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A Name Most Powerful: Mary

A Name Most Powerful_ Mary for CS

Every May, the United States honors mothers by celebrating Mother’s Day. And, the universal Catholic Church honors the ultimate, most powerful, mother of all…

Mary.

Take a moment and pause. Simply listen to your heart when you reflect on the name which is most powerful:

Mary.

We recently celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday (the second Sunday of Easter), and one of the many titles of Mary is Mary, Mother of Mercy. She shared that title with St. Faustina Kowalska, but had been referred to as the Mother of Mercy centuries prior to the conversation with St. Faustina.

And, this month, I want to reflect on just that concept – Mary, our Mother of Mercy.

Most mothers care lovingly for their children. Most will put their own needs aside to meet those of their children. Most mothers will spend hours of their lifetime worrying about their children, trying to help their children, and being a champion for their children. Too often, mothers will do that at the expense of their own dreams, desires, and wishes.

And, it can be a pretty exhausting, thankless role.

All too often, it also becomes difficult to identify where a mother ends, and her individual child begins.

Yet, that is precisely what our Mother of Mercy emulates for all mothers.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she accepted a fate that would include heartache and grief unlike anything any other mother has experienced. At the time, she was filled with practical questions – how will it happen? What should she do now? Yet, she also acquiesced and gave what is known as her Fiat – her “yes” to God. She didn’t know at the time just how much pain she would suffer as the Mother of God, but she most likely understood it would be a difficult task. When she met Simeon in the Temple, at Jesus’ dedication, she was warned that  her heart would be pierced as though with a thousand swords.

Throughout Jesus’ young life, Mary nurtured Him, she cared for Him, and she even parented through scolding Him. She, along with the man chosen by God to be her husband, steered Jesus on His course with Salvation History. She ensured He learned His prayers, His understanding of sacred scripture, and taught Him the basics of interacting with His peers.

Yet, we see in the Gospels that she also kept all things in her heart.

  • The difficult moments in teaching a toddler-Jesus to not tantrum, or to not talk during a prayer service? Mary kept those in her heart.
  • The difficult moments in teaching a young-Jesus to share, or to not interrupt others? She kept those in her heart.
  • The difficult moments in teaching an abstract concept sometimes two or three times? She kept those in her heart.
  • The immense relief she felt when she found Jesus in the Temple teaching the elders? She even kept that in her heart.

Ultimately, we see that Mother of Mercy at a wedding feast – instructing waiters, and those of us believers who would come even centuries later, to do as He instructs. Again, her mercy is shown as she encourages her Son to embrace His destiny – one which will cause her immense suffering. It is another moment in which she shows us how to turn our doubts and fears to God and say, “not my will, but Your will be done.”

As a loving mother, she follows her Son and is with Him at His times of need. She walks His painful, sorrowful journey, not saving Him, but rather offering Him emotional support along His Passion. And, she still holds all of these experiences, emotions, and sorrow in her heart.

During her entire life, Mary praises God. She encourages Him. She loves Him. She honors His will.

In turn, her reward is to become blessed. And, to become a mother to us all.

She shows us that mercy is not simply being kind to someone; rather, it is doing the will of God, even if we are unsure.

Yet, as petulant children, how do we respond to our mother? Do we accept her role as our safety net? Do we thank her for unwavering support? Do we lean on her when times get tough?

Or, do we try to travel this valley of tears on our own? Do we brush her hand aside, insisting we can do things ourselves? Do we forget that she has shown us the way to ultimate freedom, found in the trust we place in God’s plan? Do we remember to take our cares, concerns, anxieties, and heartache to her to assist in mending?

Centuries after Christ’s death on the Cross, we still have much to learn from Our Lady. And, perhaps May is the perfect month to reflect on the lessons she teaches – not just the lessons in humility, charity, obedience, and love.

Perhaps this May, we can also reflect on how Mary, through her entire life’s experience – the joys and the heartache – held all things in her heart. Perhaps we can also reflect on how Mary, as the Mother of Mercy, shows us how to respond to God’s directives for our lives.

