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Alison W Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

Give the World Your Gifts

I’m not a writer by trade. In fact, English was always my worst subject. However, when I saw the call for single parent writers, I submitted a story. Not because I’m a great writer. Not even because I’m a great Catholic, but because I feel like single parents need more support.

I know my long road was supported by Jesus. Again, not because I’m anything special, but simply because I turned to Him and trusted Him. I’m a sinner; I’m a brat sometimes. Those closest to me see my weakness and rottenness more than others. I’m so blessed they have stuck with me through this race of life. I regularly go to Confession because I know I’m a wretched sinner. But Jesus promises the most grace to the worst sinners. That’s just how great He is.

I’ve also come to know that people love to be encouraged. I have had many people thank me for encouraging them or for the stories I’ve written or posts I share. I encourage you to share your faith stories, too. I encourage you to encourage others. So much grace comes from this. Together, we are the body of Christ and we need each other to grow. God made you special; He has a job for you no one else can do. He has given you grace and strength different from everyone else. You have a purpose–to know God, love God, and serve God.

Satan has done a marvelous job of tearing apart the body of Christ. You don’t have to look far to see all the quarrels, division, and irritations. I challenge you to mend those broken relationships, to love your families better. I challenge you to see the people who hurt you as opportunities to love like Jesus does. Instead, strengthen the body of Christ and understand we are all the body of Christ. We need each other. The world needs your stories, your support, and your encouragement. The world needs the special gifts God has given you.

Jesus charged us with this task. He didn’t suggest it. He charged us to go and proclaim the good news.

And the good news is awesome! The good news is: Rotten sinners can be saved by our loving Jesus and go to heaven. The good news is, no sin can bind us to hell. Jesus died to make sure of this. It doesn’t matter how wrong you’ve gotten things; all that matters is that you reach out to Jesus and accept His mercy.

The sacraments of the Church help sustain us in this uphill battle of life. Use them! Go to Confession, receive the Eucharist, pray your rosary, accept grace, and then share it! I challenge you: Remind one person today how much Jesus loves him or her.

And remind yourself, too!

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Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Nicole B Single Parents Vocations

Striving, Growing, Rejoicing: Be Your Own Holy Family

A few weeks ago we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Family. It is a beautiful celebration of the Blessed Mother, Joseph, and the Christ Child. Unfortunately, in the past few years since becoming a single mother, it has become a solemnity of bitterness and disdain for me. Deep inside I saw it as nothing but a feast to enhance my shortcomings. A reminder of how he left us and continues to destroy my Catholic vision of family life.

Fortunately, this year there was a change in my thinking, a shift in my heart that encouraged me to celebrate the solemnity as the paramount liturgical celebration that it is meant to be.

In the Gospel for the day, one hears the customs of the time – Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, as was the tradition – and it may seem like an easily forgettable passage. However in Luke 2:40 it states, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”.

Growth. From verse 40 it screams to me. I think about the growth I have experienced in the past three years. I think about the growth of my children and how they are thriving. I think about the wisdom I have gained. I think about how we may not have the look of the Holy Family in our living room, yet in our home, we are growing closer to God each day.

Coupled with the Gospel, I heard an exceptional homily on that day as well. It is was one of those moments where the priest was speaking directly to me. He said, “Our own families truly can be holy families. All we need to do is strive. To grow ourselves. One step at a time. And to rejoice when we see growth.”

Striving. Growing. Rejoicing. How beautiful is this message of the Holy Family? How important is it to teach our children that no matter the situation we must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in the Lord?

No family can compare to the Holy Family. It is laughable for me to think that I can. And, for me to focus on the shortcomings of my own beautiful family is detrimental. Instead, I must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in our faith-filled life no matter the circumstances.   

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Domestic Church Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Mass Motherhood Nicole B Prayer Vocations

Father’s Day Liturgy: Cheerios, Tears, and Prayer

Mass with a five year old and a two year old. It’s a beautiful, chaotic, maddening, complicated adventure, isn’t it? The longest hour of the week for sure. How can 60 minutes seem so excruciatingly slow one morning, but the next day, let’s say when I am rushing to get one to school and the other to daycare it whizzes by?

Prior to March 24, 2015, I was never so proud as when we went to church as a family of four. In my mind there was nothing more beautiful than a family worshiping and growing in faith together. Sure it was a challenge with little ones, but always a time that I treasured, honored, and looked forward to each week.  

Fast forward a year and three months, and I am absolutely anxiety ridden about taking my children to mass. It’s ridiculous to think that way, I know. Church is a safe haven, but as I sit there trying to juggle a preschooler and a toddler I am constantly reminded that he left us. That he is so ill that he cannot comprehend that he would have been supported, cared for, and forgiven within the Church. He has left us and it is now just me, the boys, and a bag or two of Cheerios in the fifth pew.

On Father’s Day 2016 I ventured to mass with my own father and two children. Armed with a bag of church appropriate goodies (which I was very much against when we were a family of four) I was determined to have a peaceful, faith filled hour. My soon-to-be Kindergartner got it. He did great, the toddler was a young two, so it was the typical struggle of an inquisitive 27 month old.

But it wasn’t their behavior that caused the anxious pain in my heart that day, they were actually quite well-behaved on the third Sunday of June. Instead it was the message. As I tried to squash my single mother anxiety when I prepared for mass that morning, I didn’t think about the possible homily. I didn’t think about the message that might be shared on our first official Father’s Day without him.

The priest began with statistics. Statistics about children from a fatherless home. The priest spoke words like, “low self-esteem, poverty, addiction…” These words made me uncomfortable, a little angry, somewhat sick. “Those will not be my children,” I thought to myself. However, before I could dwell on his statistics, the priest said (quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), “when human fatherhood has dissolved all statements about God the Father are empty”. This idea played over and over in my mind, as I held back tears. It made perfect sense – if one doesn’t understand what it’s like to have a human father, it is difficult to understand and trust in God the Father. With that statement my purpose became clear. After that statement, my dedication to sharing the faith with my children became renewed. I vowed to live a Catholic vision of family life for my children no matter the circumstances.    

With this in mind, I sought to answer two questions:

  1. How can my children even begin to understand God the Father without their own father as an example of Christ?
  2. How can I help my children to trust in the Lord when they have already experienced so much heartbreak in their young lives?

These are complicated and loaded questions that will most likely take me the next 20 years to answer, yet I have in my heart a simple plan: model and pray.

It’s a great responsibility to model our faith for our children. Our behaviors are what truly reveal our beliefs. It can be frightening when we become aware that our children are listening to us and watching us much more closely than we ever realized. We are the first and the primary teachers of faith to our children. I never expected to carry that responsibility on my own, but my situation only strengthens my commitment. I know that I must model the faith in hopes that they can experience the true love and trust of God the Father.

Along with trying to model the faith for my boys on a daily basis, I pray. I pray so fervently for my children, for my parents who help us everyday, for our supportive friends, for my former in laws, and for him – my ex-husband, their absent father. At first, those prayers were extremely difficult. There was, and still is, so much anger towards him. However, I pray for him. I know that it is a necessity. It’s the greatest modeling of the faith I can do for my children. I pray for him every.single.day. I pray for him at night. I pray for him in the car. I pray for him in moments of sheer single mother panic. I pray for him when it’s just me, the boys, and a bag or two of Cheerios in the fifth pew at Sunday mass.