Mothers with Muscle Memory

Rosie-the-Riveter-001We’ve made it to mid-Lent. How is it going for you? As always, it starts with a gusto and, at least for me, becomes so much more challenging to find the motivation to continue with one’s initially heartfelt and enthusiastic spiritual commitments.

It is the “heartfelt” part that gives me pause. By now, the “feeling” is not necessarily felt. The motivation has lessened, the behaviors we may have rightfully set aside practically beg for satiation, and we find now that there is just as much time left in Lent as there already has been given to this time of abstinence and fasting. We become weary. Or even bored.

On Sunday, I stayed home from the Divine Liturgy with a wee one while the rest of the family attended, giving me the opportunity to attend Mass late in the evening at our local parish.

Normally, when we attend Mass or the Divine Liturgy as a family, we spread out in the back or well off to the side, attempting to find a somewhat nonintrusive place to witness the Holy Sacrifice while also wrangling many small children, a double stroller, and a wheelchair.

This time, I savored the opportunity to sit in one of the front rows, in the absolute optimal place to see and hear everything. I simply took it all in, not trying to keep up with the unfamiliar hymn during the offertory and preparation of the altar, but watching the priest continue quietly praying to God over the singing, his mouth moving while he raised the bread and then the wine. Blessed be God forever.

After the consecration, the priest took a long time to carefully break the large Host into smaller pieces. I found myself riveted by his hands. The only sound at that point was this breaking, and there, his simple human hands actually held God, preparing to distribute Him to His people. He placed a tiny Particle into the Precious Blood and kept completely focused on the task at hand. His hands moved completely intentionally yet habitually, as he had done this so many countless times before that the muscle memory must be ingrained.

Seeing his focus in the midst of the large congregation and very busy sanctuary, replete with a great many Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, edified and strengthened me. This is a part of our holy Catholic faith that inspires me to contemplation so frequently…that God is not far from us, nor does He insist on acting from a distance. No. He flagrantly works through and with us, insisting that we have a part to play with Him in the ongoing sanctification of creation. This priest, giving himself wholly to the task God gave him, actually had to permit God to do His work. It’s crazy, but true.

As the Epistle shared on Sunday from 1 Corinthians 1:22-25,

…we proclaim Christ crucified…

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,

and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

As I think about the plans we have prayerfully discerned as our Lenten sacrifices, I think to this priest and how his participation in God’s plan during the Mass was completely focused, habitual, and with muscle memory. Won’t we benefit from this as mothers to our children, for instance, if, when we get angry or discouraged, our focused and habitual response is to turn to the Blessed Mother for prayer, or to repeat our morning offering in that moment, with a muscle memory that opens our arms to one of love and embrace for our child who may have offended.

These are the habits we seek to build during Lent. We are halfway through; let’s recommit to this next part and pray for the grace to continue.


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