As a good, loving mother, she wants us to come to her. She wants to teach us how to be a daughter of God. She wants to teach us how to be merciful in the manner she was, and still is, most merciful.

But, like her Son, she does not come to teach us without the invitation. She waits patiently in the back of the room, to be acknowledged and invited into our lives.

 

Will you invite her into your life this May?

 

Will you ask her to teach you how to be merciful in all you think, say, and do?

 

Will you thank her for being the good mother she has been, and will always be?

 

End this piece with me by once again reflecting on her most glorious, most powerful name:

Mary.

 

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Creating a Monastery in Your {Catholic} Homeschool in 10 Steps

When I was in college, I prayed and discerned a vocation to become a sister or a nun.  I was enthralled by the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart; of which I had had the honor of

I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother.
I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother.

working with and for at a Catholic School in Florida.  Fortunately for me, I was assigned to work with Sister Maria Kolbe whom not only directed me and taught me her ways as a model teacher but, more importantly, she showed me the joy in following Our Lord Jesus in all we do.  I wanted that joy she had SO BAD!  But after years of praying, God told me He had other plans for me.  Years later, I married a man whom also discerned at vocation to the priesthood (to the Fraternity of Saint Peter), we met, fell in love, got married and five children and ten years later, here I am homeschooling.  I could not help but wonder what life would have been IF God had called me to become a Carmelite…you know, after all, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Since coming home to home educate our five precious blessings, I have struggled with many things and one of those was surrendering to THIS life, the life God had called me to.  Always looking to feed the ego, I wanted to be either an amazing teacher (to other people’s children, because society thinks it is more prestigious than teaching my own) OR become a sister in full habit, like the Carmelites. But nooooooo….God had other plans and I was being rebellious and fighting Him about it.  Now, I am not an expert at this at all, *even with* my teaching degree…homeschooling?  staying home all the time?  was He really serious???  So the whys and the tantrums that were going on in my head constantly were arguing with the shush I was yearning for in my heart.  UNTIL that is, last Friday when I went to Confession.  My Spiritual Director heard these words come out of my mouth, “I still struggle with being distracted, I yearn for the outside world, I miss my family, I want adult contact and I am so jealous of my husband who gets all of this!!!  It is not fair!”  Yes, my dear sisters, I was having a full blown toddler tantrum in the Confessional!  Dear Father P was so sweet, he stopped me with his gentle fatherly manner and said, “Dear child, the Lord has gifted you with your own mini monastery at home with your children.  He has entrusted you with five beautiful souls to form!  He has taken you OUT of the world and asked you to look inside of yourself and to create a monastic life for your children.  The spiritual life that will be ingrained in your children and will with them Heaven.  After all, is not that what you want for them?”  AND so it hit me, what I always wanted, to have a contemplative life like the Carmelites had been sitting in my lap all this time and I was fighting it!  Dummy!  {got hit by a 2×4 once again!} I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother!

In the prologue of The Rule of Saint Benedict, the great saint states something that drew me even more towards craving this kind of life for my family, he said:

"The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love." ~ Saint Benedict
“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.” ~ Saint Benedict

Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from the heavens that every day calls out this charge: “If you hear God’s voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).”

Therefore we intend to establish a school for God’s service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. … But as we progress in this way of live and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.

So in my quest for an authentic Catholic life for my children, I have come up with a rule of sort for mothers, on how to create a monastery in my Catholic Homeschool.  Since I need to keep it simple or I will set myself up to fail (my temperament), here they are in 10 steps. They are somewhat based on the Rule of Saint Benedict whom believed, also, in keeping it simple.

1.  Surrender to motherhood. This is the life God has called you to, embrace it with all your might!  This is YOUR duty, task, and job, that God has called you to, do it and do it well!

2. Keep outside distractions to a minimum. Turn social media OFF during the hours the children are awake, if possible, or at the very least once everyone is done with school and chores and has earn (YES earned) free time. Keep phone calls to a minimum.  Any electronic device that might distract anyone in the family should also be kept at bay.

