zelie Martin is wonderful, of course, but she didn’t mother her children for the first year to three of their lives because she was running her business. If we dumped our kids in 24/7 daycare to be entrepreneurs, would our pastors, friends and families think that was the right thing to do? Ditto St. Gianna—she was a full-time physician, and someone else raised her children while she was doing other admirable work.

I don’t know much about St. Bridget, but I hazard to guess she never would have been canonized if she hadn’t also founded a religious order.

St. Anna Marie Taegi is an unfamiliar name, so I look forward to learning more about her. Perhaps she is the St. Mommy I’ve been looking for.

I guess the kind of St. Mommy I’d love to learn about is a woman who did for motherhood what St. Therese did for religious life. St. Therese didn’t do anything extraordinary. It was precisely her littleness and ordinariness that was so inspiring to everyone else. Is there a comparable married saint, canonized not for founding an order or being martyred but simply for loving her husband and children, caring for her home and otherwise fulfilling her vocation in its ordinariness?

JPII did more for marriage and the dignity of woman than the rest of the popes combined, and I’m a huge fan of his writings. Yet it’s difficult to see how his theories work in reality without the example of a saint to emulate.

We’ll all keep plugging away, faithful to our vocations, but I think we should also pray for God to reveal the life of some wonderful, loving mother who grew in holiness in her domestic church so that the Universal Church can honor her and beg her intercession.

(The security word is “waiting”—how often these are apropos!)

 

Anne, I’m not sure you have the whole picture of St. Zelie Martin?  Have you read Story of a family?  She had to send St. Therese away because she could not nurse her, and eventually she died of what was probably breast cancer.  All of her baby boys died.  She lost I think two other baby girls?  She was absolutely a mother first who suffered quietly in her home.  She may have been a fabulous lace maker but she was a mother first who raised her girls to know love and serve God.  She definately wasn’t canonized because of her lace making but be cause she lived a life of sacrifice and service as a mother and wife.  Gianna also is not noted for being a physican but because she was also a moither who was heroic in her service to her family and to the will of God.  I challenge you to look deeper.  These women may have had to work or part of their vocation but their work is not what defined them but how they loved and cared for their families.  You and I can still learn much from their holiness.  Zelie Martin really is what you are talking about - she didn’t start an order, she wasn’t a martyr, she never wrote a book or was a leader of any sort.  Her holiness was found in the day to day living as a mother and wife and her surrender to God’s will.  Forgive me if I seem a bit defensive about her but I wouldn’t want anyone to dismiss her as not being a ‘mom and wife saint’.  In some ways she is ‘family’ to me.  wink  So I am a bit passionate in defending her I guess!!

 

You may enjoy reading about spouses, Blessed Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi (1880-1951) & his wife Blessed Maria Corsini (1884-1965).

This, from Pope John Paul II of blessed memory:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/homilies/2001/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_20011021_beltrame-quattrocchi_en.html

 

There’s   Bl. Castora Gabrielli who was noted for the sanctity she brought to her every day work.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a fine wife and mother as well as everything else.

There are also Saints Nonna,  Monica,  and Macrina the Elder who are best known for being   mothers (or grandmothers) of Saints, as good a recommendation for a St. Mommy as you can get.

(Sts Nonna, Monica and Macrina help me to raise my children in the way they should go.)

 

Wow! I had no idea. The only book I’d read on Zelie Martin was a little pamphlet about 60 years old that went on and on about how she was a great business woman. And I’ve never heard of so many of he others you all have mentioned. THANK YOU!!!!!

 

Anne, but there was one mother who is cannonized simply because she was a mother. Because she gave birth, feed her family, was a good wife, and loved God.

Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth

She didn’t get that title for finding any religiouse order, she simply loved her God above all else and then her family.

 

“I grasped for just one ravishing moment the sheer scandal of the Incarnation, so wondrous and devastating in its particularity.”
Beautiful!
Our vocation as mothers is also “wondrous and devastating.”  Only when we hide in His Heart can we truly understand how our sufferings, our littleness, can reflect His glory and give us true peace!

 

This is an inspired post, thank you so much! I have struggled with the same feelings and appreciate your wise insights.
We’re also living in Houston - is your parish St. John Vianney by any chance?

