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Faith Formation Liz The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

Rest, Don’t Quit

rest, don't quit

Catholic women work hard. Understatement of the millennium, right? We nourish and nurture relationships, create and raise precious lives, look well to the ways of our households, and bring our feminine genius to endeavors within and outside of the home. We are wives, consecrated religious and singles, mothers and teachers and healers and warriors and executives and intellectuals. We rock the cradle and rule the world.

This work that we do is important and holy. If you’ve ever doubted that, just take a look at Pope St. John Paul II’s words in the encyclical Laborem Exorcens:

“Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being’.”

But many of us do this important work while carrying heavy personal crosses: mental or physical illness, care for an ailing family member, financial strain, or broken relationships lay heavy on our shoulders as we go about our daily business.  Our own personal weaknesses, quirks and sins also add weight—just ask your favorite perfectionist, worrywart, procrastinator or control freak!

help at workSo through the brokenness of the world, others and ourselves, work often morphs from a holy endeavor to a painful drudgery or all-consuming monster. We work and work and go and go until we can go no more. Many times, we ignore our own physical, mental and spiritual well-being until we crash under the weight of illness and sin. This is not healthy or holy behavior. Work is not a god, and martyring ourselves in its name won’t bring us happiness in this world or the next. But what’s the alternative? In our increasingly extreme society, we imagine the opposite of working is quitting. We envision our lack of participation equates to sinful laziness and apathy, our families and finances falling apart.  But there is another way.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

This quote, popularly attributed to the famous graffiti artist Banksy, perfectly describes the Catholic counterpart to work. It’s the antidote to the overwork and crash cycle that secular society perpetuates. Rest seems like a stupidly simple idea, almost insulting to suggest. Of course we’ve all tried to rest! We snag minutes on the Internet or the couch, squeeze a date or a girls’ night into our already-crowded calendars, or nervously tap our fingers on the kneelers at Adoration, peeking at the clock to see when our hour is up.

But true, holy rest, like all things Catholic, goes much deeper than meets the eye. Rest from our labors requires practice and focus. Far from being a fall-back or a lame excuse for not working, rest should be an intentional part of our daily lives and yearly calendars, waxing and waning in tune with our personal circumstances. Rest increases our virtue, refreshes our souls, and heals our bodies and minds for another round of holy labor for the Lord.  Below are just a few practical ways we can rest and the fruits we can gather while doing so:

  1. Ask for help: If you’re overwhelmed with the tasks on your to-do list, ask a friend, family member or co-worker to help you carry your cross. More often than you might imagine, people are happy to help with an hour of babysitting, a hot meal, or a housekeeping project. Admitting that you can’t do it all grows you in humility and reaching out in your time of need requires courage.
  2. Start from the beginning: The very, very beginning, like Genesis. God showed us the perfect way by resting from all his good work on the Sabbath, so imitate his holy relaxation by taking time out from your labor on the Lord’s Day. Your email and laundry can wait, and heeding the Scriptural mandates of our faith is a great way to practice holy obedience.
  3. Be intentional: There’s a good reason so many monks eat and work in silence: they’re giving their full attention to whatever God has called them to do at that exact moment in time. Imitate their focus and intentionality by hallowing your times for relaxation. Whether you’ve got fifteen minutes or a whole week, don’t waste it by dwelling on the job you’re going to do next or worrying about the future. Cultivate diligence in your leisure and time with the Lord, and you’ll be all the more rested when it’s time to get back to the grindstone.
  4. Go with the flow: On the flip side, most of us aren’t in a cloister. No matter how much we’d like to focus on our times of rest, urgent phone calls, children with boo-boos, and unexpected obligations are a part of life in the world. Putting aside rest temporarily, and picking it back up gracefully (over and over and over again!) helps us grow in patience, perseverance and inner peace.
  5. Counter the culture: Rest doesn’t necessarily mean a fun social activity, a pricey vacation or a self-indulgent Netflix binge (although there’s a place for all these in a well-balanced life)! Much of the time, rest is simply about ceasing our labors in order to honor the Lord, our loved ones, and ourselves. What that looks like varies according to your own personal devotions and family, but choosing our ways of rest, and lessening our dependence on the world’s definition of leisure takes both bravery and wisdom.

Catholic women work hard, of that there’s no doubt. But let it be said not only that we rock the cradle and rule the world, but that we refresh and repair a tired and jaded society by our holy rest in the Lord.

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Colleen Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth

Life Lessons from a Fussy Baby

todoThe other day, I asked some friends how they balance and schedule their day. Sometimes I feel as if I can just find the right schedule, everything in my house will be clean and run smoothly, my children will take beautifully long naps while I write papers and meet deadlines and sew and pray and fill my mind with good books. If I can compartmentalize my life, setting certain times aside for my husband, the kids, and my personal pursuits, I will have achieved that elusive balance that everyone seems to desire. I write up the perfect schedule, promise myself I will follow it strictly, get ready to check something off my to-do list and… the baby cries.

The truth is? There really is no such thing as “balance”. Oh, we can and should try to have our routines and fulfill our obligations. But life does not always fit into neat little blocks on the calendar. It is often messy and uncomfortable. As soon as we think we’ve got it all figured out, life throws us a curveball. Our families try to juggle a million different things: school, work, social commitments, our small business idea, our blogs, home improvement projects, extracurricular activities, meals, laundry, clean bathrooms, crafts, time with our spouse, playing with our children. We hear the news and gasp at the immorality in the world. We listen to our neighbor unburden her soul as we sympathize. We share in the grief of a dear friend. Our anxiety begins to rise as we feel pulled, strained, like butter scraped over too much bread. There are only so many hours in the day, but there are more obligations and worries and stresses than those hours can comfortably hold. And the baby cries.

It is easy to get caught up in the commotion, the to-do list. We become frustrated because we have so much to do, our hearts are already so anxious, and we have to stop yet again to feed or rock this sweet little bundle who woke us 7 times last night. But that frustration, that feeling inconvenienced? So worthless. Not from God. Because nothing in the world matters as much to us right now as nurturing that little soul.

ellieMothers: those babies are our ticket to heaven. They help us grow in charity, patience, fortitude, temperance. They force us to evaluate our priorities, to slow down and hear what God is really asking of us. They cause us abandon our self-love and sacrifice for another. They soften our hearts and make us more compassionate. They are the antidote to our restlessness. Instead of seeing the crying baby as a deterrent from what we should be doing, we should see the crying baby as God telling us, “Slow down. THIS is what you are meant to be doing right now.”
 And as those babies grow, and turn into needy toddlers, teenagers who just need a listening ear? Slow down. Hug. Listen. This is what you are meant to be doing.

Even Mary, the perfect woman, was not immune to being affected by the stresses of the world around her. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. She was forced to flee to a foreign land while one of the most powerful men in the world hunted her Son. She knew exactly what evil would eventually befall her beautiful Child; and yet her soul remained at peace. She continued on serenely, trusting in God’s plan of redemption. Instead of worrying about the future, she took one day at a time, living a quiet life while relishing in the care of her Baby.

So often, we prioritize things over people. Let’s not make people the inconvenience, especially the little people entrusted to our care. Today, I will not allow myself to be frustrated if my grand plans are derailed. If that sweet baby needs to be held for 2 hours and we end up having PB&J for dinner, I will rest peacefully tonight knowing that I did my best caring for “the least of these.” I will remember that it’s not the awards or praise of others or the perfectly clean house that will get me to heaven, but my surrender to God’s Will. And I surrender.

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta