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Amy V. Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Priesthood Raising Saints Vocations

The Story of a Seminarian…From a Mom’s Point of View

mary and jesus

When I first became a mom, I was not quite 23 years old. I lived 3 hours away from my parents and my friends, and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have the internet or blogs back in those days, I really felt like we were completely on our own. I honestly couldn’t believe the hospital let my husband and me leave with a tiny human being. As I looked around at other human beings, I couldn’t fathom that so many people obviously had figured out how to do – what seemed to me – this monumental task of raising a little baby.

On our first night home, I was sure that our new son needed a bath. In fact, wouldn’t I be a neglectful mom if I didn’t bathe my newborn son? So we got out our “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book and opened to the chapter on newborns. My husband walked me through this process step by step and we got our “filthy” son cleaned up. We bumbled our way through and made many mistakes along the way, but about 6 weeks into being a new mommy, I understood what all the fuss was about. I was head over heels in love with my precious baby boy. I couldn’t get enough of him and thought he was the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful baby that had ever been born. (Except for Jesus of course.) 😉

As soon as we got into a groove and figured out what we needed to do to keep our child alive, we were able to kind of get back to what we wanted most for our baby. We wanted him to know that even though our hearts overflowed with love for him, God loved him even more. We enjoyed researching, reading, and talking about different ideas to teach him the truths of our faith and to try to prepare the garden of his heart to receive the love of God.

Before long, he also became interested in Super Heroes, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. One of the ways God showed His love to our son was through the presence of an amazing new priest who also shared these loves. ** God, Super Heroes, Star Wars and Harry Potter ** A match made in Heaven. So our son also started seeing priests as men who were fully alive and full of joy and men who cared about the small things, like talking to a 9 year old about which Harry Potter book is the best. We never prayed for our son to be anything in particular, but we prayed that he would know, love, and serve the Lord.

One of the most beautiful moments of my motherhood journey happened on a Confirmation Retreat. I was a small group leader, and my son, totally by chance, was my teen assistant. During Adoration, one of my teens, who had been struggling terribly with life, was overcome with emotion, and I think, felt the love of God for the first time. I was privileged to watch my son, my child, go to him and bring him words of peace and love. The other young man said, “Man, why do you even care?” My son cared because God cares. He had experienced the love and mercy of God in his own life and wanted to share this peace with another soul.

When he was in middle school, priests would ask him if he had ever thought about being a priest someday. He hated when people asked him this and from about 8th grade until 11th grade he started saying, “No way!” He loved Jesus though, and the Lord was always leading my son more deeply into a relationship with Him. My son also loved being Catholic, and since he attended a public school, was always looking for ways to defend his beloved faith. So, right before his senior year in high school, my son felt very strongly that the Lord was confirming in his heart a call to discern the Catholic Priesthood with a deliberate and an intentional heart.

At first, he told everyone, and I cringed. “Not yet,” I thought, “Not yet. Don’t tell people yet.” That year, after his initial zeal, I think he felt like maybe God was chaining him in and the only way God would be happy is if he succumbed to the chains. Time passed, he finished high school and went to college, and during this past year the Lord relentlessly pursued him. And my son couldn’t help but fall deeper in love with his Savior. Slowly, sometimes painfully, and sometimes full of joy, he began to see his calling as an invitation, not a chain. The Lord was offering him a gift.

So what do you say to your son when you know he is seriously discerning this life’s vocation? There is such a fine line. While you want to be supportive, you don’t want to be too excited. And honestly, you worry. The life of a priest is not easy, and your son is saying, “Yes, I will consider this completely counter cultural life.” I’ve learned that when a young man chooses to open his heart up to discern the will of the Father in this way, that young man will suffer vicious attacks from the evil one. I’ve learned that moments of consolation can be followed by moments of fear and sorrow over what is being given up. I’ve learned that people will not hold back what they think of this vocation, for good and for bad. And yet, how proud am I? My child is willing to say, “Yes!” to consider taking up the cross of my Lord, and follow Him. He is willing to sell all he has for the pearl of great price. But if he changes his mind, I want him to know that’s ok. That means it wasn’t his calling.

Jesus, I trust in You. That’s all I can say. I love my son, but I love You more. I want Your will for his life, whatever that is. This is so not about me, but I feel like when he is suffering with this decision, a sword is piercing my heart too. Mother Mary, pray for me to be strong like you. Mother Mary, how did you let Him go? Mother Mary, how will I let my son go? I love you, Son. No matter what you decide, I couldn’t be happier as a mom knowing that you love the Lord and want to serve Him with your life, no matter what. Be strong, child. The world is hurting and needs you to show them The Way. If you don’t, who will? Who loves people more than you? Who has a smile like you that brings light to the darkest places?
And then there are the details; the details that are really none of my business. My super smart, sweet, handsome young man is not very detail oriented. Quite honestly though, I’ve been a pretty great secretary for 19 years. But this whole process of saying yes to God’s call actually has nothing to do with me. I can’t even get his medical records for him because he’s 19. I have to sit back and watch and pray and trust. Last month I had this notion that I needed to go see the seminary where he was going to be staying. I needed to see if he should bring Tide HE or regular Tide for crying out loud. Due to various circumstances, the Lord said no this notion. My son has already seen the seminary and he has made this choice himself. He didn’t need his mom going there and hovering. So the Lord showed me, “This is not your journey, this is his. Walk with him, but trust Me and honestly trust your son.“

I cried very hard that day.

There are so many unknowns still, but there is peace because I know he is where God is calling him. When he looks back on his life, the Lord has been calling him for a long time. My son has a heart for the Lord.

God help me to keep walking with him and encouraging him. Help me, dear Lord, as my heart is sad sometimes because my world is changing. It is changing for the better, but it is changing.

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Amy V. Conversion Ink Slingers Motherhood Prayer

The Prayer of a Flake

PrayerofaFlake

When I was a little girl, my dad would come to my bedside at night, and he would pray with me from a little black prayer-book that had been his when he was a boy.  I remember the prayer started “Oh my God,” and I wasn’t totally convinced that it was ok to be saying that.  He would say a few prayers with me, and after he would leave, I would say my own little litany of “please help” prayers.  I was worried about stray dogs, abused children, world peace, and my grandfather who had cancer.  I said my prayers “religiously” and worried that if I missed a day then all I was praying for would be lost causes.

As I grew older, my prayers changed a bit.  I learned a few more Catholic prayers, and my own needs grew greater.  Lord, please help me on this test, please help my parents, and please help me to be a better person.  And then, slowly, please help me get a husband, please help me do your will, oh yeah, thanks for my life, I love you Lord.

Prayer was always a little challenging to me because I always had a sense of not doing it right or enough.  I remember saying Hail Mary’s over and over again as I tried to get through a Rosary in Adoration.  It was exhausting.   I also would feel so guilty when I told someone I’d pray for them, and then I would forget!

When I became a busy young mom of a handful of little kids, Hail Mary’s were about the only prayer I had time or energy to muster.  God showed me how to try to live my life as more of a prayer.  I tried kind of having an awareness of God all the time.  I offered up diapers for Jesus and sang Jesus songs to my kids.  I tried to treat the people God put in my path with His love, and I tried to set an example of loving others to my kids.  If I was outside at Mass and couldn’t hear a word of what was being said, I knew that just being there with my baby was an act of worship and a prayer to my Lord.

As I am now a busy – not so young – mom, it has even seemed at times that a Hail Mary is too much.  Forget even trying to get through a Rosary.  So now what?  Thankfully, the Lord of the Universe, who never leaves me stranded, sent me a holy priest to teach me about passively praying.   He taught me that prayer is more about what God is doing than about what we are doing.  Even wanting to pray is a response to God’s grace.  God always goes first.   I learned about just offering Jesus my heart and then sitting quietly in His presence.  I like to just picture myself handing the Lord my heart saying, “ I don’t know what to pray, I don’t know what your will is, so many people are hurting, I’m a  mess, I’m worried about everything, so can you do something with all of this?”

Believe it or not, this way of praying has given me freedom.   Instead of focussing on what He can give me, I in my complete tiredness, just want to be in His presence.  I am free to receive His love which is what I really need more than anything else.  When I hush and listen, God reveals Himself to me.  Either in a scripture passage He will lead me to, or a song, or in the quiet of my heart.  God knows every part of my heart.  He knows my needs, my desires, and my worries.  He fills me with peace and that peace stays with me when I leave my prayer time.

I know this might seem like a cop out, and I worry at times that it is too, but I can’t argue with the peace it brings me.  I know the Lord is not done with me yet.  I know there are different seasons, and there will be another season when I hope to come back to more active praying.  As I sat with my grandmother on one of the final days of her life, she couldn’t speak or open her eyes, but her fingers were moving, passing the invisible beads of a spiritual Rosary.  Even on her death bed, she was still teaching me and witnessing to the power of prayer and the importance of more active praying.  I hope to be more like her someday.

