See the woman in the front pew, she’s blessing you at communion

11122018_913203008702913_2064226375_nI am not your usual Catholic: I sit right in the front.  Sometime during Lent I was struck with a calling to pray for each person receiving communion.  I have been doing it since, for a little over a month or so.

The prayer is quite simple; it’s: God Bless You.

The urge to pray this came on a day when I wasn’t feeling all that charitable.  I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened, but it must have been something involving one of our twins, some stupid little fight that could have just as easily been avoided.  But there it was, me in a grumpy mood at Mass. So, Holy Spirit thinks: “Let’s get her to say a prayer of blessing for each person at communion.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!”  At first I thought no, it’s stupid.  But I am trying to stretch my spiritual comfort zone.  One of the reasons I wanted to go to daily Mass as part of my Lenten promises.  I thought, OK, why not.

That first time I was just going through the motions, and I am sure I did it with silent clenched teeth.  I am not so sure how much of a blessing I was actually giving others.

Now, it’s becoming easier to do, and I imagine that if I were to forget it would feel “odd”.  If you are ever at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Lansing, Michigan for 12:05 daily Mass, and you see a woman in the front pew, that’s me, and I will be praying for you.  Just please return the favour and pray for me.

 

Today Mom, your work is done.

You are my Son; this day I have begotten you. Responsorial Psalm PS 2:6-7, 8-9, 10-11AB

Yes, this is a commercial for Telefora, but the message of a young man, a father, a husband, acknowledging the sacrifice and devotion his mother made to being his mother and raising him, is a true testament to what it is like to be Baptised Priest, Prophet and Queen.

Lone Blue Polar Bear

IMG_20150430_091052_253Here is the orphan Christmas Exchange Ornament, which I have adopted by default.  This poor little guy was the ornament nobody wanted.  He was passed around as if he were made of kryptonite.  I made a huge show of being Vanna White and displaying him as if he were the grand prize, but NOBODY wanted him.  So, he had to come home with me.

This ornament that I found too whatever was a favourite of a very dear mommy friend.  I was embarrassed after I jokingly told her how ho-hum it was.  Her face was downcast when she told me she thought it was the cutest thing.  Oh Lord, save me from my mouth!

I took this guy home and thought about him for a while.  Why was he so unwelcome by me?  That had quite a bit of resonance with me.  I could hear my husband saying: “God loves them all.”  He says this to me whenever I grumble unfairly about someone.  And here was Blue Polar Bear laying on my dining room table.  Was he condemning me, or reminding me?

Now all these months later I look at Blue Polar Bear very differently. He reminds me that God loves us all.   He insists that I pray for those moms who need love and support.

Today, when I look at him, I see all the mom friends in my life.  I hear their spoken and unspoken stories: Good, triumphant, worrying, painful, and bring them to my private prayer space and talk to God about how much I wish for their healing and Divine support.

Blue Polar Bear may have reluctantly come into my home, but he does not live with the other Christmas ornaments in a box in the attic.  No, Blue is there every morning on my dresser, insisting I remember: God loves them all.

 

 

FYI Wednesday: Why won’t my kids go to Mass?

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It’s FYI Wednesday and I have asked fellow Catholic moms for questions that they might have on such topics as motherhood and spirituality, children’s spiritual development, finding time for yourself, or just to learn more about Spiritual Direction; here is the latest question asked by  Ali:

Q: What have I done wrong that my kids don’t like going to Mass?

A:  You haven’t said how old your children are, so I am just going to explore all ages of spiritual development.  Here is Fowler’s* stage of spiritual development:

Stage 0“Primal or Undifferentiated” faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistent nurture is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and languages which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.

  • Stage 1“Intuitive-Projective” faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche’s unprotected exposure to the Unconscious, and marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns.  Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with.
  • Stage 2“Mythic-Literal” faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic. During this time metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and are taken literally.
  • Stage 3“Synthetic-Conventional” faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to religious authority and the development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one’s beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.
  • Stage 4“Individuative-Reflective” faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one’s own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one’s belief.
  • Stage 5“Conjunctive” faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement.
  • Stage 6“Universalizing” faith, or what some might call “enlightenment.” The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.

*Professor James W. Fowler, a developmental psychologist at Emory University who defines faith as an activity of trusting, committing, and relating to the world based on a set of assumptions of how one is related to others and the world.

Note:  I will never advise anyone to do anything that isn’t always prayerfully considered.  We must balance our desire to have our children in church with any conversation they may be having with God.  The Holy Spirit is always working.

