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)

eating

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)

siblings.gif

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)

monkey.gif

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

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A GIF Narrative of the Reactions from the Synod on the Family

A big, huge event just ended in Rome a couple days ago. At least, if you followed the American media you’d think it was huge, anyway.

The Synod on the Family, though significant enough in its ability to be a litmus test of where the world’s bishops stand on key issues, was never going to change Catholic doctrine, because that never been (and never will be) its purpose. It also wasn’t just something where bishops got together and talked about divorced or gay Catholics. Instead, it was about much more — You know, because the family is important because everyone comes from a family and if the family didn’t exist neither would the world or any of us.

The Synod was more or less an advisory meeting of bishops, gathered to help Pope Francis continue to guide the Church with how She cares for the family and all the mess that comes with it. But not everyone has the time to pore over news articles about documents and arguments and speeches, so here’s a quick rundown of what happened, the reactions, and where we go from here. Let the GIFs be your guide…

Pope Francis, wanting good input from lots of viewpoints, beckoned a group of bishops, priests, religious women and men, and laypeople from all over the world to the Eternal City. 

Patrick Stewart animated GIF

Then, presumably, Pope Francis stood up and was like…

Meetings started in early October, with the working purpose being, “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The goal would be coming up with an advisory document for Pope Francis, with which he would presumably produce a clear path for the Church in a teaching document — called a “post-synodal apostolic exhortation”.

Actual discussions between attendees weren’t open to the public, so all we had to go off of were reports from journalists and … sadly … armchair interpreters on Twitter of both an ultra-conservative and more left-leaning Catholic bent.

Save yourself some time. Here’s the gist of those tweets:

You're WrongRight on!

And for those who seem to have forgotten Christ’s words in Matthew 16:18, this was the consensus:

To which more level-headed folk, in full understanding that the Synod was most certainly NOT dismantling the Church, wished to be all…

But instead were more inclined to throw up their hands and be like…

Now, the Synod hath ended, and guess what?

Nothing’s changed! The bishops of the world are strongly in favor of what the Church teaches! And, most of all, we’re still here!

Pope Francis is a trustworthy leader, who, considering he’s made both sides uncomfortable for different reasons, seems to be doing his job right. You know who else did that? JESUS.

And so, I’d like to offer some words of advice to anyone (and everyone) losing their heads over all this business:

terminator animated GIF

The Holy Spirit is still in charge, and last time I checked, that wasn’t any of us. Let’s remind ourselves (ad nauseam) that God is God and we are not. That is all.

Oh, and one more thing:

Be Not Afraid
Source: thatcatholicjazz.com/

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5 Uncommon Reasons to Keep Your Unborn Child

When St. John Paul II walked out onto the balcony after being elected pope in 1978, the first words out of his mouth were, “Be not afraid!!”

Those were strong words back then, when many Christians across the world, including in his home nation of Poland, were being severely oppressed under Communist rule. Under those conditions, operating without fear was a tall order, and likely felt impossible for many. However, St. John Paul instilled in people a knowledge that there were greater powers at work, and that “the power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear” (Threshold of Hope, 1994).

With John Paul II’s encouragement, the faith of a fearless Polish nation sparked the end of Communism in that nation–no small feat.

I can’t help but think this is still appropriate today, albeit for entirely different reasons. When a woman finds out she’s carrying a child, perhaps one that was far from planned, I imagine that a crippling fear is the first thing to surface. The same goes for a young father–the thought of life being forever changed is often the scariest thing that person has ever encountered. I can speak from experience, having nearly had to deal with it myself at 18.

The natural instinct anymore is, “How can I get rid of this?” and sadly, with abortion being as readily available–even encouraged–as it ever has been, the short-term solution is the one that’s picked nearly 1,000 times a day.

Though it’s substantially more difficult to endure, there is another, better way to wrestle with the fear that accompanies an unintended pregnancy:

Let your baby be born, then love the child fiercely.

baby-in-womb1

Like John Paul II’s exhortation to Christians to “Be not afraid!”, this too is a tall order. When making your decision, don’t forget to consider these reasons too:

1. You CAN do it.

In a lot of ways, the deck is stacked against you. It’s increasingly the case that you’ll be encouraged to abort your child so “the problem” won’t exist any longer far more than you’ll be encouraged to keep it. Pregnancy itself will incredibly difficult. And after you carry the baby to term, it’ll be hard as hell a lot of times, and you might not know what you’re doing at first, but you can do it, and there are lots of people out there willing to help you care for that little life inside of you.

2. Living people are a gift to those around them.

Everyone (literally EVERYONE) walking around today has one thing in common: they were all carried in their mother’s womb and delivered into this world. Many, if not most, were surely conceived and born in good circumstances, but the sad reality is that many others weren’t. Some people have been conceived out of wedlock, others carried by a teenage mother, and still others have been conceived in horrific circumstances like rape or incest…but they’ve been given the gift of life, and we can be sure that person has had a positive impact and brought joy to at least one person. That alone should be good enough.

3. You were there once.

Referring to No. 2 above, the “one person” is nearly always the child’s mother (or father). I have a favor to ask: Next time you see a baby, ask the mom or dad if you can hold him/her for just a second. Then, being completely silent, reflect for a second on the child you’re holding in your arms. Think to yourself that you were once that small, that the smile you feel forming on your lips was once shared by the person holding you, and that you relied 100% on someone else for a good chunk of your life to allow you to be where you are now.

4. You’ll never know how much joy your child will bring you.

There’s a reason videos of babies laughing are the best. As Larry the Cable says, “I don’t care who ya are…” when a baby smiles at you, there’s a darn good chance you’ll want to smile back. Why is it that even the most hardened, grizzled, tough guys are melted by a little baby? The joy you’ll find from even the smallest things–their first words, playing peek-a-boo, them getting birthday cake all over their face, when they start to walk, that dandelion “flower” they picked you from the yard, the masterpiece they painted in kindergarten art class–an abortion takes away the chance that any of those things will ever happen.

5. Your child could change the world.

I recently read a story about a young man whose birth mother canceled her abortion appointment and decided to give her son up for adoption instead. Now? That young man became a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska).

In 1936, a 17-year-old girl found herself suddenly pregnant. Instead of finding a way to abort her child, the girl’s mother and father offered to raise the child, and the little boy grew up thinking his birth mother, June, was his sister. The child? Jack Nicholson.

The most striking story, in my estimation, is of an Eastern European woman named Emilia Kaczorowska. When she and her husband became pregnant in 1919, Emilia was suffering from the after-effects of rheumatic fever. Due to her illness, her doctor worried about the strain to her heart valves and advised she abort the son growing in her womb. Emilia said no to the advice and gave birth to a son, Karol, on May 18, 1920. Karol became a priest, then a bishop, and in 1978 became Pope John Paul II.

There are lots of other stories of famous people who were nearly aborted, and I realize that few children will grow up to be rich and famous. But the reason I share these stories, and the rest of the reasons above, is that giving a child the opportunity to live gives them the opportunity to make the world better, an opportunity they wouldn’t get otherwise.

The first letter of St. John reads, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). With the 2015 March for Life in Washington D.C. happening this week, and during a time when so many around the country are joining 650,000 pro-life attendees in prayer and solidarity, John Paul II’s message is alive and well, the perfect remedy for one of life’s most difficult situations.

Be not afraid.

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