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Stop setting the table

Published in the Catholic Times, March 1st, 2020

Through prayer, I have been convicted to pray hard and let that be my doing.

With Mary as our example, pray and then trust in the Lord.

The prayer of a mother runs like a constant flow between her heart and the Lord. Like blood streaming through the ventricles of the heart, so does a mother’s prayer connect her to the heart of Jesus. It’s a deep and profound prayer – one of surrender and supplication. We ask not for ourselves but for His will in the lives of those we love. Because we are in a constant relationship with the Lord and we feel the freedom that brings, we so desperately want others to know the Lord, especially our family. And yet sometimes they don’t.

Sometimes they run from Him. If they’ve been raised in His light, they might have eyes to see or ears to hear, but a heart that is closed, frightened or wounded by the temptations and worries of this world. They might know that a “Yes” to the Lord requires a change. Has any “Yes” to Him ever kept things unchanged? With Abraham, Peter and Paul as examples, I might not even have the same name by the time Jesus is done with me!

I often ponder how deep Mary’s prayer life must have been. As gruesome as the crucifixion was, there must have been the temptation for deep worry. The late-night mothering of an older child brings me to this reflection often. Throughout the entirety of Jesus’ life, Mary was there beside him. She ushered him into ministry and was with him to the last. Yet she pondered so much in her heart.

We read the word “ponder” frequently in Scrip- ture. The thesaurus shows “meditate” and “reflect” as its most frequently used synonyms. Ponder, meditate and reflect. This is the breath of a mother’s prayer life, even in the fast pace of everyday life. There are times when , like the major negotiator, communicator, organizer and relationship builder that I try to be, I try to control a situation. I believe I am doing God’s will by moving pieces in a fashion that I think will make for the best outcome for what God desires. I try to set the stage for him to work! I imagine the Lord sitting next to me with his head to the side, one eyebrow raised, silently asking me if I am done yet.

Seeing that I am clearly unable to turn off this mission of mine, he waits patiently for moments, days, sometimes years, until I finally surrender and say “I can’t do this. I can’t solve this. Will you please help me?” He swiftly answers, “Of course; I’ve been waiting for this moment.”

It is in that surrender as a mother where we lay out our heart’s desire for those we love; where we pray boldly and trust greatly, that we regain the true freedom of being in a relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, I have been convicted to pray hard and let that be my doing. This is so hard for us mothers. And yet we have been given such an example!

My family is in the middle of so many possibilities and choices for our older children right now, and I am challenging myself to pray fervently to the Lord for Him to light, to guide, whisper, shout and make clear the next steps for them. With a thankful heart, I am praising Him for the gift of being a mother and the treasures of these children. I am asking for the fortitude to stay constant in prayer and let that fulfill my tendency to do.

This is not a test for the Lord to see if things will go my way, but rather it is a test for me to learn to grow in prayer and trust. I am laying down my way. Padre Pio is known for his simple breath of a prayer, “Pray, and don’t worry.” May we all learn to trust in this way.


How to Prepare for the Virtual Mass as a Family

As Catholics around the world move to celebrate mass virtually during this unusual health crisis,  many families are seeking ways to bring the sacred into the home. As a mom of many, the challenge of gathering everyone in one room on their best behavior to participate in mass is real. Kids don’t sense the need to “be ready” for mass as the living room has been such a sense of comfort and relaxation. It is where we gather to decompress from the day of hard work but in these times it must serve two purposes. As a parent, I find myself continually setting the stage for my family to be successful. In times like these, we must also set the stage for our family to stay nourished in faith. We have been privileged to have a mass said in our home a few times when we had visiting priests so preparing for virtual mass was similar. When it comes to celebrating mass at home or virtually here are some of our family’s traditions along with some recommended by Father Dave Sizemore from St. Francis de Sales Parish in Newark, Ohio.

  1. Clear any clutter out of the room so it feels ready. For us, that means all our school books, clothing, toys, remote controls, etc. The table is wiped down and a tablecloth is placed upon it.
  2. Create a family altar. Ask every family member to gather their favorite prayer cards, holy medals, statues, and candles. I love when we have this opportunity because objects from my older kid’s youth: a little Franciscan cross, a favorite prayer card, a first communion statue and other holy objects to remind us of the church are placed upon our family altar. My youngest daughter received white roses from her father on her first Reconciliation which she dried and also places on our family altar.
  3. Have holy water in a bowl so family members can bless themselves as they enter. It reminds us of the sacredness of the moment in which we are going to be sharing.
  4. Put a crucifix in the room if there is not one.
  5. Have your bibles marked with the readings for the day or print up the readings for the mass so everyone can follow along. If your parish posts the music online, then have it available. Giving everyone the tools to participate is essential in making mass accessible whether in person or virtually.
  6. Encourage family members to change out of their pajamas.  In an attempt to remind everyone of the sacredness of the mass, we ask that pajamas not be worn and day clothes be put on.
  7. Offer your mass for someone. In our parish, we begin mass by turning to our neighbor and asking them for their prayer intention. When celebrating mass virtually we are able to ask our family members for their intentions as well as thinking of those intentions we hold in our hearts and offer our mass for them.
  8. Make a spiritual communion. One of the hardest things when celebrating mass is the longing for Jesus in the Eucharist. The longing is a beautiful thing and draws our hearts closer to Jesus. As Catholic Christians, we can make a spiritual communion during the time the priest is receiving Jesus by saying this prayer. “My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”
  9. Have donuts, coffee and juice ready for after mass. The social aspect of gathering together after mass is a way for us to check in with friends after mass. When celebrating mass virtually, we place the donuts, drinks, and plates on the table in the other room. There is even a mad dash by our younger kids for donuts after the last verse of the song is sung.

 As a final note, and as a mother of eight children, I think it is really important to take time to breathe in the fact that your family is gathering within the walls of your home to worship the Lord. How many Christians before us have had to do this in secret on fear of persecution and death? See the seeds of faith you are planting and take the time that has been given to us in this period of social distancing and staying at home to water and nourish them. There is no greater gift we can give our family than the gift of family rooted in Christ.