 

Hi, Katrina. Thank you, (and everyone else) for your kind words.  Danielle Bean has my contact info - we’re near St. John Vianney, and would love to get together.  Marion

 

“Sippy Cups For Christ” is a beautiful post—below is a very similar post I read this morning by an Orthodox Christian homeschooling mother:
As a mother of many children, attending the divine services is a matter of constant movement. My arms are rarely empty and, as far as I can recollect, I have never ended a service standing in the same spot in which I began. Long ago I let go of the naive notion that the distraction of caring for young children amounted to missing the spiritual benefit of attending the services. Quite the contrary. The situation of having my will repeatedly cut off has proven far more profitable than the peace and quiet that I desire.

Women shall be saved in childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15).

Yes, she will be given the opportunity to learn to live for another person besides herself.

Mothers must learn to be creative in prayer. It’s a matter of taking utter chaos and, by God’s grace, using it to affect the ordering one’s heart. This is the creativity of motherhood. Nursing a sick child in the middle of the night becomes an opportunity to keep vigil. The repeated interruption of a meal in order to serve a hungry child becomes an opportunity to fast. An overflowing basket of laundry becomes a reminder to pray for each member of the family as each piece of clothing is folded and put away. Little ways to capture grace in the smallest of moments.

I spent the first decade of motherhood waiting for a moment of quiet. As soon as the children are older, I can pray. As soon as the house is clean and organized, I can be at peace. As soon as we get through this trying time, then I can be the kind of wife and mother that I truly want to be.

Always missing the opportunity to engage the present moment and instead, living for an imaginary one.

The older I get, the more the present moment becomes a treasure hunt. Where is it? Where is the grace of this moment? God is here. Where is He in this moment? While I used to hunt for quiet, I now spend my time as a mother learning to listen amid the noise and have made it a practice to creatively search for any opportunity to catch a brief spiritual word of encouragement.

It’s amazing how much better you can hear the quiet of God’s voice when the noise of one’s complaining ceases.

For instance, if I had to guess, I would say that on average I typically hear about five minutes of a 20 minute homily on any given Sunday. Yet God is infinitely creative and somehow that brief word proves to be the one that I most needed.

When my children are disobedient do I first stop and pray for them? Does my pain of heart lie in that they are doing something that might cause them to loose the grace of God? Or does my irritation rest in that they have not done my will?

I wonder how a family would be blessed if a mother were to keep a watch over her heart, constantly asking these three questions of herself.

I think I’ll test it and see. With God as my helper.

And the treasure hunt continues.

 

Wow - Patricia, I’m printing your comment out and taping it to my kitchen cabinet - what wonderful insight into motherhood.  I especially love the suggestions for being creative in prayer.  Your comment post is a God-send!

 

Patricia, that’s really beautiful but I wish you’d linked to the blog where you found it instead of cutting and pasting it. I’d love to know who wrote it and to be able to tell her how much I appreciate her words.

If you had taken these words from my blog, I’d be rather upset that you had taken my thoughts and not given me credit. I know you just wanted to share something that inspired you; but you haven’t considered the feelings of the woman who wrote them.

 

Not being a blogger, it did not dawn on me to give credit.  I was simply sharing something I had read that moved me.  Thanks for your input.  Here is the blog:

http://evlogia.typepad.com/evlogia/

 

Thank you for this beautiful post.

 

Thank you for the encouragement! Wonderful post!

 

I thought this was a great post and linked to it on my weekly roundup - though I’m pleased to come back here and read the comments.  I’m looking forward to reading them a bit more thoroughly after I put the little one to bed.  Thanks!

 

Very wonderful piece!  A very thoughtful breakdown of Matthew 25 and how it upholds our daily acts as mothers. @ Katrina, my thoughts, exactly.  Mary is an inspiration for all of us mothers and She has carried me many times.  @ Ann in NYC, it is ironic how, in responding to an article exploring mother-guilt, you proceed to proclaim that Zelie Martin did not “mother her children” in their earlier years because of her career!  This sort of blanket mother-judgment is what does NOT help mothers.  I found Annie Block’s (though not cannonized) exploration of the spiritual shift we all experience, to be inspiring and unifying—PJPII’s insights are always beautiful, but sometimes, at the end of the day, I yearn for a fellow woman’s perspective.  http://www.annieblockpearl.com/doc/Motherhood.do

 

link error, re-posting the link:  http://www.annieblockpearl.com/doc/Motherhood.doc


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