Four Motherly Obligations for a Happy Life

Let’s be honest, moms always tend to know what’s best for their kids. From the time we’re little to far past adulthood, mothers in our lives always have the sage advice to make our lives better.

Even if it’s frustrating, even if we don’t understand it in the moment (if ever), and even if we just don’t want to do it, following mom’s advice usually leads to this reaction:

You were right - I was less right

This is true of our human moms, grandmothers, aunts, etc. But it also applies to our OTHER mother: the Church.

Anytime Jesus speaks, things happen. His words have power. So when, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says to Peter, “Feed my sheep,” he’s instructing his Rock to build up his Bride, the Church, the one that Jesus promised would never (read again: NEVER) be prevailed against, in order that His flock would be well nourished and well instructed, as a mother instructs her children.

And so, here are four life obligations from both our earthly moms and our mother, the Church, that are sure to lead you to a better, happier life.

1. Clean your room (Go to Confession)

minion cleaning

One of the classic traits of a mom is an obsession with making sure our bedroom is clean. What is it about moms and requiring a clean room? Instead of just an insistence that we not have anything on the floor, I’m willing to bet that this command is at least rooted in an understanding that a clean living space is not only healthy, but makes life quantitatively better. The more the junk piles up, the more stressful it is to walk around it, the harder it is to find important things, and the more we’ll just want to shove it to the side.

The same goes for regular Confession. Yes, the prospect of “cleaning out our souls” before a priest can be inconvenient and a little scary. And yet, the more we avoid it, the more the junk piles up, and the harder it becomes to find our heart under it all.

Cleaning our rooms and going to Confession both take a certain amount of courage, and both require a leaning in against discomfort. But both, as anyone who’s consistently done so can attest, are worth it.

“Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.” – St. John Paul II

2. Eat your dinner (Receive the Eucharist)


If there’s anything like pulling teeth, it’s getting a kid to eat his dinner. And yet, moms know that without food, their child will literally die (after a while, of course). And so it’s worth it to them to continue battling, to continue persuading, to continue imploring the child in order to get that nutritious goodness into their offspring’s belly.

Likewise, the Church will always be there, waiting patiently like a mother does, but not letting us off scot-free if we shirk our duty to receive the Eucharist. It’s not because we have, as my own mother would say, the Meanest Mom in the World, but rather because our Mother Church knows that we will literally perish without it.

“If Christ did not want to dismiss the Jews without food in the desert for fear that they would collapse on the way, it was to teach us that it is dangerous to try to get to heaven without the Bread of Heaven.” – St. Jerome

3. Be nice to your siblings (Practice truth in charity)


Of everything that can prepare you to be a saint, having siblings has to be at the top of the list. And it’s one of a mom’s great battles in life to navigate the bickering, bothering, and occasional punch in the nose. Sibling rivalries are a fact of life, and the more kids there are, the more those rivalries tend to crop up. Left unchecked by mom, there would be a full-on mutiny in the house in a matter of hours. But a good mom works on her kids, always correcting, always guiding, sometimes with futility, but with a consistent effort that usually bears good fruit.

The Church’s job is about a billion times harder (almost literally…), so that’s why She gives us the constant call — demand, even — to be charitable to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. It’s difficult at first, because there’s about as many different personalities in our heavenly household as stars in the sky. But the Church, in her wisdom, is persistent. We have Confession for when we fail, and we have prayer to help us continue to grow. The coffee and donuts help to foster good relations, too.

“Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which no man is saved.”  -St. Robert Bellarmine

4. Call your family (Pray)


We’re only in the comfort of our homes for so long before we must venture out into the great unknown. In our time of growth as children, we rarely need to call our family, because our family is always there with us. But the second we leave the house, in a big way that lifeline is gone unless we pursue it for ourselves. Thankfully, mom makes it a priority to make sure you KNOW that you need to call and fill the family in on how you’re doing. Still, it’s your prerogative to call them, or to at least pick up the phone when it rings.