3. Pray with your children and as a Family throughout the day.

Pray and learn about Catholicism as a family!  Pray the Rosary daily, your Blessed Mother's orders!
Pray and learn about Catholicism as a family! Pray the Rosary daily, your Blessed Mother’s orders!

Pray the Rosary EVERY DAY.  Say morning prayers, prayers before meals, prayers before bedtime. Make sure they see you praying to help them develop a relationship with God. Pray the Morning and Evening Office.  The family that prays together, stays together! Saint Benedict states that prayer was marked by regularity and fidelity, not mood or convenience. In Benedict’s supremely realistic way, the spiritual life was something to be worked at, not merely hoped for.

4. Learn about God and His Roman Catholic Church daily. Not just in Religion class but incorporate Catholicism in your History lessons, in your Reading lessons as well.  Our Faith is so vast and rich in so many areas, there is an inexhaustible amount of books and things to learn always.

5. Keep a balance in work and prayer.  But work is very important. Children need to work for the sake of the family and your sanity.  Chores are super important in developing character and virtues in the home.  Rotate chores so that everyone learns how to do them all so that when a brother or sister is ill and unable to fulfill their job, other children can jump in and help them.  I have even used this to discipline my children when they have been uncharitable towards a sibling and they had to complete the chores of the child who was hurt.  🙂  Manual labor is good for the soul and the child. Saint Benedict stressed the importance of work as the great equalizer. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest, should be engage in manual labor.

6. Silence is golden. Not just at the movies. Children need to experience some silence throughout the day.  Have an hour or so of quiet time.  Play chant or classical music, have the children sit in different parts of the room where you can see them.  They can sit quietly listening to the music, or no music at all.  Or they can bring a book on the life of a saint to read in their little corner of the room.  Even non-readers can do picture walks and just look through the images of books.

7.  Sleep is important. Children and parents need to sleep, the body needs to rest.  Children, depending on their age, need a certain number of hours of sleep per day.  Establish a solid routine, bedtime should be by a certain time, do it slow not rushed.  Keep bedtime routines and chores quick, simple, and organized.

8.  Meals are important. You are what you eat!  Keep meals on a schedule, breakfast, lunch and dinner should happen at about the same time each day.  Meal planning is helpful in being successful in this, if you can sit down, make a list of your family’s favorite meals and plan at least one week at a time.  Vary meals and introduce new foods so that your children acquire a palate for new tastes and start early.  Even if they only try something once, then wait a while and reintroduce it again.  Also, keep the amount of food your children eat to a minimum, not to overload the stomach and to teach your children moderation.  Snacking should be kept at a minimum and only healthy ones, keep junk food OUT of your house. Eat as a family. Creating a Monastery in Your Catholic Homeschhol

9. Discipline is key. Make sure that your husband and you are on the same page on discipline.  As the head of the house and a man, fathers are much more stern about things and this is okay.  Their role in the home is to lead and guide and discipline.  Mothers should complement these rules fathers have set and follow through with them.  Make sure that children have a clear understanding that disobeying and obeying a mother, means the same as a father and the same as God.  God has given parents the power over their children, so long as parents understand this and discipline like God does, sternly but lovingly.  Be fair and just.  Also, keep yourself disciplined and keep your home simple and organized.  As having order is important in the interior life.

10. Teach your children to have a servant’s heart. Service projects as a family are great but having a servant’s heart is much more than big projects.  Serving others, as Jesus Christ has called us to do, happens in the little everyday things we do.  How we treat our own at home, those we encounter everyday at the grocery store, and what we say or do for others.  Be an example of this for your children, this is how they learn best.  Volunteer at Church do teach CCD, or clean the basement after an event, but get the children involved as well.  Have them train to serve or sing in the Schola/Choir, or help in any way needed.

In the Baltimore Catechism we learn that we must Learn about God, to Love God and then to Serve God.  That is the basic rule in our home in building a monastery in our everyday lives.  We are a work in progress but it is my hope that this little list helps guide you as well as it is helping me in living a happy and holy Catholic life! After all if the only “monastery” we create is our children, let’s personally teach them to love Christ and His Church. If we do, the faith in our families will be a living water, another Holy well to last throughout generations.