If you have small children, it is often very hard to keep them engaged while at something they do not yet understand and so are very frustrated by.  It is perfectly OK to have little books and quiet toys for the child to play with.  You can try redirecting their attention to important points of the Mass explaining that Jesus is here.  Here is a great article on helping very young children get the most out of Mass.  As for older children, after about the age of 13 – 20.  These young people are at a healthy stage of questioning everything they have learned.  This is healthy because they are using critical thinking skills that will help them later in life.  Our job at this stage is to be ever watchful about his peer group.  Who is he hanging around?  What is he doing with them?  Should I intervene?

Helping teens and young adults become more involved with Church may help them stay more involved with their faith.  It is also a good time to have serious discussions with your teen and young adult to see what her thoughts are about faith.  Now, here is were praying to the Holy Spirit will be critical.  Your son or daughter has free will and they may be having serious discussions with God about how they are going to express their faith.  If you have given them a good foundation they are likely to be making moral and right reasoned decisions about their faith life.  Experimentation is not a bad thing.  Saint Ignatius believed the only way to truly know God is to experience him, as scary as your young people experimenting may be it maybe just the right thing to bring him or her back to the church.

I am including J. D. Smalls’ Help Them Return Project.  From what I can find it is still being developed, but the project hopes to give tools and helps to parents of teen/young adult Catholics to bring them back to the Church.  There are some hoops to jump through to only find out you are on a list to know when it will be ready.  I mention it because I am not sure if Holy Spirit wants you to have it in your tool box or not, so, rather safe than sorry.

Ever been spiritually chicken?

Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. ACTS 12:24—13:5A

I have a mommy friend who is the wife of an orthodox priest.  It is the custom in their house that the mom lay hands in blessing and prayer on each of their children before they leave the house for school or work.  In the culture of Orthodox Catholicism, the home IS Church, and the mother IS Priest, Prophet and Queen.

My mommy friend’s morning routine with her children goes as such:  They will stand as a family, mom, dad, children and say morning devotions at their family Altar.  altarathomeThe father then blesses the children, and his wife before he leaves for the day.  Mom then gathers the children, and when my friend was homeschooling they would go to breakfast then right to work.  Now that many of her children are much older, some of them even gone from the nest, she just feeds and blesses those children home before they go out.

It is something I have tried in our home.  But it was a little tricky.  Because it was not part of our spiritual/faith culture it felt foreign, awkward.  On my part, I felt oddly embarrassed, as if I was stealing something from someone.  Relying this concern to my friend she smiled in that way the wives of priests can smile and said that she was so happy I even tried.  She assured me, and I know this is/would have been true, if I had kept it up it would have become routine and accepted.  I guess I could call myself spiritually chicken.

I regret that I wasn’t more persistent.  If only I had fought the feelings of embarrassment that I felt.  I wonder how different life may have been if I had kept the blessing over my children up.  Would high school and teen years been less rebellious for our elder son and less difficult for our elder twin.  So interesting that it is the elder children with the troubles.  Would our younger children been less fearful? There is no way to know this, so the regret is just an exercise in futility.  I can do nothing about the past and can only live in the here and now.  I have a great deal I can do now to bless my children:  Pray for them, support them, hold them responsible for whatever actions they may take, get out of their way when God calls.

Old men will dream, young men will have visions, or Moms will have confusing dreams that might mean something

Dreams are ways we try and make sense of the life around us.  They can be a source of discernment and often many Catholic/Christians will use dreams, when they have them, as a way to try and understand God’s call through interpreting their dreams.

Often our dreams seem to be a confusing jumble of images.  Still there is a way to use those images to determine what is going on.

I will use two dreams.  One of my own and one of a fellow mom.

My Dream:

We, but I can’t determine who we are, are in a white place.  Is it a room, or home? Can not tell, the setting keeps shifting from a setting that is “familiar” to one unfamiliar.  I am feeling apprehensive.  The girls, although you are not able to see them, are busy doing something.  It seems like packing, but you never see anything being put into “suitcases”.  The girls come in to tell me that they are going to Japan.  They want my husband to go, or my husband is going.  It is difficult to tell.  It is made known somehow that the girls can not have their dad go.  At first they will not go, but then become excited at the thought of going.  We leave for somewhere; it can not be determined where that somewhere is. Though the girls are never seen, I sense them, and they vacillate between little “girls” to being a college age, young women.   

Upon waking try and write down as much of the dream as you can remember.  Then try and answer these questions:

  • What is the setting of the dream: Where is it taking place
  • What is happening: busy work, fighting off something, what are you doing
  • Who are you dealing with: Boss, neighbour, children, persons known and unknown
  • What colours were in the dream
  • How did the dream make you feel upon waking
  • How were you feeling during the dream
  • Other characters:
    • Who are they
    • What are they
    • How do they feel in the dream
    • How do they make you feel in the dream, upon waking
    • What are they doing with you, with each other, with anyone else? 
  • How do they make you feel in the dream, upon waking?  
  • What is your over all conclusion about the dream
    • Was it a message about the future, past, present
    • Is there a situation, difficulty you are dealing with that is represented by the dream
    • Does the dream give you peace: how and why
    • Does the dream make you upset: how and why
    • After prayerful contemplation what do you believe God is saying to you, asking of you, calling you to do

In my dream, I can’t determine the setting.  After praying over this, I come to the conclusion that this means that we are not home. The setting does not feel like home.  In the dream, it did not feel like being anywhere.  And upon waking that makes me feel upset.  While in the dream I am calm. I usually have no emotional or spiritual attachment to colour.  For me colour does not convey an emotion or spiritual message, for some it may have.  Because the white was so prominent, I have prayerfully considered that it represents confusion and fear.  In the dream, these emotions are mostly our daughters, but upon waking I am feeling those same emotions about their leaving home.  Even though my husband is mentioned in the dream he is never seen, “felt”.  He is there but not.  Upon waking I realize that I have not been relying on my husband for support during this transition stage of our lives.  I feel a calling from God to begin to incorporate my husband back into my life.  It is clear that from the dream that the girls are an important part of my life, and I want them to experience new things.  And their father is an important support in theirs.  The dream is very reminiscent of the trip to Spain the girls and my husband told their Junior year of high school.  The girls were scared to go by themselves and my husband thought it would be best for him to go.  In the dream, the attitude was the same, but very different. The girls should be going out on their own.

My Mom Friend’s dream:

Had a morbid dream in that Harrison, (her son about age two), died. Woke up with the awful emotions attached to such an occurrence. However, the manner of death was so improbable I just have to question my subconscious and where it came up with the idea. The dream involved a team of speed boat raccoons (think concept of sled dogs) and mama raccoon being overly protective of one of her young in particular. It was dumb.

My thoughts:

Now while the dream may have been dumb, at waking, it was significant.  First off, we need to let everyone know that my Mom Friend is going to be a mommy for the second time so what is this dream telling her, showing, asking of her?

Friend Mom, your first emotions in the dream were awful.  It is important you that you pray over this.  What are those awful emotions. How do they related to your situations, worries, thought, calling?

The theme of death.  Your son’s death as the first and only little baby.  He is growing up.  His place will be usurped by this new baby.  How does that make you feel?  How are you thinking it will make your son fell?  How are you being called to handle that?

Prayerfully ask yourself who are these race boating racoons.  What do racoons mean?  Do you see them as thieves: the masked faces?  If so, thieves of what?

The racoon mommy is overprotective of the one baby: why?  Does this portion of the dream resonate emotionally/spiritually with you?

Dreams may seem dumb, or slightly upsetting, but they have purpose.  God reveals His plans and purposes through our dreams and visions.  He shows us things ahead of time because God wants to give us a clear vision to see beyond our present state.   He also creates dreams so we can see and hear the answers to our prayers.  Dreams are a vehicle for bringing a peaceful resolve to the problem areas of life.  ~Barbie Breathitt of Myonar

So, next time that weird dream pops into your head, grab your prayer/dream journal and have a conversation with God about it and see what comes up.  And if you are having trouble, drop me an email, or give me a call.

 

 

Devil you bully, you have no power here

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks at the Feast of the Dedication:  He says his sheep follow his voice.  How many of us are there who Jesus is desperately screaming for like a lovelorn lover.  Calling to us passionately. Begging us to believe him when he says he loves us.  He forgives us ALWAYS!  He wants nothing but the best for us; that he is always with us.

Jesus will go hoarse calling to us, that is the depths of his desire for us.  So, why don’t we hear?

Pain. Guilt. Feelings of self-loathing.  These are just a few of the things that keep us from God.  But to say these are sin AND that is why we can not hear God is both spiritually and theologically irresponsible.

