Tag Archives: blatantly Catholic

Reflections on Childhood Innocence from the Hospital

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” Mark 10:15

I hate to admit it, but I’m enjoying my time in the hospital with Fulton. His feeding tube surgery went off without a hitch, and he’s recovering nicely with no complaints of pain or need for breathing support. Fulton is content to play on his iPad, watch TV and play with whatever cars and trucks the Child Life Specialist can find for him.  The hospital has free wi-fi and great cafeteria food so I’m surfing the internet without feeling guilty, eating all the sushi I can handle and finally finishing up ‘Crime and Punishment.’

I almost feel foolish for doubting that things could have turned out any differently. But I suppose that is the lot of mothers, to worry and make mountains.  It is during these times that I do better to look toward my older children and take my cues from them.

I’d often heard the expression that God wants us to have the innocence of children and a simple trusting faith. But for the life of me, I could never figure out what that meant. Was I to sing praise songs, clap and eat Cheerios during Mass? It seemed to me that the ideal faith was a “mature” endeavor, led by long hours of prayer and meditation, self-mortification capped by the study and memorization of Church Doctrine and so forth. Nothing childish there.

It was not until I experienced tragedy in my life, and watched as my prayers seemed to go unanswered and my ability to offer up my sufferings was sapped by self-pity. All my adult insight went into dissecting my problems, keeping my mind too busy to think of God and I complained bitterly to anyone and everyone while silently scoffing at those who tried to offer hope for a better outcome than what I “knew” to be the truth.

But my children were also going through our family’s trials too and when I finally slowed down enough to watch them, I learned that while their minds can be consumed with selfishness (Why is mama too busy to play with me? Why does Fulton get all the attention?) they more often than not exhibited an unfailing hope and joy, despite any announcement from my husband or I. While we suffered greatly at the discovery of my pregnancy with Teddy, they rejoiced a  new baby. As my body gave out during the final months gestation requiring Teddy’s arrival 6 weeks early and long NICU stay, they never stopped believing in my full recovery or Teddy’s. Even when we had to tell them through red eyes that Teddy would be like Fulton and never walk they rejoiced in the thought at two wheelchairs crashing through the house and all the fun the two younger ones would have together. In their eyes, there was nothing wrong with Fulton and our announcement didn’t signify that there was anything wrong with Teddy. My husband and I prayed for so many miracles, touched our sons to so many relics, oils and blessed water. We lamented when our cries seemingly went unheard but our children didn’t question God’s plan for our family.

Yes, maybe it’s naivety and innocence that is protecting them. As they mature, perhaps they will come to understand our heartache, the worries that keep us up at night and the hardness of our hearts that is long in softening. They will eventually wake up to the harsh realty of life.

Why does God ask us to imitate the faith of children? Now that I am an adult I see how hard it is to maintain that trust and hope in God’s divine providence. I would rather sit with my dusty prayer-book alone and read than have to joyfully accept my cross without question. It is harder for me to assume the best outcome, to keep hope that miracles (medical or divine) do happen, it is harder for me with all my “valuable life experience” to blindly accept that God always knows what’s best. And yet, that is my children. That is most children. Untainted by cynicism, unburdened by despair, my children want to see the silver lining and can find it in the most troubling of circumstances. They refuse to give up hope and will hold onto it long after I believe all is lost and that I have been forsaken.

I have been learning to look to my children for the example of how I should be. While my example is supposed to lay the groundwork for their future spiritual well-being, their example is leading me back to a simpler faith I thought I needed to move past.   They believe without question, without reserve, without hesitation.

“Our Lord’s love makes itself seen quite as much in the simplest of souls as in the most highly gifted, as long as there is no resistance offered to his grace.” Story of a Soul, St. Theresa of Lisieux

I’m trying to break down my resistance to His grace; the barriers of anger, despair and pride that I’ve allowed myself to construct. My children are my motivation to do better and my blueprint to follow.

Fulton will come out of the hospital in short order with a new tube and life will resume as normal, but hopefully with an attitude adjustment on my part. Thanks to everyone who’s been praying for Fulton and our family. I should know better than to doubt God’s ability to answer prayers when I see how He brings our family through everything.

Last night as Tony was saying prayers with Fulton bedside,  my husband asked Fulton if they should say a prayer for the baby sharing Fulton’s room. Fulton agreed, and after saying an extra Hail Mary, he asked if the baby was feeling better. As if on cue, the baby gave a little cry to which Fulton exclaimed, “We’d better say another one.”  From the mouth of babes indeed.

 

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The Importance of Family Prayer Time…with a bit of my conversion story thrown in.

I’d really envisioned just writing a quick post about how ridiculous our family prayer time has become lately, but it got me thinking on other things… so forgive my long-windedness.

Growing up Methodist, somewhere along the line I got the impression that church and religion were Sunday things, but only when extremely convenient, and that prayer was a private thing between you and God, and it usually just happened as the words came to you.