For now, all I can say is, “Lord, I am a flake and I can’t even think of what to say, so I am just going to sit here quietly and be with You.”

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Amy V. Apologetics Evangelization Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Motherhood Vocations

The Frontline

stock vector : Cross Shield

I am Catholic.

While I find the “I am Mormon” campaign a little quirky, I also get it. The billboards, the t-shirts, the commercials are all trying to let people know that normal, regular people are also totally serious about their religion.

I am Catholic…to my core, to the innermost part of my being. I am Catholic. I love Jesus, and I love His Church, and I am trying to glorify Him in this life. I fail and fall on my face frequently, but by His grace, I keep trying.

When we first started talking of marriage and family in the early 1990’s, I was very new to this idea of “I am Catholic.” I was more of an “I go to church Catholic.” During our time in college, we started meeting young families who were taking their Catholic identity and applying it to every aspect of their lives. Their fertility, their finances, the education of their children; nothing was off-limits for God. This kind of faith inspired and excited my husband and me!

All of the choices regarding education were intriguing to us. I myself was a product of public school, and while I had a good experience, I also was keenly aware of all the negative aspects that penetrated the corridors and classrooms of public schools in suburban America. My husband was also a product of public school and doesn’t think back fondly on his experience. More positively, we loved the idea of learning with God at the center of all subjects. How gratifying was the idea of our children studying Theology, going to Mass, wearing uniforms, sitting in small classes with teachers who shared our values.

Fast forward 17 years and you will find that all 5 of our kids attend public school. Some of our children attended Catholic school for a few years, and I homeschooled some of them for a few years, but for the last 7 years, all of our kids have been in our neighborhood schools. Why? Truthfully, our kids are in public school because we think that is where God wants them. Homeschooling was not a great fit for our family, and we just plain couldn’t afford Catholic school. For 14 years we felt it was incredibly important for me to be a full-time stay at home mom, and also be open to life. These choices richly blessed us, but didn’t leave us with much extra income.

More importantly, we think God actually wants our kids on the frontline. As a mom, this isn’t where I really wanted my kids to be. Soldiers on the front line get tired, wounded, and sometimes killed. “Yeah, I think I’d rather mine be in the back, if you don’t mind God.” However, every battle needs these front soldiers. He likes to remind me that “my” kids are actually His first. He has a great and mighty plan for their lives, and He loves them more than I do. Almighty God desires for my kids to be Catholic even more that I do. He wants them to be Catholic by allowing them to be tested and molded at very young ages. He also wants to use them to bring more souls to His mercy and to teach them to find beauty where it seems hidden.

Our oldest daughter thrived during her elementary and middle school years. She is very smart and has a bright and amiable personality. She also really loves Jesus and is Catholic…to her core. She loves her faith and loves to study about it. She even loves the idea of helping other Catholics to fall in love with Jesus. She wanted to be like St. Peter who preached to his own. My daughter also sees the world in definite black and white. She doesn’t have the life experience yet to see that while the God’s laws are certainly black and white, God’s mercy is inexhaustible. He understands every shade of grey and has mercy to cover it. Seeing so much grey during her freshman year in a class of 800 began to wear her down a bit, and she was yearning for a change. We told her that we would look into the Catholic High School, and that if God wanted her to go there, He would show us how. By our computations, Catholic High School is completely out of our financial means. So she was accepted and we started the financial aid process. Asking for money isn’t something we had ever done before, so that was quite humbling. We were expecting that we would receive a number that would be lower than what we felt we needed, but we asked God to make it clear for us.

We were offered “ZERO DOLLARS.” I kind of laughed when I read that the board couldn’t recommend us for any financial assistance. I thought maybe they had gotten our papers mixed up with someone else’s? I then started to get kind of mad at this invisible board. Didn’t they know that “I am Catholic?” Didn’t they know that “My Daughter is Catholic?”

The Lord, in His goodness, revealed to me that I wasn’t mad at some arbitrary board. I was mad at Him because He hadn’t given me what I thought we deserved. Ouch. Falling on my face is painful. Thankfully, Jesus is not short on mercy, and He helped me to get a grip before I talked to my daughter.

It just so happened that the next week, my daughter had an early morning doctor’s appointment. She wondered if we could go to Confession and Mass before her appointment. The only Mass time that we could make was at the Parish that neighbors the Catholic High School. As we pulled in, I fessed up and told her that God had made it clear that this would not be her school, and she responded with a disappointed, but understanding attitude. I had underestimated her maturity.