The Old Testament is replete with those suffering from depression: Moses, Elijah, Job, and Jeremiah.  Paul, the Greatest Apostle, was also a suffer.  There are numerous Saints who suffered from major mental health problems:

Saint John Paul II said of those suffering with mental illness: ”Whoever suffers from mental illness ’always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”  ~ International Conference for Health Care Workers on November 30, 1996

We have to think responsibly and charitably about mental illness and sin.

 

Deep depression is not just self-pity. The level of anxiety of those with generalized anxiety and panic attacks is significant even during sleep. If you can imagine the anxiety of being on a hijacked airplane and seeing several co-passengers shot, you can begin to grasp the level of anxiety some people suffer for days at a time. Even people with moderate clinical depression (dysthymia) feel pain on their best days.

From a research perspective, the emerging answer to what causes emotional illness involves three components: nature (one’s biological, chemical, and genetic makeup), nurture (environment, circumstances, teachings), and personal choice (which can but does not necessarily include sinful choices). Not uncommonly, the cause is a combination of all three of these.  ~Dwight L. Carlson Exposing the Myth that Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems In Plain Site

So to say that emotional issues are caused by sin or that the persons dealing with these issues are sinning, is denying God His power to heal. Their ability to use their story for God’s good, and for God to them as instruments of His Glory.

So why would we not want to hear God’s call?

Let’s go with Guilt.  As moms, we have more guilt than we want to admit.  A small amount may be of our making.  But the majority is not.  I know from my life that the guilt I express most comes my feeling of inadequacy as a mother. Inadequacies which come from the fear that I am not raising perfect children. I know in my head that is impossible, but my heart still tells me that I must, or the world will look down on me poorly.  This makes me deaf to God because it is society, or “friends” who hiding their guilt, limiting the advancements, triumphs, I have made.

Now for Pain.  Emotional/Spiritual pain that comes from issues, situations, or problem causes us to become isolated.  The insolation that we create we believe will be helpful, only keeps us from the support we need.  Going deeper inside is like burying ourselves in a grave.  We think of nothing else, do nothing else, experience nothing else but the problem.  Blocking us from finding solutions, we only concentrate on the dilemma.  Making us deaf to God’s calling out to us.

Feeling of self-loathing are the most difficult to control unless we get/have support from affirming God loving friends and family. These feelings come when we do not care for ourselves emotionally, spiritually, physically or socially.  It is a vicious cycle: we feel the pain of our self-doubt, it causes guilt which create self-loathing forcing us to hide making us emotionally/spiritually deaf to a loving God.

Now this deafness.  I am not one that will say everything bad that comes into our lives is the work of the Devil.  That takes us out of the responsibility for our actions.  I am also not so inclined to call the devil the “evil one”.  Gives the big bully more power than he deserves.  But I will say that there are times when the devil will bully us into not hearing God.

Like what he did in the Garden with Eve.  He uses the same technique now as he did then.  He uses our feelings to goad us into doing what he wants, not what is good for us.  For the slightest of moments what he has to say makes sense, and then the reality sets in that we have been duped.  If we are not careful, we run around that vicious cycle pain/guilt/self-loathing for far too long.

It is better for us to take a few minutes out to discern what it is we are thinking and how it will benefit us.  If we have peace than it is of God, if not, time to do more rethinking.

AIM Apostles In the Marketplace could be becoming Apostles In Motherhood Podcast

11080914_896694973687050_1222511226849895303_nBut whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

While, in high school in Washington DC, I belonged to AIM:  Apostles In the Marketplace.  It was a support/prayer group that took the daily reading of the Mass as a way to live life.  The group was evangelistic, but we were  encouraged to not be pushy about it.

AIM’s purpose was for us always to invite by our actions, like the first reading of yesterday, where the crippled man was healed: “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple..”  The Disciples were healing in the name of Christ, but they were not doing it like circus barkers.  They wanted people to come to Christ by how they were seen in the community, how they were acting, by their gentle manner, not pushy attitude.

The Priest who created AIM was a Jesuit who so unassuming and gentle.  His mantra was that we show them how we are by our actions, not our words.

If people asked us questions we would answer, but we never went to someone with the hackneyed have you found Christ.

In our support/prayer meetings, we would discuss how our days were going.  How well we were living out the Gospel of the past Sunday.  We asked each other for supportive ways to change.  We sought out ways to do, be better.  We prayed for each other.

Hearing, “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep”, made me think of AIM.  We are the gatekeeper. Jesus can’t be everywhere so that is why he made mothers.

Maybe I should start thinking of AIM as meaning Apostles In Mothering.  I have been feeling called to restart being a podcaster, that would make a great name.