The focus of our church service was the music and the sermon, and the highlight of the day was visiting with friends and family. Once I left the building, I don’t know how much I carried with me besides some cute songs and bible stories. It certainly wasn’t enough to sustain me when I hit my rebellious teenage years and started asking questions about everything. It didn’t help that the minister who interacted with the youth group was a real ……well, let’s just say we didn’t get along, and in answering my questions he typically tried to make me feel simple-minded and foolish.

Besides meal time prayers, I don’t remember my family ever praying together. In fact, I don’t remember ever really discussing religion at all. And on Sunday’s, children typically attended their own service or sang in their own choirs,  so we rarely ever sat together. Even after being confirmed, I couldn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed or tell you what a Methodist actually believed or what made us different from other denominations.

By seventeen, I didn’t know what I believed in or why I should believe it and I didn’t feel comfortable discussing these things with my parents. It was then that I met my husband, another seventeen year old with a completely different outlook on religion.

Growing up in Lancaster, PA, my husband was the first Catholic friend I ever had. We hung out with a large group of mutual friends before we started dating towards the end of our senior year (I actually asked him to the senior prom.) In his car he kept a rosary, and his family’s house was adorned with religious art, palm branches, statues, the whole nine yards, which naturally led to lots of questions from me. He answered all of them patiently and almost instinctively,  I knew what I was hearing was the truth. There was no question I put to him that he couldn’t answer, or wouldn’t quickly find the answer for. And it all made sense. Had I been more well versed in my own faith, perhaps I might have tried to challenge him more, but our relationship, from the very beginning, is what kept me from completely turning my back on Christianity.  It was as if all my previous angst had left me an empty pitcher just waiting to be filled.

I’ve grown a lot in my faith from our early talks at his parents house, to my reception into the Church at a really, REALLY, liberal Ordinary form parish in Syracuse, NY to our home now at an Extraordinary Form parish in Berlin, NJ. I’ve never looked back with longing on my days as a Methodist. I’m so happy to be Catholic. For all the snark in my blogging, I hope that some of the joy I experience as a devout Catholic rubs off on people.  I won’t win any apologetic wars with a Bob Jones graduate, but maybe one person will see my family and think, “huh, those papists might be on to something.”

And now the real point of this post, family prayers! Good heavens, with five kids under ten they’re a real nightmare sometimes, but almost every night, we sit down as a family and pray. The goal is to say at least three decades of the rosary for a specific intention, plus our family’s litany of saints and then any special prayers (currently a novena to the Holy Ghost.)

Tonight’s prayers got sidetracked early on by a discussion of Mexico and whether it’s safe to travel there, which got the husband and I off on a tangent about NAFTA, then drug smuggling, but not before I uttered the expression “pissing and moaning.” So then I got lectured by the husband for using such language in front of the kids..again…but not before I had to explain what I said, what makes it “coarse and crude” and how they’re never to repeat it.

“Can I just tell Frankie?,” asked Byron.

“I’m sure Frankie already knows,” I sighed.

“Can I just remind him?”, Byron asked.

“NO!,” said the husband, me and the oldest daughter.

When we actually started, Edie kept giggling because she was hiccuping, Fulton kept pointing his finger at someone and yelling ‘BANG!’ while the older two, who’ve taken to leading the decades, kept trying to pray louder than whomever was the current leader.

I then burped, which caused everyone to laugh, except my husband, which made me snicker……

And you get the picture.  I actually consider this a good night because the yelling is in fun and there’s no crying. But, despite it all, I wouldn’t give up family prayers for anything. I honestly wish I could be more on the ball about keeping up with more prayers and devotions during the day, but so far, we’re failing miserably at our attempt at a daily Angelus.  Thankfully, we are better at observing liturgical traditions, mainly because my husband, a devotee of Dom Gueranger, spearheads them. For example, we recently had a Rogation procession around our yard, complete with incense, to bless our gardens and animals. We’re also good at hosting dinner guests or parties on specific feast days (St. Martin of Tours and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist are two that come to mind.)

And, my husband and I, we’re still talking religion. It’s been an ongoing conversation for the last sixteen years, and now, we’re including the kids in it. Our Catholic faith is why we go to church on Sundays and so much more!  It drives our decision-making, our dealings with others and, obviously, heavily influences our schooling choices.

I can’t assume my kids will become devout Catholics because we prayed together, but I feel confident in saying their faith would suffer if we didn’t. And I won’t assume that weekly attendance at Mass and CCD classes are a sufficient substitute for a rich spiritual home life. I hope we’re laying a foundation that will  give them solid footing during those rough teenage years. Plus, maybe some memories and family traditions to pass along to future generations. Despite all the distractions and noise,  I’ve come to the conclusion that family prayers are worth enduring patiently not only for the short-term blogging material, but as an insurance policy against future spiritual struggles. In 25 years, I’ll write the follow up to this post and let you know how it worked out.

What prayers does your family try to say together on a regular basis?

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