Even more, I had underestimated God. I sat dumbfounded as the Priest recounted the conversion of Saint Paul. Saint Paul was sent to convert the Gentiles, and my daughter was being sent as well. During the Homily the priest said, “You have been chosen. You want to sit here mesmerized by Jesus in the monstrance, but you have to go out and serve.”

Seriously, these were the readings, this was the message.

Our kids are in public school because God wants them there. My daughter was given a renewed sense of vision and purpose. My husband and I were given hope. God sees us. He knows what we are doing, and He is with us. He loves our kids more than we do, and He has a mighty plan for them. They will be the salt and light. Our job is to train them for the battle, to do everything we can to guard them, to mend their armor, and yes to tend to their wounds when they are hurt along the way.

So… we are Catholic. We trust in Jesus. We seek to serve whomever He wants us to serve, and we seek to find beauty in all things, even in the hallways of the public schools.

Categories
Amy V. Faith Formation Fatherhood Motherhood Prayer Vocations

Here I Am Lord, Send Me…As Long As It’s Where I Want to Go

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

The start of a new school year brings many opportunities to serve.  With 5 kids ranging in age from 16-5, who are attending 4 different schools, and all involved in all sorts of different activities, there is an endless list of good and worthy organizations that need volunteers.  Not to mention our amazing Church, which is alive and thriving, and overflowing with ministries constantly calling to the Martha in me.   My husband and I love to serve and especially together.  That is how we met and fell in love so many years ago, so it really renews our sense of purpose and togetherness when we are working together for the Lord.   Personally, I love to serve.  I love to be involved, and I love to be around people.  It is invigorating.

We had decided at the end of the last school year that we would continue to help with High School Faith Formation as our main service once school began again.  Other opportunities came by, and I said no because we already knew where we were supposed to serve.  I knew it would mean that my 12-year-old would have to care for her younger siblings on Sunday evenings, but I reasoned that it was ok because this is where God wanted us.  I knew that my 5-year-old might struggle a little with us not being home as she went to bed on Sunday nights, but again, I thought God could handle it.  We had a great year last year and started to build relationships with some of the young people, so we looked forward to continuing on the journey with them.  We felt peace and satisfaction, even knowing that there would be sacrifices on the part of our family.  Sometimes that is what God calls us to.

At our first HS Catechist meeting, our incredibly excited HS Coordinator laid out his plan for the new youth program, and my husband and I both got sinking feelings in our stomachs.  We quickly saw that this would not be something we could commit to.  It was a wonderful plan, and the youth will benefit from it, but it would require a large chunk of time away from our younger ones on Sunday evenings.  We worked through every possible scenario to see if there was some way we could divide and conquer the commitment.  After MUCH prayer and a little heart-break we discerned that this is not where God wanted us.  I was sad and disappointed and a little frustrated.

Once again, having a large family, with many different ages was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do, what I thought God wanted us to do, and what I thought we would be good at.  How many times over the years have I heard about something worthwhile, and  I couldn’t accept it, or even try for it because of my duties to my family.  What I want to do is different from what God is calling me to.  Which is crazy, because really in my heart of hearts I want to desire His will over mine.  I just get a little lost sometimes in the world of good intentions.  The world tells me that being super mom is what is good, but God tells me being my kids’ mom is what is good.  Giving to each of them all that I can, is what pleases Him most.   There are so many things I want to do or I want to be, and yet the commitment that I’ve made to God and to my kids is where my real sanctification is worked out.  It is in all the times I have to say, “No,” that I know the Lord is working out my salvation.  The Lord put it on my heart long ago to serve my family first.  Whatever gifts and talents He gave me are first for my husband and kids, and then for whomever He puts in my path.  It is in the anonymity of my home, where there are no accolades, that the Lord wants me to be salt and light.

So now that the year has officially begun and I haven’t officially signed up to volunteer anywhere, I realize that I am exactly where I need to be for this season.  As the school year opened up so did the flood gates of tears in my house hold, and I know that right now, right here, my kids need me more than any other group, no matter how good its mission is.  This semester, I am committed to reading to my kindergartener, making sure she gets to bed on time, helping my middle schooler navigate these new waters she is swimming in, not being too busy with “important” stuff to listen to my 4th grader tell me his struggles or listen to his excitement over his Lego creations, and being home in the evenings when my High Schoolers are good and ready to talk.

But, Dear Lord, next semester I’ll have a list ready of all the places you might want to send me.