As a priest I know always says, “This is just like the spiritual life.” Prayer is almost identical to the concept of calling our family. When we’re little, prayer is practically done for us — we’re taken to Mass, we’re led in the saying of grace around the dinner table, someone helps us say our night prayers — so we rarely need to take our own initiative, (and when we do, it’s usually adorable).

But once we reach a certain point in life, we need to take our own initiative to “call our family” in heaven and pray. And unless we do it on a regular basis, our relationship with them – and, subsequently, our connection to what created us — will wither. But the Church, in her great love for us, gives us SO. MANY. options to choose from. We only need to pick one and start.

“Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem barren. Prayer is always fruitful.” – St. Josemaria Escriva


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St. Josemaria quote


Rabbits & Selfishness: Why Pope Francis is Being Perfectly Consistent

It’s been the epitome of “lather, rinse, repeat” over the last (almost) two years. Pope Francis gives an interview somewhere, somebody reports what they think they hear, then the Catholics are all like…


And all the people hoping the Church is changing something are all:


And THEN, somebody finally reads what he actually said, and in the proper context, and they make this face:


It’s happened again recently, and the reality is no different. What’s the big deal this time?  

The Backstory

Just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis gave an interview to reporters aboard the papal plane on his way back from a trip to the Philippines. The particular line that got Catholics all aflutter was this:

Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood.

Boy, did that cause a stir.

“Another off the cuff remark gone wrong!” people exclaimed.

“What was the pope thinking?!” more chimed in.

Families of every size, but particularly large Catholic ones, were all in a dither once the media got hold of that line. That a pope would seem to deride parents with lots of kids, if it was true, was truly offensive.

The pope clarified, but many thought the damage was done. The dust eventually settled, and the media moved on.

Then, in his most recent Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said something that appeared to be just the opposite:

The choice to not have children is selfish.

This time, it was everyone else who got upset. A gander at the comment section at the National Catholic Reporter’s story would show the “liberal Catholics'” perspective, for one.

But seriously, the Pope gets on us about too many kids, then turns around and says that not having them is selfish? What gives?!


The Real Story

A lot gives, really. Let’s look at the rest of those quotes in context.

On the plane to Rome from Manila, before and after the dreaded “rabbits” comment, the pope said this in addressing the issues of too many vs. too few children:

The key word … is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood. That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is a an irresponsibility. That woman might say ‘no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors … that are licit and that have helped this.

Now on to last week’s General Audience, here’s the full context of Pope Francis’ remarks on that day:

A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society … If a generous family of children is viewed as if it were a burden, there is something wrong! As the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI teaches, having more children cannot be automatically viewed as an irresponsible choice. The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished!

Pope Francis is trying to make essentially the same point in both instances, and it boils down to two themes:

  1. Children are just plain good. Married couples should have children (note the plural).
  2. God gave us brains for a reason, so being responsible in childbearing is on us.

The whole of the Christian life is about giving to others in love, just as Christ gave his life for us on the Cross. Couples do this by giving themselves fully to their spouses in marriage, then later by giving their unified parenthood wholly to each one of their children. And in all of this, if the married life should be our vocation, we glorify God just as He called us to do.

But, though that formula is simple, our pope points out something that can slip by us if we’re not careful — there’s not a number of children that will complete your married vocation by default. Some may be called to have 9, others may be called to have 2, while still others might never be able to conceive, and are called instead to adopt. Pope Francis is keen in advising us to seek the counsel of our spiritual leaders, then to pray with and for each other in order to determine what that answer is for us. He is also keen to imply that the answers to that discernment might just be in front of our faces.

There is such a thing as irresponsibility in parenthood, but, as the pope notes, having more children is not necessarily an irresponsible action. The irresponsible thing, therefore, may be not having children. There’s a balance to be had and a nuance to be considered, but it can all be settled and discerned through one thing: a robust prayer life.

As the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel once wrote, “Don’t blame God if you walk off the end of the dock.”


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